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Maintain Proper Tire Inflation


I know you have probably heard this untold times. Perhaps from a family member who is concerned for your safety, or from a public service announcement on radio or television, or from your mechanic. Whatever the source, you are probably aware of this guidance. So...when was the last time your tire inflation was checked?

What are the benefits you ask? Well, for starters, in a word, your safety. Tires that are under-inflated present a greater rolling resistance and therefore more friction, which causes heat. This build-up of heat can contribute to structural failure otherwise known as a blowout. While any blowout can be dangerous, one that involves a front tire can be catastrophic. Have you ever run off the road onto a soft surface like mud and felt the pull on the steering wheel? Well multiply that pull by a few magnitudes of intensity and you will have an idea of the challenge you may face to maintain control of a vehicle that has had a blowout on one of the front tires.

Additionally, there is the benefit of fuel savings. This saves you money and can contribute to the quality of our environment. When you lower the rolling resistance of the tire through proper inflation, it takes less work for the engine and drive train to propel the vehicle forward. This results in greater efficiency and therefore less pollution.

Lastly, maintaining proper tire inflation prolongs tire life. This relates to friction, which is a function of the rolling resistance. The less rolling resistance there is then the less friction the tire is subjected to. This results in less tread wear, which can prolong the usable lifespan of the tire.


Change Those Fluids And Filters!


Before I wrote this article I consulted with a friend of a friend who is a trusted mechanic and has raced dragsters for years. Now bear in mind, any information I share in this article is not meant to advise you not to follow your Original Equipment Manufacturer recommendations which could effect or void your OEM warranty.

First off, let's cover some basics about engine lubrication. Oil is used to lubricate the pistons, piston rings, cylinders, bearing surfaces, and the stems of the valves. A very thin film of oil remains on the wall of the cylinder in the combustion chamber and is burned by the high temperature gases during the combustion process. Additionally, small amounts of oil enter the combustion chamber from the oil lubrication of the valve stems. This results in engine oil consumption. The amount of oil consumption is a function of oil viscosity, the quality of the oil, the driving conditions and loads that the engine is subjected to, and the overall condition of the engine itself.

When an engine is new, there is a period of use that is often referred to as the break-in period or alternatively the conditioning period. As the machined surfaces within the engine come in contact with one another lubricated by a thin film of oil, they begin to polish each other. This process results in very smooth surfaces that become easy to lubricate with a thin film of oil at a molecular level. This process is why new engines will consume slightly more oil during the break-in process.

When an engine is used mainly for local short trips, the oil level may register as full even though some oil has been consumed. This is because the oil becomes contaminated by fuel wastes and moisture that build up in the oil increasing its volume. Some of these contaminates evaporate when an engine is driven at highway speeds for an extended period. This is why it seems the engine has consumed an unusual amount of oil the next time the oil is checked.

So...the bottom line is, keep the oil changed! I recommend you always follow the OEM recommendations for viscosity and certifications. If you suspect that the unusual or severe conditions that you subject your engine to may require an adjustment, contact the OEM or authorized agent thereof for their suggestions or recommendations. I personally recommend you change the oil filter every time you change the oil. And be careful with after-market oil filters, even the name-brand replacements. All oil filters are not created equal, and some lack specific OEM quality features like back-flow check valves.

Now, I’d like to share some of my personal habits. As a family, we drive few miles and mostly short trips. Because of this, I seldom reach the recommended mileage usage between oil changes. Although this type of driving is considered severe service by many master mechanics, I change the oil in our vehicles once in the spring for protection during the heat of the summer, and once in the fall for the cold of the winter. I use Texaco Havoline in certain engines that do not warrant the cost of synthetic oils. I have used Valvoline DuraBlend in our used cars with good results, and the mechanic I mentioned earlier recommends Mobile 1 for newer cars after about 12,000 miles for diesel engines and 6,000 miles for gasoline engines using OEM or better conventional lubricants to allow for thorough engine conditioning. After doing some research on my own, and taking into account cost and availability, I will probably choose to run Valvoline SynPower in our newer vehicles (gasoline engine) after about 6,000 miles of service to allow for engine conditioning.

Finally, let's consider your radiator fluids. I personally change the radiator fluids every 3-5 years. I know this is longer than is usually recommended, but I'll share the reason why I am comfortable extending the serviceability period. When I refill the radiator, I mix the anti-freeze 50/50 with distilled water. Tap water contains low levels of contaminates, which react over time in the chemical brew that is the cooling system. The first time I change the cooling system fluids, I flush using pure distilled water, nothing else. I then refill the cooling system with the standard 50/50 mix of 50% high quality anti-freeze (I use Toyota OEM) and 50% distilled water.


Does The Air Conditioner Emit A Musty Odor?


If you have experienced a musty smell when you first turn on the air conditioner in your vehicle, I’d like to share a couple of suggestions with you. This is most often caused by a build-up of contaminates on the evaporator coil that is part of the air handler in the passenger compartment. In extreme cases, the only thing that can be done to remedy this is to have the evaporator coil cleaned. However, there are two simple things you can do to help reduce the intensity of the musty smell.

First, make sure the evaporator coil box drain tube drains properly. When the moisture is trapped for an extended period, things (like molds) begin to grow. Secondly, when using your air-conditioning, a few minutes before reaching your destination, turn your A/C compressor off while allowing the fan to continue to run. This should keep you cool and it helps to dry the evaporator coil.

Part of the function of a properly working air-conditioner is to remove humidity from the air. The musty smell is caused by moisture that remains in the evaporator box and on the evaporator coil once the air-conditioner has been turned off. By circulating air over the evaporator coil with the compressor off, you allow the coil to dry out. This should help to mitigate the intensity of the odor the next time the system is turned on.