Tech Talk Edition 1: Check Engine Light Tips

Tech-Talk-Snapshot-1-(9-25-

Today we are sharing a recent video that will be the first in a series called, “Tech Talk.”  On Tech Talk, we will interview Tischer Auto Technicians on topics that will assist you, the driver, to understand more about your car and basic car maintenance.

Our Acura Master Technician, Justin, details what to do when your “check engine” light appears. This can be an extremely stressful and frustrating alert for car drivers. Here’s what you need to know (in case you don’t watch the video).

Why the Check Engine Light Appears

Your check engine light will appear when the car computer has detected a sensor that is out of range. The check engine light can appear for something as simple as a loose gas cap, or be an indication of a more serious issue. While we understand today’s drivers are pressed for time, the best thing you can do is bring your car in to your local dealership for a diagnostic assessment.

How We Test A Check Engine Light Alert

When you bring your vehicle in for a diagnostic test, a scan tool will give a readout of what the computer has seen fail in the vehicle. We then go through a diagnostic checklist to pinpoint the exact cause of failure.

What Drivers Can Do to Maintain and Maximize the Life of The Vehicle

As Justin explains, “It’s very difficult to over-maintain a car.” So, plain and simple, if you don’t want to see that danged light go off, regular service is the best medicine for your car. For example, regular oil changes and transmission service are some of the least expensive car maintenance options which protect the most expensive parts of your car.

As we stated earlier, we know today’s drivers are pressed for time, so making the time to maintain your car will not only prolong its life, but will also save you money over time and keep that much-hated check engine light from driving you bonkers.

For your convenience, you can easily schedule a maintenance appointment for your vehicle directly through our website. Choose a date that works for your schedule, and we’ll be happy to help you out.

Please let us know what you think of the video—you can reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter, and please share this video with others.

Busting the 3,000 Mile Myth, Part 2

motor oil change

In our last blog, we talked about how quick-service lube centers and some dealership service departments have perpetuated a myth regarding the necessity of oil changes every 3,000 miles. In this second of two parts, we’ll talk about the how and the why of motor oil advancement, as well as give you some recommendations on how to know when to service your vehicle.

While the car-servicing industry relies on the 3,000-mile oil change to keep service bays filled and money coming in, customers tend to hold on to that myth because they’re largely unaware of advances in automotive technology. Among 2013 models, the majority of automakers call for oil changes at either 7,500 or 10,000 miles based on a normal service schedule, which turns out to be more than double the traditional 3,000-mile interval.

According to an online survey, the longest recommended oil change interval is 15,000 miles for all Jaguar vehicles. The shortest recommended oil change interval is 5,000 miles for some Hyundai and Kia models with turbo engines and Toyota vehicles that require non-synthetic oil. Toyota has been shifting its fleet to 10,000-mile oil change intervals using synthetic oil.

In addition, synthetic motor oils such as Mobil 1 are stretching the length of oil change intervals, leaving the 3,000-mile mark in the dust. In fact, the company’s most advanced synthetic product, Mobil 1 Extended Performance, is guaranteed for 15,000 miles.

But how has technology changed oil, a natural by-product, or fossil fuels to allow for longer intervals? Well, today’s longer oil change intervals are due to:

  • Improved “robustness” of today’s oils, with the ability to protect engines from wear and heat and still deliver good fuel economy with low emissions.
  • More automakers using synthetic oil.
  • Tighter tolerances of modern engines.
  • The introduction of oil life monitoring systems, which notify the driver when an oil change is required and are based on the way the car is driven and the conditions it encounters. Sixteen of 34 auto manufacturers now use oil life monitoring systems in their 2013 models, including all three domestic automakers; that represents a majority of the vehicles sold in the U.S.

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, waste oil is a problem only made worse by too-frequent oil changes. The agency, which has campaigned against the 3,000-mile directive, reports that 153.5 million gallons of used oil is generated in California annually, but less than 60% of that is recycled. Oil experts and car manufacturers agree that less-frequent oil changes can help alleviate some of the excess waste.

So, where does this leave the driver who has been indoctrinated to the 3,000-mile oil change myth by years of exposure? The short answer is to consult your service manual to learn your car’s actual oil change schedule.  This could save you hundreds of dollars over the next few years, while still fully protecting your car and its warranty, and limiting the over-use and waste of a natural resource. If you happen to have a car with a built-in oil life monitoring system, respect it and follow its readings to determine your service schedule.

So, there you have it – the 3,000-mile myth has been busted and your eyes have been opened to the truth!  At the very least you learned a little something new to consider. Either way, let us know what your thoughts are in the comments section below! We always appreciate your feedback!

*image: oemebamo on Flickr

Vehicle Maintenance You Can Do Yourself

DIY vehicle maintenance

In a recent post, we talked about the importance of regularly scheduled maintenance to protect your vehicle investment. Although routine maintenance is a necessity, it can add up very quickly. But there are several areas of vehicle maintenance that you can do on your own for a fraction of the price – all you need is a little know-how, a little time and a little cash for supplies!

Not all of the things listed below are able to be performed by every vehicle owner. Due to details like time/space constraints or lack of proper tools and general know-how, you may not feel comfortable tackling any or all of them, but even performing one or two of them can help you to save money in the long run. Here’s our list of vehicle maintenance you can do yourself, listed in order of difficulty, with 5 being the most difficult and 1 being the least difficult:

Oil Changes/Topping Off of Fluids – Probably the most involved item on the list in terms of time, space, and tools required, replacing the oil and checking the fluids in your vehicle yourself can seem a bit daunting. With so many different makes and models on the road, it’s best to do a little research about your vehicle’s needs. Items to look into include: proper grade of motor oil; amount needed to fill the engine; type and size of oil filter needed; and location of fluid reservoirs. An extremely important aspect to consider before undertaking this maintenance on your own is the disposal of the used motor oil. It must be disposed of properly due to EPA regulations and cannot be simply dumped down a drain.  Difficulty Level: 5

Replacement of Hoses/Belts – Most hoses in vehicles are easy to locate and replace with simply a screwdriver and/or a ratchet set. Belts, on the other hand, can be more of a challenge as they will more than likely require the movement of other engine parts like the alternator or radiator fan. Again, a little research is needed to find the proper sizes, as well as the average useful life of both hoses and belts for your particular vehicle.  Difficulty Level: 4

Replacement of a Battery – Replacing an old or depleted battery in a vehicle usually takes nothing more than a screwdriver and a ratchet set, but sometimes requires a little extra elbow grease to clean any corrosion off of the terminal cable clamps. In some newer vehicles, especially electric hybrid vehicles, there may require a few extra steps to replace the battery, so be sure to check out the requirements (i.e. size, voltage, etc.) before disconnecting the battery.  Difficulty Level: 3

Replacement of Windshield Wipers – Probably the easiest item on the list, replacing windshield wipers is as simple as buying the correct size blades for your vehicle and snapping them into place. There are several different grades of wiper blades, so be sure to pick up ones that best suit your vehicle’s needs. Things to consider include: amount and type of precipitation in your area, driving conditions for everyday travel, and the durability type of the blades.  Difficulty Level: 1-2

Vehicle Detailing – Maintaining the interior of your vehicle is almost as important as maintaining the mechanics and the exterior, especially for retaining resale value. Auto detailing companies charge a lot of money for something that can be easily done on your own. Investing in the cleaning products and your time is a small price to pay to maintain the integrity of your vehicle’s interior. Simple things like treating leather seats and dashboard and vacuuming floorboards and seats requires little more than some Armor All and a handheld vacuum cleaner!  Difficulty Level: Varies depending on how detailed you want to get.

We mentioned earlier that all of these items required a little bit of know-how, but where do you go to find out how to maintain your vehicle? Great question! There are many resources available to you, but the first place to start is with the Owner’s Manual that came with the vehicle. This is where you will find all of the important information regarding your specific make and model and year.

From there, you can jump online and check out e-learning sites like eHow, wikiHow and How-Cast to get step-by-step maintenance instructions for your vehicle. In addition, there are a plethora of great blogs (like this one) that write reviews on different types of products, like motor oil and wiper blades.

As we said, with a little know-how, a little time, and a little cash, you can perform your vehicle maintenance at home! Have any other suggestions for DIY/home vehicle maintenance? Got an online resource that you use regularly for repairs? Let us know in the comments below – we always appreciate your feedback!

*image courtesy of marie_claire_camp on flickr.com

How to Reduce Fuel Costs and Keep More Money in your Pocket!
Just in time for the holidays!

Saving Gas

With a gallon of gas approaching $4.00 or more, depending upon where you live and what your usual brand is, it’s time to think about some small changes you can make to reduce your over all fuel costs!

Most people don’t realize that one of the biggest drains on your gas mileage is a dirty air filter! At Tischer, we recommend that our clients maintain their vehicles per the optimum maintenance schedule included in your owner’s manual. Part of these periodic maintenance procedures includes replacement of this vital filter.

Did you know that (according to Jorgen Wouters, of daily finance.com) a clean air filter can improve your gas mileage by as much as 10%, and that nearly 25% of cars on the road could use a new air filter? This means that if you have a clean air filter in your vehicle, you could save about $0.35 per gallon of gas or your vehicle could take you an additional 23 miles on a typical tank of gas. And this is just ONE way to maximize your gas mileage!

Some other tips we have discovered over the years include*:

  • Make sure your wheels are properly aligned. Poor wheel alignment makes tires wear out more quickly and forces the engine to work harder, which can reduce gas mileage by 10%.  So anything you gained by having a clean air filter will be lost by having poor alignment.
  • Get you car tuned up frequently. A properly-tuned engine can improve gas mileage by 4%.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated. If tires are properly inflated as per your owner’s manual, you’ll save about $0.11 per gallon of gas.
  • Check your gas cap frequently to be sure that it is functioning correctly.  17% of vehicles on the road have broken or missing gas caps!
  • Lose any extra weight you might be hauling. Keep your trunk and back seat empty of unnecessary items, as every 100 lbs. you carry in the vehicle costs you about 2% in fuel efficiency.
  • Slow down!  For every 5 mph you knock off your highway speed, fuel consumption is improved by 7%.  So if you typically drive 65 mph on the highway, driving 60 mph will save you about $0.27 per gallon!
  • Keep your driving consistent and smooth. Smooth driving will save you about 33% on highway mileage and 5% around town.  We are talking about smoother transitions between accelerating and decelerating – so no drag racing!
  • Let off the brake! Driving with your foot on the brake will reduce gas consumption by as much as 35% and wear out your brakes.  If you drive like this and stop, you’ll save about $1.35 per gallon!
  • Watch your idling time. Idling more than 30 seconds not only costs you, but there is also a cost to the environment.  Some convenience stores have signs posted about huge fines you will have to pay if ticketed for idling in front of their store.  So, if you are stopping for longer than a traffic light, turn your car off.  Also, there is no need to “warm up” your car before driving anymore.

We found a few more great tips when researching online. About.com guides Christine and Scott Gable, say that using cruise control will stop you from checking your speed every second and will maintain that smooth driving that Gillis was talking about. They also recommend turning off the climate control when you can and getting fresh air through open windows (even if only a crack) and the sunroof, if you have one. This will not only contribute to your health, but your engine will not work so hard to run the A/C compressor. One last tip they have is to try to condense trips around town instead of hopping in the car and taking a bunch of little trips.  This saves gas, time and about twenty pounds of carbon dioxide being spewed into the atmosphere.

If you try to follow even a few of the suggestions above, it will have a profound impact on your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy. Most of the these tips can be taken care of by following the comprehensive maintenance plan detailed in your owner’s manual and which can be done here at Tischer Auto.

Make your appointment today to have your vehicle in tip-top shape and end up keeping more money in your pocket!

As always, we welcome your feedback! If you have been using ways to maximize your fuel economy, carbon footprint, or anything else you’d like to share about your vehicle, please send us comments!

*Thanks to Jack Gillis, author of The Car Book, for creating a valuable resource for car owners. We have learned a lot from reading his book and suggest that you check it out.