TOP 10 TIPS TO HELP REDUCE YOUR RUNNING COSTS

1). Use less accelerator and only use enough pedal to maintain regular speed. This reduces tyre wear and mechanical repairs.

2). keep Battery fully charged. A constantly discharged battery will not see out its full life.

3). Keep your tyres at the recommended pressure. This can reduce your fuel consumption by 10% or more.

4). Keep your engine clean. It makes servicing easier and reduces the risk of grease and grime build up hampering cables and other moving parts.

5). Fix small mechanical problems before they become larger ones.You can save expensive repairs that way.

6). Run your car Air conditioner even in winter. Just a few minutes will prevent the seals from drying out.

7). Make sure you check your Radiator level regularly and top it up if necessary. Use coolant, not water, as this will retard corrosion and save later repairs.

8). Make sure your fan belt is tentioned correctly (About 2cm free play only). A slipping belt can deteriorate quickly and cause wear to water pump and altenator bearings.

9). Start winter with fresh engine oil. Old oil thickens and imposses extra strain on the engine, particularly on cold morning starts.

10). Service your car regularly. A well tuned and maintained vehicle will perform better and more economically.  

NEW CAR WARRANTY

New car franchise dealers can not maintain a monopoly on "Log Book" servicing.

They can not suggest that your statutory rights to a warranty are void, simply because the vehicle is serviced outside their dealer network.

This fact is confirmed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and details can be found at: www.accc.gov.au

If you are concerned and would like expert advise, Louie, here at Five Star Car Care can help.


BRAKES

As the main cause of premature wear is high temperatures, It is important for your Mechanic to know if you drive country or freeway, off road, tow heavy loads or "Stop start" driving so the best pads are fitted for your needs. If your brake pads are wearing prematurely, you may need heavier duty, temperature resistant pads.

We also recommend disc rotors are machined if they exhibit disc thickness variation or damage, and /or when the pads are changed. For safety reasons, brake discs need replacing when worn to the predetermined minimum thickness (often reffered to as scrap thickness).

Danger signs your vehicle should be checked immediately if you experience any of these signs.

1). Low or spongy brake pedal

2). Squealing, grinding or banging

3). Vibration or pulsation when the brakes are applied.

4). An increase in braking distance

While some brake noise is normal, these symptoms may indicate a faulty braking system that requires immediate rectification.


SUSPENSION

The suspension system is an essential part of a vehicle which includes springs, shock absorbers, control arms, bushings, sway bars, ball joints and struts. There main purpose is to keep your tyres in contact with the road and carry loads safely.  Good suspension provides predictable handling and a smooth ride, while minimising tyre wear.

Usually shock absorbers wear slowly and can deteriorate undectable by the driver. The symptoms can include; Nose diving when braking, body roll on corners, longer braking distance and the vehicle continues bouncing when the corner of the car is compressed heavily then released. A visual inspection may show signs of leakage and / or damage. Shock absorbers should always be replaced in pairs and ideally all 4 replaced at the same time. 

Your suspension should be checked with each regular service and any time you notice any of the symptoms mentioned.

Remember if your suspension is not functioning properly it will adversely affect your brakes, tyres and steering.


TIMING BELTS

If the timing belt is not replaced on time it may break or the drive teeth may strip. If this happens the camshaft in the engine stops rotating, leaving some valves open, protruding into the cylinders, the crankshaft continues to rotate and can push the pistons into the valves and bend them. This causes major engine damage which is very costly and time consuming to repair.


ANCILLARY FLUIDS

The automatic transmission, manual gearbox, brake system, differential and power steering systems are all lubricated by oil or fluids of various types. Some of these systems don't have the luxury of an oil filter like the engine uses.

Simply put, oil reduces friction between mechanical parts in  a car and thus reduces wear. Unless these oils are drained periodically 

and replaced with clean oil, critical components of your car can wear more quickly than they should.

As oil gets older it collects abrasive impurities. Additives used in the oil to help it suit a certain application, can diminish over time and with use. Heat produced, particularly in automatic transmissions,can also affect the oil's lubricating properties.


ELECTRONIC FUEL INJECTION

The Electronic Fuel Injection system fitted to modern vehicles combines sophisticated computer controls with a high pressure fuel delivery system to provide optimum power and fuel efficiency. The system is controlled by an electronic control unit (ECU).

These systems often have anything in excess of thirty different engine and emission sensors all sending information continually to the ECU.

EFI problems can be caused by dirty fuel or a blocked injector. Sometimes however, the fault has to be found somewhere within the EFI system using advanced diagnostic testers. Common symptoms include; poor fuel economy, backfiring, 'running on' when the car is turned off and rough idling.

Regular system cleans will ensure peak efficiency, but remember a tune up or service is maintenance for your vehicle and not a repair for a specific fault within an EFI system.


STEERING AND C.V BOOTS

The  Steering and Driveshaft mechanism on most modern cars have a number of protective rubber boots designed to keep moisture and dirt from damaging vital components.

The rubber covers which seal each of the car's steering rack or CV joint, while still allowing movement of the steering and driveshafts. They seal in the lubricant and seal out dirt and water. If they tear, dirt and water from the road will enter the components and wear them rapidly.

They are made of rubber and exposed to the elements under your car and are subject to a lot of movement. As they get older the rubber  

perishes and eventually will tear. Replacing the boots before they wear out is a good example of how money spent on car maintenance can save a lot more money in repairs.


SERVICE INTERVALS

Many car manufacturer's are recommending service intervals of 10,000 km even up to 20,000 km. But also in the car owners manual they often recommend this interval be reduced under various conditions. One particular reason for this is to change the engine oil.

1). Engine oil has a limited useful life dependant on time and driving conditions.

2). Bi-products of combustion, particularly when the engine is cold, contaminate the oil and cause sludge build up inside the engine. Some of the sludge will gradually block the oil galleries in an engine and starve moving parts of lubrication.

3). Dilution from fuel will make the oil thinner and reduce its lubricating properties.

4). Metal deposits from wearing components builds up and accelerates wear.

5). Additives used in the oil can break down over time.

6). Oxidation of the fuel occurs from contact with air inside the crankcase and can cause a build up of gum deposits and acids.


POWER STEERING

Most common power steering systems use an engine driven hydraulic pump with a hydraulic assisted power steering rack or box. 

More recent advances include remote electric pressure pumps and four wheel hydraulic steering systems.

Oily marks under a garaged vehicle is a common tell tale sign when  there is something wrong.

1). The single largest cause of failure is a worn pump due to low fluid levels. Worn pumps operate inefficiently and circulate metal particles which damage other components.

2). Steering rack boots need to be intact to stop contamination.

3). Hydraulic system components need to be in good condition to avoid leaks and operate efficiently.


COOLING SYSTEM HOSES

If a radiator hose is nearing the end of its life, it is better to have it replaced before it fails and risks causing serious engine damage.

As the hose gets older, they can become soft and swollen and are more likely to split. Chemical contaminents can also cause the rubber to deteriorate and therefore become prone to cracks and leaks.

If a hose needs replacing or has recently been replaced, consideration should be given to replace the rest of the hoses as they also are subjected to the same wear and tear.

It is generally more economical to change all hoses at the same time, rather than one by one, as this has the added advantage of allowing a thorough flush of the cooling system and provides the economic advantage of needing only one dose of new coolant.

It also saves the further inconvenience of another hose failing soon after one has been replaced.

The radiator cap and thermostat are also vital components in a car's cooling system and should be tested for correct operation.

A proper cooling system service should include a pressure test of the system to check for leaks and suspect components.

The cost of this type of preventative maintenance is far less than repairing the consequences of a badly overheated engine.


OXYGEN SENSORS

The oxygen Sensor is a small electronic device that is located in the combustion exhaust manifold of a modern vehicle engine.

A vehicle's engine management computer relies on accurate information in order to automatically adjust the air fuel mixture to an optimal level. As the name implies, the Oxygen Sensor is designed to detect and measure the amount of oxygen that is being expelled in the exhaust gas and send this information to the computer control unit.

Too much oxygen in the exhaust gas indicates a lean mixture which can cause performance problems, including misfires that lead to engine component damage. Too little oxygen indicates a rich mixture, which wastes fuel and results in excess emissions and potential damage to the catalytic converter.

Due to it's location in the exhaust manifold, the sensor is exposed to extremely harsh conditions and carbon, soot, harmful gases, anti-freeze, chemicals and thermal shock all combined to shorten the life of an Oxygen Sensor. An Oxygen Sensor in poor condition results in poor engine performance.

The need for replacement will depend on the type of sensor on the vehicle. Certain sensors have a service life of 50,000kms, whilst others may last up to 100,000kms.


CATALYTIC CONVERTERS

A catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system. It is designed to convert toxic gases into more environmentally friendly by-products.

Conversion of exhaust gases begins after reaching an operating temperature of approx 200 degrees celsius. The core of a catalytic converter is a ceramic matrix coated with precious metals. They were fitted to all cars after 1986.

The symptoms of a faulty catalytic converter include:

1). Blockage in the exhaust system leading to poor engine performance caused by the core melting (due to persistent engine misfire or unburned fuel reaching the catalytic converter).

2). Rattling sound caused by the core disintegrating.

3). No obvious symptoms but failing an exhaust emissions test.

All these symptoms cause poisonous, polluting fumes which can be

detected by an exhaust gas analysis. Degradation of the core occurs over time but is accelerated by engine faults.

Even with regular servicing and no engine faults, converters often need replacing after 80 000km or after 5 years use. It is important that they are checked regularly in order to maintain proper function: aiding in the maintenance of an economical and efficient vehicle (good for the long term health of your car and your bank account) and reducing toxic gases (good for the environment).


HOLIDAY MOTORING

1). TOWING When towing, don't attach the rope to any steering, suspension equipment, rear axle or bumper. See your owner's manual for the correct towing procedure.

2). BUSHFIRE If you're caught in a bushfire: park in clearest area you can find, wind up all windows, cover your self with rugs, jackets, etc. and tuck yourself under the dashboard.

3). SLEEP AT HOME NOT AT THE WHEEL Around 30% of serious crashes are the direct result of motorists who insist on driving on, even when they know they're too tired to continue.

4). TAKE YOUR TIME You will use up to 25% less fuel travelling at 90km/h than you do at 110km/h.

5). MINTIES COME IN HANDY To temporarily fix a hole in your petrol or radiator tank, a half chewed Mintie can act as a sufficient seal until you can limp  to a service station.

6). BLOW OUT If this occurs, do not make sharp changes in direction, don't brake or use the clutch. Ease up on the accelerator and if the blow-out was the front wheel, use the handbrake (gently) to gradually slow the vehicle.

7). CAR SICKNESS To avoid it, try sitting in the most 'stable' part of the vehicle. Don't move around to much and look at the horizon, rather at the road or trees.

8). OVERTAKING Before overtaking, take a glance over your shoulder to see if a car is in your 'blind spot'. Remember it can take one and a half kilometres to overtake a truck travelling at 100km/h. Make sure you have a clear road ahead.