Long and Prosper….
If you want
your car to last as long as possible and cost you as little
as possible along the way the following tips may be of interest:
(at least every three years) change the brake/clutch fluid
people) understand the importance of regular engine oil changes.
And its absolutely true. Your engine will live longer (and
run better, giving you optimum performance and mileage) if you regularly
change the oil (and filter). But the engine is just one part of
your car, which is itself a series of inter-related systems. The
brakes are one of the major systems and if not properly maintained,
can cause major expense especially in a late model car with
anti-lock brakes (ABS).
The fluid in
the lines, master cylinder (and ABS pump) degrades over time; if
you look at the master cylinder of a new or nearly new car, you
will notice the fluid is almost translucent and honey-colored. As
it ages and becomes contaminated, it turns progressively darker.
That dark color is your first warning that potentially expensive
problems are in your future, including a failed ABS pump (that can
cost as much as $800 or more, depending on the car), ruined calipers
and rusted (internally) lines.
To avoid expensive
brake system problems and limit brake-related expenses to
routine pad/shoe changes and so on have the fluid replaced
at least every three years.
forget the clutch slave cylinder. Most cars with manual transmissions
built since the late 1980s have hydraulic-assist clutches. There
is a little reservoir filled with brake fluid inside the engine
compartment, usually close to the brake master cylinder. The hydraulic
clutch system also needs to have its fluid regularly replaced, just
like the fluid in the brake system and for the same reasons.
Do the Cooling
System Flush and Fill
This is another
of your vehicles systems thats often neglected
probably to a great extent because of new-car ads touting lifetime
coolant. Dont buy it unless you want your cars
lifetime to be the equivalent of JFKs. No matter what type
of coolant your car originally came with, it should be purged and
replaced every 4-5 years at the outside (earlier, if a simple test
that any competent mechanic can do determines theres enough
contamination to warrant it). Otherwise, you risk running hot (which
can ruin a modern engine made of aluminum alloy) as well as big
repair bills for things like premature radiator replacement, a clogged
heater core and so on.
In some late-model
cars, a new radiator can cost $500 or more, not counting the install
labor. And you dont even want to know about the cost of digging
out the heater core and installing a new one
to Your Tranny
No, not Janet
Napolitano. The thing thats underneath the floorpans you probably
never think about. It, like your engine, contains fluid (either
gear oil or ATF, automatic transmission fluid) that also should
be changed out more often than most people do (which is rarely,
or even never).
in particular are often victims of slim-to-none service. If youre
in it for the long-haul, consider replacing the gear lube or ATF
(be sure you know which your particular unit requires) every five
years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Youll notice
smoother operation and higher mileage and the gearbox ought
to last the lifetime of the vehicle.
If you have
a car with an automatic, be sure (especially with certain imports)
that you use only the fluid recommended by the cars manufacturer.
Some have specific (proprietary) additives and if you use some other
(probably cheaper) fluid, you could find yourself facing a titanic
bill and declined warranty claim.
Not all unleaded
is created equal. Some brands have superior additive packages and
these additives will help keep precision (read: expensive) parts,
in particular, the parts that comprise the fuel injection system,
cleaner longer. This isnt a shill for the name brand
gasolines, just fair warning that no-name (or off-brand) gas may
not have the same additive package, or as much additives, as the
name brand stuff. You can research brands online to
find out more about whos got what. Also, pay attention to
the way your car runs. If the engine seems more lively (and gets
better mileage, starts easier, etc.) when you use Brand A vs. Brand
B, then common sense says use Brand A.
The other thing
is, avoid buying fuel (irrespective of the brand) at out-of-the
way stations that dont get a lot of traffic. Reason? The fuel
in the storage tanks below ground may have been sitting there a
long time and fuel degrades over time, losing both octane
value as well as becoming contaminated by things like water from
condensation in the underground tanks. Both of these issues
fuel degradation and contamination by water are more of a
problem with modern, alcohol-laced fuels (ethanol). Try to buy your
gas at a busy station; the odds are good the fuel youre pumping
will be fresher and freer of contaminants.
seals clean and flexible
thats often neglected are the flexible seals (door, trunk,
rear liftgate, etc.) that keep water from getting into areas where
you dont want moisture. In late-model cars, these seals are
often not made of rubber but rather a synthetic flexible material
called EPDM (also used in roofing as well as outdoor pool applications).
Whether rubber (older cars) or a synthetic EPDM material, the thing
to avoid is using any product that contains petroleum distillates,
which can actually cause damage to the seals rather than help keep
them pliable and protect against moisture and UV damage.
A really top-drawer
product for protecting rubber and EPDM automotive seals is 303
Aerospace Protectant. Avoid oily products that mainly just impart
a slick sheen to the surface.
a runner, you know the importance of warming up, easing into your
pace. Same with your car. At start-up, be gentle. Dont immediately
load the engine by (for example) turning on the air conditioning,
or gunning the throttle. Build speed gradually, then try to maintain
your pace without needing to make abrupt braking or throttle inputs.
You can learn to judge the ebb and flow of traffic, matching your
speed (and the distance between you and other cars) such that you
dont need to hit the brakes as often (or as hard). Ditto the
this will save you a lot of wear and tear as well as fuel.
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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