Archive for April, 2011
I recently came across a 2002 USA TODAY article about a very expensive but preventable oil sludge disaster that affected Toyota engines.
Affected models included: 3.0-liter V-6 and 2.2-liter four-cylinder engines in more than 3.5 million 1997-2002 Toyota Camrys, Avalons, Highlanders and Siennas and Lexus ES and RX 300s
Expensive solution: A Complete Engine Rebuild.
The oil sludge problem affected not only Toyota but other makes and models as well.
Toyota, rightly claimed that the problem was caused by going too long between oil changes. To fix the problem, Toyota had to redesign the affected engines.
The oil sludge problem was worse in areas that experienced cold winters and hot humid summers, temperature extremes.
For example, the Washington DC area experiences cold winters and the summers are usually hot and sticky. 5W-30 motor oil is recommended because it provides execellent all season protection to solve this temperature variation problem (maintains it’s viscosity ‘flow-ability’ at both low and high temperatures). Mobile 1, 5W-30 full synthetic oil is a popular brand that is suitable for the latest vehicles with extended drain intervals. Other car makes affected by oil sludge build up between 1997 and 2004 included;Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Lexus, Saab, and Volkswagen.
What is Oil Sludge?
This is when oil turns into a thick gel, caused by the breakdown of contaminated oil.
Oil will first turn to dark hue because of it’s solvent nature or cleaning properties. When you examine the oil dip stick, you will observe the dark engine oil deposits (suspended carbon particles or soot).
Dirty oil combined with moisture and sulfur contaminants begins to thicken into a oily stew. Left undrained, dirty oil will eventually turn into a thick gel that sticks onto engine parts.
The gel loses it’s lubricating properties and excess friction and wear begins to take place. As heat builds up in the engine, the gel begins chocking the life out of your poor engine. Finally, the poor engine gets starved off it’s life blood, kicks a couple times, rolls over and dies.
Service Advisories: Many companies such as Volkswagen, issued out technical bulletins to remedy the problem by switching out dinosaur juice (mineral oil) for fully synthetic oils.
So, why did vehicles – 1996 and newer models suffer oil sludge disasters?.
Five reasons why;
- Financial challenges are forcing more and more people to ignore regular oil changes. Tight budgets, rising gasoline prices, auto loans, high unemployment, and the list goes on. I had one customer who schuduled a service appointment only because her radio was not working. Change my engine oil or fix my radio? hhmm.. let me think.
- Cheap mineral oil, cheap oil filters of suspicious quality, and inexperienced technicians is a recipe for disaster. Recently a young trainee – helper at our dealership changed the oil for a 2005 S40 Volvo but forgot to add new oil. The customer called us a few days later to let us know she had been driving with the oil warning light on. We came this close to replacing an entire engine. Mistakes do happen.
- Higher combustion temperatures contribute to sludge formation because of tougher federal emissions standards enacted in 1996. Car manufacturers have raised engine operating temperatures and increased exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).
- Fuel economy pressure for improved Miles Per Gallon (MPG) requirements by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has led to new engine designs. Modern engines with hydraulic lifters, tight tolerance bearings and miniature oil filters require active monitoring of oil pressure. Tighter bearing clearances for new engines favor lower viscosity motor oils to maintain oil pressure. As engines age the bearing clearance increase due to wear and tear and lose a certain amount of oil pressure. Synthetic oils can bear higher load pressure but regular low viscosity mineral oil will break down faster and turn into a sludge (consult your car manual for recommended oil). Mobil 1 High Mileage fully synthetic motor oil is designed especially for engines where conventional oil has been used, and where these conditions have been experienced; severe service, extended oil drains, poor maintenance, and multiple owners. Mobil 1 High Mileage 10W-30 has the following benefits; Reduces the sludge and deposits that conventional oils can leave behind, contains special seal conditioners to prevent oil leaks, extra anti-wear additive to protect critical engine parts.
- Worn-out coolant takes on an electrical charge that chemically acts like acid on engine parts promoting sludge formation. Rising engine temperatures can be a result of low coolant levels. So, watch out for the low coolant warning light, you may have a leak. A warning light comes on when the fluid levels are dangerously low. So, have your car fluids monitored at regular intervals.
Some cars like BMW do not have a sludge problem despite longer oil drain times (service intervals). BMW engines are designed take up to 7 or 8 quarts of oil, almost twice that of the average car and calls for the use of full synthetic oil.
Do some research on the next vehicle you intend to purchase, make sure it does not have sludge build up problems. Manufacturers struggle to build cars that meet stringent emissions and environmental standards at the lowest possible cost to them. Like all companies, they are ultimately responsible to their shareholders.
Following the BMW example we know that Full Synthetic Oil prevents sludge build up, if you cannot afford it then use a synthetic blend. Consult your car manual for recommended oil and drain intervals.
Our Volvo Service Center uses 5W-30 Castrol Syntec Blend Oil, at a cost of $49.95 for a basic oil change, and Full Synthetic Castrol Syntec oil change will cost you $69.95. Come see us soon.
If you know what is wrong with your vehicle, please do us a favor and fix it yourself.
Off course I will not say it aloud, I’m not that crazy. I whispered.
The reason I say this is because I have been there and done that. When my previous car broke down in 2007, I had just been laid off from my old job. Talk about great timing.
The last thing I wanted was to end up at the Volkswagen Dealership, paying hundreds of dollars, to fix my beloved VW Jetta.
So, naturally I turned to my good friend Google to provide much needed answers.
I researched the symptoms; stalling when slowing down or when stopped at a traffic light. You can imagine the traffic nightmares I caused. I was hooted at, cussed at, you name it.
According to mighty google, this was an electrical problem, most likely a bad ignition coil or a bad battery.
I had my battery checked and it checked out fine. So, it had to be my ignition coil, I thought to myself.
I confidently drove down to the nearest Service Center in my neighbor hood and asked the service guy to replace my ignition coil. He asked me how I knew this was the problem, but I wasn’t about to let him know that I was following google orders.
Long story short. The Ignition coil wasn’t the answer to my car problems, I ended up wasting $250 to replace a perfectly good part.
The lesson here is to let the experts do their job because they will save you money in the long run.
The best advice I can give you is to be nice to service people because it pays dividends.
Personally, I like to help customers, and that is why I started this blog. I want to save you money.
Why E10 gasoline keeps you running on empty.
Ethanol contains high levels of oxygen and burns cleanly, greatly benefiting the environment, but the bottom line is that E10 gasoline will give you less miles per gallon (MPG).
The problems with Ethanol Blended Gasoline – E10
One gallon of ethanol yields only two-thirds as much energy as a gallon of gasoline.
Why?, because ethanol burns hotter than gasoline. And it contains high levels of oxygen which is great for clean emissions. But too much air or oxygen and less fuel during combustion reduces engine performance.
Ethanol also causes catalytic converters to break down faster. This can cost anywhere from $800 – $1200 to fix.
Ethanol not only cause engine damage and performance problems, but can cause rust in the engine.
This is due to the solvent nature of alcohol. Alcohol easily dissolves water into gasoline, and this is bad news for your car because water can destroy your engine.
Ethanol eats up rubber, so watch out for any rubber or plastic parts in your car engine.
According to U.S. Department of Energy figures, the current blend of 10 percent ethanol reduces gas mileage by almost 4 percent, some folks claim it’s more like 20-35%.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now approved E15 for late model cars, so this will further reduce MPG.
139.5 billion gallons of gasoline consumed in the United States in 2009 contained 10.6 billion gallons of ethanol. 10.6 billion gallons of ethanol burned in 2009 displaced just 7.2 billion gallons of gasoline.
May I add that fossil fuel is consumed to generate ethanol. Corn-based ethanol requires petroleum-based products to both raise corn (farm equipment) and produce ethanol.
Eleven acres of land is required to grow enough corn based alcohol to run just one vehicle every year. That land can be used to grow food for seven people.
How about the subsidies that go to the farmers that grow corn. Personally, I believe ethanol is a boon for farmers but a tragedy for gasoline consumers.
According to the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), the ethanol industry consumed 4.6 billion bushels of corn in the 2009-10 marketing year and forecast’s 4.7 billion in 2011.
Ethanol is considered a good alternative energy because it’s inexpensive, plentiful and high in oxygen. A clean burning fuel that gives cleaner emissions.
On principle I don’t believe ethanol is a good substitute for oil.
The best solution is to check your car manual, and find out what fuel is recommended for your vehicle.
Most cars can run on regular gas but to prevent knocking or pinging you can upgrade your fuel or simply mix in some high octane gas with regular gasoline.
What is your opinion?
Test yourself, see if you can figure out how the new s60 Pedestrian Detection System works (10 question quiz).
1. According to research, 50 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents occur at what speeds?
A) Above 51 mph (82 kph)
B) Above 26 mph (42 kph)
C) Below 26 mph (42 kph)
D) Below 16 mph (26 kph)
2. Is pedestrian Detection with full Auto Brake effective when backing up (reversing)?
A) Yes – in all situations.
B) Yes – if the driver programs it to do so and activates it properly.
C) It depends on the angle of the tires.
D) No! It’s effective for pedestrians in front of the vehicle only.
3. What is the key benefit of Volvo’s world – first Pedestrian Detection with full Auto Brake?
A) It prevents pedestrian accidents and significantly reduces the impact of pedestrian accidents that are unavoidable.
B) It helps support drivers who are tired and distracted by warning pedestrians that the vehicle is approaching.
C) It prevents accidents with small vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
D) It works with Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue assist to monitor driving and traffic conditions.
4. If the driver does not respond to the initial warning, what does Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake do next?
A) Increases to a secondary level of audible alert.
B) Gently applies the brakes to draw the driver’s attention.
C) Applies the brakes with full force.
D) There is no further warning – there is only one stage of alert.
5. What weather conditions can affect the performance of Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake?
D) all the above
6. What is the field of view for the feature?
A) 30 degrees
B) 60 degrees
C) 90 degrees
D) 180 degrees
7. What can distort the shape of a pedestrian so that the camera does not recognize them as a person?
A) Brightly colored clothing
C) Wearing a Clown or Mascot costume
D) Walking too close to other pedestrians
8. How tall must an object be to be recognized by the Pedestrian Detection feature?
A) 20 inches (51 cm)
B) 32 inches (80 cm)
C) 40 inches (102 cm)
D) 52 inches (132 cm)
9. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, how many pedestrians are injured in the United States each year?
10. Where does research show that pedestrians deaths primarily occur?
A) Remote country roads without sidewalks or crosswalks
B) Urban areas with crosswalks, sidewalks, median strips, and traffic islands
C) Suburban neighborhoods with children who are unsupervised
D) Expressways where cars are stopped during emergencies
Answers can be found in psychic s60 Volvo article
I am not kidding, the new s60 is psychic.
The new sporty s60 can sense an accident well in advance and avoid it.
I can’t help feeling that if the driver of the vehicle that fatally hit a pedestrian in Bethesda, last Thursday afternoon had been driving the new s60, the ensuing traffic might have been avoided.
No snarled up traffic, and no life lost.
Pedestrian Detection System (PDS) with Full auto Brake, is worth its weight in gold.
About the new sporty s60
This is what Warren Brown, a motoring enthusiast and Washington Post Newspaper columnist had to say in his recent article. “The car braked suddenly. I thanked God there was no car following me (a possible hazard with the pedestrian-detection system). The pedestrian continued moving, blessedly unaware of how close he came to being sent back to the doctor’s office, or to a hospital bed.”
Before I explain how this technology works, I will share some important statistics from the Insurance Institute for highway safety.
According to IIHS, 4,092 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. This accounted for 12% of overall crash fatalities in the U.S.
Most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas at: crosswalks, sidewalks, median strips and traffic islands.
50% of these fatal crashes occur at speeds of less than 16 MPH.
95% of the pedestrians are struck by the front of the vehicle.
A common crash scenario involves a person crossing the road and a vehicle going straight with nothing obstructing the view of the driver from seeing the pedestrian, with no evidence of braking.
The new Volvo pedestrian detection technology can sense pedestrians, and if the driver does not initiate braking in time, the car automatically applies full braking force (Pedestrian Detection System with Full Auto Brake). Pedestrian Detection System (PDS) specializes in avoiding collisions at low speeds, up to 22 mph or 35 kph. At higher speeds the car will slow down, enough to reduce the chances of a fatality by 85%.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 70,000 pedestrians are injured in the United States each year; research estimates that PDS prevents an additional 39,000 crashes including 2932 fatalities.
You can think of PDS as an extra set of eyes and an extra foot above the brake pedal. A forward collision warning system that applies brakes automatically when the driver fails to react.
How It Works
The PDS uses a combination of radar (located on front end of vehicle) and camera attached to the back of the rear view mirror. This combination can identify a human figure within a 60 degree field of view. The radar detects a shape or object in front of the vehicle and measures the distance to impact. The camera determines what type of object it is, and a sensor device reads contours lines of a human being.
The driver is alerted by sound and a flashing brake light shape appears on the windshield, simulating the rear end of a vehicle ahead. If the driver fails to respond to the warning sound and lights then full auto brake is engaged, a split second before impact, when it is too late to swerve.
Benefits to customer
Helps avoid injury or death to the pedestrian.
Prevents accidents or reduces impact if vehicle is traveling too fast.
The radar and camera have a limited field of view, 60 degrees. In addition, dirt on windshield can and will affect the view of the camera.
PDS is affected by rain, snow, road spray, or low sun. (This means that it does not work at night) Function of the system cannot be guranteed.
The driver is ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe speed and distance. The human body being detected has to be at least 32 inches or 80 centimeters tall. This means that a child cannot be detected and neither can a wheel chair bound person.
Body shapes can be distorted by baggy clothes, bags or costumes. Therefore, the camera and sensor cannot detect a human shape.
The brakes once engaged can only hold for only 1.5 seconds before the vehicle starts to move again.
Slippery wet surfaces will negate the system.
Other Volvo Safety Features
This technology when used with other safety volvo features can enhance and avoid potential accidents:
- Blind Spot Sensor(BLIS) which is a little camera on your side mirror
- Lane departure warning
- Adaptive headlight
Conclusion: Volvo is ahead of the race with this technology; however, Audi is working on a system that works at night and does not require expensive radar technology. Subaru is also working on a cheaper PDS system that can detect cyclists, and other luxury brands like BMW are not far behind.
So, I see this technology as being a standard in the near future instead of just an option.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
“If only she had done some due diligence”, I thought to my self.
I was heart wrenched early one morning at the service center to see a young well dressed African American lady crying like a baby. She had recently purchased a used Volvo that had now turned out to be the worst investment of her life, the car was a piece of @#$%.
The following tips will help you make a well educated decision if you are in the market for a used car:
- Get the service history for the vehicle. The dealership will not only print you a copy of the service records for the vehicle, but they will also fax it to you on request (or ask the previous car owner for a copy).
- Get a car-fax report. Make sure you are not buying a lemon or a car that was in a major accident. Get the Vin number and run a report immediately and discover if any major repairs have been done. Sometimes the seller will sell the vehicle before a major service, for example the timing belt & water pump which costs about $1900. Car-Fax will run a FREE lemon check, Record Check, Recall Check, problem Car Check, Sample Reports and Vin History. I have used car-fax for all my previous used cars.
- Lemon Law. Know your lemon law statutes for new and used cars.
- Get a car diagnostics if possible. This will pull up potential problem codes just in case the seller has masked a check engine light by unplugging the dash bulb.
- Protect yourself from Odometer fraud. Mileage on a used car is a big factor in determining its resale value, so make sure you research the history of the car and obtain a vehicle history report. Repair shops write down the mileage at different service intervals, so you can easily compare past readings to the present odometer reading.
- Lastly, get a top to bottom car inspection. Our dealership will charge one labor hour or $112 to conduct a thorough inspection of your vehicle. This way, you are guaranteed that you are not throwing good money after a bad.
Failing emissions testing is an opportunity to save money because you just discovered that your car is wasting fuel.
City driving not only adversely affects your car but your health too. This is because high levels of harmful car emissions like Carbon Monoxide, Nitrous Oxides and Hydrocarbons can lead to failed emission testing.
Here are some interesting car emission facts you might want to know.
I recently read an article stating that the European Union (EU) is considering phasing out the petrol (gasoline) engine in favor of mass transit to cut down on harmful car emissions.
Engine Combustion for a healthy vehicle (Normal Running):
Under normal conditions, a controlled mixture of fuel and air is combusted in the car engine for maximum fuel efficiency.
Fuel will react with the Oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor.
Hydrocarbon Fuel + Oxygen =CO2 + H2O+ N2 (simplified equation for complete combustion)
This process, known as complete combustion happens under ideal conditions of Air to Fuel Mixture Ratios (AFR).
This ideal ratio of fuel to air is known as the stoichiometric ratio and is about 14.7:1 (14.7 pounds of air is burned for every pound of fuel). No more and no less.
This ratio describes the ideal thermo chemical process, where all of the air and all of the fuel is consumed during the combustion cycle, leaving no residual exhaust by-products. Nitrogen which is 79% of air passes through the combustion process virtually unchanged.
The benefits of a healthy vehicle:
The vehicle runs more efficiently and wastes less fuel; therefore, saving you hundreds in gas dollars
Engine Combustion for an unhealthy vehicle:
Your car will fail emissions testing because incomplete combustion or partial combustion is taking place and producing harmful car emissions.
Two main causes of emissions are;
- The Air Fuel Ratio (14.7:1) is less than the ideal stoichiometric ratio necessary for complete combustion to take place. Excess fuel in the mixture means that there is not enough oxygen to react with extra fuel for complete combust to take place. In this case, the maximum output of heat cannot be attained and you will experience poor mileage. This is commonly known as running a Rich Mixture. A Rich Mixture is responsible for high emissions of Carbon Monoxide (CO).
- The Air Fuel Ratio (14.7:1) is greater than stoichiometric ratio and this means that there is too much air or oxygen in the mixture. Too little fuel and excess air produce greater than ideal temperature that binds oxygen molecules to nitrogen to form nitrous oxides. This is commonly known as running a Lean Mixture. A Lean Mixture is responsible for high emissions of Nitrous Oxides (NOx).
- Carbon Monoxide(CO)
- Nitrous Oxides(NOx)
High Hydrocarbons (HC)
High HC is caused by excess raw fuel in the AFR (Rich Mixture). Some of this raw fuel is unburned which leads to the production of carbon monoxide (CO).
Six common failures likely to lead to a high output of Hydrocarbons are:
- Faulty Ignition Timing
- Faulty Ignition components
- A Lean Misfire
- Faulty Catalytic Converter
- Faulty Air Injection Components
- Low Cylinder Compression
High Carbon Monoxide (CO)
High CO is typical in Rich Mixtures because of excess fuel and little air (oxygen). Less than ideal AFR leads to partial combustion. Carbon (soot) and CO is produced in this reaction.
Five faults likely to produce high carbon monoxide are:
- Dirty Air Filter
- Faulty Oxygen Sensors (O2 Sensors)
- Faulty Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP Sensor)
- Faulty Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)
- Faulty Engine Coolant Temperature (ECT Sensor)
High Nitrous Oxides (NOx)
High Nitrous Oxides emissions are due to a Lean Mixture (too much air or oxygen in the mixture), greater than ideal AFR.
This condition occurs when the lean fuel is completely burned off; some oxygen is left over in the reaction process.
The heat produced is greater than normal and Nitrogen combines with left over oxygen to produce nitrous oxides (toxic emission).
In a normally running engine, Nitrogen passes through the engine unchanged, but not in this case.
Five common failures leading to high NOx emissions are;
- Lean Fuel Mix
- Faulty Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) System
- Faulty Catalytic Converter (CAT)
- High Engine Mileage (Carbon build up)
- Engine Overheating
Failing Emissions Testing is good news for your wallet because it means your vehicle is wasting fuel. So, visit your service center and get the problem resolved and save money in the long run.