Fuel Economy

I want to talk a little about fuel economy, the simple things you can check and do.  All the little things can add up, especially now that gas prices are starting to rise.  Maintaining your vehicles will make them more efficient.  When your car is well maintained and works the way it is designed to, that means it uses less fuel; that means you save money.

There are two main issues that rob you of fuel economy.  One is increased friction and the other is inefficient fuel combustion.

Friction!  Anything that increases friction increases drag or load on your car engine.  Your engine has to work harder to overcome that drag.  In return you use more fuel.

One of the first things that come to mind is engine oil.  Low oil means that there is not enough to fully lubricate the engine to reduce friction.  The wrong oil viscosity and grade of oil can also adversely affect your fuel economy.  Dirty engine oil does not lubricate as well as clean motor engine oil.  The same applies to your transmission fluid.  Getting your oil and transmission fluid serviced at proper intervals will help reduce friction to save fuel, and help make your engine and transmission last longer.  You can also consider upgrading to synthetic oil and transmission fluids, and on rear wheel drive cars synthetic differential fluid.   Synthetic fluids cost a little more, but help by reducing friction and help you save you fuel.

Another very important friction that is over looked is UNDER-INFLATED tires.  When car tires are low, it’s like driving through sand. When driving on low tires, it makes your engine work much harder every mile.  So please check or have your tires checked at least once a month.

Sticking or binding brakes can put a drag on your car, without your knowing it.  A simple brake inspection twice a year by a qualified technician, should be considered.

I want to talk about fuel.  A dirty fuel system has gum and varnish interfering with the fuel injectors ability to deliver the correct amount fuel at the correct pressure and in the spray pattern the engineers intended.  A professional fuel system cleaning can get everything back to factory specs, and improve your fuel economy.

Replacing worn ignition parts, like spark plugs will burn fuel more efficiently, and will save you money at the gas pump.

P.S. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me any questions.

Posted in Car Care | 2 Comments

Maintaining newer cars

I want to talk a little about newer cars, or should I say the newer generation of cars.  Quality surveys report fewer problems with new cars than ever before.  So does that mean that modern vehicles have become maintenance free?

Back when cars spent more time in repair shops, Illinois drivers were more mindful of routine service.   Now, it’s much easier to put it off, and forget about it.

Take tune-ups for example.  In the days of mechanical ignition systems, an engine needed to be tuned-up every couple of years.  If your engine was out of tune, you knew it.  It ran poorly, and got bad fuel economy.  Now, the ignition system is electronic and controlled by the engine management computer.  Spark plugs rarely get fouled and will last for as much as a hundred thousand miles.  So tune-ups used to force you in for service and while you were there you just took care of whatever else was on the maintenance list.

So what’s the benefit to keeping up with factory scheduled maintenance?  Well, your car will perform better and in return will get better fuel economy.  Those benefits pay for the service as you go along.  The big plus is that major repairs – and the associated breakdowns – are prevented.  And these aren’t just repairs that are a long ways off.  Modern engines are far more sophisticated and have many parts that are in critical need of proper lubrication.  Missing just one oil change can allow oil sludge to start forming.  Sludge clogs small engine passages, robbing car parts of the lubrication they need.  An expensive failure could easily occur within two of three years.

Taking care of the little things now will prevent big problems with your car or truck later.  No motorist wants to be stranded by a breakdown.  Your car still needs to be taken care of – it’s just that some of those points of care have changed with automotive advancements.  The need for proper maintenance of you vehicles did not and will not go away.

P.S.  I’m here for any questions, just e-mail me.  Ken  k.dor@prodigy.net

Posted in Car Care | Leave a comment

The check engine light

This week I will talk a little about the check engine light or service soon light or just that little symbol that looks like a little engine.  That little yellow light strikes fear into most drivers, but is also ignored by just as many drivers.

If the light is glowing steady, keep an eye on it for a few days.  If the light stays on then it is time to schedule a service date to see what the problem is.

I will give you a little information on how and what the check engine light with.  Most of the car engine functions are controlled by a computer, not surprisingly called the engine control computer.  The computer is able to adjust and monitor many engine parameters for environmental conditions, engine conditions and even how the car is driven.

In order to make these adjustments, the computer relies on a network of sensors to provide data back to the computer.  The computer knows the operating range of each sensor.  When a sensor reading is out of range the computer runs some tests and may turn on the check engine light.

The computer will also try to make adjustments to compensate for some readings.  If it can do so it will turn off the check engine light.

If the problem can’t be resolved then the check engine light will remain on.  Then you should have your car serviced.  Driving with the light on will effect your gas mileage and can do further damage to other emission components.

PS. We are still looking for car donations.

Posted in Car Care | Leave a comment

Tires and braking

Hello everyone, I’m returning for your next Ask Ken column.  This week we will talk a little about tires, there tread depth and what it has to do with braking.  When talking about stopping power, most drivers tend to focus on brakes.  But our tires are where the rubber meets the road.  So having good brakes isn’t enough.  All motorists have to have tires with enough traction to translate braking power into stopping power.

Let’s focus on stopping in wet road conditions.  In order for a tire to have good contact with the road, it has to move the water out of the way.  If it can’t move the water, the tire will actually ride on top of a thin film of water.

That’s called hydroplaning, which can actually cause you to spin out of control.  So how does a tire move water?  It has channels for water to flow through.  Look at a tire and you’ll see channels: channels that run around the tire and channels that flow across the tire.  They’re designed to direct water away from the tire so it can contact the road better.

And the deeper the channel, the more water it can move.  A brand new tire has very deep channels and can easily move a lot of water.  As the tire wears down, the channels become shallower and move less water.  When it wears down enough, it can seriously affect you ability to stop on wet roads.

So that’s why it’s important for drivers to replace the tires on their vehicles when they get worn.  Consumer Reports and other advocate groups call for a standard of 3/32 of an inch, to replace them, and they have the studies to prove it.

The depth of 4/32 of an inch is the safest time to replace your tires.  There’s an easy way to tell when a tire’s worn to 4/32 of an inch.  Just insert a quarter into the tread.  Put it in upside down.  If the tread doesn’t cover George Washington’s hairline, it’s time to replace your tires.  You’ve probably heard of this technique using a penny and Abe Lincoln’s head.  That measure gives you 2/32 of an inch-half the suggested amount.

Of course, tires are a big ticket item for car owner.  Most of us want to get as many miles out of them as we can.  But there’s a real safety trade-off.  So if anyone has any questions please e-mail them to St. Paul.

I want to thank the car care ministry for sponsoring Ask Ken.

Posted in Car Care | 1 Comment

Your car’s air filter

Hi everybody, another week of Ask Ken.  Just a reminder from the Car Care Ministry, that we are accepting running and non-running cars and trucks for donations.

This week’s topic is on the importance of the air filter in you car. Many car owners who have taken their car in for an oil change have been told that their engine air filter is dirty. Here’s what goes into the determination of when to change the filter: First, your car owner’s manual will have a recommendation of when to change the filter. Second, a visual inspection by your technician may determine that your filter is visibly dirty and needs to be changed.

So, between your car owner’s manual and your technician’s inspection, there is really no guesswork involved.

Now, most air filters don’t cost a lot to replace. It’s just that many people hate getting caught with an unexpected expense. On the plus side, though, changing a dirty air filter can often save enough on gas to pay for itself before your next oil change.

Think about a dirty furnace filter in your home. When it’s all clogged up, enough clean air can’t get through. In your car, that means that your engine can’t get as much air as it needs to burn the fuel efficiently. Your car actually needs about 12,000 gallons of air for every gallon of gas it burns. So, it makes do with less air and has to use more gas to move your vehicle around.

When it’s time to change yours, just get it done. You’ll save money, have better performance and fuel efficiency, along with protecting your engine.

Posted in Car Care | Leave a comment

Welcome to the Car Care Ministry Blog!

Thank you to the Car Care Ministry for sponsoring the Ask Ken column.  I haven’t heard from anyone yet – don’t be bashful!

This week, we are going to talk a little about serpentine belts.  A serpentine belt is a larger, newer version of a fan belt.  On most new cars, the serpentine belt snakes around the front of the engine.  The engine drives the serpentine belt as it turns and it powers your alternator, air conditioning compressor and power steering pump.  On some vehicles, it also runs the water pump, radiator fan and power brakes.  Sounds like a lot of important stuff doesn’t it?

If your serpentine belt were to break, your battery would die in a few miles.  If it runs your fan or water pump, your engine could overheat and the steering and brakes could be more difficult.  Obviously, the best thing to do is replace your serpentine belt before it breaks.

Check your owner’s manual for when it’s recommended that you replace your serpentine belt – or just ask your service advisor.

You may have been told to look for cracks in your belt to see if it needs to be replaced.  Of course, cracks are still a concern, but modern belt material doesn’t crack as often as older belts did.  These days, we look for the thickness of the belt.  There is a special tool that measures the depth of the grooves in the belt to see if it needs replacing.

Now you can imagine it’s important for the belt to be tight, so there’s a tensioner pulley on your engine that puts pressure on the belt to keep it at the right tension.  The spring on the tensioner wears out over time so we recommend replacing the tensioner pulley at the same time as the serpentine belt.

A worn belt can slip or be misaligned, putting undue stress on the accessories it runs.
Replacing your serpentine belt on schedule, or when an inspection warrants it, will keep you from an unexpected breakdown.

Posted in Car Care | Leave a comment