Oil Changes: What You Need to Know

Oil-change intervals vary by manufacturer and engines, so consult your owner’s manual or maintenance schedule to see how often to change the oil in your vehicle and what type of oil to use. You may be surprised. We were surprised to learn that a Camry’s 2.5-liter engine requires 0W-20 synthetic oil, for instance. Manufacturers suggest you change oil more often for “severe” driving conditions, such as frequent trailer towing, extensive stop-and-go driving or idling in traffic, driving in extreme heat or cold, or frequent short-distance driving in which the engine doesn’t reach full operating temperature.

How do I know when it’s time for an oil change?

Time and mileage intervals vary by vehicle manufacturer and whether an engine requires synthetic oil (which is meant to last longer). Use the guidelines in your owner’s manual, including whether most of your driving qualifies as happening in “severe” conditions, such as frequent short trips and stop-and-go driving. Under those conditions, you should change the oil more frequently.

How often should I replace my oil?
You should change the oil at least as often as is recommended by the vehicle manufacturer (the information is in your owner’s manual). These days, that’s every 7,500 to 10,000 miles on many vehicles. Many mechanics recommend doing it more often, such as every 5,000 to 6,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. If you do mainly short trips and/or stop-and-go driving, you should change the oil more often. How about every 3,000 miles? Though that’s overkill, it can’t hurt, and it might extend the life of your engine.

Why do I need to change my oil?
Oil is the lifeblood of an engine; it lubricates and cleans moving parts and performs a vital cooling function as it circulates. Over time and repeated exposure to cold starts, short trips and engine heat, oil gets dirty, becomes thicker and loses its ability to prevent sludge and deposits from forming. Mechanics often say that changing the oil is the best preventive medicine for extending engine life.

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https://www.cars.com/articles/oil-changes-what-you-need-to-know-1420684517311/

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Why Are My Brakes Squealing?

If you’re lucky, the squealing or squeaking noise that your brakes make when you first drive your car in the morning, particularly after rain or snow, is just surface rust being scraped off the rotors by the brake pads the first few times you apply the brake pedal. It could also be the result of moisture and dirt that collects on the rotors, including from condensation caused by high humidity. If the brake squeal goes away after a few brake applications, no worries.

If the noise persists most times or every time you apply the brakes, or you hear squeals continuously while you’re driving, the cause is more serious — and the brake job will be more expensive.

A continuous high-pitched squeal while you’re driving is usually the sound of a built-in wear indicator telling you that it’s time for new brake pads. As the pads wear down and gets thinner, a small metal tab contacts the rotor surface like a needle on a vinyl record to warn you it’s time for new pads. (Some wear indicators may work differently and engage only when you apply your car’s brakes.)

Other squeals and squeaks will require a brake inspection to diagnose and may require cleaning, lubrication or adjustment, and possibly new parts. Most brake noise is caused by worn or loose parts.

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https://www.cars.com/articles/why-are-my-brakes-squealing-1420684417093/

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How Can I Tell If My Radiator Is Leaking?

How can you tell when your car’s radiator is leaking? When the temperature gauge on your dashboard reads high or a temperature warning light comes on, you have a cooling system problem that may be caused by leakage — be it in the radiator itself or some other component.

First, make sure it’s coolant that’s leaking, not another fluid. (Coolant is often referred to as antifreeze, but technically coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.) You can easily check the coolant level in your see-through overflow tank. If it’s empty or low, the next step should be to check the coolant level in the radiator, but that should be done only when the engine is cool. Having too little coolant in the car’s cooling system can cause engine overheating and/or make your cabin heater blow cold air.

Once you know you’re losing coolant, the radiator is a good place to start. Some radiator leaks will be easy to spot — such as a puddle underneath the radiator — but others not so much. It’s best to check the radiator from every angle, not just from above, and pay particular attention to seams and the bottom. Rust inside the radiator or holes from road debris also can cause coolant leaks. Your vehicle may have an aluminum radiator that technically can’t rust, but aluminum can corrode or develop pinhole leaks too.

Antifreeze comes in different colors — green, yellow and pinkish-red, for example — feels like slimy water and usually has a sweet smell. If you can’t see coolant dripping or seeping, look for rust, tracks or discoloration on the radiator. Those are telltale signs of where it has leaked.

If the radiator appears to be OK, the cooling system offers several possibilities for leaks, including the hoses from the radiator to the engine, the radiator cap, water pump, engine block, thermostat, reservoir tank, heater core (a small radiator that circulates hot coolant into the dashboard for passenger-compartment heating) and others. A blown gasket between the cylinder head and engine block is another possibility, allowing coolant inside the combustion chambers — a problem that must be addressed immediately by a mechanic. (Thick white smoke coming from the tailpipe is actually steam, a telltale symptom.)

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https://www.cars.com/articles/how-can-i-tell-if-my-radiator-is-leaking-1420684864902/

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What’s a Cabin Air Filter and When Should You Replace It?

Air Filter

 The cabin air filter, a feature found on most late-model vehicles, cleans the air that comes into the interior through the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. It catches dust, pollen and other airborne material that can make riding in a car unpleasant, particularly if you have allergies or other respiratory problems.

Recommendations on when a cabin air filter should be replaced vary by manufacturer — some say every 12,000 or 15,000 miles, others longer — and how often can depend on how much you drive and where. Check the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. If you drive in heavy traffic in an urban area that has poor air quality, you could need to replace the cabin air filter annually or even more often. However, that also could be true in a desert climate where there is a lot of dust to filter out.

Some signs that you need a new cabin air filter are reduced air flow through your climate control system, such as when you crank up the fan too high and get more noise than results. Another is persistent bad odors. Even if you don’t have these warnings, however, you should have the air filter checked at least once a year, and you may be able to do that yourself.

Many cabin air filters are located behind the glove box and are easily accessible by freeing the glove box from its fasteners; the instructions should be in your car’s owner’s manual. Other cabin air filters are located under the dashboard and may not be easy to reach, or under the hood where fresh air enters the climate control system. Some of these air filters are expensive — as in $50 or more at dealerships — so you could save money by buying a replacement at a parts store or at Cars.com and doing it yourself.

If a dealership service department or repair shop recommends you get a new cabin air filter, ask to see the current one. Depending on how long the air filter has been in service, you might be shocked at what you see: a filter clogged with leaves, twigs, insects, pollen, soot and grime that literally covers the entire surface that comes in contact with incoming air can all be a problem for the cabin inside your vehicle. You’ll know it’s time for a cabin air filter replacement for your car.

https://www.cars.com/articles/2013/05/whats-a-cabin-air-filter-and-when-should-you-replace-it/

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Brake Pads: What You Need to Know

Subject to tremendous friction and heat, brake pads wear down and must be replaced as part of a car’s regular maintenance. In disc-brake systems, the brake pads are the friction material the caliper squeezes against the rotating disc, or rotor, to slow the wheel’s rotation and stop the car. In drum brakes, the pads are called shoes.

How Do I Know When to Change My Brake Pads and Rotors?

Squeaks, squeals and metal-to-metal grinding noises are typical signs you’re past due for new brake pads and/or rotors. Other signs include longer stopping distances and more pedal travel before you feel significant braking force. If it’s been more than two years since your brake parts were replaced, it’s a good idea to have the brakes checked at every oil change or every six months. Brakes wear gradually, so it can be hard to tell by feel or sound when it’s time for new pads or rotors.

How Often Should I Replace Them?

Brake life depends mainly on the amount and kind of driving you do, such as city versus highway, and your driving style. Some drivers just use the brakes more than others. For that reason, it’s hard to recommend time or mileage guidelines. On any car more than 2 years old, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the brakes at every oil change, or twice a year. Repair shops can measure pad thickness, check the condition of the rotors, calipers and other hardware, and estimate how much brake life remains.

Why Do I Need to Change My Pads and Rotors?

Brake pads and rotors are “wear” items that require periodic replacement. If they aren’t replaced, they’ll eventually wear down to the metal backing plates to which they’re mounted. Rotors can warp, wear unevenly or be damaged beyond repair if the pads are worn down to the backing plate. How long pads and rotors last depends on how many miles you drive and how often you use the brakes. The only guarantee is that they won’t last forever.

How Much Should I Pay?

The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car’s year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We’ll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.

https://www.cars.com/articles/brake-pads-what-you-need-to-know-1420684517024/

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How Often Should I Change Engine Coolant?

When is the right time to change your engine coolant? For some vehicles, you’re advised to change the coolant every 30,000 miles. For others, changing it isn’t even on the maintenance schedule.

For example, Hyundai says the coolant in the engine (what many refer to as “antifreeze”) in most of its models should be replaced after the first 60,000 miles, then every 30,000 miles after that. The interval is every 30,000 miles on some Mercedes-Benz models with some engines, but on others it’s 120,000 miles or 12 years. On still other Mercedes, it’s 150,000 miles or 15 years.

Some manufacturers recommend you drain and flush the engine’s cooling system and change the coolant more often on vehicles subjected to “severe service,” such as frequent towing, which can generate more heat. The schedule for many Chevrolets, though, is a change at 150,000 miles regardless of how the vehicle is driven.

Many service shops, though — including some at dealerships that sell cars with “lifetime” coolant — say you should do a coolant change more often than the maintenance schedule recommends, such as every 30,000 or 50,000 miles.

Here’s why: Most vehicles use long-life engine coolant (usually a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water) in the radiator that for several years will provide protection against boiling in hot weather and freezing in cold temperatures, with little or no maintenance. Modern vehicles also have longer intervals between fluid changes of all types partly because environmental regulators have pressured automakers to reduce the amount of old coolant, as well as other waste fluids, that must be disposed of or recycled.

Coolant can deteriorate over time and should be tested to see if it’s still good, as it can be hard to tell just by appearances. Even if the coolant reservoir shows sufficient coolant level and testing shows the cooling and antifreeze protection are still adequate, a coolant drain and antifreeze flush may be needed.

The coolant can become more acidic over time and lose its rust-inhibiting properties, causing corrosion. Corrosion can damage the radiator, water pump, thermostat, radiator cap, hoses and other parts of the cooling system, as well as to the vehicle heater system. And that can cause a car engine to overheat.

Thus, the coolant in any vehicle with more than about 50,000 miles should be tested periodically. That’s to look for signs of rust, leaks and to make sure it has sufficient cooling and overheating protection, even if the cooling system seems to be working properly and the reservoir is full. The cooling system can be checked with test strips that measure acidity, and with a hydrometer that measures freezing and boiling protection.

If the corrosion inhibitors have deteriorated, the antifreeze coolant should be changed. The cooling system might also need flushing to remove contaminants no matter what the maintenance schedule calls for or how many miles are on the odometer. On the other hand, if testing shows the coolant is still doing its job protecting from overheating and not allowing corrosion, changing it more often than what the manufacturer recommends could be a waste of money.

https://www.cars.com/articles/how-often-should-i-change-engine-coolant-1420680853669/

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