A stitch in time

One of the lessons I have learned in life is that a very young baby will only cry for a reason. They might be hungry, tired or in pain but there is always a reason.

People should generally take this into account too when it comes to their car. When something unusual appears like a bang, knock or scraping noise it is happening for a reason. “A stitch in time saves nine” is never truer than when it comes to vehicle issues. Preventative maintenance is the key to low vehicle repair costs.

I served a client recently who called to purchase new wiper blades and during the transaction I was asked if I knew why there was a squealing noise when the brakes were engaged. I went out and inspected the vehicle to find the front brake pads were almost worn to the back plate but the situation was much worse with the back brakes.

Braking

Not only was the friction material of the brake pad worn through, the backing plate of the brake pad had cut grooves onto the brake discs badly damaging them as the metal backing of a brake pad is a stronger and more course metal than that of the brake disc. Unfortunately the client now needed to spend an extra €116 plus labour to rectify the issue.

A common habit is to avoid the knowledge and cost of what the problems may be but they rarely rectify themselves. Garage workshops are not like going to a doctor whereas they will generally inspect and diagnose an issue without charge and only bill you for the repair.

The next time you have a problem, speak with your mechanic early and avoid the major bills.

Happy driving.

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Reduce your vehicle running costs.

With the cost of fuel at record highs and still on an upward spiral, it has never been so important to apply some simple rules to increase the fuel economy of your vehicle.

Wheel alignment or otherwise known as tracking can be summarised as having all four wheels running in the correct direction. There are many reasons for your tracking to go out of line, the most common to be hitting a kerb or a pothole or driving over a speed ramp.

Typical symptoms of a car that is out of alignment are uneven or rapid tyre wear, pulling or drifting away from a straight line, wandering on a straight level road or the spokes of the steering wheel being off to one side while driving in a straight line.

Proper aligned wheels mean the cars rolling resistance is minimised resulting in the vehicle significantly improving its fuel consumption. It also insures your tyres will wear evenly and avoid scrubbing the side treads away, giving your tyres maximum life.

Tyre pressures need to be checked and topped up regularly as they naturally leak and deflate by a minimum of one pound of pressure per month. When at their optimum pressure, tyres roll most easily and hence require less energy from the vehicles engine, so it burns less fuel. Worth noting also is that the recommended tyre pressures for all vehicles are for cold tyres and the air in your tyre expands when hot. So if you have driven more that two miles to a garage to pump them you will need to add four pounds to the recommended pressure to adjust for the expansion.

All tyres on the same axle should be from the same manufacturer and have the same tread pattern to insure safe handling and reduce rolling resistance. Leading tyre manufacturers balance the quality of their tyres between giving the best grip whilst having the least rolling resistance and road noise. Tyres are not simply black and round and as the only part of your car that is touching the road whilst carrying the load of the vehicle, it is worth noting that there is a vast difference between a “Quality” and a “Budget” tyre.

There are many fuel additives on the market today. Some will increase your power and some will clean your fuel system but there are also products that will increase your cars fuel mileage such as Dipetane, which is produced in Ireland. By simply adding Dipetane to your fuel it will improve your fuel economy by as much as 10%.

Oil breaks down and loses its effectiveness whilst cooling and lubricating your cars engine and therefore it is important to replace it regularly. A poorly lubricated engine increases heat and the friction of parts and will do irreversible damage. This then results in your engine needing to work harder and so will forever burn more fuel.

To avoid the cost of servicing your vehicle is a false economy. Clogged filters simply lead to burning more fuel along with the fact that preventative maintenance is by far the cheaper route. Having your car running in pristine condition needs regular attention and will return the cost savings consistently.

Coolant and Antifreeze, the important facts

The advent of an oil change as opposed to a car service has become popular in recent years resulting in the increase of larger repair issues. Oversight of the antifreeze/coolant concentration levels is a major factor of longer term substantial damage.

Topping up the coolant level may not be good enough

Antifreeze or engine coolant, which are now one, are depleted in use and need to be changed every two years to replenish the additives that protect the cooling system from water, which pits the metals and causes rust and corrosion. Additives also prevent foaming and electrolysis. Your vehicles cooling system should have an antifreeze/coolant concentration to water of 50% in Ireland, up to 70% in colder climates and 35% in hotter climates. Older vehicles inevitably have higher friction levels and are susceptible to generating higher temperatures.

Vehicles using Long Life antifreeze, should be changed every 4 years or in and about 80,000 Km.

The importance of antifreeze/coolant.

Alcohol was used in cooling concentrations in the early days and worked well to prevent freezing but achieved nothing in the prevention of corrosion. Chemicals and additives are used in modern solutions to prevent water from both freezing and over heating, particularly in vehicles with air conditioning. The solutions now also give engines protection all year round and do not damage the rubber and plastic components. It also stabilizes the viscosity, preventing thickening and foaming.

Demand for space under the bonnet has exacerbated in the modern vehicle. When coupled with the consistent introduction of higher performance additions and smaller more powerful engines and the necessity of plastic components, the demands of the modern solutions are much more severe. Average engine temperatures run at 140 degrees C so the proper amount and concentration of coolant in your engine is vital to protect it.

Water running over differing metals develops a small electrical charge which will damage and pit engine surfaces and can cause ruthless damage to your car’s engine components. The additives in coolant neutralize this but they are depleted over time.

So how will you know if the coolant level is correct?

It is not as simple as making sure that it is topped up to the max level in the coolant bottle. As models differ it is best to consult the vehicle manual for the correct type and capacity. Conventional coolant which is Glycol based and blue/green in colour can be checked using a hydrometer but a refractometer is needed for the (red/pink) Long life coolant which is a propylene glycol, as it has a specific gravity much closer to water.

Select your typefrom you vechilce manual

With the use of a multimeter it is possible to measure the voltage content. Simply place the earth probe on the negative pole of the battery and place the top of the positive probe in the coolant. A reading above .20 volts is high and damaging, and signifies you need to change your coolant.

Alternatively call to your local mechanical garage and have them check it for you.

*Antifreeze Concentration Chart

TEMPERATURE c. ANTIFREEZE/COOLANT CONCENTRATION WATER CONCENTRATION
32 35% 65%
25 33% 67%
20 33% 67%
15 33% 67%
10 33% 67%
5 33% 67%
0 33% 67%
-10 39% 61%
-20 44% 56%
-30 48% 52%
-34 50% 50%
-40 52% 48%
-50 56% 44%
-60 59% 41%
-70 64% 36%
-84 70% 30%