Nitty gritty below. For the whole nine yards
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From Bobby's mailbag:
drive a 2005 Tahoe with the Vortec V-8 engine (112K miles), and
I’ve been to the shop 3 times trying to stop my cooling system
from leaking and my engine from overheating. They replaced the
thermostat and changed anti-freeze and also fixed a leak at the
rear heater hose, but over time, I’m still losing anti-freeze.
Do you have any suggestions?
GM’s Vortec engines (as in your Tahoe) had porous cylinder
heads, causing slow coolant leakage…very expensive to replace.
Have your tech remove the valve cover to inspect the heads,
paying close attention to the area around the 5 oil-drain holes
for evidence of coolant seepage. If the head is a “Castech”
casting, you’re in for an expensive repair. Rather than
dismantle the engine, I suggest first adding Bar’s Leaks
Block Seal / Head Gasket Fix.
Some say 7500-Mile Oil Changes
are right for today's cars. What's your advice?
A – To the
7,500-mile oil change question/myth, I say a resounding, "No
way." The Facts:
1. 7500-mile oil changes allow multiple layers or debris to
build inside an engine over time, causing increasing amounts of
contamination to each new batch of oil. The antidote? “Clean Oil
Practices” embraced by, to name just two, the Department of
Defense for our military vehicles that must be ready to go
anytime and under any condition...and by
best-practices body for manufacturing plants that incorporate
large expensive machinery.
2. 7500-mile oil changes allow unseen, unhealthy wear trends of
a vehicle's mechanical components to go untended and prohibit
in-time inspections of a vehicle's coolant system, brake fluid,
transmission fluid and power steering fluid--all susceptible to
3. 7500-mile oil changes allow excessive "polish wear" inside
engines, ultimately shortening engine life. According to
numerous research chemists with the
Department of Defense, as well as
Dr. Robert Kauffman of University of Dayton Research
Institute, polish wear happens when particles smaller than 20
microns are allowed to travel through an engine over an extended
length of time/miles. Rod, main and cam bearings wear mostly
from 10-15 micron-sized particles that are not captured by any
standard-production oil filter on the market.
4. 7500-mile oil changes allow lower-priced oil filters (all too
often used in $19.95 "loss leader" promotions by too many
service shops across the US) to deteriorate and fill with
debris. When these filters clog or simply age, they tend to go
into bypass mode during cold starts, releasing damaging
previously filtered particles. Generally, oil filters catch 30
micron or higher-sized particles; but remember, engine wear is
caused by 10-15 micron particles. One of the best filters on the
market is the
Wix--at 19 microns. Also, the
filter (made by Wix) does a great job. These filters have 67
pleats of filtration media, whereas other brand names have less
than 40. And Purolator's
PureONE is a top ranked filter in SAE (Society of Automotive
Engineers) tests to keep engines clean. All filter manufacturers
provide specs upon request--guaranteed. Just ask.
5. For low annual mileage vehicles, a 7500-mile oil change may
mean once a year. Leaving “stagnating” oil inside any engine for
extended periods of time, regardless of mileage, leads to
etching of metal components from corrosion.
6. Water intrusion caused by condensation is one of the worst
enemies oil has. All engines create condensation. And that
doesn’t take 7500 miles.
7. 7500-mile oil changes promote increased fuel and carbon
deposits, causing damage to engines.
8. 7500-mile oil changes promote neglect of 5K-mile tire
rotations, thereby shortening tire life considerably and
ultimately lowering MPG.
So why do car makers thump the 7500-mile oil change drum? Think
about this. Car makers are in the business of selling cars.
Isn’t being given permission for “proactive neglect” awfully
(literally) attractive to buyers? Just buy your new car & drive
it without having to do anything for 7500 miles. Then trade it
and buy a new car. Consumers keeping their vehicles in tip top
condition and keeping them longer is not what drives OEMs
(original equipment manufacturers, aka car makers).
Maintenance schedules (created by car makers & passed on by
their franchised dealers) only address "minimum maintenance
requirements" in order to maintain factory warranty--not
necessarily what's best for any vehicle's specific environment
and/or driving conditions and certainly not what each location
might dictate. This is no secret and certainly not new
information. Those in automotive repair and service will tell
you that some 50%+ of all repairs could have been avoided by
routine services. You smell power steering fluid at 50K miles,
and I won’t have to convince you of anything. Your nose will
know in one whiff.
Just the thought of that tempts me to step up on another of my
soap boxes, constructed of building blocks garnered in 45 years
of service in the automotive industry. Our service industry is
addicted to using the phrase "Preventive Maintenance."
Ironically, too many consumers who see themselves as good
soldiers of the PM movement view the 3K-mile oil change as "all
they have to do to maintain their cars." That is wrong, wrong,
wrong. The automobile has other moving, and therefore
wear-susceptible, parts that need attention.
The costs of changing vehicles’ “other fluids,” rotating tires
and changing air, fuel filters & passenger cabin filters in a
timely fashion saves dollars and adds life to the entire
vehicle, not to mention the fun & safety factors. And when it's
time to trade, an automobile with a verifiable service history
makes it a "certified" car. And certified cars are worth more
money at trade-in. Check any web site that offers this
Kelley Blue Book, etc).
We started with oil, and that’s where we’ll end. The price paid
for oil changes is nominal--even at $50--when one considers the
price of repairs. Oil oxidation starts immediately when oil
reaches operating temperature--long before 7500 miles. And in
Europe where gas prices are $8+, more than 50% of all car owners
use synthetic oil. Unbelievable when you think about it. Not
that they do...but that we don’t. I researched, chose, use in my
own vehicles & recommend to my service customers locally and my
Royal Purple because its additive package outperforms other
For every dollar spent in maintaining a vehicle, you’ll save
Dollars in repairs. I can absolutely verify this because I
experience it every day in
Car Clinic Service/Pre-Repair®, celebrating its 37th year
and serving tens of thousands of vehicles and their owners. An
Consumer Reports claims that a well-maintained vehicle
driven 200K miles would net an owner some $30K. I’m not sure I’d
want to keep a car for 15 years today because that’s equal to 50
yesteryears in terms of technology, safety and fun factor, but I
do know I would not let 7500 miles click over on the odometer of
any car I own without service. Enough said...until next time.
Automotive Oxygen Sensors and how do they work?
courtesy of BOSCH, the company that invented the automotive
size of the average spark plug, an oxygen sensor measures oxygen
levels in the exhaust. The sensor reads the difference between
the makeup of the exhaust gases passing by them and the
reference air trapped in the sensor body. Then the sensor sends
electronic messages to the vehicle's engine management system,
telling it if the vehicle is running rich – too much fuel – or
lean – too little fuel. This allows the engine management system
to make appropriate adjustments.
combustion engines operate on a mixture of air and gasoline, the
ideal mixture is “stoichiometric”: 14.7 to 1 (14.7 parts of air
with 1 part of gasoline). At this ratio, the engine is most
efficient, and the catalytic converter also operates most
efficiently, reducing harmful exhaust pollutants. The oxygen
sensor’s job then is to make sure the engine management system
feeds the right mixture of
air & gasoline to the engine to optimize
efficiency and minimize exhaust pollutants.
BOSCH invented the automotive oxygen sensor & has pioneered
much advancement in oxygen sensors technology in the last 35
Depending on the vehicle's design, today’s vehicles rely on
more of four different types of oxygen sensors:
“switching” sensor is heated by the exhaust and provides a high
or low output, representing rich and lean. Only a few
motorcycles and off-road applications still use these.
Then there is
the heated “switching” sensor, which uses a tiny internal heater
and sends readings faster for more precise control of the air/fuel mixture during engine
start-up. Heated sensors can be mounted far from the engine.
version, the heated "planar” “switching” sensor warms up and
sends readings almost instantly & accounts for about half of
all sensors installed in new vehicles today.
highly sophisticated “wide-band” sensor sends
readings in varying degrees from rich to lean, rather than
simply “rich” or “lean.” This allows very fine engine control
and operation in the lean region where, for instance, diesel
Vehicles built after 1996 have at least 2 oxygen sensors,
some vehicles have as many as 4. The additional sensors monitor
operation of the catalytic converter.
line for the driver:
Oxygen sensors are a critical component of the emission control
system & must operate under severe conditions for tens of
thousands of miles, so check your oxygen sensors at every tune
up for improved fuel economy better engine performance & cleaner
oxygen sensors wear out, your vehicle will usually set a fault
code illuminating the “check engine” light and fail an emissions
inspection. However, a slow oxygen sensor doesn’t always turn on
a “check engine light.” With a slow (or “lazy”) oxygen
sensor,you might experience rough idle, sluggish performance and
increased fuel consumption.
ensure proper emission control and optimum vehicle performance
by installing only quality oxygen sensors when replacement is
provides the highest quality sensors for virtually every make
and model vehicle…domestic, Asian or European. And most BOSCH
oxygen sensors come with an anti-size compound applied to the
threads. This helps facilitate future removal of the sensor if
assures the correct sensor type for your car or truck. And BOSCH
OE-type harnesses & connectors fit just like the OE, the
original automaker. It’s critical that harnesses not be cut, so
you can rely on BOSCH for the best wire harness fit and for easy
not only invented the automotive oxygen sensor, but BOSCH also
created every key automotive oxygen sensor innovation. Remember,
oxygen sensors are the result of the complex engineering &
development. So trust – and specify – sensors made from the
company that invented them: BOSCH.
For more info,
call me live SATURDAY FROM
10a-12n ET on “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” at 888-Car-Clinic; check
out my chat with BOSCH's
Warren Suter; or go
How do I store my vehicle for Winter or for extended periods
FROM THE “EMAIL BOBBY” MAILBAG: Every week, do I get emails
from Car Clinic listeners & viewers! Since Winter’s knocking on
doors, many of those questions concern storing cars for the next
few brrr-ful months. This email’s from Perry in Montana,
followed by my step-by-step recommendations for properly storing
vehicles. A couple of hours prep in November can spring you into
a terrific driving experience in April. This advice works for
our troops, too, who are buttoning up their vehicles before
Q: Bobby, I
put my sports car (2001 MR2 Spyder) away for the winter, and was
wondering what are the best things to do. I live in Montana, so
we can get some minus 40 degrees, but not for long (and the
garage is always 10-20 degrees warmer than outside). So, should
the gas tank be full with or without Sta-Bil or some additive,
or should the tank be as empty as possible? Is it best to remove
the battery or hook up a maintainer type charger throughout the
winter? This is the first winter I will be putting the tires on
wheel dollies to move it into a corner, more out of the way, so
the tires will not be sitting on the cold concrete. If there are
other things to do for the 5-7 months it's in storage, please
let me know. Thank you!
yours is a common question that’s asked by Car Clinic listeners.
Below is a list that will provide you with much of what you’ll
want to do to protect your car. I’ve also included specific
links to make it easier for you to compare and/or locate these
Make sure the
engine has fresh oil and filter. Used oil contains water
from condensation and can mix with sulfur to form acids that
etch bearing surfaces. I recommend
synthetic oil with their 25-Micron Royal Purple® oil
filter (all-new product for 2010) / a natural match. Also
seals are more prone to leak when not exercised regularly /
fresh oil contains undamaged additive packages that will
(less than 10.5 and more than 7.0 is best). This test only
determines the system’s
acidic or alkaline condition and will not provide you with
voltage and/or copper levels. High pH levels (above 10.5) damage
aluminum parts such as intake manifolds and cylinder heads while
lower pH (under 7) damages iron parts. And copper can migrate
from steel brake lines into brake fluid damaging ABS solenoids.
are test strips available that most service shops have, but take
care not to use one from an open container as moisture
contamination will show incorrect results.
Also, you should test the cooling system for
AC and/or DC
voltage. A .3 DC volt reading is excessive and
requires complete cooling system flush. Test this with a
DigitalVoltOhmMeter (DVOM). DC voltage
causes electrolysis which damages the entire cooling system.
This voltage test can become somewhat of an issue due to the
impedance of the test meter being used. Ultimately, you’re
looking for .150 DC volts max. AC volts are uncommon in
warmer parts of the country. They’re are mostly found in colder
where 110 volt AC block heaters are generally used.
transmission fluid has 35K miles or is more than three years
old, replace it using an exchange machine and conditioners with
the new fluid. Check the transmission question on this
page for more details.
with a good Carnauba – if the paint is in excellent condition.
If not, polish first and then wax. Sal
Zaino makes great products. Sal is from NJ so you can expect him to
“have an attitude”—as he will tell you & is proud of. However,
I’ve found his bark bigger than his bite (at least most of the
time. [Hi, Sal!])
with fuel and add
Fuel Stabilizer per instructions on bottle. Sta-Bil keeps fuel
fresh for up to 12 months or more. Also, check out
Gold Eagle’s car or truck storage file / easy
download. I agree with Gold Eagle’s article re not applying the
to inflation as found on your vehicle’s VIN plate or decal
located on the door jam and make sure each valve stem has its
own stem cap securely fastened / eliminates another potential
windows down 2”.
This clearance allows air to circulate and helps reduce musty
blades off windshield using a pair of socks rolled into a
ball. As with tires, rubber blades have memory and will
certainly remain flattened after storage.
(negative post only making sure you tuck cable away from post)
or buy an
Xtreme charger. For 4 years, I have used the Xtreme, which
allows 24/7, 365-day connection without harming battery. No
with a car cover made with a
quality, breathable fabric.
Stay tuned to
available from anywhere at
www.WatchBobbyLive.com from 10am-12n ET every Saturday.
What services does my vehicle need to keep it healthy?
A – If my many years of experience with my service
shop vehicles and my customers' vehicles is any indication
J, I can
strongly recommend that you have these components checked...for
quality (condition) of fluid as well as for quantity (properly
Untended, these can be murder on your vehicle. That's why we call 'em
the 10 Most Wanted Car Killers:
Ask your Service Center if they perform
services to address these conditions. And make sure they
use the right equipment. A "flush" is performed with
sophisticated machinery...it's not a drain-and-fill or a
What weight oil
should I use and how often should I change it?
“Texas Tea: All About Gas and Oil”; “Death by Gas”
First, the oils weigh in from skinny to
fat: 5W-20, 5W-30, 10W-30, 20W-50. The small first number
represents the oil’s flowability at low temperatures (hence the
“W,” which means Winter). The larger second number indicates the
oil’s flowability at high temperatures. Because today’s engines
have very tight tolerances (not much space between moving
parts)--unless you have a diesel engine or farm vehicle--I
recommend the “skinniest” oil for quickest, most effective
The various weights of oil can be found in
both mineral oil & synthetic options. Unlike mineral oil whose
hydrocarbon chains are of differing lengths, synthetic oil’s
chains are uniform, and performance enhancers are added to the
mix. So, mineral oil & filter should be changed every 3,000 miles
or 3 months, whichever comes first. Synthetic oil can last 10,000
miles or 10 months, whichever comes first, with this caveat:
Filter must be changed at 5,000 miles or 5 months; then the engine
“topped-off” to full. I use & recommend Royal Purple
high-performance oil and a WIX filter.
Q - How do I install my
Sirius Satellite Radio antenna and how do I get the best audio?
A – Proper
installation is key to best performance and takes two general
steps: 1) Properly mounting the antenna in the correct location;
and 2) Routing the cable from the antenna to the Sirius radio.
here for all the details by vehicle body type.
For tips on which connection (wireless or
direct) that produces the optimum audio for your automotive
What octane gas is
right for my car?
Newsletter: “Texas Tea: All About
Gas and Oil”
I have 3 answers for you!
1. Preliminary guideline is in owner’s
manual. If that happens to be low octane, use it. Never, ever
“treat” your low-octane engine to a high-octane fuel. It’s like
treating a baby to a filet mignon. Your engine, like the baby,
simply cannot digest it.
2. However, if it’s anything else, I
recommend mid-grade if: 1) you’re a conservative driver; 2) you
hear no pinging. Because the on-board computer typically adjusts
for grade, you can usually pump a lower octane without penalty.
3. However… if you’re a hard-charging,
aggressive driver and/or you hear a ping or knock, dig into your
pocket & go back to the higher, more expensive octane.
Is it best to let my
car idle while waiting in line (like at a railroad
crossing, or at a long traffic light) or turn it off?
A – If stopped
longer than 30 seconds at a railroad crossing, turn
engine off … but not a traffic light. The situation may change
more quickly than you can safely adapt.
Should I buy an
Newsletter: “Good, Bad or Just Plain Ugly”
Ask questions of the warranty company:
1. How is “pay” & “co-pay” determined?
Pay, of course, is what the warranty company doles out; co-pay
comes from your pocket – in addition to the “deductible.”
2. Are all components covered under the
warranty, including computers, electronic modules & air
3. Will I be forced to go to a particular
shop (like an HMO) or will I be able to choose my provider?
4. What if there’s a discrepancy between
the quality cost of repair at “my” shop versus “your” shop?
How do I choose a
A – To narrow the choices, check
www.asashop.org. Then make your choice based on:
1. Reputation: honesty, trustworthy,
consistent performance over time
2. Equipped: technology & trained
3. Appearance: kept grounds, clean
facility (waiting room & common areas), professionally dressed &
4. Can-Do Attitude: courteous & responsive
5. Proactive Communication: service
manager and advisor keep you informed
6. Delivery & Follow-Up: “It’s Not Fixed
Until You Say It’s Fixed” philosophy
What should I do when
my “check engine” light comes on?
A – There are 2
different “check-engine” lights: one that indicates lost oil
pressure or overheated engine temperature; the other that reflects
an emissions problem. If the icon for pressure/overheat appears,
pull over immediately but safely. With regard to the emissions
variety, make an appointment now at your service shop. Though the
latter situation is much preferable to the former, both are going
to cost you $ which could probably have been prevented by
servicing your vehicle regularly.
What’s the proper tire pressure
for my car?
A – Use the tire
pressure listed on the car maker’s spec label located on the door
jamb vs. the pressure shown on the tire’s sidewall. The sidewall
number indicates the DOT (Department of Transportation) specs that
reflect maximum pressure at full load vs. optimum pressure on the
door jamb or in the owner’s manual.
Should I buy a
Hybrid or Not to Hybrid”
Hybrids house two kinds of power sources:
usually a gasoline engine (although some car makers are
substituting a diesel engine) and an electric motor, designed to
share the workload under the hood. To be considered in your buying
-- MPG. Though the miles per gallon of a
hybrid is typically much greater than a gasoline or diesel engine,
especially in town, don’t rely on the “published” MPG that was
established in “lab” conditions vs. real-world driving. Take an
overnight test drive & determine MPG for yourself.
-- Technology. It’s still new and design
problems may emerge.
-- Industry Infrastructure. Are service
shops equipped / technicians trained to maintain this new
-- Ride. Do you like the silent type, or
prefer your engine to “talk back” to you every once in a while?
Do I have to take my
car back to the dealer for maintenance to preserve its factory
A – No. Check out the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act. As long
as parts (including oil, filter, fluids, belts, etc.) meet or
exceed the car manufacturer’s specifications, you may have the
service performed by any qualified service professional.
I have a spot on my
garage floor under my car. How can I tell what’s leaking?
A – It depends
on the color:
Lime green: coolant. Check your radiator.
Smoky black: oil leaks. Could be engine,
differential or power steering.
Pomegranate or brownish red: transmission
fluid. Check for level & leaks.
Crystal clear: could be harmless
condensation or your brake fluid's leaking. Don’t risk it…have a
tech check it out.
To make sure your car's "in the pink,"
catch these fluids on a newspaper for your mechanic to evaluate!