By changing a few habits, motorists can do their part in helping the environment, say the experts at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE recommends regular vehicle maintenance and better driving habits as two easy-to-implement strategies. What’s more, improved automotive habits will help your vehicle last longer and command a better resale price.
The following tips from ASE can put you on the road to environmentally conscious car care:
- Keep the engine running at peak performance. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent. Replace filters and fluids as recommended in the owner’s manual.
- Don’t ignore that ‘Service Engine’ light. Today’s vehicles have much cleaner tailpipe emissions that they did 30 years ago, but a poorly running engine or faulty exhaust system will cause your vehicle to pollute much more than it would otherwise.
- Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Not only will you reduce the engine’s effort and, thus, gasoline consumption, your tires will last longer too, saving you money and easing the burden at recycling centers.
- Have your vehicle’s air conditioner serviced only by a technician certified to handle and recycle refrigerants. Older air conditioners contain ozone-depleting chemicals, which could be released into the atmosphere through improper service.
- Avoid speeding and sudden accelerations. Both of these habits guzzle gas. When waiting for friends or family, shut off the engine. Consolidate daily errands to one trip to eliminate unnecessary driving.
- Remove excess items from the vehicle. Less weight equals better gas mileage. Remove that roof-top luggage carrier after vacations to reduce air drag, too.
- If you do your own repairs, properly dispose of engine fluids and batteries. Some repair facilities accept these items from consumer. You can also contact local government for hazardous material drop-off/recycling stations. Remember too that improperly disposed fluids such as antifreeze can harm pets and wildlife.
Studies from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) show vehicles that receive regular maintenance and service retain more of their value, get better gasoline mileage, and pollute less than cars that are neglected. But today’s computer-loaded systems leave many former do-it-yourselfers hesitant to do much weekend tinkering. What’s a conscientious vehicle owner to do?
How Consumers Benefit from ASE Certification
Finding a competent auto repair professional should not be difficult … and with that guiding principle, the nonprofit, independent ASE was founded in 1972.
The mission was clear: Develop a mechanism by which working auto technicians could prove their competence to themselves, their employers, and to consumers.
The solution: A series of national certification exams covering all major automotive repair and service specialties.
The result: An elite group of automotive service professionals at work in repair establishments throughout the nation.
Why Use ASE-Certified Auto Technicians?
Consumers benefit from ASE’s certification program because it takes much of the guesswork out of finding a competent technician.
Perhaps years ago, any shade-tree mechanic would do; after all, cars were simpler, less complex. But with today’s high-tech vehicles — family sedans, sports coupes, rugged SUVs, and powerful pickups — the margin for error is small because mistakes are more costly. It makes good financial sense, then, to protect your sizeable automotive investment through regular maintenance and service performed by ASE-certified professionals.
Because the program is voluntary, technicians who have taken the time and expense to earn ASE certification can be counted on to have a strong sense of pride in accomplishment and professionalism — which should be good news for consumers. Moreover, prior to taking ASE exams, many technicians attend training classes or study on their own in order to brush up on their knowledge. The time they spend sharpening their skills translates directly to the work they perform on vehicles every day on the job.
How Does ASE Certification Work?
More than 100,000 candidates sit for ASE exams each year. These exams — the only independent national certification tests available to automotive professionals — are developed and regularly updated by representatives from the service and repair industry, vocational educators, working technicians, and ASE’s own in-house technical specialists. The exams stress real-world diagnostic and repair problems, not theory.
Mechanics who pass at least one exam and fulfill the hands-on work experience requirement earn the title of “ASE-Certified Automobile Technician,” while those who pass all eight automotive exams earn “Master Auto Technician” status. There are also tests for parts specialists, collision repair technicians, automotive service consultants, and segments of the repair industry. however, ASE certification is not a designation for life; technicians must recertify every five years in order to demonstrate a commitment to continuing education and staying abreast of constantly changing technologies.
Maintaining Present Vehicle May Be Key to Long-Term Financial Happiness. How will you spend your tax refund? Big-Screen TV? Cell Phone? Clothes? The Car Care Council has a better idea for your money: spend it on your second biggest investment, your car.
“Whether it’s an oil change, replacing brakes or new belts and hoses, that periodic repair bill is a drop in the bucket compared to monthly payments on a new car,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “The bottom line is that a properly maintained vehicle is safer, more dependable, more fuel efficient, less polluting and more valuable. The smartest way to get a solid return on investment is to keep your car through what we call the ‘Cinderella Era’. It’s that period of time after the payoff when your car is still in great shape and needs only modest repairs.”
The Car Care Council estimates that more than $68 billion in vehicle maintenance and repair is not performed every year, evidence that there is considerably more that consumers should be doing to protect their automotive investment.
“We advise our clients that if they want a 10-percent increase on their investments every year they need to cut down on their expenses,” said Terry Mulcahy, vice president of investments for R.W. Baird in Mequon, Wis. “A new automobile is for most people their second biggest investment next to a home, so a great way to save money and increase financial assets is to hang onto their current vehicle rather than buy a new one every few years. Budgeting for and doing preventative maintenance on your car is one of the best ways to cut your costs and keep your car.”
It’s a fact that deposits form in every fuel system, but the amount and how quickly they form depend on the quality of fuel and oil used, on personal driving styles and on engine type.
GDI engines are particularly prone to rapid build-up of fuel deposits because they’re never cooled or washed with fuel. Deposits can form in as few as 5,000 to 10,000 miles, restricting proper airflow and increasing engine operating temperatures. These harmful fuel deposits cause a variety of problems, preventing your vehicle from operating properly. Unlike common fuel additives that are diluted into fuel before reaching critical fuel system components, GDI IVD Intake Valve Cleaner from CRC Industries is sprayed directly into the air intake system. This powerful cleaner hits the back of the intake valves at 150 times the concentration of premium fuel additives. Intake Valve Cleaner is proven to remove up to 23% of carbon build-up in the first hour of use. It works in all gas-powered engines, not just GDI. When using Intake Valve Cleaner from CRC, time consuming and costly engine teardown is no longer required to clean intake valves, especially on GDI engines where previously, engine teardown was the only option.
Apply GDI IVD Intake Valve Cleaner with the engine running and at operating temperature. The unique PermaStraw actuator locks into place, preventing the straw from being drawn into the air intake. Remove the air filter cover and locate the MAF sensor between the air box and throttle body. Have someone rev the engine to about 2000 rpms and, engage or lift the PermaStraw Dual-Action Spray System and insert past the MAF sensor. It’s very important that you do not spray the product in front of the MAF sensor. This could cause the system to throw a code.
You may need to disassemble the air intake to spray the product past the MAF sensor. Again, with the engine running at 2000 rpms, spray the product into the air intake behind the MAF sensor, spraying continuously in 30-second intervals until the can is empty. If necessary, accelerate slightly during the application to avoid stalling but don’t exceed 3500 rpms. When the can is empty, accelerate the engine 2 to 3 times but no higher than 3500 rpms. Run at idle for one minute and, then turn the engine off.
After application, reassemble the air intake system and let the engine “heat-soak” for an hour. Restart the engine and drive at highway speeds for about 10 minutes. Using CRC Intake Valve Cleaner will increase power and torque. It stabilizes rough idle and solves rough starting problems. It is highly effective for all gasoline engines and regular use will reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.
Accumulations of dirt, grease and contaminants in your vehicle’s electrical system can eventually lead to contact failure and malfunction. After cleaning contacts and connections with QD Electronic Cleaner, follow with technician grade Di-Electric Grease from CRC.
CRC Di-Electric Grease seals, protects, lubricates, insulates and prevents water from getting into electrical connections and contacts, helping prevent corrosion, which can damage wiring and cause malfunctions. Corrosion on lamp connectors and wiring causes bulbs to burn hotter, shortening their life.
To apply Di-Electric Grease the vehicle and power supply should be off. Be sure the area has first been cleaned with CRC QD Electronic Cleaner. Allow any hot surfaces to cool before an application. Just squeeze the trigger to dispense Di-Electric Grease, and apply an even coat to electrical connections and contacts. Use it on circuit breakers, ignition coil connectors, the HEI distributor, plastic or rubber parts, fasteners and o-rings. CRC Di-Electric Grease is great for spark plug boots where the rubber meets the porcelain to keep them from fusing together and, it helps prevent arcing between the boot and the metal part of the plug. It’s also perfect for your trailer lighting and the trailer harness, bulbs and bulb connectors. There’s no overheating of connections, which extends lamp life.
CRC Di-Electric Grease prevents bonding so that components can be easily removed. CRC Di-Electric Grease can also be used on many outdoor applications around the house such as outdoor power receptacles and lamps, tools and power equipment. It improves electrical performance and provides critical protection for electronic components exposed to rain, fog, salt spray and temperature extremes.
Most fuel-injected vehicles are equipped with a mass air flow sensor, or “MAF” sensor to measure the amount and density of air entering the engine. This is information the computer uses to determine how much fuel to inject into the engine for combustion as air enters the cylinders. Ignition timing is also affected. The MAF sensor wire gets dirty with accumulated debris, oil, air filter fibers, dust and pollen. This can cause inaccurate readings and negatively affect the air to fuel ratio.
Signs of a dirty MAF sensor could be a check engine light. You may experience a loss of power, stalling, rough idle. Your engine may also be running rich and producing excess emissions. The original Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner from CRC Industries is a unique precision cleaner specifically developed to clean sensitive components in MAF sensors without damaging or degrading plastic or painted surfaces.
Use CRC Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner with the engine off. Always wear gloves and eye protection, and insert the straw into the nozzle before an application. Remove the air filter to gain access to the MAF sensor located between the air box and the throttle body. It is recommended that you remove the sensor for best cleaning, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Place a towel under the MAF to catch any run-off. Using the straw attachment, apply 10 to 15 short bursts of CRC Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner to the hotwire or the hot plate. Be careful not to let the straw, or anything else come in contact with hotwire. Keep the end of the straw 4 to 5 inches from the hotwire. Be sure to spray all sides of the MAF sensor and clean all wires and connectors. Reassemble the MAF and allow to dry thoroughly before restarting the engine.
Often, technicians will try to use throttle body, carburetor, or brake parts cleaners to clean sensitive MAF sensor components. However, these aggressive cleaners can be damaging to plastic, which most MAF sensors are housed in today. If the plastic degrades or warps, the MAF hotwire can shift and malfunction, resulting in expensive repairs. Use only the original Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner from CRC Industries to safely clean the delicate components of the sensor. Regular use will restore horsepower, reduce rough idle, decrease hesitation and pinging and improve gas mileage.
The power steering system is basically a hydraulic assist system that uses oil under pressure to assist in moving the front wheels back and forth as you drive. When you turn the steering wheel, a spool valve directs the system pressure towards the direction you turn the wheel. Fluid is constantly pumped from the power steering pump through the system when the engine is running. After the fluid passes through the steering rack, it returns as a low pressure fluid back to the reservoir that maybe mounted on the pump. This cycle repeats itself over and over through the life of the system.
Over time and exposure to high and low pressures, heat and cold, the “soft parts” of the power steering system will start to harden and sometimes shrink. Hoses and seals will eventually not work as they were designed, allowing pressure to drop or cause a system leak. Losing the power steering fluid and running the system dry will result in expensive repairs from over heating and lack of lubricant.
Determining that your power steering system has a leak can be as simple as checking the fluid level and noting that it has dropped in the reservoir. Some reservoirs have dipsticks, others have a window where you can inspect the level. There are usually two marks to check against, “Hot and Cold”. The fluid expands as it heats up, so if the vehicle is hot the level should be closer to the hot level. Cold vehicle, it should be near the lower level.
If the fluid level is low, an easy visual inspection of the system should help you locate the leaky spot or spots. (Note: The following is best done on a cool vehicle. If you should be going under the vehicle, use safe methods to raise and secure the vehicle.) Use a flashlight and trace the system from the reservoir down the hoses to the steering rack. Visually inspect the steering rack top and bottom, side to side. Note the black bellows on each end of the steering rack, squeeze and feel for fluid in them. If you find them full of fluid you are probably looking at replacing the steering rack. Finish tracing the system from the steering rack back to the reservoir.
Sometimes the leaks can be as simple as a clamp coming loose over time. Just tightening or replacing the clamp will solve your problem. Leaks at pressure fittings may benefit from a gentle amount of tightening too.
Synthetic oils are promoted by manufacturers of motor oils as having longer life. In fact, makers of many newer cars are now specifying that synthetic oils be used, and many more car owners are opting to use synthetic oil in their cars and SUVs. Yet, when it’s time to change the oil, many car owners are unsure as to whether they need a special oil filter with synthetic oils.
“All of the oil filters we market today are fully compatible with synthetic oils,” said Kevin O’Dowd, Director of Marketing & Communications, for MANN+HUMMEL Purolator Filters, manufacturer and supplier of top quality oil filters to the North American aftermarket.
“Our PureONE and Purolator Classic include media and other materials that are engineered to work with all synthetic oils marketed in North America today. If a motorist replaces the oil and filter on their vehicle every 3,000 miles recommended by many in the industry, they can use any of our Purolator filters with confidence,” O’Dowd said.
However, if a motorist’s intention is to stretch out the oil change interval to take advantage of the benefits promised by the suppliers of synthetic engine oils, then it’s important to select an oil filter that matches and offers expanded ‘capacity’ and ‘efficiency’ to safely capture and hold the additional contaminants that will accumulate over longer time periods.
Enter Purolator Synthetic.
Based on cutting-edge technology, the recently introduced Purolator Synthetic oil filter family has been designed for longevity from the ground up. It utilizes 100 percent synthetic media with pleat support technology containing wire backing. Purolator Synthetic has substantially greater ability than conventional oil filters to capture and safely hold more contaminants generated over the extended life of synthetic oils without getting clogged. It is especially designed to work well on today’s high-tech engines, O’Dowd said.
Purolator Synthetic features 99 percent ‘efficiency’ which means that it can capture and safely hold 99 percent of particulates 25 microns in size or larger. A micron is a millionth of a meter.
It is this extraordinary combination of capacity and efficiency, along with innovative design technology, that maintains the integrity of the media for extended periods of time.
“In addition, all Purolator oil filters – PureOne, Classic, and Synthetic, incorporate materials that are fully compatible with all synthetic oils that meet the API and SAE standards as specified by virtually all automakers,” explained O’Dowd. “We have done extensive testing to assure that all of our canisters, sealing rings, bypass valves, anti-drainback valves, binders, and other materials are unaffected by the chemistry in synthetic oils. So motorists can choose any of our oil filters based on their needs and budgets,” he said.
According to O’Dowd, “All of these features make Purolator Synthetic a 10,000-mile filter for motorists that are using synthetic motor oils in their vehicles, and PureOne and Classic appropriate choices for any car,” he said.
Hours spent in a hot, stifling vehicle can spoil a weekend getaway or vacation. Conducting a periodic under-hood inspection may help you spot air conditioning problems before they spoil your trip.
Here’s what to look for: Note: Always be extremely careful any time you’re under the hood while the engine is running. Stay away from all rotating components with your hands, clothing, and hair, and always wear eye protection around a running engine.
1. Are A/C component mounting bolts in place and tightly secured?
2. Are caps installed on the A/C system service ports? This keeps out dirt, and also provides a seal for refrigerant.
3. With the engine running, does the compressor clutch engage when the A/C is switched on? If it doesn’t, this usually indicates a low (or empty) refrigerant condition, or an electrical problem. Also, listen for rapid clicking or cycling noises at the compressor when the A/C is switched on. If this is happening, it could also indicate low refrigerant or some other problems. Have it checked by your service technician. (Note: Some A/C systems prevent compressor clutch engagement in low temperatures, typically at or below 40° F.)
4. With the engine running and the A/C switched off, listen for knocking or rumbling sounds in the vicinity of the compressor. These could indicate a failing compressor clutch, and/or loose mounting hardware.
5. Check all belts for cracks, wear, and glazing. Have them replaced at the first sign of any of these conditions. Also, check for belts that vibrate while the engine is running and the A/C is on. This may indicate a belt that needs to be tightened, or a defective automatic belt tensioner.
6. Examine all A/C and cooling system hoses for cuts, abrasion, weak spots, and signs of leakage. Leakage from A/C system hoses is often indicated by an accumulation of dirt and oil, particularly at connections and fittings.
With heavy rain pounding many parts of the country, there’s a good chance that you’ll drive through high water that could damage your vehicle. Even though your vehicle may not have been flooded or completely covered in water, the Car Care Council recommends that motorists follow these guidelines to check for damage due to water intrusion or contamination:
- Check interior carpets, upholstery and door and trim panels for dampness. If they are wet, then the vehicle will need professional attention. If you simply let the carpet dry, it will quickly grow mildew and give off nasty odors. Seat brackets, motors and modules should also be checked for rust and proper operation.
- Pull the engine oil and transmission fluid dipsticks and differential plug. If the fluid appears milky, diluted, is no longer its original color or is beige in color, then it is likely the pans contain water. The vehicle should be towed to your ASE-certified technician or repair shop. Driving the vehicle with water present may damage the internal parts and require extensive overhaul or repairs. The council reminds motorists that some new synthetic differential fluids may appear to be milky but are not water contaminated. When in doubt, a professional automotive technician should make the evaluation.
- Check the air filter for water. If it is wet, replace the air filter and change the oil.
- Check the undercarriage, bumpers, radiator area and frame for mud, grass, dirt, debris and rust. If any of these are present, the vehicle should be washed and cleaned as soon as possible.
- Have the brake system checked by a professional automotive technician.
- Check the exterior lights for moisture and water. Replace headlights and bulbs that contain water.
- Listen for abnormal noises while the engine is running. Make a note of where the noise is coming from and take the vehicle to a professional automotive technician as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to the alternator, serpentine belt, starter, power steering unit, air conditioner and wheel bearings.
- Inspect the suspension joints and lubricate as necessary. Many newer vehicles are lubricated at the factory for life; however, these joints should be checked for rust.
“It all comes down to how much water the vehicle took in and where it reached,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “By being car care aware and following these simple guidelines, you can help minimize the potential for damage to your vehicle.”
The automatic transmission is a pretty incredible device when you get a chance to look inside of it. The technology that is needed to eliminate manual shift transmission needs to have electronics and hydraulics to work in unity. The transmission fluid flows throughout the whole transmission like oil in an engine. It cleans, lubricates, cools and actuates the different assemblies that cause the automatic shifting to occur for thousands of miles. Rubber seals, gaskets, shift valves and clutches all must perform their jobs flawlessly or the automatic transmission is useless.
Automatic transmission fluid change intervals are much longer than that of engine oil since the fluid is not exposed to the high heat and combustion gases that engine oil is constantly dealing with. The transmission fluid does break down due to the physical stress placed on it during normal operation. As it wears it can no longer protect the seals, clutches and such that it is supposed to protect. The detergents will weaken, allowing a varnish type material to start coating the hard metal parts and cylinders inside the unit. Seals that are in place to control the flow of the fluid or lock up clutches start to harden with age, allowing fluid to leak by not applying the proper forces needed for good shifts.
When the transmission is serviced in many of today’s vehicles, the main transmission pan is dropped, allowing for some of the transmission fluid to come out of the unit. This can amount to four or six quarts of fluid leaving another four or more quarts still remaining in the transmission. So only about half of the fluid may really be changed normally during this service.
The detergents and additives in the new transmission oil will go to work on the build-up of varnish and hardened seals. Adding K&W Trans-X® Automatic Transmission Stop Leak to the fluid during this normal service will further recondition the surfaces and seals inside the transmission. This will add miles to the life of the transmission if done at each service interval.
If an automatic transmission exhibits any symptoms such as soft and sloppy shifts, shifts that are very firm and harsh, or slow engagement when placed in drive or reverse these can all be the result of a transmission’s normal wear. As long as there are no grinding noises or other hard part issues, K&W TRANS-X added to the transmission can revert the shifts back to their normal condition possibly eliminating or delaying expensive repairs. K&W TRANS-X is an inexpensive fix that may save lots of money when an older transmission is starting to fail.
Because of the construction of the automatic transmission out of many individual parts, leaks can also occur at many different locations. Many seals and gaskets are used in the building of the transmission. As they wear and age, leaking can occur. If the leakage is great enough to lower the fluid level substantially, erratic transmission operation will occur with major internal damage to follow.
Adding K&W TRANS-X during normal service and when needed can help prevent these leaks from occurring and even seal some of the seeping ones.
It’s crunch time and if you’re still struggling with what to give a loved one, family member or friend this holiday season, the perfect gift can be an item related to vehicle safety. Tire pressure gauges, ice scrapers, emergency kits, windshield wipers or the consumer Car Care Guide, published by the Car Care Council, are suitable items for any drivers on your list.
“These small and relatively inexpensive items play a big role in vehicle safety and reliability especially during winter driving when road conditions can be hazardous and unpredictable,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “They’re a perfect stocking stuffer or holiday gift that shows the drivers on your list that you truly care about them this holiday season.”
Low tire pressure and windshield wipers were among the top six items that had the highest failure rate during National Car Care Month check-up events. Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month as properly inflated tires are critical to the vehicle’s ride, handling, traction and safety. For optimum performance, wiper blades should be replaced every six months or when cracked, cut, torn, streaking or chattering.
An emergency road kit is something that can be easily compiled or purchased. A kit should include an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, candles/matches, bottled water and dry food snacks.