Learning Your Way Under The Hood

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Updated: 8/29/2012 4:04 pm Published: 8/28/2012 5:06 pm

If you’ve ever felt confused or overwhelmed by everything there is to know about your car, you’re not alone. Troy Cox with Cecil and Sons Discount Tires stopped by GDGC to help us get familiar with the basic things everyone should know about their vehicles.

1) Cars seem to be getting more complex every year. How do we find what we actually need to know on everyday things that should be checked?

Venturing into an area with which we’re unfamiliar can be worrisome for any of us. However, auto manufacturers go to some lengths to make sure the information you need for routine items you might need to check is readily available, if you just look for it. For example, your factory tire size, speed rating, and recommended inflation pressure is typically found on a small white or silver placard mounted on the door-jam or doorframe of the driver’s door, so if you have an obviously low tire or are getting a “tire low” warning light on your dash then you know the proper inflation pressure. Your recommended oil weight (designations like 5w20, 5w30, 0w20) is typically clearly marked on the oil filler cap, as is the required brake fluid (typically DOT3 or DOT4) will be on the master cylinder cap. Usually your power steering reservoir cap will either say “power steering fluid only” or have a pictogram of a steering wheel. If you’re hearing a buzzing or whining noise when you turn the steering wheel, you know which reservoir is for the power steering by that caps so you know where to check the fluid level and where to add fluid if needed. If your red or amber brake warning lights come on and you’ve already made sure the parking brake is not engaged, then look at the master cylinder (typically a translucent white plastic reservoir mounted in the engine compartment right in front of the driver’s position) and if you find that it’s low then the type of brake fluid you need to add is right on the cap or caps.

2) What about “regular” maintenance items?

Your owner’s manual is your car’s instruction book; it will tell you how often you need to check and or change various items. You’ll find in that book everything from how often to change oil, transmission fluid, coolant, or differential fluid to how often to check belts, hoses, and filters for both normal and severe service. It’s easy to understand how someone towing heavy loads regularly, for example, would need to change their transmission and differential fluids more often than someone who never towed anything, or how someone who drives lots of dusty country dirt roads may need to change their air filters more often than someone who’s always on paved roads. Certainly your service facility can help you with both identifying which type of service your car is seeing and letting you know when items are due. It just helps you have more confidence—if your owner’s manual indicates you should be changing your engine air filter about every 15,000 miles, your service facility is telling you it needs replaced, and your records show you’ve gone about 15,000 since the last change then there’s less room for doubt about whether you need to be spending the money for the filter. Here’s where keeping a service log in the area of your manual provided, or in a separate small notepad you keep in the car, becomes very helpful. It’s much easier to look at your record and see a note that, for example, you’ve been changing your oil every 5,000 miles and this is your third oil change since the last time you changed the filter.

If your manual is recommending 15,000 mile changes on the air filter, then you know, based on your records, that you’re due for a new one. No surprise, no wondering “do they just keep a dirty one back there to scare folks”, just “oh, yeah, it’s due”. Certainly you could be in extremely dusty conditions and need it sooner but typically following the appropriate recommended schedule will keep your car in operating good condition.

3) What about those “major” services we hear about; the 60,000 or 100,000 mile services?

Again, your manual breaks every big service milestone down; much of what these bigger services include are “checking condition” of various parts and systems which doesn’t necessarily mean those things are going to need to be changed. You should expect some bigger services are going to be needed as your vehicle gets into higher miles, things like spark plugs and timing belts, for example. These are things, if required, that you do not want to neglect. For example, a timing belt replacement is an item you do not want to push too far past the manufacturer’s recommendations. While it’s not a cheap service, typically running several hundred dollars, if that belt breaks due to age and wear then the best case scenario for you is potentially being stranded as the car won’t run plus a tow bill plus what the belt replacement would have run, anyway. Mid-worst case is that when the belt breaks some of the engine’s valves (which are opened and closed by the camshaft that belt runs) hit pistons, get bent, and require the removal of the cylinder heads to replace those valves plus the timing belt service. At this level of repair you’re easily over $1000. Worst case, when one or more of those valves hit the pistons they actually damage the piston as well which then requires an engine rebuilt or replacement. Even going with the cheapest option for engine replacement: finding a good used engine at an auto salvage, you’re likely over $2000 parts and labor to get your car up and running again…so you’re money ahead to replace the timing belt on schedule. Similarly, if you leave your spark plugs in too long they can become lodged in the cylinder head due to carbon building up around them which may prevent their removal without damage. Sometimes it’s just a matter of rethreading or putting a repair insert into the cylinder head so a new plug will go back in properly; occasionally parts of the plug are left actually in the cylinder which requires the whole cylinder head to be pulled off the engine…and a few hundred dollar normal maintenance operation can become a $1000 plus nightmare. These are just two examples of why knowing what’s required and recommended for your car is worthwhile. Not that owner’s manuals are ever going to hit the best-seller list, but having some familiarity with them can help make your ownership experience less expensive as well as less stressful.
Cooper’s “Take the Money and Ride” rebate event is going on thru November 6th, 2012, and purchase of a qualifying set of Cooper tires could qualify you for an up to $75 rebate by mail from Cooper Tire and Rubber.

Cecil and Sons Discount Tires is family owned and operated since 1973; three generations of our family serving, in many cases, third and fourth generations of our customer’s families. Cecil and Sons has tires, custom wheels, alignment and suspension repair, brakes, preventative maintenance and light line mechanical service.

Cecil and Sons Discount Tires
204 East Morrow Road
Sand Springs, OK

4002 South St Hwy 97
Sand Springs, OK



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