Car Talk and Tips
Roberts Automotive offers expert advice and helpful tips for maintaining and repairing your car.
Find advice, FAQ’s and videos to help you keep your car in great shape.
Don’t see what you are looking for? Ask an automotive service or repair question.
Rear tires provide stability, and without stability, steering or braking on a wet or even damp surface might cause a spin. If you have new tires up front, they will easily disperse water while the half-worn rears will go surfing. The water will literally lift the worn rear tires off the road. This is especially dangerous in higher speed turns. If you’re in a slight corner or on a crowned road, the car will spin out so fast you won’t be able to react. So when replacing just 2 tires, it is our policy to install them on the rear of the vehicle. If the front tires are not in good enough shape to handle snow and ice, you really need to install four new tires.
If you do not regularly flush your brake system, it will end up costing you more money down the road. As the fluid becomes contaminated, it will eventually cause brake system components, such as anti lock brake system components, master cylinders and brake calipers, to fail and leak. This will also lead to diminished brake system performance, causing a safety concern. We recommend doing the flush if the fluid is greater than 2% moisture contaminated or every 2 years.
The primary purpose of cabin air filters, installed on most vehicles since 2000, is keeping the air inside your vehicle’s cabin clean.
It’s typically located behind the glove compartment or under the hood or dashboard on most modern vehicles. Its job is to filter all of the air that comes through the car’s heating and ventilations system to prevent pollutants, such as dust, pollen, smog and mold spores from entering. The filters can also catch rodent droppings, leaves and other unwanted debris.
One of the most important components of your car is your battery. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s so easy to be focused on other aspects of car maintenance that you forget about the device that is critical for starting your engine and keeping your alternator healthy. Operating the starter motor to start your engine is not the only function your battery serves. It also powers the ignition, lighting, on-board computers and other applications when the car engine is shut down. Cars with weak batteries may “turn over” but not start due to so much power being required to operate the starter, that there is not enough left over to power the ignition and fuel systems.
The headlights on modern cars now are made of polycarbonate. This is a very strong plastic that can deflect a lot of debris and stones without cracking the lens. An issue with polycarbonate headlights, however, is that they are porous, making them susceptible to pitting from road debris and clouding. This causes an ugly appearance and reduced light output, which is risky for night time driving. In most cases the headlamp lenses can be reconditioned to perform like new. However, the longer this service is put off, the more likely it is that they will need to be replaced costing $150 or more per side.
Rotating your tires means moving them from one side of the vehicle to the other, moving them from front to back, or a combination of both. This helps avoid uneven tire wear, which can lead to poor performance and decreased gas mileage. All wheel drive, or 4 wheel drive, vehicles have special considerations. It is important that tires on these vehicles wear out at the same rate and that all four are replaced at the same time. A worn tire and a new tire on these vehicles will have different circumferences causing excessive wear on the drive line. Tire rotation should be performed every 5,000 miles for all vehicles.
Motor oil probably handles more tasks within an engine than any other component, fluid or material. Some of the key motor oil tasks are to protect the engine by lubricating its moving parts, cool critical engine parts, inhibit corrosion caused by combustion and to transfer heat from pistons and bearings. It must also pump easily to critical engine parts at low temperatures while keeping internal components clean and free from varnish and harmful deposits. No matter how good the oil, it will eventually wear out. The oil itself doesn’t wear out, just the additive package, which is over 50% of the volume. With time and mileage, the oil´s additives get used up, causing the engine oil to degrade. At this point the oil must be changed before sludge and deposits build up. When the oil is drained, the contaminants are removed with it. Oil change recommendations range anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 miles depending on the vehicle and driving habits. Oil change intervals should be tailored to how you drive. There is no one size fits all. It is still a good rule of thumb to check your oil level periodically even if it is not time for an oil change.
Contaminated fluid is harmful to the power steering system in several ways. Dirty fluid is thicker than clean, fresh fluid, causing the components such as the pump and rack and pinion to have to work harder, which can lead to premature failure of those parts. Burnt, oxidized power steering fluid is also very stressful to seals, and is the leading cause of seal failure in pumps and steering racks today. Furthermore, burnt fluid also contributes to the failure of the high pressure lines, as it causes the rubber to deteriorate from the inside out. As the components wear, aluminum bits are shaved off eventually transforming into aluminum oxide, the ingredient in many sand papers. With modern vehicles, these repairs to the steering components can be very costly if not cared for. Although many manufactures do not have a service interval for this, it would be good to do it after the 60,000 mile mark and every 30-40,000 miles afterwards.
Flushing your system pushes 4 to 5 gallons of anti-freeze through the system which pushes or flushes out all of the old anti-freeze and any contaminants that have built up in your cooling system. A flush guarantees that all of the old anti-freeze is removed from the system. Draining the radiator on the other hand only removes about 50% of the total anti-freeze in the system and leaves behind the majority of contaminants that have built up. It also means that the new anti-freeze will be mixing with the old. The additive package in antifreeze wears out, causing corrosion and scale deposits to form. Flushing removes the worn out antifreeze and replaces it with new to protect the water pump, hoses, and other components that come in contact with coolant.
The timing belt is the most important and sometimes most overlooked part of vehicle maintenance. When a timing belt breaks, the engine stops. Replace belts before this occurs. Most manufacturers provide a suggested service life and replacement schedule for this critical component. If the timing belt breaks on an interference engine(one where the piston and valves can contact each other), mechanical engine damage occurs. It most commonly involves open valves being struck by pistons, resulting in the need for expensive repairs. In extreme cases, a replacement engine may be required.
Most of the time a “free diagnosis” will include no more than pulling trouble codes, which are read by a scan tool. A scanner is connected to your vehicle and self diagnostic results, known as trouble codes, are retrieved. This only takes a few moments. A trouble code DOES NOT indicate what is wrong with the car — it’s just one clue to point the technician in the right direction. A trouble code may point to a sensor, but that does not always mean the sensor is bad! In fact, depending on the year, model, and trouble code, there may be very little chance the trouble code is telling the mechanic to change the right part. Diagnosis is not pulling codes; it is using either manufacturer supplied test procedures or industry accepted test procedures to find and verify the root problem. Pulling codes then installing parts is neither manufacturer approved or industry approved.
If you are a AAA customer our warranty covers parts and labor for 24 months or 24,000miles which ever comes first. For non AAA participants the warranty for parts and labor is 12 months or 12,000 miles, which ever comes first. The only exceptions are that we make NO WARRANTY expressed or implied when installing customer supplied parts and we do not warranty clothes brake pads or brake shoes against wear.
It is always a good practice to be on top of the tire pressures on your vehicle. You should always set your tires to the pressure specified in your vehicle’s owner manual or tire information placard on the door or gas tank flap
Overinflated tires are rigid and stiff causing the tire’s contact patch (the amount of rubber that meets the road) to be reduced. That leads to a “harder” ride as well as uneven tread wear. The most common type of uneven tread wear due to overinflation is referred to as “center wear.
Underinflated tires do not hold their shape and are flatter to the ground. Therefore, the tire “buckles’ in the middle and more of the tire comes in contact with the road, causing the shoulders of the tire to wear prematurely. That is referred to as “shoulder wear.”
Keeping the air filter clean keeps the engine clean and free of debris so that the engine can function optimally. A clean air filter also equates to better gas mileage, which means more money in one’s pocket. The amount of money laid out to purchase a new air filter is well worth it and pays for itself several times over in gas savings. Just as dirty lungs make it difficult for humans to breathe correctly and get enough oxygen, a dirty air filter makes a car have to work harder to function.
Changing the fuel filter is an important part of a standard car service. Fuel filters are a major part of a car’s fuel supply system. A clogged fuel filter can damage expensive injection pumps and injectors. Diesel fuel injection systems create a great deal of heat, and they rely on unobstructed fuel flow to keep the pump and injectors cool. As the fuel filter plugs up, the flow of fuel is restricted. In extreme cases, this extra pressure can cause a filter failure, which sends contamination directly into the injection system.
If you plan on leaving a vehicle sit for a long period of time, it is a good rule of thumb to put a battery tender on so it does not drain a perfectly good battery. Issues with vehicle sitting for a long period of time are, brake rotors and other components starting to rust, batteries going dead, tires dry rotting, areas that are normal lubricated with oil are now dry due to all the oil going down into the pan, bushings dry rotted and brittle to lack of movement, and one many may not think of is rodents eating away at electrical wires.
Emissions testing by law is required to do first, whether the vehicle is going to pass or fail. The vehicle will fail with a check engine light on. If a vehicle comes in with a check engine light, the shop/tech is not allowed to try to diagnose or fix the issue until the state has been informed that the vehicle has failed. This a law in certain areas of PA, it is not up to the shop to pick or choose to do this testing first.
Maintaining your vehicle with proper oil changes, air filters, fluid flushes, etc. will keep your vehicle running for hundred of thousands of miles!
Car Talk & Tips
Ask an automotive service or repair question.
I’m always interested in what you have to say. Most of the time, if you have a question, you’re not the only one. If you’d like to ask PJ a question about automotive service or repairs, or have an idea for a blog post, please send it to me via the form below.
Check out Roberts Automotive for all of your service needs.
Here’s a quick and easy guide on how to adjust your mirrors to eliminate blind spots!
Do you ever wonder what happens when your battery dies? Interstate explains the process in the video below.
Now that you know what happens with a dead battery, you may be wondering how to make a car battery. Have no fear! Interstate explains battery creation also.