Monthly Archives: July 2016

Heater Blow Cold Air

When you’re getting a blast of cold air, especially one you don’t want, chances are that something has gone wrong in or around the heater core. It’s a small radiator that generates heat by allowing engine coolant to circulate so that the fan blows warmed air into the cabin to keep everyone toasty.

Because the heater core is usually placed in an inconvenient location (behind the dashboard) you might want to have a pro look elsewhere first to eliminate simpler possibilities.

First, check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If it’s really low, it might not be able to warm the heater core. The cooling system thermostat also may not be opening, preventing coolant from circulating. In these cases, there’s also a good chance your engine will be running hot, and be in danger of overheating.

If neither of those is the cause then the heater core and ancillary components are likely culprits. If water isn’t circulating through the heater core, perhaps a diverter or valve isn’t opening to allow that flow, or the core itself is leaking or clogged. Another possibility is that a door or diverter that is supposed to direct warm air into the interior is stuck.

On cars with automatic temperature control, a “set-and-forget” feature that is supposed to maintain a constant temperature, the computer that controls the system might be malfunctioning. It’s possible that the heater core and other parts are fine, but the computer has grown tired of constantly catering to your climate needs and stopped answering your calls.

Synthetic Oil For Your Car

If your car’s owner’s manual says it does, you do.

For many consumers, whether to spend extra money for synthetic oil for an oil change is a difficult question to answer.

Manufacturers of synthetic oil promise more miles and better performance when compared with conventional motor oil, but it comes at a higher cost — sometimes twice as much per oil change. Is it worth the extra money?

Typically, high-performance vehicles will be more likely to require synthetic oil, as will vehicles that have a turbocharged or supercharged engine. However, if your vehicle does not require synthetic oil, the choice is trickier – and there is no clear answer.

Synthetic oil generally resists breaking down for longer than conventional motor oil (typically 7,500 miles to 10,000 miles, sometimes up to 15,000 miles, as opposed to 3,000 miles to 7,500 miles for conventional oil). That makes the extra cost a wash, if you have half the number of oil changes, but each one costs you twice as much. Other touted benefits include cleaner engines, better flow in cold temperatures, better protection when it’s hot outside and better performance with turbocharged engines.

There are also synthetic blends. As the name implies, these are blends of synthetic and conventional oils. They straddle a middle ground — they cost more than conventional oils but less than full synthetics, and are said to last longer than conventional oils but not quite as long as synthetics — but again, that’s a hard number to pin down since manufacturers are vague with their claims. An independent testing lab we spoke with said that synthetics often didn’t perform much better than conventional oils do.

Still, older engines may benefit from synthetics because it is less likely to form sludge.

If your car doesn’t require synthetic oil you should perform a cost/benefit analysis, but that can be difficult to do due to vague claims made by manufacturers. There may be no reason to spend more on synthetic oil, except for peace of mind.

You Need to Know About This

Oil-change intervals vary by manufacturer and engines, so consult your owner’s manual or maintenance schedule to see how often to change the oil in your vehicle and what type of oil to use. You may be surprised. We were surprised to learn that a Camry’s 2.5-liter engine requires 0W-20 synthetic oil, for instance. Manufacturers suggest you change oil more often for “severe” driving conditions, such as frequent trailer towing, extensive stop-and-go driving or idling in traffic, driving in extreme heat or cold, or frequent short-distance driving in which the engine doesn’t reach full operating temperature.

How do I know when it’s time for an oil change?
Time and mileage intervals vary by vehicle manufacturer and whether an engine requires synthetic oil (which is meant to last longer). Use the guidelines in your owner’s manual, including whether most of your driving qualifies as happening in “severe” conditions, such as frequent short trips and stop-and-go driving. Under those conditions, you should change the oil more frequently.

How often should I replace my oil?
You should change the oil at least as often as is recommended by the vehicle manufacturer (the information is in your owner’s manual). These days, that’s every 7,500 to 10,000 miles on many vehicles. Many mechanics recommend doing it more often, such as every 5,000 to 6,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. If you do mainly short trips and/or stop-and-go driving, you should change the oil more often. How about every 3,000 miles? Though that’s overkill, it can’t hurt, and it might extend the life of your engine.

Why do I need to change my oil?
Oil is the lifeblood of an engine; it lubricates and cleans moving parts and performs a vital cooling function as it circulates. Over time and repeated exposure to cold starts, short trips and engine heat, oil gets dirty, becomes thicker and loses its ability to prevent sludge and deposits from forming. Mechanics often say that changing the oil is the best preventive medicine for extending engine life.

How much should I pay?
The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car’s year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We’ll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.