Z Auto Repair
105 East St. Hadley, Ma. 01035

Oil changes: Engine oil and filter service intervals can vary depending on how long you plan to keep your vehicle and type of engine oil you use.  If you are going to trade your vehicle every three or four years, then you can go by the manufacturer’s warranty for allowable mileage interval and type of oil.  If you want to keep your car for a long time, you should change your oil every 3000 miles with regular oil. Every 5000 miles with synthetic blend oil.   Every 5000 to 7500 miles with full synthetic oil.  Your oil level should be checked every 1000 miles and more often if you have to add oil in between changes.

 The interval on spark plug replacement will vary depending on the type of spark plug your vehicle is equipped with.  Typically, they are replaced at about this mileage.  Regular spark plugs are replaced at 30,000 miles.  Platinum spark plugs are replaced at 60,000 miles.   Iridium’s spark plugs are replaced at 100,000 to 120,000 miles.  Electricity is like water and will go were ever it is easiest to go.  If you’re spark plugs are left in for too many miles you will probably burn other components in the ignition system and cost yourself extra money.

Tire pressure
:  If you have your vehicle serviced on a regular basis, you should not check or adjust your tire pressures yourself.  You should however be aware if the vehicle does not drive like it normally does, this could be from a tire that is low on pressure.  Low tire pressure can cause excessive wear or a possible blowout.  I suggest at least once a week walk around your vehicle to make sure that none of your tires look like they are very soft.  It is best if the garage checks them when they are servicing the vehicle.  In this way if a tire has a leak the mechanic can find and fix the leak.  When there are no leaks your tires will lose very little air in between service intervals.

Tire rotation
:  It is best to do this when the vehicle is already on the lift for some other service and some appreciable amount of wear can be distinguished between the front and rear tires.  Normally it is best to have the tires that have the best tread on the front.  This can also be the best time to have your brakes checked.

My opinion on types of tires
:   Most people can use an all-season tire year-round.  The exception to this is if you have to go out when the roads are still snow covered.  If you fall into this category then you need to have snow tires.  It is an investment in security and safety.  It is not as costly as it seems because you are only wearing one set of tires at a time and they make a huge difference driving in the snow.  

Some thoughts on timing belts and chains
:  Timing chains have no service interval.  Timing belt intervals vary by manufacturer and engine size.  There are two categories of timing belt engines.  There is what they call interference and noninterference engine applications.  If the timing belt breaks or jumps on the noninterference engine the engine will stop running. The car will have to be towed and the belt replaced.  On the interference application, the engine will also usually sustain extreme damage.  It is best to know which type of engine you have and follow the recommended mileage for replacement of the belt. P. S. If the engine water pump is driven by the timing belt it should also be replaced at the same time.

My opinion on

Wheel alignment
:    Things that indicate when a wheel alignment would be necessary are after the replacement of some steering or suspension parts. The replacement of some steering and suspension parts will not affect wheel alignment. A wheel alignment may be necessary after an accident, hitting a large pothole, or debris in the road. A vehicle that pulls to one side or the other, has an off-center steering wheel, or shows uneven tire wear are indicators of needing an alignment. In my opinion an alignment should not be done as routine maintenance.   

Some thoughts on warning lights
:  It is ok to drive in most circumstances with a yellow check engine or service engine soon light on for a short time or until you have time to get it checked.  If you notice any kind of vibration or lack of power when accelerating then it would probably be best to have the car towed so that your catalytic converter does not get damaged.  Do not run your engine with the red oil light on. This can cause severe engine damage in seconds.  Do not run your engine with the temperature gauge reading hot.  The price of the towing will probably be considerably cheaper than repairing the damage that will occur.  When the yellow ABS light is on the anti-lock function will not work.  The brakes will function as a vehicle without anti-lock brakes.  The red brake light that comes on when you apply the parking brake is also a warning light for low fluid in the brake master cylinder on most vehicles.  The red battery or charge light should always be off when the engine is running.  If it is on with the engine running it usually means that the charging system is not working.  It is actually very rare that it is a sign of a bad battery.

Some thoughts on windshield wipers
:   It is a good habit to get into shutting your windshield wipers off and allowing them to go to the park position before turning your engine off.  This is especially important in cold weather.  You should never use your windshield wipers to clear snow or ice.  When it is cold out you should always make sure that they are cleared and not frozen to the glass before turning them on.  If you follow these tips you wiper motor and wiper linkage should last the life of the vehicle.  Wiper blades will usually last anywhere from six months to one year.  Using wipers with torn rubbers will scar the windshield.

:   Make sure that the fuel cap is installed properly and is tightened until a few clicks are heard. Only fill your tank until the automatic nozzle clicks off. If you tried to add more fuel to top off your tank it will probably damage your carbon canister. This will probably set a code and turn your check engine light on. If the fuel cap is left lose it will usually take about two days to turn the check engine light on. If the cap was left loose and then tightened it will usually take about five days for the check engine light to go out.                                                                                                              

About your parking brake
: your parking brake should only be applied hard enough to hold your vehicle in place. Over applying your parking brake can distort parts of your breaking system. Your parking brake should be used whenever your car is parked. This will keep all of its parts free. The one exception to this rule would be if the vehicle is going to be parked for an extended period of time. The brake linings can rust to the brake drums and lock your vehicle in place.  It is best to chock block your wheels.

About your clutch:
 there are factors that determine how long your clutch will last. A clutch is going to last a lot longer for a person that drives on the highway a lot, as opposed to a person doing a lot of stop and go driving. A clutch does not wear when the clutch pedal is fully depressed or all the way out. It is normal for some wear to occur when the clutch pedal is not fully depressed or all the way out. So called riding the clutch is when the clutch pedal is in the partially depressed state for a longer time than it needs to be. This also refers to slipping the clutch in order to avoid downshifting. Doing either of these things will definitely shorten the life of your clutch. Sometimes a clutch will need to be adjusted.  There should always be some free movement of the clutch pedal usually about ½ inches. If the free play is   lost.   The clutch pedal gets tight and this can also cause premature wear.

My thoughts on some miscellaneous items
: There is no routines service on air conditioning except for checking the belt.  If you notice it does not seem to be cooling your vehicle as well as it did, it will have to be checked for leaks, any leaks repaired and the system recharged.

Don’t forget about your cabin air filter.  It is normally changed about every 30,000 miles.  If you leave it in too long debris will build up on top of it.  When the filter is removed the debris will be scraped off and fall into your ventilation system.  This will probably require the removal of your blower motor to clean out the debris.

If you’re going to have your vehicle checked for a trip.  Along with all of the obvious items that get checked.  Making sure that the spare tire and jack are in good shape is also important.

Communicating a no start condition to your mechanic
: especially if it is intermittent can be frustrating.  If your engine will not start, the problem will be in one of four areas.  In the starting system, the ignition system, the fuel system or an internal engine problem.  It can really help your mechanic diagnose the problem if you can convey whether or not the starter motor is cranking your engine.  On early cars before they had batteries and starter motors, you had to insert a hand crank in the front of the engine and turn it by hand.  Revolving the engine by hand is the beginning process of getting an engine to start and run.  If the starter motor does not revolve the motor that means that the no start condition is isolated to the starting system.  When the starting system is functioning normally the motor will be revolving but will not start and run. The problem will be in one of the other three areas for mentioned.  One of the best ways to explain to your mechanic you’re no start symptom is that you have a “crank but no start condition” or a “no crank condition”.  If you have a no crank condition there are a few things you can try yourself.  Vehicles have a safety switch which will not allow the engine to crank if the transmission is not in park or neutral or in the case of a Manual transmission the clutch pedal depressed.  So you can try moving the shift lever or making sure that there’s nothing holding the clutch pedal from being depressed all the way.  You can make sure that the battery cables are clean and tight.  Lastly you can attempt to jumpstart from another vehicle.  There’s not much you can do yourself if you have the crank no run condition except for maybe making sure there is fuel the tank.

: If your battery is dead it does not necessarily mean that your battery is no good.  You could have a problem with your charging system or something is drawing current from the battery when the vehicle is not running.  If you simply replace your battery you may have just wasted money on a battery.  It is always best to have the battery, starting and charging systems tested before replacing anything.  My recommendation on a replacement battery would be the Delco brand because they do not vent at the top thus reducing a lot of corrosion to your battery cables.  Batteries actually like the cold if they are fully charged.  If you are not going to use your vehicle for an extended period of time the negative battery should be unhooked.

Exhaust systems: 
The exhaust systems that come on modern vehicles are made of alloys and typically last 10 to 12 years.  After market replacement parts typically last two to four years.  When you have to replace exhaust parts you should consider the length of time you intend on keeping your vehicle.  Then the price of the parts for original equipment or aftermarket can be calculated as to what will sue your situation best.

Some operating and safety tips:
 Do not use cruise control on slippery road surfaces or during heavy rainstorms.  This can definitely cause a loss of control.  If you have had to open your hood, you should make sure that the safety catch is functioning and after you have closed it you should always pull up on it to make sure that it has in fact closed.  When switching directions, forward and reverse always come to a complete stop before doing so.  Not doing this can damage or excessively wear your transmission.  If your transmission is equipped with an overdrive off switch it should only be used on a hilly highway to keep the overdrive from constantly shifting in and out.  In almost all other driving conditions the overdrive should be left on.  Shifting to a lower gear going down steep hills can keep your brakes from overheating.  Most vehicles will get better fuel mileage running the air conditioning as opposed to having the windows down.  Most vehicles have what is known as a recirculation button on your ventilation control panel.  It should be in the fresh or outside air position for the most part especially if you’re trying to keep your windshield from fogging up.  Your defroster will be much more efficient.  I think the only time that should be on is if you are following a smelly truck or driving through a duck farm.  When objects such as business cards or pictures are placed in front of the instrument panel you may be blinding yourself to a warning light or a gauge that is trying to tell you something.

Things to beware of
:  The  garage that heavily advertises inexpensive oil changes or inexpensive brake work.  It is impossible to make any money on the$ 19.95 oil change.  It is only done to get you in the door to sell you work you probably don’t even need.  It is also impossible to estimate a brake repair without inspecting the brakes.  Some dealerships and garages pay a commission for what is known as up selling.  Sometimes it is the mechanic or the service writer that will get these commissions.  If your vehicle is not riding bouncy and there is no oil leaking from your shocks or struts you probably don’t need them.  The last time I checked nitrogen makes up over 80% of the air we breathe.  I would never pay extra to have my tires inflated with nitrogen.