Most Corvallis folks occasionally have days when they've got a bunch of errands to run. Yesterday was my day off and I needed to fill the gas tank, pick up some groceries at my Corvallis market, swing by the ATM and get the kids from school. I could have made four trips . . . but that would have been totally inefficient. Instead I got unusually organized and planned my stops. I hit the ATM first and got gas next. Then I went to the supermarket and picked up the kids on the way home. I was proud of my wise use of time and money.
What does this have to do with your car? Well, back in the day, each of your engine's accessories, like the alternator and air conditioner, were powered by separate belts. A vehicle might have five or six belts. These days, vehicles have a single belt to run all the accessories. It's called the serpentine belt. A pulley attached to the vehicle engine's crank provides the power to turn the serpentine belt. On the engine in the video, the first accessory in line is the power steering pump, which makes it easier to steer your vehicle.
Next comes the alternator which powers the vehicle's electrical system and charges the battery. Then the air conditioning compressor. This helps make cold air to keep you comfortable all summer long in Corvallis. Finally, we come to the belt tensioner. Its job is to apply pressure on the belt to keep it tight. Then, back home to the crank.
This is a pretty typical setup, but it can vary somewhat. In some vehicles the water pump or radiator fan or the power brakes are also run by the serpentine belt. Some even have two serpentine belts. No matter how your engine is laid out, you're not going far without a serpentine belt. Your vehicle manufacturer has a recommended interval for replacing your belt and your Clayton's Auto Service service technician can inspect it for damage or wear.
Several years ago, manufacturers started making serpentine belts out of a new material. It's much more durable, but it's harder to tell when the belt needs to be replaced. The old style belts would crack and chunks would fall off so you could easily see when you needed a new one.
On the new style belts, if the ribs wear too deep, it's time to replace. Your Clayton's Auto Service technician uses a simple gauge to tell when the belt is worn.
A worn belt stresses your vehicle engine's expensive accessories and causes them to wear prematurely. So, change your serpentine belt and belt tensioner according to your manufacturer's recommendations to extend the life of your accessories and to prevent future breakdowns.
A lot of Corvallis drivers have asked whether or not they should use their severe service maintenance schedule, which is listed in their vehicle's owner's manual. It can be somewhat confusing, so we decided to consult an expert. Cricket Killingsworth is from QMI/Heartland, a manufacturer of automotive products and fluids. She's been in the automotive business for over 30 years and is a speaker, a trainer and a writer.
Cricket says there's so much confusion on this topic because, "Most owner's manuals actually have two maintenance schedules. Sometimes these are called 'regular service' and 'severe service.' Sometimes they're simply called Schedule 1 and Schedule 2. A severe service schedule recommends that things like an oil change, air filter replacement and transmission service be done more often: either in fewer miles or in less time."
Foreign and domestic vehicle manufacturers create a specific schedule for each vehicle they manufacture. So there isn't one generic schedule that applies to all vehicles. In addition to your owner's manual, Corvallis automotive repair centers (including Clayton's Auto Service) subscribe to information services that provide the auto maintenance schedules for every vehicle - so they can help Corvallis drivers know when to take care of needed services. Below is a typical definition for severe service.
Most trips are less than four miles/six and a half kilometers
Most trips are less than 10 miles/16 km and outside temperatures are below freezing
You drive regularly in very hot Oregon weather
The engine is at low speed most of the time (not on the freeway)
Stop and go driving
You drive in in dusty or muddy conditions
You routinely tow a trailer, haul heavy loads or carry a car-top carrier around Corvallis
It's common sense for Corvallis drivers: Just a few minutes at higher speeds allows the moisture in the oil to evaporate. Very short trips, or trips of less than 10 miles when it's very cold, don't allow the engine to heat up enough to get rid of the water. And water in the oil leads to damaging sludge. Also, towing and heavy loads raise operating temperatures and cause fluids to break down faster. Dusty and muddy driving around Corvallis means that more dirt will get past the air filter to contaminate the fuel system and engine oil.
The bottom line is that you need to decide for yourself if the regular or severe service schedule is right for you, based on your driving habits. Look at your owner's manual or talk with your Clayton's Auto Service service advisor who can help you know which schedule to follow.
Here is what a fleet manager said recently: "Since city miles are generally tougher on vehicles than highway miles, we use the manufacturer's severe service schedule as the basis for our preventative maintenance program. We massage those schedules over time, increasing or decreasing the service intervals so that they make the most sense. There is a little bit of art to go along with the science."
Make an honest evaluation of your driving habits. Unless you do mostly Oregon highway driving in moderate weather, you'll likely have a fairly good amount of severe service mixed in. Some Corvallis drivers just want to play it safe and follow the severe service recommendations, rather than analyzing how they drive each month.
Ask us for help evaluating your driving and service needs.
When autumn comes around in Corvallis, leaves fall, nights get longer and there's a definite nip in the air. Time to unpack the boots and gloves and fold some extra blankets onto the beds. It's also time for Corvallis drivers to winterize their vehicles.
Here is some expert auto advice for Corvallis drivers on what vehicles need to keep everyone safe and rolling throughout the Oregon winter months.
1. Check your antifreeze. Top it off or change it if necessary. You don't want your radiator, engine or hoses freezing up. If your vehicle isn't generating enough heat to keep you warm, your antifreeze might be low, or you might have a thermostat problem. Either way, you should get it checked out before the full force of Oregon winter sets in. If you are due for a cooling system service at Clayton's Auto Service in Corvallis, get that done as well.
2. Check your brakes. The slushy wet conditions of winter increase stopping distances. Ice exacerbates the problem. Your first concern, of course, is to make sure you adapt your driving habits to winter weather: slow down, and give yourself plenty of room to stop. Get your brakes checked at Clayton's Auto Service and replace any worn pads or other parts. Check your brake fluid. It can accumulate moisture and decrease your stopping power.
3. Test your battery. A battery's cranking power drops in the cold, so if your battery is already weak, the onset of winter will do it in. The last thing you want is to be on a snowy Oregon road in the dark and cold with a dead battery.
4. Pack emergency supplies. Toss a blanket into the trunk. If you do find yourself stranded, your first concern will be to stay warm. If you're traveling away from Oregon population centers, then pack some emergency food and water as well. Also, it's a good idea to top off your tank in winter. That way, if you get stuck, you'll have some fuel to burn to stay warm, and it'll keep your gas lines from freezing up.
5. Check your wiper blades. They may be able to handle a light Corvallis summer rain shower, but they might not be up to the ice and snow that collect on a windshield in winter. If you experience particularly harsh winters or really wet ones, you can purchase special blades that resist freezing. And don't forget to top off your wiper fluid.
6. Check your tires. Tires lose pressure over time, but they lose pressure fast when it's cold outside in Corvallis. Tires lose about one pound of pressure every six to eight weeks; they also lose one pound of pressure for every 10°F/5.6°C drop in temperature. If the last time you checked your tires it was 80°F/26.7°C outside and it's 40°F/4.4°C now, your tires could be down five pounds in pressure — and that's serious. It's a safety issue and cuts down on your fuel economy.
7. Driving conditions in the Corvallis area may warrant special winter tires. Check with your friendly and knowledgeable Clayton's Auto Service tire professional to get the right tires for your area and for your driving habits. If you are getting winter tires, it's always best to get them for all four wheels. But if you're only going to get two, put them on the rear wheels, even if you drive a front-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle. Traction is more important on the rear of a vehicle if you want to prevent sliding or fish-tailing on slick surfaces.
So there you have it: a quick checklist to winterize your car in Oregon. When it comes to car care, preventive maintenance is always the best practice for Corvallis drivers, especially when it comes to winter weather. None of us want to be caught out in the winter cold.
Today's Clayton's Auto Service article focuses on severe service maintenance. Many Corvallis drivers are not aware of them and yet there are also very vocal advocates in Oregon who think that severe service schedules apply to everyone. Somewhere between a complete lack of awareness and the dire blanket statements lies a reasonable approach to severe service maintenance at Clayton's Auto Service.
To back up a little, vehicle owner's manuals have schedules for preventive maintenance: things like oil changes, transmission service and so on. They say you should change your oil after a certain distanced traveled or after so many months. Corvallis drivers understand this very well. What they may not know is that there are actually two service schedules: the regular schedule and the severe service schedule. The mileage and time intervals are lower on the severe service schedule.
Now when you hear 'severe service,' you may think it doesn't apply to you because you don't feel your driving conditions are severe or extreme – it's just normal everyday driving in the Corvallis area. So let's list some of the conditions that classify as severe so that you can make the judgment on your own driving.
Before we start the list, here's a point of contrast that definitely is not severe driving. Driving down your nearest Oregon interstate at the highway speed limit on a 75 degree F/24 degree C day loaded only with your passengers. This is an easy trip for your vehicle: your engine is loafing along at low RPMs, no heavy loads to pull and moderate Corvallis temperatures. Now let's look at some severe service driving conditions.
Most trips around Corvallis are less than four miles/six and a half kilometers. When your vehicle engine cools down, moisture condenses in the engine. This water in the oil doesn't get a chance to evaporate on short trips because the oil doesn't get hot enough. A lot of short trips in your vehicle means a lot of water build up. And water in the oil leads to the creation of sludge which can damage the engine. Changing the oil more frequently keeps sludge from building up. By contrast, highway driving warms the engine up and gets the water burned off.
Here's another example. Most trips around Corvallis are less than 10 miles/16 km and outside temperatures are below freezing. This is the same reasoning, but in very cold Oregon weather it takes even longer for the oil to get hot enough to evaporate the water, hence 10 miles/16 km as opposed to 4 miles/6.4 km.
Next, you drive in very hot Oregon weather. The hotter it is outside, the more cooling the engine, transmission, brake fluid and so on becomes. The environment in which the fluids reside is more hostile, and the fluids simply break down faster. Therefore, the lower change interval.
Another: driving at low speed most of the time. Every vehicle engine has what's called its power band. This is a range of RPMs in which it's most efficient. Low speed driving doesn't keep the engine in its power band so it's working harder. This is one of the reasons that ratings are worse in downtown than on the highway.
Stop and go driving in Corvallis is another severe service condition. You're always accelerating, which works the vehicle engine and transmission harder. Then you're stopping, which works the brake fluid harder, causing it to get very hot. Highway driving, on the other hand, requires far less horsepower to maintain its speed than getting a stationary vehicle from a stop light up to 25 mph/40 kph. A lot of this and you'll need to follow the severe service schedule.
Also on the list is operating your vehicle in dusty, polluted or muddy conditions. Obviously, your engine air filter and cabin air will get dirty faster and need to be changed more frequently as will your breather element. Some of this dust and dirt will make its way into your fluids. They will simple get dirty faster and won't protect the components as well as fresh fluids.
Finally, you're driving under severe conditions in Corvallis when you tow a trailer, regularly carry heavy loads or carry a car-top carrier. This is pretty obvious. You'll spend more time in lower gears so the engine and transmission work much harder and create more heat. Brakes will be more stressed stopping the heavier loads.
Sounds like most of us in Corvallis operate under severe driving conditions at least some of the time. How can Corvallis drivers know which schedule to follow?
Think of it as a spectrum with "always driving under severe conditions" on one end and "never driving under severe conditions" on the other end. Some will be at one extreme or the other, but most of us will fall somewhere in between.
Carefully think about your driving conditions and decide if you should do your preventive maintenance closer to the severe service recommendation or the regular recommendation. Of course, your Clayton's Auto Service service advisor can help you with your decision.
Many Corvallis car owners have probably wondered: "What's the harm in putting off replacing an engine air filter? The answer is that not replacing it could cause your Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor to fail. This expensive sensor is situated between your engine air filter and your engine. Dirty air filters are a leading cause of massair flow sensorfailure – and these babies can cost several hundred dollars to replace in Corvallis.
Change your vehicle air filter at Clayton's Auto Service when it's dirty. Your vehicle engine will thank you.