Archive for June 26, 2012

Timing Belt

Ever heard the sad tale of a staggering repair bill from a broken timing belt? Bad news. Let’s take a lesson from their woes and remember to think about our timing belt.

First, let’s review what a timing belt does. The top part of the engine, over the cylinders is called the cylinder head. The head contains the valves. There’s at least one valve that lets the fresh air into the cylinder. This air, mixed with fuel, burns to create power. Then another valve or two open to allow the exhaust out of the engine. Each cylinder has 2 to 4 valves – that’s 12 to 24 valves for a V-6, up to 32 values on a V-8. The opening and closing of the valves is done by a camshaft. The timing belt uses the rotation of the engine to drive the camshaft which opens and close the valves. It’s called a timing belt because it has to be adjusted to rotate the camshaft to keep proper time with the engine so that everything’s in sync.

The timing belt is a toothed rubber belt . But some cars use a timing chain or timing gears instead of a belt. Timing chains and gears are much more durable, but manufacturers are using belts more because they are quieter – and cheaper. If you have a small or mid-sized passenger car, crossover or mini-van, chances are you have a timing belt.

Unfortunately, timing belts fail without any warning. That shuts you down right away. A technician can inspect your timing belt and look for cracks and looseness. But getting to the belt to take a look can be almost as much work as changing it on some cars. That’s why manufacturers recommend replacing the belt from time to time. For most vehicles it’s from 60,000 to 90,000 miles or 95,000 to a 145,000 kilometers. If your owners’ manual doesn’t specify an interval ask your service advisor.

One AutoNetTV producer has had two timing belts fail. The first was while he was waiting at a stop light – that repair cost several thousand dollars. The second was while driving on the highway – that one cost more than twice as much. Both had the cars out in the shop for three weeks. His cars had what we call “interference engines”, meaning that the valves and pistons are very close to each other. If the timing belt slips even one notch, the pistons will slam into the open valves. That’s why our friend’s highway failure was so much more expensive – his engine was traveling so fast that the valves were smashed and they chewed up the cylinder head.

A non-interference engine will just shut down if the timing belt breaks. You’re stranded, but the engine doesn’t suffer permanent damage. In both cases, our hapless friend was just a couple oil changes past the recommended interval for changing the timing belt. This is one of those things that you just cannot put off. Now replacing a timing belt is not cheap – but repairs for a broken belt can be many times as much.

Check your owners’ manual right away – especially if you have more than a 60,000 miles or 95,000 kilometers. You may need to get that belt replaced right away. And on many cars, the timing belt drives the water pump. So, it may be a good idea to replace the water pump while you’re at it because 90% of the work required for the new pump is already done with the belt change. Doing both at the same time saves you a lot of money because as they say, “timing’s everything”. Parts, Timing Belt

Drive Train – What You Need to Know In Mission Viejo

One Mission Viejo automotive service issue that doesn’t get much attention is driveline service. Drivelines don’t get talked about very much around Mission Viejo, but they’re very important. First let’s define what the driveline is:

Taking a small step back, the power plant is comprised of the engine and transmission. The driveline starts there and includes all of the components that transfer power from the transmission to the wheels.

That’s not really a lot of components, but they handle the full force of the engine. Without the driveline you’re not moving. So we need to take good care of it. The driveline components differ depending on whether your vehicle has front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, all wheel drive or four wheel drive. For purposes of our discussion, we’re going to have to over simplify a bit.

If you are ready to have your drive train looked at, give us a call:
Elite Motors
23725 Via Fabricante # F
Mission Viejo, California 92691
Call Us at (949) 243-7956

Let’s start with front wheel drive. The point where the transmission stops and the driveline begins is a little blurred with front wheel drive because the transaxle houses both the transmission function and the differential function. The half shafts that send power to each front wheel, come out of the transaxle. The shaft is connected to the wheel by a constant velocity, or CV, joint. The CV joint is protected from dirt and water by an airtight, flexible rubber boot.

So, driveline service would include properly servicing the transaxle and inspecting the CV boot to see if it’s torn or loose. If it is, it needs to be replaced and the CV joint inspected for damage. Repairs may be in order. Besides visual damage to the airtight CV boot, you might hear a clicking noise when turning. Recommended maintenance for the transaxle and CV joints will be spelled out in your owner’s manual or check with your Mission Viejo service advisor.

On to rear wheel drive. The driveline for a rear wheel drive vehicle starts with the driveshaft – that long tube that connects the transmission with the differential on the rear axle. Some vehicles in Mission Viejo have a two piece drive shaft. The shafts are connected to the transmission and the differential with big universal joints. You’ve probably heard the term ‘u-joints‘. These joints can wear out, just like the CV joints in front wheel drive vehicles. You may hear some clunking or feel a jolt when shifting into drive or reverse – if you do, get your driveline inspected.

The differential on the rear axle sends power out to each rear wheel through half shafts in the axle. The differential fluid needs to be drained periodically and replaced with clean fluid. When the seal on the end of the axle is damaged or leaks, the axle will need to be serviced. The routine maintenance item here is differential service. Be sure to check your owner’s manual or Mission Viejo service advisor for intervals.

Now let’s go on to all wheel drive. Remember that the difference between all wheel drive and four wheel drive is that an all wheel drive vehicle is essentially providing power to all of the wheels all of the time. The vehicle may be able to shift more of the power to the front or to the back depending on where you need traction. All wheel drive vehicles are designed to work well on dry pavement. Even some high-end sports cars from makers like Lamborghini and Porsche have all wheel drive.

Some all wheel drive vehicles are designed to work well off-road, but all hard-core rock crawlers are four wheel drive. These guys thrive in mud, sand, rocks and hills – but they don’t work well on dry pavement when they’re in four wheel drive. So they have the option to shift to rear wheel drive only on dry pavement.

Most all-wheel drive vehicles are very similar to front wheel drive when it comes to the front end. They also have a center differential that transfers power to the rear differential. Connecting it all is a shaft from the transaxle to the center differential and another from the center differential to the rear differential. So all of the normal front wheel drive service is required as well as service to the center and rear differentials.

Four wheel drive can be thought of as a rear wheel drive vehicle that can also send power to the front axle. There’s a transfer case in the middle of the vehicle that can be shifted to send power through a drive shaft to a differential on the front axle. So you need differential service for the front and rear differentials and for the transfer case as well.

The bottom line is that the maintenance schedules are in your owner’s manual. Your Mission Viejo service advisor can answer any questions you’ve got. If this is the first time you’ve heard some of this stuff – it’s time to ask someone at Elite Motors if any of it needs to be done now.

Watch our auto tips video from AutoNetTV.

Lease verses Buy

Lease? Or buy? It’s always a tough question for residents in the Laguna Beach area. But here are a few ideas that’ll make the choice more clear.

Either option gives you a choice of how you might finance your car. If you buy, you’ll pay the full cost of the car, with maybe an initial down payment, then monthly payments on the balance that pays down the loan principal, and the finance charge.

If you lease, you’re financing the portion of the cost of the car that’s used up during the term of the lease. When the lease is up, you return the car to your local Laguna Beach area dealership. You’ll pay some money upfront; fees, security deposit, first month’s payment and maybe a capital reduction. The month payments include a depreciation cost and a finance charge.

So how do you decide?

First, how big a down payment can you make? A lease would require a smaller down.

How much monthly payment can you afford? Again, lease payments will be much lower for any given down payment.

A lease needs you to have better credit, so that’s a factor.

How long will you keep the car? If you tend to keep your cars around for a while, buying is cheaper. But just two or three years? Then leasing is the way to go.

Elite Motors
23725 Via Fabricante # F
Mission Viejo, California 92691
(949) 243-7956

If your car might suffer a ding or two, like, say a work truck would, then buying’s better. The leasing company will want their merchandise back at the lease end in tip top shape, and if repairs are needed, you’ll pay.

How many miles do you drive in and around the Laguna Beach area? Important to consider because leases have a mileage limit, and if you go over, you pay a hefty charge per mile when the lease is up. So high mileage means a buy.

Will the car be used for business? Check with your accountant, but both financing options have different tax benefits, depending on your circumstances.

Over the short term, leasing is much cheaper. Medium term, leasing and buying costs are about the same. Over the long haul, leasing is always costs more.

Leases may sound a bit complicated, and the typical lease decision weighs more on the monthly payment, rather than price. So sometimes leasers may pay on a higher purchase price than a buyer would.

Here is a tip: If a salesman asks if you’ll be leasing or buying, say you’re not sure yet. Make your best deal, then look at financing options.

Here’s another: With a buy or a lease, if you total the car, you’ll owe the full amount of the loan, or the balance of the lease payments, and usually, it’s less than the car’s fair market value – and that’s all your insurance company will pay. But ask your agent about gap insurance, which pays the difference between fair market value and what you owe. Big consideration for a lease.

Remember, you have to return your leased vehicle in excellent condition, and may need to do all manufacturer’s recommended service and maintenance, or face penalties. So see your local Laguna Beach service center on a regular basis, get the required work done and save the service records. It’s well worth it.

Cooling System Components

Today we want to talk about a very important system in our cars – the cooling system. It’s one of those things that you don’t give much thought to until it fails and then you’re stranded by the side of the road.

Cooling systems fail more often than any other mechanical system – usually because of neglect. Don’t you hate it when something breaks, and you could have done something to prevent it?

The good news is that if you take care of your cooling system it can keep working for the life of your car.

Here at AutoNetTV, we emphasize preventive maintenance services like replacing your coolant according to the factory schedule. But the various parts that make up the cooling system need attention too. The major components of the cooling system are the water pump, freeze plugs, the thermostat, the radiator, cooling fans, the heater core, the pressure cap, the overflow tank and the hoses.

It sounds complicated, but we don’t have to be experts – we can leave that to our friendly service technicians at Elite Motors. But, having an overview will help us remember to take care of our cooling systems.

Most people would be surprised to know that burning fuel in your engine produces up to 4,500 degrees of heat. And all that heat has to be dealt with. If the heat can’t be drawn off the engine, the pistons will literally weld themselves to the inside of the cylinders – then you just have to throw the engine away and get a new one. That would cost thousands of dollars.

Now the water pump is what forces the coolant through passages in the engine to absorb heat. The pump is driven by a belt that needs replacement from time to time. And the water pump will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Spending some money on replacing the belts and water pump is much less than the cost of repairing the massive damage that can be done when an engine seizes.

There’s another little part of the coolant system that protects the engine. It’s called a freeze plug. If you remember from high school chemistry, water expands when it freezes. In very cold areas, the coolant can actually freeze when the vehicle is left sitting.

It is hard to believe, but the expanding frozen coolant can actually crack the engine block. The freeze plugs fit into the engine block. They fit tight enough to withstand the pressure of a running engine, but can expand or pop out if the coolant freezes. These little things save a lot of engine blocks.

That brings up a good point. An engine has to work in all kinds of temperatures – extremely hot as well as very cold. How does the cooling system adapt to external temperatures as well as varying operating conditions?

Well, it’s much like the way you keep your house at a comfortable temperature all year round – with a thermostat. The thermostat in your car controls how much coolant flows through your engine. When the engine is cold, it restricts coolant flow until the engine comes up to an efficient operating temperature. Then it starts opening up to move more coolant to keep the temperature within a specified range.

The thermostat needs to be replaced from time to time as well. It’s easy to diagnose a failed thermostat and is fairly inexpensive to replace. We can do this for you at Elite Motors in Mission Viejo, just give us a call: (949) 243-7956. Now we’ve been talking about all this heat we’ve got to get rid of, but haven’t really talked about where it goes. That’s where the radiator comes in. The hot coolant passes through the radiator. Air flows past the cooling fins and cools the coolant.

The radiator has two tanks that hold coolant: sometimes one the top and bottom or one on either side. If you have an automatic transmission, one of the tanks will also contain a second tank that cools the transmission fluid. Large SUV’s and trucks often have a separate transmission cooler. So when you drive around Mission Viejo, the air is forced past the radiator. But driving doesn’t produce enough air flow. So the radiator has cooling fans that force fresh air over the radiator. These fans may be powered by a belt or by electric motors.

Now, you also have something called a heater core. The heater core is like a mini radiator. A small fan blows air over the heater core and into the passenger compartment of your vehicle. That’s how you warm your car when it’s cold out.

Next is the radiator cap. With most newer cars around Mission Viejo, you never remove the radiator cap, except to replace it. You add coolant through the overflow tank. The radiator cap is also called a pressure cap, because its job is to maintain pressure in the cooling system.

High pressure raises the boiling point of the coolant, so it cools more effectively even in very demanding conditions. That is why you need to replace the cap from time to time. They recommend changing it out every time you replace your coolant.

Coming back to the overflow tank, it is needed because when the coolant gets hot it expands and the overflow holds the extra volume. The tank helps maintain the proper level of coolant and keeps air out of the system. You should never open the radiator cap or over flow tank when the engine is hot. This could lead to serious burns.

What else do we need to do to keep our cooling systems working well? Well, there are the hoses that hook all of these pieces together. They’re obviously very tough to deal with the pressure and high temperatures. But they do get worn. Sometimes they get spongy from the heat. Sometimes they lose their connection to the radiator, water pump, etc. It’s a great idea to have your Mission Viejo service center inspect your hoses at least once a year and replace them, if needed, before they break.

Elite Motors can help you check your cooling system and make any necessary adjustments or repairs. Give us a call at (949) 243-7956.