Video Tips

Keeping Your ‘Old Faithful’ Auto Running

 

At Gas Depot Auto Repair we’ve had a lot of people asking how they can make their vehicles last longer. These questions are actually a reflection of a trend that’s been building for several years. The median age of personal vehicles is now over nine years. And 33 percent of all vehicles on the road have over 75,000 miles on them. It looks like it’s going to keep heading in that direction for a while. With high fuel prices a lot of folks are putting off buying a new car.

So let’s say you’re one of the average people in the San Diego area; you’ve got a nine year old car with 80,000 miles on the odometer. What can you to do make it last another year or two?

Let’s start with the premise that there’s no reason that a modern car can’t run for 200,000 miles with proper care. The engineering and manufacturing quality is there.

Of course, some parts will wear out along the way, but there’s no reason for a catastrophic meltdown if you stay on top of your recommended maintenance. The maintenance schedule in some owner’s manuals runs out at 60,000 miles or so: how do we know what to do when we’re way past that?

It is a challenge, for example: If a service is recommended every 15,000 miles for the first 60,000 miles you can just keep getting it done at least every 15,000 miles after you hit 60,000 miles. But, it gets more complicated because older engines lose some efficiency, are dirtier inside and are just more stressed. That means it’s very important to not miss any scheduled services. Skipping just one oil change, for example, leaves an opportunity for harmful sludge to build up.

So all the usual things like oil changes, transmission service, coolant service, brakes, power steering, fuel system cleaning – all that stuff need to be maintained. People responsible for fleet vehicles around San Diego are positively religious about scheduled maintenance. They know that money spent on maintenance saves them three ways:

  • it saves fuel;
  • it prevents costly repairs, and;
  • they can postpone purchasing new vehicles.

Having the oil changed may be the most important thing. A full service oil change means that all of your other fluids get topped off so they are never low enough to cause damage. It also gives your technician a chance to spot problems in the early stages so that you can fix them before they get expensive. And it gives you a touch point with a professional along the way to remind you of things that aren’t scheduled as often – things like differential service and timing belt replacement.

If you live in the San Diego area and have an older vehicle, you may need to follow the severe service maintenance schedule. Check your owner’s manual and talk with your service advisor at Gas Depot Auto Repair. Conditions inside an older engine, transmission and cooling system can arguably be considered severe – so shorter intervals could well be called for.

And, we would strongly encourage you to consider using high mileage formulation fluids. They’re fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant that are formulated for older engines. They have special additives to clean deposits, and to condition and restore seals and gaskets that dry out with age. Some people start using higher mileage formulations at around 50,000 miles as a preventive measure.

Of course you also want to still look marvelous in your older car. Salt and road grime wreak havoc on your paint job and can lead to body rust – so regular washing is very important. Also, a good quality waxing is recommended at least twice a year.

Give us a call for more information:

Gas Depot Auto Repair
1619 G Street.
San Diego, California 92101
619 235-6742

All Charged Up!

There’s nothing but a loud buzzing noise coming from under the hood when you try to start your car. Jumper cables get you up and scurrying to work–but you need another jump to get home. Time to pull some maintenance on the battery.

Automotive batteries have a finite life span. Undercharging, overcharging and heat all team up to degrade your battery. Poor electrical connections make it more difficult for even a good battery to do its job.

Start any battery maintenance program by checking open-cell voltage, either with a dedicated battery tester or a voltmeter. With the battery fully charged and all electrical drains-dome light, warning buzzer, etc.-shut down, the voltage across the terminals should be 12.5 to 12.6 volts. If the battery is not completely charged, but still adequate to turn over the motor, you may see a voltage closer to 12.0 volts.

If the battery shows less voltage or won’t take a charge, it’s time to get out the hydrometer. This device checks the proportions of sulfuric acid and water in the electrolyte, which is a precise indication of the level of charge. Pull up the battery fill caps–if you can. Add distilled water to any cells in which the level of electrolyte isn’t touching the bottom of the fill port. Use only distilled water. The minerals in tap water will eventually reduce a battery’s capacity.

If your battery is one of the so-called low-maintenance varieties, you may not see any filler caps. These batteries claim to never need water added. While it’s true that they have a slightly different chemistry that consumes less water, and the level of electrolyte in the cells is deeper over the top of the plates, eventually these batteries run out of water and die. Look carefully and see if there is a way to pull up a set of filler caps. They may be hidden under a sticker that can be slit open. Others are permanently sealed shut.

If the level of electrolyte is very low, suspect a charging system that’s generating too high a voltage. The maximum voltage you should see across the battery terminals with a fully charged battery and an engine running well above idle is about 14.6 volts. Another cause of low electrolyte is excessive heat. Sun Belt drivers should top up battery levels regularly because underhood temps will climb high enough to drive water out of the battery very rapidly, even if the charging system is doing its job correctly. If your vehicle came with an insulator around the battery, be sure it’s in place and in good shape.

Give us a call for more information:

Gas Depot Auto Repair
1619 G Street.
San Diego, California 92101
619 235-6742

Keep Your Car Breathing Free: Engine Air Filter

This is something really amazing: For every gallon of gas your San Diego car burns, it uses 12,000 gallons of air. All of that air has to be filtered to keep your engine clean.

That’s like a hundred gallons of air every block! The engine air filter is just another example of a very inexpensive part that has to do a tremendous amount of work. And when it works, everything goes well. But, when it doesn’t, well, it can lead to costly problems. Of course, your manufacturer recommends intervals for changing your air filter. But like most service intervals, where and how you drive your car affects when your filter needs to be changed.

Dusty conditions in and around San Diego or polluted city driving means you’ll need to change your filter more often. Your Gas Depot Auto Repair technician can check your filter for you. In fact, it’s often a routine part of an oil change.

When you think about it, a clogged air filter won’t allow as much air through as a clean filter. Your car needs this air to efficiently burn its fuel, giving you better fuel economy and performance.

Dirtier filters don’t work as well as clean ones. A filter can only hold so much, after that, it allows dirt to pass right into your engine. Air filters come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in different grades. There are high performance air filters available for most cars. These high performance filters cost a little more, but they increase horsepower and may improve fuel economy to boot.

So have your air filter checked. If it needs replacing, it doesn’t cost very much and it should easily pay for itself in better fuel economy before your next oil change.

Stop by Gas Depot Auto Repair at 1619 G Street., San Diego, California 92101, and we’ll take a look at your air filter for you. Feel free to give us a call at 619 235-6742 to make an appointment.

10 Overlooked Services

We live such busy lives nowadays: work, social events, running the kids all over San Diego. Some days it’s all we can do to keep track of everywhere we need to be. That’s why you’ve gotta be organized. Lists, PDA, calendar- we have to keep track of it all.

So let’s talk about schedules. Specifically, automotive service schedules. And particularly, the scheduled services that are sometimes forgotten.

We have a list of 10 service items that are often overlooked. They’re all very important and need appropriate attention. So here we go, in no particular order.

1. Power Steering Service
Be honest; have you ever thought of this on your own? Your power steering fluid gets dirty and builds-up moisture over time. Cleaning out your power steering system means that dirt and gum are removed and your power steering parts are protected from corrosion. Ask your service advisor if it’s time for a power steering check-up.

2. Wheel Alignment
When your wheels are out of alignment your car pulls to one side. It’s pretty annoying, but it’s also dangerous. And it causes your tires to wear out really fast; which is expensive! Most owners’ manuals suggest you get your alignment checked once or twice a year.

3. Differential Service
Okay, did you even know you had a differential? Well you do. One, two or three in fact. Differentials are often called gear boxes and they’re part of the drive-train that transfers power from the engine to your wheels. They don’t need service that often, but you can’t just ignore them. Check with your service advisor.

4. Cabin Air Filter
More and more San Diego cars these days have cabin air filters to clean the air in the passenger area where we sit. They filter out dust and pollen. When they’re clogged up, they can get smelly. Change your cabin air filter on schedule to enjoy fresh, clean air, which can also help with allergies.

5. Timing Belt Replacement
Most cars and some vans and trucks around the San Diego area have timing belts. Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say that your car won’t run without it – period. And if it breaks while you’re driving it can do thousands of dollars worth of engine damage. Check your owners’ manual or with your service advisor. If you’re approaching 60,000 miles; absolutely look into it right away.

6. Transmission Service
Transmission service is very basic, but it’s often forgotten. Your transmission needs clean fluid from time to time to keep running efficiently and avoid costly repairs. And it can improve your fuel economy too.

7. Air Conditioning Service
Most of us don’t think about our air conditioning until it doesn’t work. Then if you’re lucky, you just need to add refrigerant. If you’re not, some of the components may have been ruined. Those components are not cheap. Regular air conditioning service adds clean refrigerant which cools and lubricates your air conditioner and conditions the seals.

8. Brake Service
No we’re not talking about squealing, grinding brakes here. We’re talking brake fluid. Over time the fluid gets a lot of water in it. Because water compresses differently than the brake fluid, your brakes won’t work as well. It may even get dangerous. The water can also rust out brake system components and then your brakes can fail altogether. Check with your service advisor for recommendations.

9. Coolant System
Another thing that’s so easy to forget about: When you don’t change your antifreeze on schedule it becomes corrosive. Fresh coolant contains additives that maintain the pH balance in the coolant. These additives wear out and the fluid in the radiator can actually eat holes in the radiator or hoses. Then you’re stranded.

10. Fuel System Cleaning
In times of high fuel prices, fuel system cleaning is so important. Fuel gums up a bunch of parts as it moves from the gas tank and through the engine. A thorough fuel system cleaning will keep clean gas flowing into the engine. Your fuel injectors get gunked up over time and need to be cleaned. Having your fuel system cleaned on schedule will really help your fuel economy.

And there we have it; 10 services that are often overlooked. Did you know that a recent survey showed that 90 percent of vehicles on the road have at least one scheduled maintenance service that hasn’t been performed? Based on our busy lives, we’re not surprised.

We know it takes some thought and effort to actually maintain your vehicle; but it not only saves money in the long run – it saves time too. And we can all use a little more time.

Gas Depot Auto Repair can help with any of these services. Give us a all at 619 235-6742