Servicing Tips - Maintenance
The Harm in Skipping an Oil Change for New Zealand Drivers
People in New Zealand have been hearing a lot about higher oil change intervals these days. Maybe you're wondering: What are the key issues?
Some new vehicle manufacturers are now recommending much higher oil change intervals than they have in the past. As much as 5,000 to 8,000 miles (8,000 km to 13,000 km) or more. This practice came under scrutiny when four of the largest new vehicle manufacturers announced that owners like those in New Zealand were experiencing engine damage resulting from these higher oil change intervals.
The manufacturers' standard oil drain service for particular vehicles was scheduled at around 7,500 miles/12,000 km. People following these recommendations were experiencing engine damage. It turns out that oil sludge was building up. This caused small oil passages to clog and engine parts to fail.
What causes oil sludge? It's a factor of time and mileage. There are hot spots in every engine that cause oil burn off that leads to sludge. Also, water from normal condensation can build up in the oil. This water also creates sludge. Severe driving conditions lead to more rapid sludge formation.
Severe driving around New Zealand includes short trips under four miles (six and a half km) or trips under 10 miles/16 km in freezing conditions. The engine just doesn't get warm enough for the water in the oil to evaporate.
Severe conditions are at the heart of the problem. Stop-and-go driving, towing, dusty conditions, heavy loads, very hot or very cold temperatures, a car top carrier – these are all conditions that would suggest that the severe service schedule should be considered.
The severe service schedule has much shorter oil change intervals. People in New Zealand just need to honestly evaluate how they drive to determine if they should change their oil closer to the severe service schedule or to the standard schedule.
Some types of vehicle will give oil change reminders. But it's important to know how that reminder is determined. For some, the reminder simply comes when the standard mileage interval has rolled around. Others use a computer algorithm that takes into consideration the number of cold starts, trip length, engine temperature and so on. It's programmed to approximate where on the standard/severe service spectrum you fall. Some more expensive vehicles actually have sensors that test the cleanliness and effectiveness of the oil.
For the rest of us, better safe than sorry should be the guiding principle. Talk with your New Zealand service advisor at Oil Changers and work it out together. Find out what kind of oil the factory sends out in your vehicle. Sometimes it's a premium grade that costs more than standard oil – but it may be what's needed to meet a higher factory recommended interval.
If you're realistically conservative, standard grades of oil will take care of you year after year. If you want to push the limits, ask for a premium grade oil to give you extra protection.
So, what happened with those manufacturers with the problems from higher oil change intervals? They ended up extending the engine warranty for parts that were affected by oil sludge. But they had a stipulation – they lowered the oil change interval and the vehicle owner had to provide proof of oil changes at the new lower interval to keep the extended warranty.
The Maintenance Free Myth
Sometimes we hear people say, "What's up with all this maintenance stuff? Modern cars just don't break down." While it is true that today's vehicles are extremely reliable, they are also becoming increasingly complicated and use more exotic materials than ever before. All that complexity demands higher tolerances for everything. For example, most car owners don't realize how high tech automotive fluids have become, fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid.
Did you know that a modern engine would not run for more than a few months using motor oil formulas from 30 years ago? Today's automotive fluids contain a much higher percentage of additives to protect your vehicle's components from premature wear and corrosion. Time and distances march on for all of our cars. Please don't think we're using scare tactics to get you to take care of your maintenance - but here are some personal stories we've heard to emphasize and show how important it is to get things done when they are due. Names are withheld to avoid embarrassment to those who should know better. Even though they should know better, it usually comes down to real life: time and money. But they are tales of "a stitch in time saves nine".
The first comes from someone who bought a used pick-up truck for his son. The oil was clean and all the fluids were topped off. A short time later, the truck overheated and shut down. The repair shop diagnosed the problem: the radiator pan was corroded and dumped the coolant. Even though the coolant level was correct, it was clear that the coolant had never been completely replaced - just topped off from time to time. While this kept the engine cool, all of the anti-corrosion additives had worn out; the coolant became acidic and ate through the radiator pan. The cost: hundreds of dollars and four days in the shop. This demonstrates the need to get your coolant exchanged on schedule.
The second: a teenage daughter and a curb. Dad's little girl runs into a curb when she turned into a shopping center and blows the tyre. The problem came when Dad didn't get an alignment. The impact was hard enough to ruin the tyre - so it was enough wreck the alignment, but instead of an alignment after the first tyre, Dad ended up buying a second tyre a few months later - and then an alignment.
Situation: son and wife with cars from the same vehicle manufacturer with essentially the same engine. The staff member checked the son's maintenance schedule and saw that it needed a timing belt replacement 150,000 km. He had it done - it cost several hundred dollars. His wife's car had done about 97,000 km, so it should be ok for a while. Right? Wrong. The problem was that the wife had the turbo charged version. Its belt was scheduled for replacement at 100,000 km. At 107,000 km, the belt snapped on the motorway. The valves all crashed down into the cylinders at high speed, the entire head was destroyed and it had to be replaced. The cost: several thousand dollars. Does he wish he had checked the vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance schedule? You bet he does - every time he passes a big-screen TV.
The team at Oil Changers recommend taking care of little things before they become big things. And when you take care of the little things, you can make your car run better, plus, it is more economical to run. Remember to save those maintenance records. It'll show potential buyers that you've taken care of your vehicle and it may help you get a better price. Or when you buy a used car, check those records. If there aren't any, assume that the maintenance hasn't been done and take it to Oil Changers for an inspection. Take care of unperformed routine maintenance sooner rather than later.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand, New Zealand 8441
Regular Schedule or Severe Service Schedule?
Today's Oil Changers article focuses on your cars severe service schedule. A lot of drivers are not aware of them. Most drivers are under the impression that their driving habits fall under what would be considered normal driving as that is what most people are doing and therefore a Normal Service schedule should apply to their vehicle. This normally isn't the case and this is why Oil Changers tend to veer on the side of caution and use the Severe Maintenance (or Service) Schedule for your vehicle.
To back up a little, vehicle owner's manuals have schedules for preventive maintenance: things like oil changes, transmission service and so on. They say you should change your oil after a certain distanced traveled or after so many months or years. Drivers tend to understand this very well. What they may not know is that there are actually two service schedules: the regular (or normal) schedule and the severe service schedule. The mileage and time intervals are lower on the severe service schedule.
Now when you hear 'severe service,' you may think it doesn't apply to you because you don't feel your driving conditions are severe or extreme – it's just normal everyday driving. So let's list some of the conditions that classify as severe so that you can make the judgment on your own driving.
Before we start the list, here's a point of contrast that definitely is not severe driving. Driving down the motorway or open road on a nice warm summers day (24 degree C) loaded only with your passengers. This is an easy trip for your vehicle: your engine is cruising along at low RPMs, no heavy loads to pull and in moderate temperatures. Now let's look at some severe service driving conditions.
The majority of trips around New Zealand are less than six to seven kilometres. When your vehicle engine cools down, moisture condenses in the engine. This water in the oil doesn't get a chance to evaporate on short trips because the oil doesn't get hot enough. A lot of short trips in your vehicle means a lot of water build up and water in the oil leads to the creation of sludge which can damage the engine. Changing the oil more frequently keeps sludge from building up. In contrast, highway driving warms the engine up and gets the water burned off.
Here's another example. Trips are less than 16 km and outside temperatures are very cold. This is the same reasoning, but in cold weather it takes even longer for the oil to get hot enough to evaporate the water, hence 16 km as opposed to 6 - 7 km.
Next, you drive in very hot weather. The hotter it is outside, the more cooling the engine, transmission, brake fluids and so on have to perform. The environment in which the fluids reside is more hostile, and the fluids simply break down faster. Therefore, the lower change interval should be followed.
Another: driving at low speed most of the time. Every vehicle engine has what's called its power band. This is a range of RPMs in which it's most efficient. Low speed driving doesn't keep the engine in its power band so it's working harder. The harder your car's engine has to work the harder the engine oil has to work.
Stop and go driving is another severe service condition. You're always accelerating, which works the vehicle engine and transmission harder. Then you're stopping, which works the brake fluid harder, causing it to get very hot. Highway driving, on the other hand, requires far less horsepower to maintain its speed than getting a stationary vehicle from a stop light up to 50 kph. A lot of this and you'll need to follow the severe service schedule. Even just 1,500km -2000km out of a 10,000km engine oil service means the vehicle should be classified under a Severe Schedule.
Also on the list is operating your vehicle in dusty, polluted or muddy conditions. Obviously, your engine air filter and cabin air will get dirty faster and need to be changed more frequently as will your breather element. Some of this dust and dirt will make its way into your fluids. They will simple get dirty faster and won't protect the components as well as fresh fluids.
Finally, you're driving under severe conditions when you tow a trailer, regularly carry heavy loads or carry a car-top carrier. This is pretty obvious. You'll spend more time in lower gears so the engine and transmission work much harder and create more heat. Brakes will be more stressed stopping the heavier loads.
Sounds like most of us operate under severe driving conditions at least some of the time. How can we know which schedule to follow?
Think of it as a spectrum with "always driving under severe conditions" on one end and "never driving under severe conditions" on the other end. Some will be at one extreme or the other, but most of us will fall somewhere in between.
Carefully think about your driving conditions and decide if you should do your preventive maintenance closer to the severe service recommendation or the regular recommendation. Of course, your Oil Changers service advisor can help you with your decision.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand, New Zealand 8441
Let us help keep your older Vehicle running
A lot of people want to hang onto their older vehicles. They're dependable and they're paid for.
There are a lot of vehicles on the roads that have run past the 200,000 or 250,000 kilometers. Is there something that their owners are doing that keeps these vehicles on the road? Or did they just win the “lemon lottery” and luck out by getting a particularly good vehicle? Not surprisingly, most of these owners have something in common. They never skip an oil change. Can keeping a vehicle on the road for 250,000 kilometers really be that easy for drivers?
Actually, it makes sense. Oil is the lifeblood of a vehicle. Clean oil ensures that the engine will run efficiently and staves off the build-up of sludge that can eventually damage engine parts. Oil changes remove dirty oil and replace dirty oil filters, keeping an engine clean and running smoothly, just like eating right keeps our hearts healthy by preventing build-up in our arteries.
There's another reason why not skipping an oil change can result in a longer life for your car. When you bring your car in to Oil Changers for an oil change, all of the fluid levels are checked and topped off. If these fluids are depleted, dirty or low, they can damage the engine.
If a fluid is significantly low, it may indicate a leak somewhere, leading to an inspection of relevant parts. This inspection and the replacement of the worn part can prevent repair bills and maintain the health of the engine.
During an oil change, your technician will also do a quick check for worn belts or hoses, uneven tread wear, leaking shock absorbers and other signs of wear and tear. This advance notice allows the owner to replace parts before they break down and possibly damage your vehicle.
The oil change is also a good time to review any other services that the vehicle might need. Many car owners rely on their professional technicians at Oil Changers for good motoring advice that will keep older cars running well.
Parts wear out on older vehicles. There's no avoiding it. As the odometer chugs upward toward 250,000 kilometers, the vehicle will need several batteries, maybe an alternator and a water pump, a new set of shocks and possibly a set of brake rotors. But these items—all together—add up to far less than the cost of a new car.
Good car care and preventive maintenance will help keep your vehicle on the road and running past the age when most of us have given up and headed back to a car lot.
So treat your car right: Take good care of it and don't skip the check-ups at Oil Changers.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand 8441
The Easy Way to Save Money
The biggest news story may be different every day, but there's one topic that seems to come up over and over again – the price of fuel. If you feel like most of your paycheck goes into your fuel tank, this post is for you. Here are several basic things people can do to greatly reduce their fuel consumption, save money, and help the environment. You can really improve your fuel economy by how you drive – but first, here's a review of things you can do for your car that'll save fuel no matter how you drive.
The first one for drivers is keeping tyres properly inflated. That can save up to 2 kms/litre. Driving on low tyres is like driving through sand – your car just has to work harder. Most service centers will check your tyres for free, so just ask Oil Changers. Make a habit of checking your tyre pressure whenever you fill up. Most fuel stations have an air hose you can use for free.
Another important item is to keep your air filter clean. An air filter all clogged up with dirt and bugs doesn't let enough clean air through to efficiently burn fuel. Using a dirty air filter will cost you quite a bit in reduced fuel economy. Worn spark plugs can cost more fuel. A spark plug can fire as many as 3,000,000 times for every thousand kilometers driven. Check the vehicle owner's manual for replacement recommendations.
The biggest item is the oxygen sensor. This device provides the engine management computer with information it needs to fine-tune the fuel/air mix. When that's messed up it can cost vehicles up to four kilometers per litre. Of course, there's dirty or substandard oil. Dirty oil causes extra drag. The wrong grade may be too thick. That's another 1/2 a kilometer per litre right there.
One item people seldom think about is their gas cap. A worn, loose or missing gas cap can cost more in fuel than you realise. Adding up all of these worn, missing or sub-par items leads to a significant increase in fuel economy! And with current petrol prices, the cost really adds up. Taking care of these simple maintenance items will save you at the pump.
Now most vehicles aren't missing on all of these items, but think about which ones might affect you right now! And don't forget tune-ups, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid, fuel system cleaning, wheels out of alignment, PCV valve, fuel filter and other services spelled out in your owners' manual.
Oil Changers knows all this stuff and can tell you when you're scheduled to take care of each item. Create a system of your own to track your service schedules, or just use the computer system at Oil Changers – which may also be updated with recall notices and maintenance schedule items from your vehicle manufacturer.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand 8441
Training Received by Technicians
When your car breaks down or just needs some routine service, it can make you a little nervous. Because your car's so important to your life, you need to be back on the road as soon as possible and with the problem fixed right the first time.
We've been checking into some of the training our technicians receive, and we're very impressed. It's amazing how much knowledge and skill goes into diagnosing and repairing a modern car. So it's not like when your uncle worked on his hot rod over the weekend.
Today there are four cylinder engines that make more power than the V-8's in luxury cars did 20 years ago. A new V-6 Toyota Camry could beat an old Ferrari in a race to 60 mph.
Our engines are more and more powerful and also very reliable. This is all due to engineering. But the benefits come drivers at the price of simplicity. Modern cars are so much more complex from a mechanical standpoint that it makes your head spin.
Then there's the electronics. Some cars now have several networked computers controlling most of the engine functions and many other vehicle functions as well. We tend to take all of this sophistication for granted – but somebody has to fix it when it breaks.
It's a real challenge for the Automotive Service Centres to keep up. It requires a high level of commitment on the part of the Technician and the service centre as well. In addition to the training, there's the financial commitment to purchase the diagnostic and repair tools as well.
So where do New Zealand technicians go for training? There are many sources. It's usually a combination of formal classroom training, training provided in the service centre by Automotive parts and equipment manufacturers, on-line courses and home study courses. There are many independent certifications available all the way up to Master Technician.
Service centers also have a lot of other resources available as well. No one can know everything, so service centers like Oil Changers subscribe to data services, technical libraries and even on-line communities that can help them with they run into a difficult problem.
It's like those medical diagnosis shows on TV. Here are the symptoms – what's the diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis is every bit as much an art as a science. We all want everything to be simple, straight forward and cheap – and sometimes it just isn't.
So, be more relaxed next time you take your vehicle in. You can trust the professionals at Oil Changers. You're in good hands. The more you know, the more comfortable you can be with your automotive service decisions.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand 8441
Severe Service Requirements
A lot of drivers have asked whether or not they should use their severe service maintenance schedule, which is listed in their car owners' manual. It can be somewhat confusing, so we decided to consult an expert. Cricket Killingsworth is from QMI/Heartland, a manufacturer of automotive products and fluids. She's been in the automotive business for over 30 years and is a speaker, trainer, and a writer.
Cricket says there's so much confusion on this topic because, "Most owners' manuals actually have two maintenance schedules. Sometimes these are called 'regular service' and 'severe service'. Sometimes they're simply called Schedule 1 or A and Schedule 2 or B. A severe service schedule recommends that things like an oil change, air filter replacement, and transmission service be done more often: either in fewer miles or in less time."
Foreign and domestic vehicle manufacturers create a specific schedule for each vehicle they manufacture. So there isn't one generic schedule that applies to all cars. In addition to your owners' manual, New Zealand automotive repair centers (including Oil Changers) subscribe to information services that provide the auto maintenance schedules for every vehicle - so they can help drivers know when to take care of needed services. Below is a typical definition for severe service.
- Most trips are less than seven kms
- Most trips are less than 15 kms and outside temperatures are below freezing
- You drive regularly in very hot weather
- The engine is at low speed most of the time (not on the freeway)
- Stop and start driving
- You drive in dusty or muddy conditions
- You routinely tow a trailer, haul heavy loads or carry a car-top carrier.
It's common sense for drivers: Just a few minutes at higher speeds allows the moisture in the oil to evaporate. Very short trips, or trips of less than 15 kms when it's very cold, don't allow the engine to heat up enough to get rid of the water. And water in the oil leads to damaging sludge. Also, towing and heavy loads raise operating temperatures and cause fluids to break down faster. Dusty and muddy driving means that more dirt will get past the air filter to contaminate the fuel system and engine oil.
The bottom line is that you need to decide for yourself if the regular or severe service schedule is right for you, based on your driving habits. Look at your owners' manual, or talk with your Oil Changers service advisor who can help you know which schedule to follow.
Here is what a fleet manager said recently: "Since city driving are generally tougher on vehicles than highway driving, we use the our manufacturer's severe service schedule as the basis for our preventative maintenance program. We massage those schedules over time, increasing or decreasing the service intervals so that they make the most sense. There is a little bit of art to go along with the science."
Make an honest evaluation of your driving habits. Unless you do mostly open road driving in moderate weather, you'll likely have a fairly good amount of severe service mixed in. Some drivers just want to play it safe and follow the severe service recommendations, rather than analyzing how they drive each month.
Ask us for help evaluating your driving and service needs.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand 8441
Better Service = Better Economy
The hottest news story may be different everyday, but there’s one topic that seems to come up over and over again – the price of fuel. But we’ve found several basic things that any vehicle owner can do to greatly reduce their fuel consumption, save money, and help the environment. You can really impact your fuel economy by how you drive – but first, here’s a review of things you can do for your car that’ll save fuel no matter how you drive.
The first one is keeping your tyres properly inflated. That can save up to two kilometers per litre. Driving on low tyres is like driving through sand – your car just has to work harder. All Oil Changers stores will check and reset your tyre pressures for free, so just ask your service advisor. Also, make a habit of checking your tyre pressure whenever you put fuel in your car or at least once every month. Most New Zealand fuel stations have an air hose you can use for free.
Another important item is to keep your air filter clean. An air filter all clogged up with dirt and bugs doesn’t let enough clean air through to efficiently burn fuel. Using a dirty air filter will cost you almost two kilometers per litre in reduced fuel efficiency. And worn spark plugs can cost more. A spark plug can fire as many as 3,000,000 times for every thousand kilometers driven. Check the owner’s manual for replacement recommendations.
The biggest item is the oxygen sensor. This device provides the engine management computer with information it needs to fine tune the fuel/air mix. When that’s messed up it can cost up to 3 or 4 kilometers per litre and of course, there’s dirty or substandard oil. Dirty oil causes extra drag. The wrong grade may be too thick. That could be another kilometer per litre right there.
One item New Zealanders seldom think about is their gas cap. A worn, loose or missing gas cap can cost another three kilometers per litre. Adding up all of these worn, missing or sub-par items leads to a total of almost 5 - 6 kilometers per litre in reduced fuel efficiency! With current fuel prices the cost really adds up. Taking care of these simple maintenance items will save big bucks at the pump.
Now most people aren’t missing on all of these items, but think about which ones might affect you right now! And don’t forget tune-ups, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid, fuel system cleaning, wheels out of alignment, PCV valve, fuel filter and other key services spelled out in your owners’ manual.
Oil Changers knows all this stuff and can tell you when you’re scheduled to take care of each item. Create a system of your own to track your service schedules, or just use the computer system at Oil Changers – which may also be updated with recall notices and maintenance schedule items from your manufacturer.