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What’s New
Tire Prices Going Up? Tire Review thinks so. Get ready!
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says, "Saving Money on Fuel Isn’t a Magic Trick" [more]
Want your car to last longer? Doug Newcomb's article, "Ten Tips to Make Your Car Last Longer."
Got a fluid leak? Get good advice.
More tips! MSN Autos gives you 10 Tips to Make Your Car Last Longer.
Preventive Maintenance
  1. Why Preventive Maintenance?
  2. What Type of Motor Oil Is Recommended?
  3. High Mileage Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance.
  4. Why timing belts need replacement.
  5. Crankshaft seal vs crankshaft repair sleeve.
  6. What is the difference between asbestos and non-asbestos gaskets?
  7. How often should oil and filter be changed?
  8. Why do some engines use RTV sealer instead of gaskets?
Manufacturers know that a properly maintained car will he more dependable, safer, last longer, and increase your satisfaction with their product. Car makers and owners also have a responsibility to make sure emission controls receive regular service and are functioning properly. Regular maintenance helps accomplish these goals by keeping your engine running efficiently and eliminating potential problems that may leave you stranded.

What's In It For You?
  • A more dependable car
  • A car that retains the new car feel
  • Less chance of a costly breakdown
  • A safer car for you and your family
  • Doing your part for cleaner air
  • A car worth more at trade in or sale
  • An intact warranty
Manufacturer Maintenance Schedules
The manufacturer creates detailed maintenance schedules outlining specific operations to be performed on various components and systems. This is done at different mileage intervals to ensure proper operation and prevent premature wear. The manufacturer also indicates what services must be done to maintain the factory warranty and extended warranty.

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What Type of Motor Oil Is Recommended?

Owner's Manual Recommendations
Vehicle owners manuals give motor oil recommendations based on what works best with the engines made by the company. Choice of viscosity grades is usually provided depending on ambient temperature conditions.

General Recommendations
  • 10W-30 is best for all engines for year-round driving. 10W-40 is more popular in the aftermarket, but 10W-30 is a superior oil because the additive package holds up better over the long haul. General Motors, for example, does not recommend 10W-40 oil for any of its cars.

  • 5W-30 is now approved for most late model engines on a year-round basis. It is not approved for many turbocharged or diesel applications, some high output V-8s, or applications that involve driving at sustained highway speeds or towing in hot weather. It may not be the best choice for older engines with high mileage. 5W-30 is the factory fill oil on most new cars because it pumps through the engine more quickly alter start-up. It also makes cold weather starting easier and reduces fuel consumption.

  • Straight viscosity oils have limited temperature ranges and lack the versatility of multi-viscosity oils. Even so, some people prefer them. They can be safely used as long as their temperature limits are observed:

    • Straight 10W is okay for cold weather starting and driving, but too thin for warm weather driving.
    • Straight 20W is okay for all around driving, but doesn't provide the temperature protection of straight 30W (which is too thick at low temperatures for easy cold starting).
    • Straight 40W and 50W oils are primarily for heavy-duty applications.

  • Special multi-viscosity oils, like 20W-50, are typically formulated for racing or severe duty applications such as towing. They are not usually intended for everyday driving.

  • Synthetics are a good alternative for any of the above because most provide extended temperature protection and longevity.

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High Mileage Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance.

Fixing Your Present Vehicle Saves Money
Most of us want to get the most for our motoring dollar. One of the best ways to do this is extending the life of your current vehicle. With new car prices in the United States averaging well over $10,000, money invested in keeping your existing vehicle in good shape could save you hundreds--even thousands--of dollars a year. When you consider the true cost of buying a new car (price of the car, sales tax, license and registration fees, insurance), it is not difficult to justify investing a few hundred dollars to repair your present vehicle.

Safety and Scheduled Maintenance
The safety aspect of properly maintaining your vehicle, especially when it has high mileage, should not he overlooked. Failing brakes, exhaust leaks and other problems can be prevented by following sound car care practices. Unfortunately, most manufacturers only provide maintenance guidelines for the first 100,000 miles or so. Clear procedures for maintenance beyond this mileage do not exist. At best, manufacturers provide interval service schedules, such as every 15,000 miles. These schedules should he followed whenever possible. By doing so, you can reasonably expect thousands more satisfactory miles from your vehicle.

High Mileage Inspection and Evaluation
If your vehicle has passed the 100,000 mile mark and you want to significantly prolong its useful life, it is time to have it thoroughly evaluated by a professional automotive technician who can recommend needed repairs or service. This facility is equipped to perform this service. We employ technicians who use factory-level information detailing your vehicle's service requirements.

Our high mileage inspection and evaluation goes beyond cursory "once-overs" and is designed to get to the root of potential problems. Ask your service advisor or technician to show you exactly what is involved in this service. He or she will be happy to go over the evaluation form with you before you okay the inspection and provide you with a comprehensive estimate for any work recommended as a result of your vehicle's checkup. They will tell you about repairs that are necessary today, and also alert you to items that are potential problem areas you may want to address today for more trouble-free miles tomorrow. Naturally, you make the decision as to what work is actually performed.

Working together, we can add years to the life of your car or truck.

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Why timing belts need replacement.

What is a timing belt?
Timing belts have replaced timing chains on many of today's engines. Both belts and chains ensure that crankshaft, pistons and valves operate together in proper sequence. Belts are lighter, quieter and more efficient than chains.

Why replace the belt?
Like other components, timing belts wear out. Proper maintenance requires belt replacement at regular intervals--before they break.

Where are the belts located?
Timing belts are on the front of the engine protected by a plastic or metal cover.

When should belts be replaced?
When a timing belt breaks, the engine stops. Replace belts before this occurs. Most manufacturers provide a suggested service life and replacement schedule for this critical component.

How do I know if my car has one?
Your vehicle manual may tell you, but you should ask your technician--he will know for sure.

What is a "Free-Running" engine?
Free running vs interference engineIf the timing belt breaks on a free-running engine, the engine stops and you will need a tow to the repair shop. No mechanical damage occurs and the installation of a new belt is usually all that is needed to get you on your way.

What is an "Interference" engine?
If the timing belt breaks on an interference engine, mechanical engine damage occurs. It most commonly involves open valves being struck by pistons, resulting in the need for expensive repairs. In extreme cases, a replacement engine may be required.

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Crankshaft seal vs crankshaft repair sleeve.

Try a crankshaft repair sleeve. When a groove is worn in the crankshaft seal area, a new seal will not have a smooth surface to seal against. It will either leak immediately or wear prematurely. Replacing the crankshaft will solve the problem, but it is an expensive fix. An economical and effective alternative is installing a slip-on repair sleeve.

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What is the difference between asbestos and non-asbestos gaskets.

One gasket type contains asbestos as a reinforcing fiber while the other does not. As a reinforcing fiber, asbestos is strong, can withstand high temperatures and chemical attack, and is relatively cheap compared to many other materials. The physical properties that make asbestos an excellent gasket fiber also make it a hazardous substance to work with.

Asbestos fibers are long, thin and extremely small. Exposed fibers easily shred into thin needle-like strands that can drift in the air and be inhaled. The fibers lodge deep in the lungs where their sharp needle-like presence becomes a source of constant irritation. Over time, the accumulation of asbestos fibers can lead to a variety of lung ailments, including cancer.

Because of that, the government has tried to ban asbestos. A court ruling has put the proposed ban on temporary hold. Even so, all domestic gasket manufacturers are now using non-asbestos materials in their U.S. gasket plants. Asbestos is still being used by offshore manufacturers and is still found in many import applications.

The asbestos hazard is only a concern to those who work in the asbestos handling and processing industries, including companies that supply gasket manufacturers with rolls of gasket facing material and paper.

Once fibers are encapsulated in the filler material used to make gaskets, they cannot escape and pose no significant health hazard to those who work in gasket manufacturing plants, the distribution system, or installers.

Most domestic gasket manufacturers today use a proprietary mix of non-asbestos reinforcing fibers to produce gaskets equal to or better than asbestos gaskets they used to make. One type of fiber being used is aramid fiber (Kevlar), which is two to nine times stronger than asbestos.

Kevlar lacks the temperature resistance of asbestos and cannot be used on exhaust manifolds or certain head gasket applications. Kevlar also costs a lot more than asbestos. The amount of Kevlar typically used in an asbestos-free gasket material is usually no more than 10%.

Expanded graphite is another material being used in place of asbestos. Graphite is an excellent conductor of heat and can easily handle temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees F. It is ideal for high heat applications such as exhaust manifolds and head gaskets in diesel and high output engines. Graphite is also a natural lubricant, making it well suited to engines with cast iron blocks and aluminum heads. Like Kevlar, graphite is expensive.

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How often should oil and filter be changed.

Change oil and filter often enough to protect the engine from premature wear and viscosity breakdown. For most cars and light trucks, the standard recommendation is to change oil and filter every six months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Most late model owner's manuals say that except for "Severe Service" applications, oil change interval can be safely stretched to once a year or every 7,500 miles, with filter changes at every other oil change.

When auto makers make such recommendations, one assumes they are based on extensive durability testing. After all, auto makers themselves would have to bear the warranty costs should their maintenance recommendations prove inadequate.

Except for Chrysler's 7/70 powertrain warranty, and a few others that go up to 5/50 or 6/60, most new car powertrain warranties don't go beyond 3/36. So where's the risk? There isn't any.

With proper maintenance, there is no reason an engine shouldn't go 100,000 miles or more without developing a thirst for oil. That is why most oil companies, as well as aftermarket service professionals, recommend changing oil and filter every six months or 3,000 miles.

They also make such recommendations because many motorists are not aware that they should follow the "Severe Service" maintenance schedule in their owner's manual, calling for oil and filter change intervals of three to six months or 3,000 miles. Severe service (as defined by auto makers themselves) includes:

  1. Making frequent short trips (less than five miles)
  2. Making frequent short trips (less than 10 miles) when temperatures are below freezing
  3. Driving in hot weather stop-and-go traffic
  4. Extensive idling and/or low speed driving for long periods of time (taxi, police, door-to-door delivery, etc.)
  5. Driving at sustained high speeds during hot weather
  6. Towing a trailer
  7. Driving in areas with heavy dust (gravel roads, construction zones, etc.)
Protective additives in a motor oil do not hold up as well under such driving conditions for several reasons. If the engine is not running long enough to get the oil hot, condensation and fuel vapors will not boil off. Contaminants will accumulate in the crankcase, leading to formation of corrosive acids and sludge.

Excessive idling and high operating temperatures from towing and high speed driving during hot weather accelerate viscosity breakdown. Exposure to dust can put dirt particles in the crankcase.

The filter also needs to be changed every time for two reasons. Today's pint-sized filters do not contain as much filter material as their quart-sized counterparts. The filter contains dirty oil that can contaminate fresh oil added during an oil change.

Considering what four quarts of oil and a filter cost, versus the cost of replacing an engine, it is better to change oil and filter a little more often than might be absolutely necessary rather than risk not changing it often enough.

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Why do some engines use RTV sealer instead of gaskets.

For a period in the 1980s, domestic auto makers thought they could lower production costs and improve sealing by using RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) silicone instead of conventional cut gaskets to seal valve covers, oil pans, timing covers, transmission pans, and other parts. In theory, the idea made sense. By applying a thin bead of RTV to such parts, they could be assembled and sealed in one step.

Engineers liked RTV because it does not take a set like a conventional cork/rubber cut gasket. Heat causes a cork/rubber gasket to harden and become brittle with age.

To seal properly, RTV requires both surfaces to be clean, dry and oil-free. Though installers use RTV all the time with no problems, car makers apparently could not keep their parts clean enough on the assembly line to produce a lasting seal with RTV. They found they were having more oil leaks, not less, with RTV.

Eventually, domestic auto makers dropped RTV in favor of molded silicone gaskets which combine the installation ease of a conventional gasket with the sealing properties and durability of silicone.

When working on an engine that has RTV instead of gaskets, the installer can either use RTV to reseal the engine, or replace the RTV with conventional cut gaskets. In some applications, longer bolts may be necessary to compensate for added gasket thickness.

Some prefer to use RTV because it eliminates the need to stock a lot of different gaskets. Others prefer to substitute a cut gasket because of RTV's limitations. Care must be taken when using RTV so excess sealer does not seep out from between the seating surfaces and end up someplace where it does not belong. RTV takes 30 minutes to an hour to set up (full cure takes about 24 hours). The vehicle should not be driven during this time.

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