Al Smith

Dec 202011
 

If you want to soup up your car or truck with custom wheels and tires, the best plan for buying them online is to find the packaged sets. Most online tire stores will allow you to choose the design, materials, and size you like, and they will consolidate them, giving you a better price than you would pay la carte. Sites will generally suggest pairings based on popular demand and the manufacture’s suggestions. What’s more, they may throw in accessories or cleaning products to sweeten the deal. The convenience of conducting this transaction online can’t be beat, especially if you live a long way from any kind of custom auto/body shops. And even if you do have such a shop nearby, you will find a better selection online, which may be a superior choice if you’re looking for something special to make your car stand out from the crowd.

Online tire retailers will typically ask you to specify the kind of car on which you will be mounting your new tires. This information will ensure that you do not buy tires of an inappropriate weight or size for you car, and you will get the best handling and performance from your new purchase. For example, a tire with large sidewalls will need to be mounted on a smaller wheel and vice versa.

Buying your tires and wheels as a packaged set may also have the advantage of receiving the tires already mounted on the wheels by a professional who will make sure your tires are not damaged in the mounting process and see to it that they are properly weighted and balanced.

When shopping for custom wheels, look for a product that offers superior performance and handling in addition to appearance. Look for a tire with a strong, high rated grip, and don’t waste your money on tires made from softer materials: these will have a shorter lifespan than your factory tires, and you will spend more replacing them. Tires made from harder compounds will last much longer and will be safer to drive on. If you have the space and the funds to do so, keep a spare set of tires on hand in your garage. Chances are, if you’ve put custom wheels on your car, your doughnut won’t be of much help if you get a flat while you’re out and about. While it is never a good idea to drive more than you have to on a doughnut, the difference in size and weight might throw the rest of your car out of balance or alignment if you don’t replace the damaged tire right away.

Finally, chrome steel wheels look good, but are a great deal heavier than the original manufacturer’s wheels and can have a negative effect on your car’s performance. Aluminum is not only lighter, but is often less expensive, and will not place unwanted wear and tear on your car. After all, custom wheels are meant to improve the looks, value, and performance of your car.

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Dec 192011
 

Finding a deal is always a good thing, and discount tire dealers are more popular than ever in today’s economy. The low prices available from discount tire dealers can be enjoyed by all drivers, no matter what type of vehicle they drive. Discount tire retailers offer a product that is often just as reliable as their full-price counterparts, and generally offer full, fast service at a great price. Discount tire retailers are able to offer lower prices for a number of reasons. First of all, these facilities are savvy about reducing the overhead costs of running a business. This is why you might find discount tire dealerships occupying less than prime real estate. However, they are usually closer to high traffic areas, and if you have a tire emergency, you may find yourself at a discount tire dealership without even planning on it. The great service and huge savings you find there may be enough to convert you.

These facilities are sensitive to consumer demand, and cater to all sorts of vehicle owners. A discount tire manufacturer may offer new tires from lesser-known manufacturers, last year’s stock that name-brand tire retailers had to unload, or retreaded tires. Ask the salesperson about the construction of the tire if you are concerned about safety and durability.

You may also consider looking online for discount tire retailers if you are looking for something special, or if you cannot locate a brick and mortar store near you. Remember, just because something is offered at a discount doesn’t always mean it is flawed. The savings you find could be due to a number of factors. In fact, a lot of times you are paying more to shop at a store simply because the name “Goodyear” or “Firestone” appears on the sign. So if you are leery about purchasing off-brand tires, look around for the major manufacturers’ products. They can be found. Used tires are also a good option if you are looking to save money.

Retreaded tires are as durable as new and are an environmentally superior option as they waste far less fossil fuels in the manufacturing process, and will not end up in landfills. If you are buying discount tires form an unfamiliar vendor, either in-store or online, you will do well to check out the reviews of the store on sites like Angie’s List. Beware of enthusiastic testimonials on the store’s own site. These may be fabricated.

Luckily, internet fraud is not well tolerated, and predatory sites are usually shut down in good time. Moreover, if you are a victim of unsavory business practices you can contact the FBI’s internet crime department to file a complaint. You can avoid this whole nightmare by sticking to vetted retailers like Amazon.com and eBay, or asking friends and family to recommend a local discount tire retailer. And when you find a great deal on a quality product, write your own review, you’ll be helping others save money as well.

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Dec 102011
 

Adding new or custom wheels to your car is a great way to give it an individual, customized look. The buying process can be as easy or a difficult as you allow it to be. If you prepare yourself before you start shopping, you can avoid buying an inferior product or otherwise getting ripped off. There are a number of approaches you can take when you decide to shop for new rims. You can either go visit a car dealership or a customization center, or you can go to a specific wheel and tire store. This will probably give you a pretty good selection of styles to choose from, and you can ask all the questions you like, although it may exasperate the salesman if you don’t end up purchasing anything. Another great plan is to go online to look for rims. There are dozens of online stores where you can find an endless selection of styles, sizes, and finishes, and have them shipped directly to you or to the garage if you prefer.

By shopping online you will be able to find new wheels that fit your car and your personality, whether you want something basic or something really flashy.

It is important to look for a reputable dealer when you shop online, however. Read the user reviews on the site, and if you don’t see anything of this sort, go elsewhere. Also, look out for minimum purchasing and shipping requirements. Some dealers may require you to buy a complete set of wheels, while others may charge you a mint in shipping fees if you don’t hit the minimum spending cap. Do note, however, that there are plenty of good reasons to opt for the packages that some sites offer. Buying a rim and tire package will ensure that you have the correct size tires for your car. If you mount tires that are too big for your car, you could throw the speedometer out of whack, and cause your car to perform poorly.

These packages are also put together to give the customer a bargain. More often than not, buying wheels, rims, and accessories “a-la carte” will be more expensive than buying the complete package. It is also more convenient to have all the parts you will need in one shipment if your are buying online. That way if anything is missing or incorrect, the dealer can rectify it quickly and easily, at no cost to you.

There are a lot of reasons to buy rims for you car beyond the superficial: some specialized wheels can improve the performance of you car. If you want better handling and greater fuel efficiency, you may get it with high-performance wheels. A good reason to consider alloy wheels is the benefit to your car’s brakes. These wheels extend the life of your brakes by conducting less heat when the brakes are applied. And nice wheels will certainly increase the re-sell value of your car.

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Oct 282011
 

Buying an automobile for the first time might seem to be a formidable task, but armed with a basic understanding of what’s involved, a buyer can make informed decisions even if he or she has never bought one before. It starts with deciding whether to shop for a new car or a used car, since either type of purchase carries along with it slightly differing sets of considerations.

There are several places where one might find used vehicles being offered for sale besides a regular used car lot. There are also used car superstores, such as Hertz and CarMax; in addition, many dealers of new cars will usually have a few used cars for sale on the side. There are internet websites that specialize in used cars, and then there are always used cars being offered for sale in classified newspaper listings, either by private owners or professional dealers. Some private sellers simply put a sign with a telephone number in their car and drive around in it, or park it in a prominent location.

When shopping for a used car, there are several important factors to consider, primarily related to road safety, since every year some two million vehicles are involved in crashes. The buyer looking at a prospective used car for purchase should make an effort to find out how many previous owners the car had, whether the vehicle has ever been in any type of accident, whether it has had a history of any serious mechanical problems, and whether it has followed a proper schedule for maintenance.

If possible, the buyer should have a mechanic put the car in consideration onto a lift for a complete inspection. He should also use Carfax.com or similar source to obtain a Vehicle History Report on the specific car. This useful tool allows users to see if a given vehicle has ever been stolen, how many owners it had, if it ever failed an inspection, and more. Another tip for buyers is that they refuse to buy any used car if it is sold “as is”. They should read everything they are asked to sign carefully to ensure that it does not say “as is”. What this means is that anything wrong with the car automatically becomes the buyer’s problem, rather than the seller’s, as soon as it changes hands. Instead, the buyer should have a thirty day timeframe after purchase to verify that the car is in proper working condition.

Finally, a car buyer should research the make and model of the car in a used car pricing guide, of which there are several titles available, for instance, the Kelley Blue Book Used Car Guide. These books will list rough guidelines for values of used cars that are in reasonable condition and have reasonable odometer mileages, which is around 12,000 miles for every year since the car was built. The expected sale price should be much lower than the guideline price if the car has a much higher mileage, or if its condition is poor.

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Oct 172011
 

Automotive engines are designed to withstand a high operating temperature. Most vehicles built over the past fifteen years operate within a range between 200 and 240 degrees Fahrenheit. But beyond the upper limit, the assembly will overheat, potentially sustaining major damage. Continuing to drive your car once the temp gauge on your dash spikes could literally destroy your engine.

There are several elements that can contribute to overheating. It is important to be familiar with them so you can diagnose the problem in the event it occurs. Below, we’ll first describe the issues an overheating engine can cause. We’ll then discuss some of the factors that may be involved.

What Happens When Your Engine Overheats?

Numerous problems can occur once an engine overheats. First, the head gasket can fail. The gasket is sandwiched between the cylinder head and engine block, both of which expand as the engine’s operating temperature rises. The head and block are made from different metals, and thus expand at different rates. The gasket may be crushed under severe pressure.

Second, spark knock can occur. This is a knocking sound that indicates that the fuel inside one or more cylinders is detonating rather than being ignited by the spark plug. With time, it can damage the pistons and rod bearings.

Third, a severe overheating problem can impair the cooling system. The coolant that normally transfers heat away from the engine to the radiator may becomes so hot that the hoses carrying the fluid may rupture. A sizable rupture can starve the assembly of coolant, and likely cause it to seize.

Most overheating problems are due to issues inside the vehicle’s cooling system, or parts that affect the system. We’ll start with the head gasket.

Bad Head Gasket Seal

We mentioned earlier that the head gasket is positioned between the cylinder head and engine block. One of its responsibilities is to provide a seal that prevents coolant from entering the cylinders. If this seal becomes compromised, coolant may leak inside, reducing the level of fluid flowing through the cooling system. Since less fluid will be available to transfer heat away from the engine, overheating can occur.

Failing Water Pump

The water pump’s main job is to keep coolant moving between the radiator and engine. If the pump stops working, the flow of coolant will be cut off, causing the engine to overheat. This can occur in a couple ways.

First, the pump is equipped with blades – they are usually made from plastic or metal – that turn in order to circulate coolant through the component. These blades can wear down and break, impairing coolant flow.

Second, the shaft seal may develop a leak. A leak will allow coolant to seep outward, lowering the amount available to the engine.

Coolant Leaks

Thus far, we have highlighted two potential sources of coolant leaks: the head gasket and water pump. But the fluid can leak from several other sites. For example, the hoses carrying the fluid can crack or rupture under pressure. The attachment points between the hoses and radiator may also develop leaks. Cracks in the engine block may allow coolant to drip into the cylinders.

If you suspect fluid is escaping your car’s cooling system, have a mechanic pressure test the entire system to identify the source. Then, have it fixed as quickly as possible.

Radiator Failure

The radiator is designed with small passages. Coolant flows through them, and releases heat absorbed from the engine. Due to rust, corrosion, and various debris that accumulates over time, these passages may become partially blocked. Additionally, the vents through which heat is normally released may become plugged by dirt and insects; the radiator’s position near the front of the car exposes it to these elements.

If coolant is unable to release heat, it will be unable to absorb more from the engine. As a result, the assembly can overheat.

Take note of any problems that develop in the areas above. Realize that small issues tend to worsen if they are neglected, and can place your engine at risk. It pays to have them resolved as soon as they surface.

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Oct 172011
 

Most vehicles built over the last decade are far more resilient than those built a generation ago. The engines are designed to perform more efficiently in various driving conditions; the transmissions are more effective in changing gear ratios; and myriad components, from the alternator to the catalytic converter, have only improved in design and function. Despite these improvements, routine preventative maintenance remains an important factor to prolonging the life of your vehicle.

With this in mind, we’ll provide a checklist of the six items to address on an ongoing basis. We’ll explain the reasons for each along the way.

#1 – Check And Change The Brake And Steering Fluids

Although these two fluids are often neglected, both are just as important as motor oil and transmission fluid. Over time, brake fluid becomes exposed to rust due to moisture in the brake system. If a substantial amount of rust accumulates, it can affect the fluid’s ability to engage the calipers when you apply the brakes. Check the fluid level once a month, and replace it every three or four years.

Steering fluid rarely needs to be changed since it does not undergo the same contamination process as brake fluid. However, plan to check its level once a month to identify leaks.

#2 – Inspect The Cooling System

Your vehicle’s cooling system is vital to your engine’s health. It provides coolant to the engine, helping to maintain its operating temperature. If coolant fails to reach the assembly, the temperature will rise unchecked. Your car will overheat.

Check the coolant level each month. Replenish it if it is low, and look for evidence of leaks on the ground. If your cooling system has developed a leak, have a mechanic find and fix it.

#3 – Change The Oil

Motor oil helps to control your engine’s operating temperature, and lubricates the assembly’s moving parts. Over thousands of miles, however, the fluid gradually degrades, becoming oxidized and filled with contaminants. This impairs its ability to do its job.

The fluid should be changed according to the service interval recommended in your owner’s manual. Most car manufacturers recommend changing it every 5,000 miles, assuming “normal” driving conditions. If you engage in severe driving, change the oil every 3,000 miles.

#4 – Replace The Filters

Your car has several filters that prevent dirt and other contaminants from entering the engine. These filters slowly become blocked by an accumulation of debris, and thus need to be replaced periodically. Neglecting to do so will prevent your engine from receiving what it needs to run properly.

Change your oil filter when you change your oil; replace the air filter every other year (or every 25,000 miles); and change the fuel filter every 30,000 miles. If you drive in severe conditions, plan to replace the filters more frequently.

#5 – Inspect The Tires

Your tires should be properly inflated, and the treads should be deep enough to provide sufficient traction on the road’s surface. Underinflation can lead to uneven treadwear, and set the stage for a blowout; lack of treads can cause hydroplaning across wet surfaces.

Check your owner’s manual for the recommended air pressure (i.e. psi) for your tires. Also, if uneven wear has developed on them, have a mechanic diagnose and resolve the root cause (e.g. front-end alignment issues, suspension system problems, etc.). Examine your tires once per month.

#6 – Examine The Hoses and Belts

Hoses under your car’s hood transfer coolant throughout the cooling system. They deliver coolant to the engine, where it absorbs heat, and then carry it back to the radiator, where the heat is allowed to dissipate. Over time, the constant exposure to heat and pressure causes the rubber material to deteriorate. Leaks can eventually develop, and allow coolant to escape.

Various belts control the timing of the intake and exhaust valves, and power various components, such as the water pump, alternator, and A/C compressor. The belts are pulled and stretched across pulleys, and exposed to high operating temperatures. This environment slowly causes them to deteriorate. If any of the belts break or loosen, the parts they control will stop working. In some cases (e.g. water pump), this can potentially cause engine damage.

Inspect the hoses and belts closely once a month, and replace them when necessary.

Preventative maintenance plays a critical role in prolonging the life of your vehicle, and particularly the engine. Invest a few minutes each month to check the items described above.

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Oct 162011
 

In many ways, the belts and hoses under the hood of your car are the unsung heroes of automotive design. Simple in construction and hidden in plain sight, they ensure that various components operate and receive the fluids they require. Yet, despite their importance, many drivers neglect to inspect them. The belts and hoses are essentially forgotten, expected to fulfill their respective jobs without fail. The problem is, they can fail, setting the stage for numerous mechanical problems.

In this article, we’ll present some of the consequences of neglecting to check your car’s belts and hoses. We’ll also describe the factors that contribute to their deterioration.

Consequences Of Deteriorated Belts And Hoses

Leaking hoses and snapped – or loose – belts expose your engine to overheating. Coolant hoses are an integral part of your vehicle’s cooling system. They deliver coolant to the engine in order to absorb heat, and transfer heated coolant to the radiator, where the heat is released. This ensures your engine’s operating temperature remains within a manageable range.

Most vehicles are also equipped with a timing chain and one or more serpentine belts. The timing chain powers the crankshaft, which in turn powers the camshafts. The camshafts influence the timing of the intake and exhaust valves in the engine. If the timing chain breaks or becomes loose, the valves may fail to open and close at the proper times. The pistons can hit the valves, causing serious damage.

Serpentine belts run a number of components, such as the water pump, steering pump, air pump, and alternator. In some cases, a single belt wraps around several pulleys, and controls all of these parts. Other times, each component is controlled by its own belt. If a belt breaks or becomes loose, the components it operates will stop working. Here, a belt failure can cause a disruption in the electrical system (e.g. alternator) or cooling system (e.g. water pump), as well as other issues.

For the above reasons, it is important to inspect your car’s belts and hoses periodically. Minor loosening or small leaks (respectively) can lead to much larger problems down the road.

A Closer Look At Your Car’s Hoses

Hoses are the weakest link in your vehicle’s cooling system. Although they are designed to handle the intense pressure and temperature variance to which they are exposed, they are constructed of rubber. The rubber material is susceptible to deterioration. As noted earlier, where coolant is involved, leaks can cause your engine to overheat. Where fuel is involved, the engine’s cylinders may not receive the fuel needed to produce a clean combustion cycle. And where hoses maintain engine vacuum, leaks can cause a rough idle or stall.

Inspect the hoses by squeezing them at various places, including near the clamps. Look for tiny fissures and bulges, and take note of segments that feel particularly soft. These are signs of pending failure. If you notice them, replace the hose.

Belt Inspection And Replacement

Although the timing chain and serpentine belts operate in slightly different circumstances than hoses, they are exposed to similar elements. For example, heat is a major contributing factor to belt failure. It can compromise a belt’s structural integrity over time, and cause it to crack, fray, loosen, and even snap. Another factor is the continuous stretching belts undergo as they are pulled across multiple pulleys.

Examine the belts closely for signs of fraying or cracks. Look at both sides, taking particular note of the teeth on the underside. If you notice cracks, lost teeth, or glazing, replace the belt.

A Small Investment In Your Vehicle’s Longevity

Periodic inspections of your belts and hoses will help to ensure your vehicle’s parts and systems remain in good condition as long as possible. Replacements are inexpensive, and can usually be installed easily, even if you have little experience working on cars. The effort and money you spend represent a good investment since they can prevent expensive damage to your engine, cylinder head, and other components.

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Oct 152011
 

According to the National Safety Council, nearly 10 million auto accidents occur each year. Over 2 million people are injured during these accidents, and nearly 3 percent die. While a large majority of accidents occur as the result of driver error and alcohol use, a significant portion – some estimate it at over 10 percent – result from car problems. Moreover, many happen due to car problems that developed over time, and were never addressed by the vehicles’ owners.

There are numerous car parts that can fail, and cause collisions. We’ll describe several of them below. Our goal in this article is to offer a reminder that neglecting to have seemingly small automotive issues fixed can lead to tragic consequences.

Severely Worn Or Old Tires

As the only part of your vehicle that makes contact with the ground, your tires play a key role in ensuring your safety. However, their condition can deteriorate to the point that they pose a danger to you, your passengers, and other drivers.

The treads on your tires are designed to allow moisture to funnel outward. This helps your treads to maintain traction with the road’s surface. When the treads wear down, moisture on the road has less room to funnel through the grooves. Much of it remains under the treads, where it limits traction. This can cause your car to hydroplane across the ground into another vehicle.

The legal requirement is to replace your tires when the treads reach 2/32″ in depth. But if you drive in wet conditions, consider replacing them earlier.

Old tires also pose a safety issue. Once they reach a certain age, the rubber material from which they are made begins to deteriorate. Driving on them becomes dangerous. Even if the treads appear fine, such a tire may fail or “blow out,” causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Severely Worn Brake Pads

Brake pads also wear down with use. Whenever you apply your brakes, calipers at each wheel squeeze the pads against the rotors. The friction generated between the pads and rotors stops your vehicle. But it also erodes the wear material of the pads, eventually affecting your ability to make emergency stops.

In addition to the pads, the hoses that deliver brake fluid from the master cylinder to the calipers can deteriorate over several years of use. If fissures form in the hoses, brake fluid can seep out of the system. Large leaks may prevent you from stopping your car quickly.

Failing Ball Joints

There is at least one ball joint – and sometimes, as many as four – located near each wheel. They form a connection between the steering knuckles (which allow the wheels to pivot) and control arms (which allow the steering knuckles to move upward and downward). The knuckles and arms are part of your car’s suspension system. Ball joints have a ball-and-socket design that allows this part of the system to work properly.

The constant motion of the ball within the socket slowly causes the ball to wear down. It can eventually wear to the point that it becomes loose. This introduces a risk that the joint will break, causing the entire structure – including the tie rod ends – to collapse. If this happens, there is a good chance you’ll lose control of your vehicle.

Worn Tie Rod Ends

The tie rod ends are responsible for transmitting force from the steering linkage to the steering knuckles. They can gradually wear down, causing excess “play” in the wheel. While driving, the steering may feel loose, and your vehicle might drift to one side.

Loose tie rod ends are dangerous, and should be inspected immediately. If they pull apart, you will lose the ability to steer your car.

Problems that develop in your tires, brake pads, ball joints, and tie rod ends can expose you, your passengers, and others to an accident. Inspect your tires and brakes regularly, and have a mechanic perform routine checkups.

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Oct 132011
 

Tire rotation is an afterthought to many people. It is done when a mechanic makes the suggestion, but is otherwise forgotten. The oversight is understandable. The benefits of rotating tires are not immediately noticeable, so people rarely think about investing the time and money to have the job performed. Unfortunately, neglecting to rotate the treads on a regular basis poses a cost.

In the present article, we’ll first explain the reasons you should set aside time to have your tires rotated periodically. We’ll then provide step-by-step instructions for performing rotations across four and five wheels in the event you choose to do the job yourself.

Reasons To Rotate Your Tires

Most experts suggest rotating your tires every 5,000 miles, regardless of whether there is substantial treadwear evident on them. Doing so delivers several important benefits. First, the wear that occurs to your treads is distributed evenly across the entire set. If you neglect to rotate them, the treads in the front of your vehicle will wear down more quickly than those in the rear (assuming your vehicle is a front-wheel drive). Also, alignment issues may cause one-sided wear to develop on the treads. Rotating them minimizes the effect.

The other benefits stem from the first one. When your treads wear evenly, you’ll enjoy better traction and steering response. That means your vehicle will be safer on the road than would otherwise by the case. Also, because the treadwear is evenly distributed across the set, there is less likelihood that you’ll need to break the set by replacing a single severely-worn tire.

There are clear advantages to having regular rotations performed. If you plan to do the job yourself, you’ll need to take a few preparatory steps.

Tools Of The Trade And Other Preparations

You’ll need four sturdy jack stands, a jack, and a lug wrench. Resist the temptation to perform the job with fewer than four jack stands. The vehicle should be lifted completely off the ground to ensure your safety and proper balancing.

Also, it is critical that the rotation is performed on level ground. Otherwise, your car may roll off the jack stands. Lastly, make sure the parking brake is engaged before you begin.

Rotating Four Tires

There are different rotations that can be performed for different types of vehicles. Because most cars built today are equipped with front-wheel drive (FWD), we’ll focus primarily on the most common pattern used with that layout.

The front tires are moved to the rear positions on the same sides. That is, the front-left tire is placed in the rear-left position, and the front-right tire is placed in the rear-right position. The rear-left tire is moved to the front-right position. The rear-right tire is moved to the front-left position.

Rotating Five Tires (Including Your Spare)

Including your spare in the rotation is a good idea since it allows you to further spread out normal treadwear. This results in even less wear developing on each tire. But there is a caveat. The spare should match your other tires. That is, its size and specifications should be as close as possible to the rest of the set. If your spare is designed to be used only as a temporary replacement, do not include it in the rotation.

Here again, we’ll focus on the rotation for a front-wheel drive vehicle. The front-left tire should be placed in the rear-left position. The front-right tire should take the place of your spare. The rear-left tire is placed in the front-right position, and the rear-right tire is placed in the front-left position. The spare should be placed in the rear-right position. If you experience a flat or blowout, and need to use the spare, maintain the 4-tire rotation afterward. If you purchase a replacement and resume a 5-tire rotation, the treadwear across the set will be uneven.

Although performing tire rotations every 5,000 miles may be an inconvenience, they will make your treads last longer. They can also help to spread out premature wear that would otherwise jeopardize a single tire within the set.

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Oct 132011
 

A head gasket failure can cause a severe disruption in the normal function of your car’s engine. The gasket is located between the engine block and cylinder head. One of its jobs is to provide a seal that keeps coolant and oil from seeping into the engine’s cylinders. It is also responsible for maintaining compression. When the gasket fails, coolant and oil can leak inside the cylinders while the level of compression declines.

You may be able to continue driving for a short time following a head gasket failure. However, you will likely experience problems. Your engine may begin to ride roughly due to the compression loss; exhaust gases may access the cooling system; and because the leaking coolant in the cylinders causes more exhaust, your catalytic converter may fail. With time, your engine will suffer damage.

This article will present the most common reasons for a head gasket failure. In the event that the component has failed due to another issue, it is important to find and fix the initiating problem.

Head Gasket Failure Due To An Overheating Engine

Gaskets often fail due to overheating because of their placement between the engine block and cylinder head. When the temperature in the engine rises, the block and head expand (called thermal expansion). The problem is, both parts are designed with different metals. Their respective rates of expansion vary. As a result, the gasket, squeezed between the block and head, endures a high level of structural stress. With time, it fails.

An engine can overheat for a variety of reasons. For example, it can happen due to a failing thermostat, bad water pump, clogged radiator, or heavy load for which the cooling system is incapable of managing. The important thing is to identify the root cause of the overheating, and fix it before installing a replacement head gasket. Otherwise, the replacement may also fail when the problem recurs.

Was The Head Gasket Installed Incorrectly?

Head gaskets sometimes fail due to one or more errors made during their installation. For example, the installer may have failed to fasten the head bolts in the proper order (there is a specific sequence recommended by the manufacturer). Or, the wrong torque may have been used when installing them.

Another common problem is that the surfaces of the block and head are not completely clean at the time the gasket is installed. Small debris can compromise the seal, leading to coolant and oil leaks. These leaks can lead to overheating, which will eventually cause the gasket to blow.

The block and head must be smooth in order for the head gasket to provide a tight, leak-free seal. If either are not smooth at the time of the installation, leaks will be nearly inevitable.

As with an overheating engine, it is important to determine the underlying reason for the component’s failure so it can be addressed. For instance, if the cylinder head is not smooth, the mechanic should restore its smoothness prior to installing the replacement gasket.

How A Replacement Is Installed

To begin, head gasket installation should be performed by a trained mechanic or someone with extensive experience working on cars. Although the component is relatively small, installing it correctly can be problematic without the proper tools and experience.

The first step is to remove the cylinder head. Once it has been removed from the engine block, check the smoothness of both surfaces. If either are outside the proper specifications, have them restored.

Second, assuming the head and block are smooth and flat, clean both surfaces of debris. Then, place the new gasket in position. When installing and tightening the bolts, it is critical to do so in the proper order. It is also important to use the right amount of torque.

Third, with the gasket in place and the bolts fastened, replace the cylinder head. If you found it necessary to remove any other parts in order to reach the gasket (e.g. exhaust manifold), replace them as well.

The head gasket, though rarely seen, plays a significant role in maintaining your engine’s performance. If it fails, make sure the underlying cause is diagnosed and resolved before a replacement is installed.

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