Your engine is a metal box with explosions inside it. Thinking about it that way helps illustrate why the things get incredibly hot; were it not for proper cooling, your engine would literally melt together under its own heat and pressure!
Naturally, your car’s engine cooling is one of the most critical parts of its operation. Luckily, it’s typically obvious when something is wrong! Here’s a breakdown of how your car’s cooling system works and how to keep it in shape.
So why does an engine generate heat? As stated previously, your car burns gasoline many, many times per second. The heat from that burning is typically absorbed by the engine block, the giant hunk of metal that forms the shell of your engine.
Though many classic cars were air-cooled – including Porsches until 1998 – modern engines require liquid cooling. Lots of tiny channels in your engine block are filled with antifreeze, which is specially engineered to soak up as much heat as possible.
That anti-freeze – driven by your car’s water pump – takes a lengthy journey through your engine before winding up in the radiator, typically on the front of your car. The radiator uses the natural airflow of your car’s movement (sometimes with a fan) to cool the liquid, before returning it to the block where the cycle begins anew.
Because liquid cooling systems have many different parts, there are a few frequent and obvious failure points.
- The Water Pump: because the pump turns on a bearing, eventually that bearing will become worn out and seize up. When that happens, liquid can no longer move! The water pump should be changed out any time you get your timing belt changed to prevent this from happening.
- The Radiator: because they take quite a beating from the elements, radiators can develop leaks over time. The more leaks there are, the faster you lose coolant, and the more likely you are to overheat.
- Hoses: the many rubber hoses connected to the cooling system can crack and break, especially in colder temperatures.
- Fluid: certain types of antifreeze degrade over time. Other types may not mesh well with your particular car, causing a buildup of brown gunk. Make sure you only use the brand of coolant recommended by your manufacturer.
The best way to maintain your cooling system is also the cheapest one: look! Check for puddles of coolant under your car, check hoses for obvious cracks, and open your radiator cap once in a while to monitor rust and gunk.
Need a professional to look at your cooling system? Bring your car in for an oil change at Fast Lube Plus, and while we’re at it we’ll take a look at your cooling system! We serve customers across the Triangle. Come in today, and let’s get you rolling!
The average American commute is a painful 26.4 minutes long! That means lots of time in your driver’s seat, lots of oily fingers touching the dials, and plenty of dirt and grime from getting in and out.
Knowing that, shouldn’t you properly maintain your car’s interior? It’s easy, affordable, and anyone can do it! Not only does it make that commute more comfortable, but it helps the cabin materials last longer and look great.
Dashboards are typically made from either leather, vinyl, or plastic (or a combination of the three.) Each type of surface requires its own special care, but leather is the most fickle. Your owner’s manual will likely indicate if your dash has a special material.
For vinyl, use mild water and a clean microfiber cloth. While some people prefer the shiny aesthetic of Armor All, the greasy finish is unpleasant and it can crack thinner plastics. If you have to use something stronger than water, consider a diluted all-purpose cleaner or non-greasy Meguiar’s. Be extremely careful cleaning plastics around radios and HVAC controls, as they can scratch easily.
Leather – including seats – requires special care. Get leather cleaner from a trusted brand like Meguiar’s or Mother’s, and follow up with a high quality leather conditioner. As mentioned above, always read your manual for specific pointers!
Carpet and Upholstery
The obvious solution here is to vacuum thoroughly and often. Your corner store’s coin vac works well enough, but personal models offer variable speed control and the ability to spit air out. For vacuuming hard to reach places (especially under seats) it can help to blow debris out before vacuuming it up. You should also invest in a sturdy brush for foot wells and carpet mats. Be gentle, though!
Much as house carpet requires regular shampooing, your car’s upholstery sometimes needs to get wet. While professional detailers have steam machines, you can shampoo yourself with a gentle brush and the proper soap. Just allow plenty of time, because air drying takes a while.
Good ol’ Windex works wonders on car windows, but you can also use a mixture of water and vinegar. The real key lies in the applicator; use a soft, high quality microfiber towel for the best results. To reduce streaks, make sure you buff properly: firm, in a circular motion.
Does your car need under the hood maintenance? Fast Lube Plus offers oil changes, inspections, and other routine maintenance to drivers in Cary, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Apex, Morrisville, Garner and the greater Raleigh-Durham area. Contact us today and let’s keep your car running great!
There’s a lot of talk about your car’s tires, and rightfully so. But that rubber is guided towards the road by a complicated assortment of joints, bolts, and metal pieces. It’s what keeps your car comfortable on the highway and on twisty mountain roads: your suspension.
As one of the most hidden parts of your car, suspension maintenance is easy to ignore. It’s also one of the hardest worked. Suspension maintenance isn’t as frequent as other parts, but it still pays to stay on top of it! Here are some parts of your suspension you should know about.
Axles and CV Joints
Own a front wheel drive car? Unless you have a truck or a sports car, you likely do. All front-wheel drive cars use a CV joint (sometimes called a CV axle) to transfer power from the transmission to the wheels. The unique layout of front-wheel drive cars requires a specialized axle with a very flexible joint system, covered by a rubber boot. Over time this rubber boot can crack, removing the joint’s lubrication. Not a good thing to happen while you’re driving!
Your wheel is connected to your car’s frame by a forked metal part called a control arm. As your wheel bounces across the road, the control arm rapidly moves up and down to compensate for the motion. Most control arms are long-lasting, and aside from excessive salt will last a long time. The weaknesses are the rubber and metal bushings that facilitate that motion; have your mechanic check them for wear and tear.
Shock absorbers live up to their name: they smooth the motion between your wheels and the body of your car, making bounces more graceful. But when they break, it’s more than an issue of comfort! Bad shocks cause premature tire wear, which gets expensive fast. They can also cause your car to sag, damaging your undercarriage during bumps.
Your steering system’s final step is at your ball joints, small metal joints that allow steering knuckles to turn your wheels. When they break, you can lose control of your car! Signs of wear include a cracking or groaning sound when you turn the wheel. If you start hearing those noises, you need to have your ball joints checked as soon as possible.
Fast Lube Plus offers professional automotive guidance to residents of Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Apex and Morrisville. Call us now or drop by one of our locations, and let’s get you back on the road!
Down the road when that new car smell fades away and it doesn’t quite drive like it used to, you’ll want to know the extent of your auto warranty coverage. Knowing what parts, tune-ups and repairs will be covered — and for how long — will give you a complete picture of how to minimize your costs and what kind of insurance you’ll need in the long run. Here’s what you need to know to save you money and get the best service for your car when you need it.
Auto warranty 101
An auto warranty is a promise made by a manufacturer or dealer to cover repairs and defects over the course of a certain amount of time and certain amount of mileage. Most basic warranties are guaranteed for at least three years or 36,000 miles, but may vary according to the manufacturer.
Warranties are essential a legally binding pledge to fix or replace any parts that have broken down or are inherently faulty, including defective parts. Warranties do not cover regular maintenance and will not cover breakdowns caused by accidents, acts of nature, lack of proper maintenance, contamination of fluids or fuels, collision, fire, theft, negligence or abuse.
There’s a basic checklist of questions all consumers should have answered before purchasing a car warranty, according to the Federal Trade Commission, including length of the warranty, the point of contact for service, what parts and repair problems are covered, as well as any conditions or limitations on the warranty.
Different levels of warranty coverage exist, so it’s important to understand the limits and umbrella of coverage before purchasing. These are the most typical types of warranty your car dealer will offer:
Basic “bumper-to-bumper” warranty: This is the most general coverage that pays to repair defects in factory-installed parts.
Drivetrain/Powertrain warranty: Covers the engine, transmission and transaxle parts. This warranty tends to last longer than bumper-to-bumper.
Roadside assistance: Covers towing costs and tire changing if the car breaks down during travel.
Rust or corrosion warranty: Covers rust in sheet metal parts of the car.
Federal emission warranty: Covers repairs needed to correct defects in parts that would cause the car not to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.
How drivers can maintain their warranty
Regular car maintenance and inspections are necessary to guarantee that a warranty won’t be voided. Typically, routine maintenance includes oil changes, tire rotations, fluid checks and flushes, brake pads, belt replacement, etc. A warranty will remain valid no matter who performs the repairs, meaning you can use your own mechanic or shop — not just the dealer’s service department.
What does auto insurance do that car warranties don’t?
Under car warranties, the manufacturer makes a guarantee to the car buyer regarding the condition of its product. In case car parts do not function as intended, a warranty will cover the costs to repair or replace the part, as well as car rentals due to repairs, and potentially corrosion/rust.
Insurance, on the other hand, is an obligation on the part of the insurer to take on financial protection or reimbursement for the risks that are inherent with driving. Every state in the U.S. except for New Hampshire requires drivers to purchase some level of auto insurance to cover accidents, collisions, car rentals and possibly roadside assistance.
Service contracts or “extended warranties”
When a warranty runs out, car owners may choose to purchase a service contract to provide repairs or maintenance. Vehicle manufacturers, auto dealers and independent providers sell the contract separately from a warranty.
Service contracts will not provide benefits until after the initial warranty expires. Rates for these contracts depend on the life of the car — those with fewer miles and past repairs will get a better deal.
These contracts, while often referred to as “extended warranties,” are not actually warranties. Drivers who are interested in purchasing a service contract should practice due diligence to find the most trustworthy source, particularly from third-party companies.
However, since service contracts are optional and car warranties end, it’s most critical for car owners to purchase insurance that will be the most affordable, provide adequate coverage and be the best fit for their specific car.
Best and worst warranties on the market
There are three vehicle brands that standout for providing the best in basic and power train warranties: Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Kia. Each brand offers five years or 60,000 miles new vehicle limited warranties, and 10 years or 100,000 miles powertrain warranties.
Brands like BMW and Cadillac offer four years or 50,000 miles basic warranties and five years or 100,000 miles powertrain warranties. Other big brands such as Chrysler, Chevrolet and GMC all offer three years or 36,000 miles new vehicle limited warranty, and five years or 100,000 miles powertrain limited warranty
The most standard warranties on the market are offered by Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Ford, Mazda and Subaru with three years or 36,000 miles new vehicle limited warranty, and 5 years or 60,000 miles powertrain limited warranty.
Perhaps you may have thought of resorting to do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques to repair your car, possibly as a way of saving costs incurred for every visit to the repair shop and as a personal challenge to improve your skills in car repair. While DIY techniques may prove to be both useful and enriching, they’re not always applicable to all aspects of car repair. Unless you’re a car technician yourself, you may not have all the time in the world to study all the ins and outs of car repair, which is why some complicated repair matters may not be covered by your DIY skills. To avoid the risk of aggravating your car’s condition, here are some car repair problems that shouldn’t be addressed with DIY techniques.
1: Replacing your worn-out timing belt
Once your car racks up more than 50,000 miles, you may want to have your timing belt checked. Being one of the more crucial wear-and-tear replacements, your engine’s timing belt has to be replaced once it breaks down because your car wouldn’t run properly after that. One thing that has to be considered about your timing belt is that it’s almost always one of the most expensive to repair. With components ranging between $450 and $1,000, you might as well repair your car’s timing belt all by yourself. However, a DIY approach to repairing timing belts is utterly inadvisable.
Several car owners have reported subjecting their cars to more expensive repairs after attempting to fix their timing belts by themselves. With engine damage being the inevitable result of failed DIY approaches to repairing timing belts, it is highly recommended that you don’t deal with your car’s timing belt by yourself. Ask for the services of a skilled car technician for having your timing belt problem addressed – paying between $450 and $1,000 for components plus service charges is definitely more bearable than subjecting your engine to at least $3,500 worth of repairs due to damage caused by DIY approaches.
2: Addressing your automatic transmission problems
If you own an automatic-transmission car, it’s best for you to have your car checked by a car technician one it encounter problems related to its automatic transmission system. Containing several minute components, your car’s automatic transmission system can be very difficult to manage through DIY approaches. Arteries for hydraulic fluid passage and precisely-fitted parts all make up automatic transmissions they can be very complicated to address on your own and it can subject you to very costly consequences once you make a mistake. Therefore, a car technician would best solve your car’s automatic transmission issues, given that they specialize in dealing with its ins and outs.
Your car’s automatic transmission system would most likely lead you to more repair costs if you deal with it improperly using DIY approaches. More often than not, maintaining your car’s automatic transmission system on your own may inadvertently lead to more damage owing to its sheer sensitivity. Thus, even seeming-simple maintenance procedures such as fluid change and flushing should be left to the care of specialized car technicians – their expert services ensures you of less costs and greater success, relieving you from the possibility of exposing yourself to greater costs by going DIY.
3: Dealing with overheating
Overheating is every car owner’s bane, not least because it emerges as a symptom of their car’s overuse. Dealing with the root cause of overheating through DIY approaches is a big no-no unless you’ve received ample training for dealing with cooling systems. Be that as it may, the fact that cooling systems repair is among the most advanced repair issues in cars leaves you with the services of a skilled car technician as the most cost-effective choice for resolving overheating. Otherwise, your DIY attempts to fix your car’s overheating problem would only lead you to suffer massive financial consequences.
4: Dabbling with the cause of your car’s faulty drivability
At some point, your car will definitely start exhibiting problems relating to drivability – failure to start properly, stalling and surging, and notifications telling you to check your engine are just some of the examples involved. Needless to say, those are the kinds of problems that can’t simply be solved by DIY techniques – they require a specialized form of training even skilled car technicians have struggled to perfect. With that, drivability problems shouldn’t be part of your DIY coverage – they are best left to the care of repair shops where car technicians have ample experience dealing with those issues.
Another thing most DIY connoisseurs have failed to understand is the fact that drivability problems require several pages of diagnostics to understand and resolve. Those diagnostics typically require further tests as well, given that codes pertaining to damage in drivability tend to involve other components as well. It is in that regard where DIY approaches have failed to address faulty drivability – just because the diagnostics mention specific codes doesn’t exactly mean that the problem is exclusive to the components mentioned. For that, your car’s drivability problems must undergo a series of repair sessions conducted by car technicians – that’s way more convenient and practical than solving the problem on your own and causing further damage in the process.
5: Solving your suspension woes
Your car’s suspension system may look very easy to deal with from the onset, but the reality is that it’s very difficult to deal with its complexities without proper training. That alone should serve as a warning against employing DIY techniques on solving suspension problems. There have been many instances already where DIY attempts to fix suspension have failed miserably, starting with the failure to deal with the massive force involved in putting a compressed coil spring in place. Replacing struts, arms, and bushings also require the specialized skills of car technicians, given the sophisticated order of their arrangement within your car’s suspension system. Considering as well that service charges aren’t too high as to merit amateur DIY approaches, having your car’s suspension system fixed by car technicians is undoubtedly a more cost-effective idea.
Any of our Fast Lube Plus Locations are more than happy to take the reigns to handle these issues. Give us a call to schedule now!
“A man is only as good as his tools.”
Here at Fast Lube Plus we firmly believe that preventative maintenance is the key to keeping your vehicle running at peak performance, but we also are realistic in the fact that sometimes things beyond our control can occur, possibly putting you in a position where a quick fix is necessary. The purpose of this post is to help put together a list of some very useful tools to have around should you ever find yourself stranded.
Having access to a few essential tools can mean the difference between towing to a shop or continuing down the road on your own accord. It should be noted that you should only ever work within your comfort level when having to fix your car in a pinch. So if you are comfortable enough to take the reigns in a pinch, here are a few good suggestions to keep tucked away in your vehicle for the occasion.
- Flashlight – This is perhaps the most essential piece of equipment to keep in your vehicle at all times whether you plan on working on it yourself or not. Always keep a flashlight handy, and test regularly to make sure the batteries are charged.
- Jack / Lug Wrench – Your spare tire is useless without these 2 pieces of equipment. Make sure you know the jackpoints on your vehicle, and a handy trick is to loosen the lugs (in a star pattern) while the tire is still touching the ground.
- Screwdrivers – You cannot do any repair without screwdrivers. It would be wise to keep a couple of these tools with different head shapes and sizes. They are necessary in loosening and tightening the different screws in different parts of your car.
- Vise-Grip Pliers – These lockable pliers are worth their weight in gold. They are most useful as a locking wrench to help loosen / tighten tough bolts or nuts.
- Adjustable Wrench – This handy tool adjusts to fit many sizes of bolts and nuts, and with your Vise-Grip Pliers can help tighten free spinning nuts and bolts.
- Tire Gauge – Used to check the pressure of your tires (including your spare), this should be used monthly to keep tire pressure maintained at the correct levels to prevent unnecessary flats.
Feel free to consult with your Fast Lube Plus technician on your next visit for a demonstration of how to use each of these!
Most drivers ignore their car’s tachometer. It’s the big gauge next to your speedometer that shows your engine RPM, or rotations per minute.
While the device itself is a bit boring, it symbolizes something amazing. Those “rotations” are heavy, metal engine parts flying back and forth against exploding gasoline. When you’re hitting the on-ramp, that happens four thousand times per minute!
That speeding metal is orchestrated by a timing belt or chain, expertly engineered to keep those parts separated. If it breaks, those parts collide, and it’s not pretty.
Maintenance for belts and chains differs significantly! It’s important to know what your car has so you can avoid disaster.
A timing belt is a ribbed, rubber belt that slides into gear grooves on one side of your engine. You usually can’t see it, as it’s covered to protect it from the elements.
Timing belts have many disadvantages. For one, their flexible material will eventually break. Furthermore, examining the belt requires removing a ton of other parts, so you can’t just chance it. Manufacturers have their own recommended replacement times, generally 60,000 – 100,000 miles.
However, timing belts have some pluses. They’re lighter and quieter, and much cheaper to manufacture. This makes them popular on both economy cars and high-performance sports cars.
Replacing the timing belt is a complex, lengthy procedure that can be quite expensive. Since it connects to several other hard-to-reach parts – particularly your water pump – your mechanic will usually replace multiple parts during the job. These higher upfront costs will save you money down the line.
The timing chain is increasing in popularity, reaching even economy cars for Ford, Volkswagen, and Mazda. Its metal design means it rarely, if ever, breaks. Chains can withstand heavy duty or high-power applications, especially trucks. New technology means that chains can work in small cars with no performance or fuel economy loss.
However, timing chains aren’t perfect. They sometimes warp with time, requiring replacement. Furthermore, some manufacturers use plastic guides to keep the chain stable as it moves. These guides can wear over time and have disastrous consequences if they wear out. This was a particularly notable problem on certain Audis.
If you’re buying a new car, ask about its timing method! This will help you prepare for maintenance and keep your car running longer.
Besides your brake pads, fluids are the majority of the most important maintenance to your vehicle to keep on the road for several hundred thousand miles. Friction and heat are enormous by-products of the power your vehicle creates to shuttle us around, and without these fluids your vehicle will simply not work. Keeping these fluids fresh and full can make the difference between simple maintenance and costly repairs.
Which fluids should you check? Here are five of your engine’s fluids you should make a habit of checking:
- Check your oil once a month.
- Check out your owner’s manual to know when to have the oil replaced. Timeframes depend on the car.
- Typical numbers are every 3,000 miles for newer engines up to 7,000 miles for high mileage. Higher mileage engines can go longer due to the parts being “worn in”, causing less friction meaning less lubrication is necessary.
- Transmission fluid should be checked monthly.
- It should be replaced every 50,000 to 100,000 miles.
- This is a job for FastLube Plus or another professional, as many times gaskets must be replaced as well.
- Coolant should be checked twice yearly, before summer and before winter.
- It needs to be replaced every 2 to 3 years.
- Low coolant can lead to blown radiators when air (which can expand) enters the cooling system.
- You should check this once a month.
- Brake fluid needs to be replaced every 2 years.
POWER STEERING FLUID
- This fluid should be checked once a month.
- Check your owner’s manual for information of replacing power steering fluid. It greatly depends on the car.
The team at FastLube Plus is always happy to answer any of your questions. We can also check your engine’s fluids and replace any necessary fluids. A well-maintained car is synonymous with safe car. To schedule an appointment please call us at919.387.9996 to find your nearest FastLube Plus location.
Your body filters itself in various ways: your kidneys, bladder, pancreas, and more. And just as your car’s engine is its heart, it usually gets the bulk of your attention.
But when those other organs act up, you start to notice. Previously unseen assistants start making themselves known in the worst way. Your cars filters can give you the same headaches, and it pays to replace them sooner rather than later! Here are the major filters on most cars, what they do, and how often they should be replaced.
Your air filter is your car’s mouth. As your engine breathes air to push through, the filter gets rid of pine needles, dead bugs, dust, and other fun stuff that could hamper that process. If it’s clogged, your engine will feel sluggish or even have trouble starting.
Air filter replacement guidelines vary, but a general rule is every 25,000 – 35,000 miles.
Oil lubricates all the moving parts of your engine. Since your engine spends most of its time moving, oil gets a lot of use. It also picks up certain byproducts of your engine: dirt, grime, even microscopic metal shavings. The filter keeps those nasties in their own little prison.
Your oil filter should be changed every time you change your oil. No exceptions.
Gasoline can be surprisingly nasty, even after being refined. Factor in one too many poorly-cleaned gas pumps, age, and an emergency fill from the gas can in the shed, and things can get even nastier.
Manufacturers put the fuel filter in all kinds of places. Most are on the line from your gas tank (in the back) to your engine (usually in the front.) These can and should be replaced a few times in your car’s life, especially on older vehicles. Some cars have the filter directly in the tank, and it may never need replacement.
Cabin Air Filter
Many cars actually don’t filter their most important air: what passengers breathe! However, cabin air filters for your AC/heat vents are becoming increasingly common. That air comes from the outside. All those construction zones, gravel roads, and rainstorms you drive through? Your cabin air filter protects you from them. Replace it around once per year.
Your car’s transmission connects your engine to your tires. It works hard, and the gears inside gradually wear down. Their very tiny metal shavings can gum up the works. Transmission fluid catches those and redirect them to your transmission filter.
Transmission filters vary widely between types of transmissions. Many stickshifts don’t need one. Conventional automatic transmissions almost always have one, and it should be changed every 30,000 – 40,000 miles with the fluid.
Some new cars, especially high-end ones, have fancy automated manual or dual-clutch transmissions. The filters in these are much more sensitive, and usually need changing every 40,000 – 60,000 miles.
Always consult your owner’s manual for proper filter change intervals. And next time you stop by Fast Lube Plus, have us check your filters! Your car will thank you for it.
Regardless of its brand or age, every car needs regular tune-ups. Their behind-the-scenes nature means some drivers don’t see their value, but investing in preventative measures and routine checkups can save you future headaches! Here’s what goes into an average tune-up.
General Tune-up Procedures
Tune-ups can vary depending on the car and who is performing the tune-up. Generally, a tune-up consists of checking the engine for parts that need cleaning, fixing, or replacing. Common areas under inspection include filters, spark plugs, belts and hoses, car fluids, rotors, and distributor caps. Many of these only require a visual inspection or a simple test.
While some of these checks can be done at home, having professionals give your car a comprehensive tune-up guarantees that the engine is fully examined.
At Fast Lube Plus, tune-ups can also include analyzing exhaust emissions, adjusting ignition timing and idle speed control, and a thorough maintenance inspection.
Filters and Spark Plugs
Though tune-ups come in a variety of flavors, they almost always include your filters and spark plugs.
Fuel filters, oil filters, PCV valves (which help ventilate the engine), and air filters all help keep your engine clean. The filters catch contamination. Over time, clogs can develop as unclean fluids, air, dust, and other impurities get caught in the filters. If unchecked, dirty filters can lead to higher oil pressure, fuel pump failure, and many other expensive and annoying problems.
Spark plugs are the tiny electrodes that handle the “combustion” part of an internal combustion engine. They are subject to wear over time, as the metal is constantly under high pressure and temperatures. Rough idling and hard starts are often due to worn spark plugs. Their accompanying wires, rotors, and distributor caps can also wear out, and a good tune-up includes their inspection.
When to Get a Tune-up
Though tune-ups are important, most cars don’t require them as often as they require other maintenance jobs, like oil changes. If you have a car from the 1970s or earlier, you probably should get a tune-up every 10,000 miles. Most newer cars should be checked every 30,000 – 50,000 miles or so, despite some manufacturers recommending a 100,000 mile interval.
Routine tune-ups are crucial to maintaining your engine’s performance and longevity. Next time you visit Fast Lube Plus, ask one of our experienced technicians about our tune-up services.