Monthly Archives: June 2017

Urban Legends About Motor Oil

Even though Edmunds has definitively debunked the myth of the 3,000-mile oil change, we keep hearing wildly contradictory information about engine oil, what type to use and how often to change it. So we issued a call for oil myths, legends and lies, and gathered up a list of the top puzzlers. We then put these questions to the experts and came up with some interesting answers. Here’s a list of seven oil myths and realities to guide you through this murky subject.

1. Change your oil every 3,000 miles or three months — whichever comes first. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: This is a myth for the vast majority of modern cars. The 3,000-mile oil change is the credo of the quick-oil change industry and dealership service departments, designed to regularly get you into the service bay. Experts agree that the oil in today’s cars should be changed at the designated intervals in the owner’s manual or when the car’s oil life monitor light appears. (The average interval for 2010 cars is around 7,800 miles.) Oil experts and car manufacturers say that oil chemistry and engine technology have evolved tremendously in recent years, extending oil change intervals.

2. Change your oil before a long road trip. There is some truth to this. It’s definitely a good idea to look your car over before long drives, says Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing for However, if the oil change interval is not scheduled to occur during the trip, it is not necessary to change it preemptively. If the oil change interval would arrive during the trip, then it’s a good idea to change it before you leave. But Edmunds cautions that having service work performed just before a trip carries a risk. He was once driving miles from anywhere when a car passed him, trailing oil. It turned out the owner had just had her car’s oil changed, and the shop had not properly tightened the drain plug. It had vibrated out. Edmunds suggests scheduling a service visit for about a week before leaving on a big trip, just to make sure everything is working properly before you hit the road. Here’s more information about when to change your oil.

3. Nearly all cars should be serviced under the “severe” maintenance schedule. This oft-cited rule is a myth the quick oil-change industry (including Jiffy Lube) uses to bolster more-frequent-than-necessary oil changes, experts tell When manufacturers say “severe,” they mean situations in which vehicles pull heavy trailers, or cars race on closed tracks. It also applies to taxis or emergency-response vehicles that can idle for hours at a time. Just plain old stop-and-go traffic doesn’t automatically bump people into the severe schedule. For further proof, consider this: A number of automakers, including Ford and GM, contacted Edmunds data editors to request that the maintenance section of Edmunds’ site substitute the normal maintenance schedule for the severe schedule that had been displayed. If your car has an oil life monitoring system the severe-versus-normal question is moot.

Friendly Car Care Tips

With a historic drought hitting the Southwest, many Americans are being asked to do their part to conserve water. There are restrictions and potential fines for watering lawns, hosing down driveways and yes, even washing your car. Fortunately, there are some water-wise ways to maintain your vehicle’s appearance and value in these tough conditions.

The Basics of No-Water Cleaning
One way to maintain your car’s finish while conserving water is to actually start with a good detail job. A smooth glossy surface will make it more difficult for contaminants to adhere. The detailing process will vary according to your needs, but the basic steps will include a wash, using a clay bar to remove surface contaminants, polishing with a compound to get a deeper clean and a wax application to protect the finish. The time, money or effort that goes into detailing may pay dividends if you’re able to keep the car out of the elements.

A Light Dusting
Despite your best efforts, your car will get dirty. Fortunately, in drought-affected areas it’s less likely to get coated by a layer of overnight dew. More likely than not, it will get a very light coating of dust. As long as conditions and surfaces are dry, products such as the California Car Duster will dispatch that dust easily. The paraffin-infused strands of brand-new car dusters have a tendency to leave some streaks, but after some use that will subside. Use only very light pressure on the surface, only a little more than the weight of the duster itself. That will minimize the chances of scratching.

Liquid Damage Control
The trickier part of maintaining a clean car is dealing with liquids that hit its surface. According to Mike Pennington from car-care product maker Meguiar’s, the biggest offenders are bird droppings and eggs. Both will eventually eat through the protective layers of your car’s finish and damage the paint. You should remove eggs and droppings immediately. Water spots are less urgent, but the process for cleaning them up is similar.

Towel Dry
It’s also important to use a quality microfiber towel. Microfiber fabrics feature a very light construction that traps particles deep within the weave. The typical cotton terrycloth towel will keep contaminants closer to its surface and has a tendency to leave light scratches in its wake. Microfiber towels are also much more absorbent, which makes clean-up quick and effortless. They’ll also remain effective for a long time if given proper care. Microfiber towels should only be washed with other microfiber products. Mixing in other materials like cotton will drastically reduce a microfiber towel’s effectiveness.

A Deeper Cleaning
For those who are more militant about water conservation, Meguiar’s also makes Rinse-Free Express Wash and Wax, a product that eliminates the need to rinse off your car after washing. This concentrate is mixed in with the wash bucket water and is intended for moderately dirty cars. It was developed for on-location car care professionals with limited access to water and can be purchased online, though you might not easily find it in the usual car parts and accessories stores.

The Dirty Details
At the very least, using a combination of these techniques will extend the time between conventional car washes. It’s very important to follow the product directions: Failing to do so could harm your car’s surfaces. With some care and effort, though, you can do your part to combat the drought and maintain the appearance and value of your car.

Ways To Avoid a Dead Car Battery

Most people wait until their car battery dies before they decide to replace it, a recent report revealed. The survey of 1,000 drivers, sponsored by Batteries Plus Bulbs, showed that 53 percent of the group waited until they were stranded by a dead battery and then had to call for roadside assistance.

Here are the five things that will help you avoid a dead battery:

1. Know Your Car Battery’s Age: Most cars require 12-volt batteries that last from three to five years. Therefore, you should know how old the battery is so you can replace it before it fails. Hopefully, you kept the receipt or noted the date when you bought your current battery. Or, perhaps you bought your car new so the battery was also new at that time. But if you are like many people, they bought a car without knowing the age of the battery. Well, it’s time to find how old it is now. Open your car’s hood and locate your battery, which is usually in the right front of the engine compartment. In some cases, the manufacturer places an easy-to-remove plastic cover over the battery. However, other batteries should have a plastic strip with a code on it. Here is a chart to decipher battery codes. If the battery has no date code, you are forced to judge the battery by its general appearance. If it appears old and has white corrosion around the terminals, you will definitely want to get it tested.

2. Look for the Warning Signs of a Dying Battery: You might notice that when you turn the ignition key, the engine cranks slowly. This could be a sign that your battery is about to die, Mazor says. Another telltale sign is to turn on the headlights when the engine isn’t running, he says. If the headlights look dim, the battery could be on its last legs. In some cases, a battery will die without any warning at all. If your car won’t even turn over (there might be a clicking or buzzing sound coming from the electrical system), check first to see if the battery was drained because you left the lights on, or some other electrical device. Once the car is jump started, it could start, run and seem reliable. But the battery will probably fail again shortly, so replace it as soon as possible.

3. Get a Free Battery Test: Most chain auto parts stores will test the battery for free, Mazor says. Furthermore, various mobile services, such as AAA’s Battery Service, will test the battery and let you know if it needs to be replaced. Installation of a new battery and disposal of the old one is usually free. Replacing the battery yourself is possible but not recommended for novices. The connections are often corroded and difficult to loosen. Then, lifting the heavy battery out and installing the new one requires a feat of strength.

4. Replace Your Battery Before It Leaves You Stranded: If your battery fails the free test, or it is cranking slowly, replace it. Use a mobile battery service or go to an auto parts store. The parts clerks will use a battery fitment guide to tell you what your car needs. Batteries are often sold with three-year, four-year or five-year warranties. Since the battery is a vital part of your car, Mazor recommends buying a top performer.

5. Maintain Your Battery: 

Do a visual inspection to check for corrosion around the battery terminals. Look for a chalky white substance that might affect proper electrical conduction. Clean the terminal with a wire brush and coat it with grease before reconnecting the battery. The grease prevents corrosion and improves the electrical connection. If you have an older battery that allows access to the cells, adding distilled water will help it keep a charge. However, if you do this, proceed with caution. The sulfuric acid in batteries is highly corrosive and can burn your skin and eat holes in your clothes. There is even a slight danger of explosion. When performing maintenance on a battery, work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves and eye protection. If battery acid gets on your clothes or skin, quickly neutralize it with a solution of baking soda and water. Never lean over a battery when charging, testing or jump-starting an engine.

Final Thoughts
The performance of modern batteries has improved, and Mazor says they will perform better for a longer period of time. But they still have one flaw: It’s hard to predict when they will die. So regularly inspect your battery and replace it before it lets you down.

How To Wax Your Car

It may seem counterintuitive, but frequently washing and waxing your vehicle is the best way to maintain its exterior paint finish for years to come, regardless of the constant wiping and rubbing it entails — but only as long as you’re using the right products in the correct order. All major brands of car washes, car waxes and related detailing products are specially formulated to work gently on the clear-coat paint finishes found on every car built since the mid-1990s. They’re ideal for removing dirt above and below the surface, eliminating swirls and other imperfections and leaving a high-gloss shine.

For protection, you need to apply a car wax, and experts recommend that this be done at least every three months. However, there are varieties of wax that can be used much more frequently. If you’re really obsessive, some can be used as often as every few days. The newest synthetic polymer-based waxes (such as Meguiar’s Ultimate Wax, Mothers California Gold Synthetic Wax and Turtle Wax ICE Premium Care Liquid Wax) generally provide longer-lasting protection and are easier to use in the sun than older-style carnauba-based waxes (such as Meguiar’s Gold Class Carnauba Plus Wax and Mothers California Gold Pure Brazilian Carnauba Wax).

Normally, the newer liquid or paste waxes provide the longest-lasting protection — usually three or four months if the car is kept in a garage and not exposed to a harsh environment. When applying a liquid or paste wax, you’ll use the same technique: small, circular, overlapping strokes, using a microfiber-covered or foam applicator pad and working one section of the vehicle at a time. As in the other steps, remove the wax with a microfiber towel that you’ve folded into fourths, using one side to break the waxy surface, then flipping the towel over to a clean side to remove any additional residue.

Spray waxes (such as Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Wax, Mothers California Gold Spray Wax and Turtle Wax ICE Premium Care Spray Wax) are designed for quick application but generally don’t offer the same long-lasting protection as the liquids or pastes. Experts say that spray waxes should be used as a booster between the quarterly applications of the liquid or paste waxes. Some car-care experts recommend using these spray waxes as often as twice per week. Some say once a month is sufficient.