FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: How often should I service my car?
A: This is a very complicated question if all nuances are to be considered. At Avenue Garage we recommend:
1. Oil service: Every 5000 Miles, includes a full vehicle inspection, to stay on top of the condition of your vehicle
2. Air filter/Cabin air filter: change roughly every 15k miles
3. Tire rotation: as needed
4. Brake fluid flush: every 2 years, or when the fluid registers more than 2% moisture content
5. Transmission service: as recommended or needed, most vehicles it is fairly easy to inspect the condition of the transmission fluid, on other vehicles it is not. On these vehicles, we advise to service based upon the recommended mileage interval, some cars recommend every 30k miles, some every 90k miles, some state the transmission is LIFETIME FILLED, we do not subscribe to this manner of thinking, not servicing the fluid in the transmission WILL reduce the life of a transmission, service these transmissions AT LEAST every 90k miles
6. Spark plugs: as recommended, or needed. As with the transmission service, some cars are easier to inspect then others. When spark plugs are showing signs of wear, or deposits, replace. On vehicles its difficult to inspect, replace as recommended. Again, some cars recommend replacing at 30k miles, some do not recommend them until 105k miles.
7. Timing belt: as recommended. This is a rubber component, therefore it is recommended to be replaced at the time interval as well as the mileage interval. A timing belt can break from age, just as easily as from mileage. In some cases if the timing belt breaks it will cause damage to the engine (bending valves, which requires cylinder head removal). DO NOT settle for only a timing belt replacement, there are other wearable items that are at your grasp when replacing a timing belt , most can be replaced while the timing belt is off for a fraction of the price (only the cost of the part). On most timing belt vehicles the water pump is behind the timing cover, and driven by the timing belt, if the bearing locks up, it will cause the timing belt to break, and you are right back in the same position as if you never changed the belt. If the pump starts to leak coolant/antifreeze, you would need to remove the new timing belt for access to the water pump (again paying more labor). There is a tensioner that keeps the timing belt tight, sometimes mechanical, sometimes hydraulic. If either version fails, and the timing belt breaks, or even just skips a tooth, you're in trouble again. As well as a tensioner there are routing pulleys behind the cover, these guide the belt to the next pulley, these also should be replaced to prevent the bearings from locking up. Lastly, while performing a timing service the camshaft and crankshaft seals should AT LEAST be inspected. These keep oil inside your engine and prevent that same oil from contaminating the timing belt. Any signs of leakage, these need replacement.
8. Brakes: as needed. Every oil service we inspect the condition of your brakes and will advise when repair/replacement is needed.
9. Tires: Inspected every service, replaced as needed. Florida is tough on tires. It is rare that a set of tires will go through an entire tread life warranty. This warranty should be used as a barometer on how long your tires COULD last, not how long they will last. After 6 years or so, tires will start to show signs of dry rot, or cracking inbetween the tread, this is an idicator that the rubbed is drying out and starting to seperate. (FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT TIRES CLICK HERE.)
Q: Should I use synthetic oil in my engine? ( FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICK HERE, or HERE)
A: Synthetic oil is superior to conventional oil, but the average driver may never realize the benefits. Consumer marketing has generated much interest in synthetics, but it is generally understood that synthetic oils are designed primarily for high performance and heavy-duty applications.
The cost of synthetic oils can run two to three times that of conventional oils. The manufacturers of synthetics tout that the increased cost of the synthetics are offset by the reduced frequency of the change interval, given that the synthetics are less prone to breakdown due to heat and friction. In a new engine this may hold some truth, but breakdown of the oil is not the only consideration. Oil consumption and contamination are critical considerations in oil maintenance, as discussed above, and synthetic oils are just as susceptible to these factors as conventional oils. So, if you use synthetic oil, it still needs to be changed every 5-7.5k miles, and topped between changes, on most engines after 60k miles on the odometer.
Of course, if the manufacturer specifies synthetic oil it should be used to protect the warranty.
Even with synthetic, we DO NOT recommend going more then 7,500 miles in between oil services. BMW and Mercedes recommend 10-15k miles in between oil services, on these cars we do see increase varnish inside the engines as well as more oil leaks on the outside of engines. Oils loose there ability to condition gaskets and seals as they rack up the mileage. Our industry currently still use paper oil filters, with increased intervals these filters WILL degrade and break down.
An oil change will ALWAYS be less expensive then an engine.
Q: How long can I drive with my oil light on?
A: The Oil Pressure Icon (the one that looks like a Genie’s Lamp) is a PRESSURE INDICATOR, NOT A LEVEL INDICATOR. When that light comes on, it indicates that the pressure sensor does not detect any, or enough, oil circulating through the engine. If this is caused by no oil circulation through the engine the continued operating the engine in this condition means instant death for your engine. If you see this light, stop the engine immediately and investigate. Start by check the oil level, the most common cause of this light coming on is a lack of enough oil in the engine to circulate. If there is sufficient oil in the engine, it is highly recommended to cease driving the vehicle until a professional can address this for you. If the oil level is low, add some oil (without continuing to drive the vehicle) until the oil is within the specified range, then start the engine and see if the light is still lit.
Q: My tire pressure light just came on, what do I do now? ( FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICK HERE )
Pull over as soon as you can, safely, and check your tire pressure (some systems give a generic warning, while others give you specifics on pressure). Driving on improperly inflated tires can affect everything from fuel mileage—under-inflated tires are less efficient—to how your car rides and steers, particularly in an emergency situation.
If you see a cutaway tire with an exclamation point, it means your tire pressure monitoring system has detected an issue. Falling temperatures can also trigger the system because tire pressure declines along with the thermometer. The general rule of thumb here is, for every 10 degrees the temperature drops (Fahrenheit) your tires will loose, roughly, 1 PSI of pressure. It is VERY common for your tire pressure light to come on during the first cold snap every year.
Q: My Check Engine Light just came on, what do I do?
A: First off, you should relax. If the Check Engine Light is not flashing, and the engine appears to operate normally, it is not considered urgent. The Check Engine Light (‘Service Engine Soon’ light on certain vehicles) is turned on by the Engine Control Unit when it determines there is a problem with a sensor or system it monitors. It usually means a repair is required, but the system is redundant enough to allow for safe operation until it is convenient to have the problem diagnosed properly. Before scheduling a diagnosis, be sure to check your gas cap; a loose or missing cap will turn the light on. It is also recommended to check your engine oil and coolant, and to monitor the other gauges, but this is true any time there is a question with the engine. It should be specified, though, that if the light is flashing, the vehicle should not be driven, should be towed to a repair facility.
Q. My brakes squeak but my mechanic says they are fine. How is this possible?
A: Brakes do what they do through friction. Most brake noise complaints are caused by disc brakes, so that will be the focus here.
The brake caliper squeezes the brake pads, causing the brake pads to clamp down on the brake discs (AKA Rotor); while the vehicle is in motion with the brakes applied, the pads are rubbing with great force on the discs. The rubbing creates vibration, the vibration sets up a harmonic in the hardware (brake disc, steering knuckle, etc.), and the result is audible noise. Think of a wet finger rubbing the rim of a wine glass, creating an audible tone; this is very similar to the phenomenon of brake noise.
Now that we know why brakes squeak, what can we do to make them quiet? Obviously, we try to reduce and absorb vibration.
Of all the causes of brake noise, the choice of brake pad is the most common. Cheap aftermarket brake pads are almost guaranteed to squeak, while Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) pads are unlikely to squeak. This is because there are multiple objectives when making a brake pad: reduced brake noise, reduced brake dust, resistance to brake fade, increased pad life, and increased disc/rotor life (to name the most common). Unfortunately, most of these objectives have an inverse relationship. For one brake pad to do it all, it must be made of many different materials, and shaped differently from one application to the next. The OEMs put considerable Research and Development into each and every brake pad they make, and so nearly every automobile has a unique pad designed specifically for it. The aftermarket manufacturers simply do not have the resources to compete with the OEMs, thus the tendency for their pads to squeak (among other adverse performance characteristics).
The next important consideration is the brake disc surface. Any glazing, scoring or otherwise uneven disc surface exacerbates the tendency for vibration to occur, which of course causes squeaks. Machining (resurfacing) the brake discs gives the pads a smooth, flat surface to mate to; this reduces vibration, and eliminates uneven or deficient braking that can occur while a new pad is bedding into an old disc surface.
Another important detail is brake shims. Vehicles come with shims attached to the back of the pads. The shims are thin metal wafers, and their job is to absorb or insulate the vibration so that it does not transmit to the hardware, where the audible noise occurs. The OEM shims often will not fit aftermarket pads, or will wear out with usage, so often they are discarded by less detail-oriented mechanics . Unfortunately, new brake pads, OEM or otherwise, often do not come with shims, so it is common to see brake pads with no shims.
The final consideration is preparation of materials. There are specialty lubricants (moly paste usually) that are designed to be placed on the back of the pads and shims, and between the contact points where the pads are captive in the caliper brackets. The moly paste has considerable ‘body’, and so is a major player in absorbing the vibration. Many hasty mechanics fail to use the paste, so it is a good barometer for attention to detail when evaluating a mechanic’s work ethic.
So to recap, the recipe for a smooth, quiet brake job is to use OEM pads, machine or replace the rotors, install the shims and apply moly paste to the back, top and bottom of the pads.
Two final notes: One, just because brakes are noisy does not mean repairs are required. If your mechanic inspects the brakes and says they are OK, it is entirely discretionary as to whether anything should be done from there. And two, it should be pointed out that there are other steps to performing a brake job, but that is a separate discussion.
Q: Why do my brakes vibrate and my steering wheel shimmy?
A: Vibration when braking is caused by brake rotor (disc) thickness variation (warpage, parallelism). We will not focus so much on the technical aspects of warpage, more on understanding how to prevent it.
Brakes operate by friction, friction creates heat, heat causes rotor warpage. Any time you are braking the vehicle, you are introducing heat into the rotors. So, logically, the less you brake, the better, right? Well, maybe this is easier said than done, so here is what you can do:
1. Use the transmission to engine brake on grades.
2. Modulate braking on grades, meaning brake, release, brake, release, which allows the rotors to dissipate heat. Don’t give your passengers whiplash in the process, though.
3. Following heavy braking, if the vehicle is at a stop, do not stand heavily on the brakes, and do not set the emergency brake with excessive force.
4. When replacing brakes, if the rotors are getting too thin, replacing the rotors with new ones will help to dissipate the heat better then thinner rotors
Q: How often should I align my vehicle?
A: The shops that exclusively do tires and alignments may tell you to do one on a specific schedule. However, the fact is you can do an alignment one day, and the next day hit a pothole and knock it out again. Our opinion is that an alignment should be done when there are symptoms of a need for an alignment, or preventatively when tires are replaced, specifically as insurance for the tires. The most common symptoms of a needed alignment are: the vehicle pulls on a smooth, flat surface; a steering wheel that is not centered when driving straight; and/or erratic tire wear. As a driver, you can pay attention for the first two symptoms, and your mechanic can pay attention to the tire wear. Unfortunately, this is not guaranteed to prevent problems, but is the most realistic approach. For any tire warranty issues, proof that an alignment was preformed when the tires were installed is sometimes needed (as well as proof of tire rotations). Here is some more info about wheel alignments in image form.