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Allan's Tool Shed

Automotive and Light Truck Repairs

Education

Purpose of your engine oil.
The engine in your vehicle is full of moving parts. Pistons moving up and down, crankshaft turning, camshaft turning and much more.  It even aids in engine cooling.  These parts need lubrication to be able to move.  If there is no lubrication, friction between moving parts creates heat, once enough heat is created metal starts to distort and components begin to slow down - Bye bye engine.
In previous years, engines were simpler, oil simply lubricated bearings on the crankshaft, camshaft, valve rockers and piston rings.  Modern engines are asking much more from their oil.  Not only lubricating the critical components, but it is now controlling variable valve timing, timing chain tensioners, cylinder deactivation and in some cases high pressure fuel injection and more.
Engine oil is better quality than it has ever been in the past but engines are also asking more of the engine oil than ever before.
So how often should you change your engine oil?  There can be many arguments over mileage and types of oil used determining when oil should be changed.
Our recommendation is change your oil every 5000km to 7000kms.  It is still a relatively inexpensive maintenance to keep your car running.  Don't forget to check your oil level once in a while as well, leaks can develop quickly and if not discovered in time, can result in costly damage to your engine. 

The image to the left is an oil filter.  The sludge you see on it is caused by not enough oil changes.

Brake Service.
What do we mean by brake service.  This can mean a few different procedures but usually it will mean either your brakes are worn out and need to be replaced or simply taken apart to free up seized components.  When brake components seize up it can cause premature brake wear, excessive heat and in extreme cases brake failure.  In our Canadian climate metal components rust.  The brake pads sit in a groove in a bracket usually on a metal anti-rattle clip.  Often the rust will build up between the bracket and the anti-rattle clip. This causes the pads to not release from the brake rotor after you have let off the brake pedal.  This is what causes excessive wear and heat. The brake calipers also sit on sliding pins that allow the caliper to center itself over the pads, these pins will seize in place and cause uneven pad wear in a number of different ways.  The brake caliper piston can also seize.  The caliper is literally a small hydraulic cylinder that presses on the brake pads when the pedal is applied. The rust can build up around the piston that is supposed to move in and out and stop it from moving.  This will usually result in excessive heat and wear and can even in extreme cases smoke or catch fire.  There really isn't much that can be done to prevent a caliper piston from seizing, when this happens it is usually most cost effective to just replace the caliper with a remanufactured unit.  However the pad grooves and caliper slide pins can usually be saved.  A brake inspection twice a year (if you change between winter and summer tires) gives the opportunity to discover the beginnings of problems before they cost you brake pads and rotors prematurely.  When needed we would take the brakes apart, clean the rust away, lubricate with the proper lubricant and put them back together.   
Check engine light.
Since the late 1980's vehicles have had check engine lights.  The check engine light is intended to alert you to emissions related problems.  What are "emissions" related problems?  Almost anything that affects the performance of your vehicle could be called emissions related and also a number of problems that you may not even notice.  If your vehicle for example has a transmission shifting problem, you may say that doesn't affect my engines emissions, but it can.  Reason being, if your vehicle is not in the proper gear (for example) your vehicle will not be running as efficiently as it should, therefore creating more emissions (pollution).   Most commonly however, check engine lights are caused by engine sensors, fuel system, wiring or mechanical problems.  If your check engine light comes on, it means you have a problem (the light doesn't come on just to annoy you).  If you don't notice anything obvious with how the vehicle is operating - don't panic, you'll need to get it looked at, but usually it will be safe enough to get you where you're going.  However, if your check engine light comes on and flashes, this is telling you you're potentially doing damage to your catalytic convertor (that's the expensive part of your exhaust system). Usually this will be caused by a "misfire" (one cylinder not firing as it should). Get this checked as soon as you can and try not to drive any further than you have to. 
    When you get to a repair facility we have to "scan" your vehicle for fault codes, we hook to a connector usually under the dash on the drivers side of the vehicle.  The code(s) will give us the direction we need to go to correct the problem (it's not magic).  The codes come from a LONG list of all the various problems your vehicle could have.  The scanner will also give all kinds of sensor readings from the engine, SOME tests of various components and other information about the car to help us solve the problem.  A common misconception is that the scanner will tell us what part to replace, more often than not that is not the case.  
    Example: A check engine light comes on with a code for an oxygen sensor heater problem.  One may jump to conclusions and replace the oxygen sensor.  In this case the sensor is fine, by following diagnostic procedures a wiring problem well away from the oxygen sensor would be to blame.   
  • DTC from P0000 to P0299 (air/fuel mixture control) ...
  • DTC from P0300 to P0399 (ignition system control) ...
  • DTC from P0400 to P0499 (auxiliary emissions control) ...
  • DTC from P0500 to P0599 (Engine idling control) ...
  • DTC from P0600 to P0699 (Onboard computer and ancillary outputs)
Tires.
Tires are actually kind of an amazing thing when you think about where you drive and the abuse they take.  Tires are what stick you to the road.  There are a multitude of options and things to think about when it comes to buying tires, where you drive, how much you drive, winter, summer, all season or 4 season.  Your repair facility will help you choose what will hopefully be best for your application, but what are the differences.  
    First tire sizes,  the best way to know what tire size your vehicle requires is the sticker usually on the drivers door jam or even on the door itself.  It will give you a number like P195/65R15 for example,  this will be the manufacturers original tire size for your vehicle,  On this sticker will also be a recommended load rating and speed rating for the tire as well as tire pressure.  Next is load ratings, load ratings will be either a number (for passenger car tires) or a letter for light truck tires.  The higher the number the higher the load rating (75 - 120), the higher the letter the higher the load rating (C - F commonly) The door sticker should tell you what is recommended for your vehicle. The speed rating will usually be indicated also by a letter usually right after the load rating sometimes in the tire size (225/50ZR16). Unrated tires usually up to 85 MPH, S, T, H, V, and Z over 150MPH these are the common ones.  Possibly the most important is tire pressure, All tires have a maximum allowable pressure indicated on the sidewall, however that's all it is, the maximum for that tire.  The pressure that should be in the tire is the one indicated on the door sticker.  This will be the pressure that the manufacturer states makes the vehicle ride and handle as they intended.  Also an improperly inflated tire can cause uneven tire wear - costing money.
    Tire types can get confusing,  " All Season " doesn't exactly mean All Season.  All season really should mean 3 season - spring, summer and fall.  Not saying " All Season" tires can't be used in a Canadian winter but probably shouldn't be.  "4 Season" tires, a relatively new concept in tires, These tires are designed with a winter tread/rubber compound, and a summer/"all season" tread/rubber compound combined into one tire.  The idea being that you won't have to switch tires spring and fall.  Good idea, just not for everybody.  Reason being, when you combine all tire types into one, you end up with a tire that does OK as all types but not great at any one.  Usually they wear out more quickly than an "All Season" tire as well.  These tires can be good for a person who can pick and choose when they drive and won't have to be somewhere in bad winter weather.
    Winter tires, these tires are designed for one purpose, driving in the winter. They are engineered with softer rubber, often more open tread and small cuts in the tread to help you stick to ice and cold road surfaces. The rubber is intended to stay softer than an all season tire in the cold weather to help you stick to the road.  Usually once the temperature is consistently below about 7C or so its time to get your winter tires on.  If you really want the best chance on winter roads a winter tire is what is needed.     
Tire pressure monitors.
Tire pressure monitoring systems are a relatively new thing.  These are systems that simply let you know if you have a soft tire.  Usually the tire pressure warning light will turn on if the pressure is 5 PSI or so lower than it's supposed to be.  The system normally uses one of 2 different methods to detect a low tire, either it uses the antilock brake system sensors or its a dedicated sensor mounted in each of the tires on the vehicle.  The most common is the dedicated sensors in each tire.  These sensors are usually quite reliable and accurate.  Each sensor does however have a battery inside and can sometimes begin to go bad usually after 6 or 7 years.  The sensors do sometimes get a bad reputation for turning the warning light on when the weather gets colder.  This is because as the temperature drops so does the pressure in your tires. Often the light may be on first thing in the morning then after driving for a while the warning light will go out.  This is because the tire warms up as you drive due to friction in the rubber from the tire flexing as well as the brakes warming the rim and tire.  You should check your tire pressures once a month and they should be set to the pressure specified by the sticker on the car.

Wheel Alignment.

Making sure your tires are pointing straight down the road is very important for tire life and handling.  Most times a wheel alignment problem will not show up in a handling problem.  Normally wheel alignment issues are found at oil changes or tire rotations while doing inspections.  What we look for is tread uneven wear from side to side, lumpy or feathering of the tread inside or outside or across the face of the tread.  The only accurate way to tell if you have a real alignment problem is to put an alignment machine on the wheels of the vehicle and take measurements.  The 3 most common angles the alignment machine looks at are Caster, Camber and Toe.  Caster is probably the most misunderstood angle. Think of caster like this - looking at a wheel on a vehicle, draw a line from the ground through the middle of the wheel to the top of the tire.  Then tip the top of that line forward or backwards.  That angle is called caster, and what that angle refers to is the steering angle so that line actually indicates the angle of the strut or ball joints behind the tire.  This angle does not affect tire wear but in extreme cases can affect steering feel and returnability of the steering wheel after a turn.  Camber is the top of the wheel tipped in towards the vehicle or away from the vehicle.  Toe means are the wheels pointing straight down the road or toward or away from each other.