Category: Car Care

Fueling up

Filling your car with gasoline is a simple routine process, but there are some misconceptions and best practices you should keep in mind to make sure you’re taking sufficient care of your engine and fuel system.

refueling car gasoline

Octane Ratings 

One myth is that putting a higher octane fuel in your vehicle will grant your engine better fuel efficiency and power, but this isn’t necessarily true and is likely to do more harm than good. Octane ratings at the pump, which range from 87 to 93 and labeled regular to premium at most gas stations, actually don’t dictate the quality of the fuel. Quality varies greatly by area and is generally random. The octane rating is an indication of how easily the fuel detonates under compression. Higher octane fuels can withstand more compression in an engine before detonating and are used in engines designed for performance with higher compression ratios.

gas mileage

If a high octane fuel is used in an engine that is designed for a low octane fuel, some fuel may not be detonated, and unburned fuel can cause engine damage and harm catalytic converters, potentially leading to expensive repairs. Alternatively, if the octane is too low, it can detonate early and cause shockwaves, pushing against the natural four stroke rhythm, potentially leading to knocking and engine damage. The proper octane rating for your vehicle can be found under the fuel door and/or in the owner’s manual and should always be followed to prevent premature wear and damage to your vehicle.

diesel engine combustion

Topping Off

Many people have a habit of “topping off” their fuel after the handle automatically stops when it detects a full tank. Overfilling your tank actually sends excessive fuel into the charcoal canister or carbon filter which is strictly designed for vapor only. When fuel gets into this system, it will affect your vehicle’s performance and could damage the engine meaning hefty repair costs. Gas handles have automatic shut offs to protect your engine from overfilling, so don’t add fuel past that point. 

fuel vapors filling

The quarter tank rule 

My father always told me not to let the fuel gauge get below a quarter tank, and while letting your tank fall a little below that won’t damage anything, it is a best practice to make sure you will always at least have enough fuel to get to a gas station and keep yourself out of sticky situations. Running out of gas is bad for your car because fuel pumps can burn up if they start sucking up air instead, so this rule ensures your fuel pump stays submerged and healthy, preventing an expensive and time consuming repair.

fuel warning light

Fuel Age 

Fuel age isn’t something most people need to worry about, but if you have multiple vehicles and leave one sitting for long periods, it could affect you. Fuels have shelf lives before they start to degrade and lose their combustion due to oxidation and evaporation. This ranges from up to a year for diesel, 3-6 months for gasoline, and 1-3 months for organic ethanol fuels. Fuel stabilizer and proper storage can extend these time periods, but be wary of running bad gas in your engine to prevent damage and poor efficiency.

sta-bil fuel stabilizer

Warming up your car

Basic Engine Warmup Process 

Some people think that warming up your car is something you only need to do in the winter, or that it’s only purpose is to warm up the cabin and melt the ice on your windshield. While it does do that, the most important part of the warmup process is allowing the engine to reach the proper temperature before driving, in both spring in winter.

Warming up your car

Blue Coolant Light 

The simplest way to know your car is ready to drive is if it is equipped with a blue coolant temperature light in the instrument cluster. This feature is mostly equipped on subarus and hondas, but most consumer vehicles without a coolant temperature guage have it.

temperature

You might notice this light every time you cold start your vehicle, meaning it has been sitting for several hours and the engine and its fluids have cooled to ambient temperature. It indicates that the engine oil hasn’t warmed up enough to properly lubricate and protect the engine, especially under higher rpms. The light should turn off after a minute or two, at which point the vehicle is safe to drive. 

blue engine coolant temperature light

Temperature Guage 

If your car has a regular temperature guage and no blue light, you should watch your tachometer instead to know when you can drive. After a cold start, the engine rpm and sound will elevate for a few seconds. This is because more fuel is sprayed through the injectors to help the engine start, and in colder temperatures, fuel can thicken and the engine compensates by spraying more fuel in. The throttle body then opens to suck in more air and retain the proper air-fuel mixture, thus increasing the engine speed.

car temperature

The rpms will drop down after a few seconds but still idle higher than a warm engine, to better circulate oil and allow it to heat up. After about a minute the rpms should drop again and the engine will be quieter, indicating that it’s safe to start driving. The rpm range varies depending on the vehicle, but most modern consumer vehicles will idle between 600 and 1,000 rpm when warm.

Honda Civic

Dos and Don’ts 

It is important to allow your engine to perform its warmup process because over time, driving with a cold engine can damage the internals due to insufficient lubrication from cold oil. This process can take longer in the winter as your engine tries to bring its fluids from below freezing to over 100 degrees.

car temperature

You should never floor your vehicle or be anywhere near the top end of the tachometer until your coolant guage is right in the middle, indicating the engine is at operating temperature, where it will stay unless it is being overworked or there is a problem with the cooling system.

car temperature

While it is tempting to let your vehicle idle for ten, twenty, thirty or more minutes in the morning to allow the defroster to melt the ice on the windshield and warm up the cabin, this can do more harm than good in the long run.

car covered with snow

One reason for this is fuel consumption. In general, it has been found that an hour of idling burns between ½ and 1 gallon of fuel per hour, so letting your car warm up for 15 minutes every day can get costly just in terms of paying for the additional gas.

gasoline price

Idling doesn’t produce enough heat for your engine to reach its full operating temperature, meaning it won’t be combusting fuel completely which harms its internals and can cause head gasket, spark plugs, or cylinder rings to deteriorate over time.

spark plug

 

 

The engine warmup process usually takes less than two minutes, and in the meantime you can use an ice scraper and brush to remove the ice and snow from your vehicle. Following the process outlined above can save your engine from premature costly wear and tear, as well as save fuel and cut back on harmful environmental emissions.

snow scraper

Fall Car Care Checklist

Let’s face it, breaking down stinks! With winter just around the corner, making sure your vehicle is ready for the cooler temperatures and harsher driving conditions is vital to keeping your vehicle on the road. Winter weather amplifies problems like hard starts, dead car battery, rough idling and fluid reliability.

Here’s our Fall Car Care Checklist which you can use to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape and avoid getting stranded in the cold.

Wipers & Lights

  • Consider equipping your vehicle with winter wiper blades and using cold-weather washer fluid. Winter wipers protect you and your passengers by preventing snow and ice build-up.
  • Check to make sure that all interior and exterior lights work and are properly aimed.  This is critical when driving in snowy weather for other drivers to see you and help you see the road.

Heater & Defrost

  • Test your heater and defrost to make sure they work properly. Expert tip – Turn on the A/C to speed up the defrost process.  You can leave the heat temperature up so you don’t have to suffer.

Tires & Brakes

  • Check the tire tread of all tires, including the spare. Consider buying a set of winter tires.  They help grip the road better and provide you with better stopping capability.
  • Check your tire pressure often.  Cold weather contracts the air in your tires, lowering the tire pressure which makes for dangerous driving on slick roads.
  • Have the brakes checked. Expert tip – Brake gently to avoid sliding. If your wheels lock up, ease off the brake.

Gas, Oil & Filters

  • Keep your tank over the half way mark to prevent moisture from forming in your gas lines and possibly freezing.
  • Make sure you get your oil checked at regular intervals.  That is typically every 3,000-5,000 miles depending on your vehicle manufacturer. This is a good tip any time of the year but in cooler conditions, dirty oil can cause serious problems.  Use the recommended oil viscosity range for winter.
  • Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time. As a general rule, these need to be changed every 12 months or 12,000 miles and will help get your vehicle running smoothly.

Electrical, Cooling & Exhaust

  • Get the battery and charging system checked.  Cold weather is hard on batteries and can leave you stranded if your battery runs out of juice. Expert tip – Charge your battery at night or when the vehicle is not in use with a portable battery charger. It will increase the life of the battery.
  • Check your antifreeze. The ideal mixture of coolant and water inside your vehicle’s radiator is a 50:50 ratio. If your coolant ratio deviates from the recommended 50:50, it can cause the coolant to freeze or vehicle performance problems.
  • Check your exhaust system for carbon monoxide leaks. Because most modern vehicles have cabin air filters, it brings air from the outside into your car which can be dangerous. Expert tip – If you have any inkling that you have a carbon monoxide leak, don’t run your heater or defrost and get it in to be check immediately.

Emergency Kits

Many companies create pre-assembled emergency car kits which are a good way to ensure you have everything you might need if your car breaks down. Alternatively, you can put together your own using this list of recommended items:

  • Flashlight and Flares
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food and Water
  • Jumper Cables
  • Tool Kit
  • Tire Chains
  • Blanket and Warm Clothes
  • Hat and Gloves
  • Paper Towels
  • Bag of Sand, Salt or Kitty Litter
  • Snow Brush and Ice Scraper
  • Folding Snow Shovel
  • Extra Winter Washer Fluid

With these tips, good car maintenance and winterizing your vehicle, you’ll be ready to hit the road this winter!