What is synthetic oil and should I use it?
Mira Mesa Automotive Answer:
Regular oil, also called conventional oil, comes from dead dinosaurs. Conventional oil molecules are long hydrocarbon chains of various lengths. Imagine a bunch of pencils – some used and some brand new. Synthetic oil is often more highly refined petroleum-based oil. The molecules are shorter and closer to the same length. Think a bunch of those little golf pencils.
Some synthetic oil is man-made. The molecules are rounder and much more uniform. Think marbles. So you can see that as you progress from conventional oil to synthetic blends (a mixture of conventional and synthetic) to full synthetic oil, there will be less friction in your engine. Less friction means less heat – so better lubrication and protection against wear for San Diego drivers. Synthetic blends and full synthetics also cost more.
Synthetic oil is more resistant to thermal breakdown so less sludge (which can clog passages and really lead to damage).
So what should San Diego drivers use? Well, it’s use at least what your or friendly and knowledgeable Mira Mesa Automotive service advisor recommends. So if your vehicle came from the factory with conventional oil you could choose any type. If it came with a synthetic blend – always use a synthetic blend or upgrade to full synthetic. If it came with full synthetic – that’s what you need to use.
San Diego drivers should always follow their ‘s recommended oil change intervals. And if you want some extra engine protection, consider upgrading to a synthetic oil.
Your radiator hoses carry coolant between your engine and radiator. It’s an important job. If a hose fails, you could lose your engine coolant which might lead to overheating and very expensive engine damage so you want to make sure you always have good hoses.
Radiator hoses are very resilient, but they are subject to very harsh conditions. Think about it, the temperature might be below freezing when you start your engine and the coolant could be up over 100 degrees Fahrenheit within a mile. These extreme internal temperature fluctuations contribute to hose degradation from the inside. Oil splashing on the outside of a hose will cause the hose material to soften over time.
Ozone can also eat away at the hose. The bottom line is that hoses don’t last forever and will need to be replaced.
If you see steam coming from under your hood, you probably have a cooling system leak somewhere. Other signs are puddles of coolant under the vehicle, bulges in the radiator hose, cracks or a spongy feel. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, have your cooling system inspected.
If you have any cooling system repairs, like a water pump replacement, hose replacement or radiator repair, it is also a good idea to have your hoses replaced at the same time along with the radiator pressure cap. It is very important that the coolant be serviced when you replace a radiator or water pump so that there are plenty of anti-corrosion additives in the coolant to coat and protect the new parts that have been installed. Simply reusing the old coolant can lead to rapid corrosion of the newly installed parts.
The most common reason for engine failure is a failed cooling system. Ask your service advisor at Mira Mesa Automotive if it’s time for a cooling system inspection or service. You can eliminate potentially disastrous damage with proper cooling system maintenance.
Mira Mesa Automotive Answer:
When I was a kid in San Diego, Sunday meant having a bath, getting dressed for church and then hanging up my Sunday clothes soon as we got home. Mom didn’t have to wash those clothes but once a month or so. Now, Saturdays were another story entirely: catching lizards, splash contests in mud puddles and crawling through the brush with GI Joe. Those clothes went straight into the laundry basket. My Sunday clothes – easy use. My Saturday clothes – hard use. They required a different laundry schedule. Severe service maintenance schedules are kind of like that for San Diego drivers. “Normal” driving has a regular schedule; “hard” driving has a severe service schedule. Service intervals are shorter on the severe schedule.
Most owner’s manuals will describe severe service as:
Stop and go driving
Low speed driving
Extreme hot or cold
Carrying heavy loads
For most people in San Diego, some “severe” driving is part of their everyday routine. You can your friendly and knowledgeable service advisor at Mira Mesa Automotive about how you drive around the san diego area and see if your routine is closer to the regular or severe definitions and adjust your service intervals for things like oil changes, transmission and cooling system service.
Many people hear the term “Oxygen Sensor” and figure it must have something to do with sensing oxygen, but don’t really know much beyond that. Let’s break it down: your vehicle has an oxygen sensor in the exhaust manifold that measures how much unburned oxygen there is in the exhaust. The sensor reports its findings to the engine control unit (ECU), which knows how much oxygen there should be in the exhaust. Based on that information, the ECU will adjust the amount of fuel it sends to the engine.
This feedback and adjustment loop is non-stop. The goal is to have the optimal air to fuel ratio for performance, efficiency and to lower harmful emissions.
Now there is a second located in the exhaust pipe after the catalytic converter. It too measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust after it has been treated by the catalytic converter. As this measurement is reported back to the ECU, the computer compares the oxygen levels before and after the catalytic converter to determine if the converter is still functioning properly.
So, 4-cylinder vehicles have two oxygen sensors. V-6 and V-8 engines have four sensors, two for each bank of cylinders. As you can imagine, the oxygen sensor lives and functions in a pretty hot environment so they do wear out over time. Substances in the exhaust can also damage them leading to failure. Outside elements like water and road salt can corrode an oxygen sensor. When the sensor goes bad it simply needs to be replaced.
You may be interested to know that oxygen sensors are often replaced needlessly. When the oxygen sensor returns a measurement that is out of the specified range, it may trigger a trouble code in the ECU and the Check Engine Light is illuminated. Inexperienced do-it-yourselfers or parts store employees may read a trouble code that reports an out of range sensor reading. That could mean that the sensor is bad, but it could also mean that the sensor is accurately reporting a condition caused by some other malfunction. A skilled diagnostician can sort this out and will only replace the oxygen sensor when it has truly gone bad.
When you have a Check Engine Light come on and stay on, it’s good advice to have it checked out by a qualified service technician at Mira Mesa Automotive. The cause may be minor or quite significant, so it’s best to play it safe and let the professionals weigh in.
Today’s Mira Mesa Automotive post contains a quick overview of the fuel system. It starts with the fuel tank. The fuel pump is located inside the tank and pumps fuel out to the engine. Somewhere along the way is a fuel filter whose job is to filter out dirt before it hits the engine.
Then there’s the fuel intake system and the fuel injectors that deliver the fuel to be burned in the engine. Our focus is to discuss how to make the various components of your fuel system work well and last as long as possible. Now the best thing you can do for your fuel pump is to use good quality fuel. Top tier San Diego gas typically has fewer contaminants and more detergents to keep things clean. Using good gas, or adding a fuel system cleaner to your tank, can prolong the life of your fuel pump. Because the fuel pump lives inside your tank, it’s pretty expensive to replace, so helping it last as long as possible is a worthwhile goal.
The fuel filter catches dirt and contaminants. When it’s clogged, your vehicle engine may not be able to get enough fuel and could sputter. Many fuel filters have a bypass valve that allows unfiltered fuel past when the filter’s clogged. That prevents your engine from dying while you’re driving around San Diego, but it can’t protect your engine from dirty fuel. Check your owner’s manual or talk with your friendly and knowledgeable Mira Mesa Automotive about when you should replace your fuel filter.
Now fuel will cause gum and varnish to build up in the fuel intake system. A professional fuel system cleaning at Mira Mesa Automotive will remove the gunk to keep fuel flowing freely and help prevent contamination from reaching your fuel injectors and your engine. Fuel injectors squirt fuel into the engine. The fuel must be delivered in a precise amount, at a precise time, under precise pressure and in a precise pattern. Pressure can range from 45 pounds per square inch to 45,000 pounds per square inch depending on the engine.
As you may guess, fuel injectors cost a lot in the san diego area. Allowing them to get gummed up will not only hurt your performance and , it will cause the injectors to wear out much more quickly than they should.
A professional Mira Mesa Automotive fuel system cleaning will keep injectors clean and working correctly. It’ll also clean deposits from the inside of the combustion chamber and off the intake valves giving you optimum performance and mileage. Check with your friendly and knowledgeable Mira Mesa Automotive and see when he recommends you get a fuel system cleaning.
San Diego drivers can make their vehicle tires last longer with regular tire rotation and wheel balancing.
Let’s start with tire rotation. In normal driving around San Diego, CA, your front tires wear more on the shoulders because they handle much of the cornering forces in turns. Front-wheel drive vehicles have even more force on the front tires.
At Mira Mesa Automotive in San Diego, we rotate the tires so that all of the tires do some duty on the front end as well as getting a little break on the back end. That way, all four tires wear more evenly over their life and last longer for San Diego car owners.
For most vehicles in San Diego, CA, tires are rotated front to back. Some recommend a cross rotational pattern that includes the spare tire, and some high-performance vehicles have different size tires on the front and rear and may even have uni-directional tires that can only be on the left or the right side of the vehicle. Your friendly and knowledgeable Mira Mesa Automotive can help you sort that out and will perform the right tire rotation for your vehicle.
Your CA tire manufacturer will have a recommendation for how often you should rotate your tires.
Let’s move on to wheel balancing. That’s when there are heavy spots on the tire and wheel that cause it to wobble.
Balancing adds weights to the wheel to balance it out. Now, we are talking about very small weight differences. Variations in the tire and wheel manufacture can cause a slight imbalance. The valve stem, and now the tire pressure monitoring sensors in the tire, also play into the equation.
Even small differences can cause annoying vibrations at speed for San Diego drivers: the wheel is essentially bouncing a bit as it goes down the road. For example, at San Diego speeds, an out of balance wheel can be slamming into the road 14 times a second. That’s annoying and can cause tires to wear out more quickly for San Diego drivers.
If a front wheel’s out of balance you’ll feel the vibration through the steering wheel. When it’s a rear tire, you’ll feel the vibration through your seat. If you’re getting bad vibes from your vehicle, bring it in to Mira Mesa Automotive to see if it’s a balance issue or something else. San Diego drivers should balance the wheels whenever they get a new tire or remount a tire like when it’s been removed for a flat repair.
There are some things Mira Mesa Automotive customers should know about automotive service and repair. First and foremost, Mira Mesa Automotive cares about you and your family’s safety. And they really appreciate your business. Mira Mesa Automotive wants to build a trusting relationship that becomes the foundation for a mutually beneficial experience for years to come.
Building on that foundation, there are some things that would help you understand the auto service and repair business better. First, it can be really hard to fix cars. The days of shade tree mechanics in are long gone. The majority of automotive systems are computerized. It takes a lot of training and very expensive equipment to diagnose and repair modern vehicles.
The technicians that work at Mira Mesa Automotive need extensive computer training – not just how to run the diagnostic systems, but also searching for the right parts, networking with other technicians to help them with a difficult problem and pulling together a job order that makes sure that each step of the process is addressed.
The threshold for getting started as a technician gets higher all the time and there is a huge commitment to on-going training every year. This training takes time and money. It contributes to business overhead. The average driver may not realize the business and environmental regulations Mira Mesa Automotive must comply with. Of course that costs money too. Like any business, overhead is a big factor.
When you go into your favorite restaurant, you don’t value the meal by what the food would cost at the grocery store. The restaurant has rent, wages, insurance, taxes, utilities, professional fees, equipment, supplies – you get the picture. The restaurant has to charge enough to not only pay for the ingredients, but for all these other things as well while making enough profit to remain in business. If you value the meal and are satisfied with your dining experience, you’ll come back and tell your friends.
It’s the same for Mira Mesa Automotive. The value of its service is not the cost of the parts they replace, but in your satisfaction with the results. If they deliver a good product at a fair price, customers are happy to see them succeed as a business.
Your team at Mira Mesa Automotive loves to see customers whenever they come in, but they would much rather see them three or four times a year for routine maintenance than once a year on a tow truck. They want to work together with you to avoid breakdowns.
Tell your friends and family to go into Mira Mesa Automotive for their scheduled maintenance too. That lowers Mira Mesa Automotive’s marketing costs and helps keep its labor rates down. That’s good for everyone.
When all of your vehicle’s wheels are lined up exactly with each other, your wheels are in alignment. Hitting a road hazard in or even just the normal bumps and bounces of everyday driving in can cause your wheels to be out of alignment. This can lead to premature tire and suspension wear.
Here are some wheel alignment basics:
The first angle is called toe: do the wheels point in towards each other or away from each other at the front of the tire.
The next angle is called camber: do the wheels tip in or out at the top.
And finally, there is castor. Castor measures the angle where the front axles attach to the vehicle.
The ideal alignment for your vehicle was designed by its engineers. Wheel Alignment at Mira Mesa Automotive starts with an inspection of the steering and suspension – so see if anything’s bent, broken or worn out. Then the friendly and knowledgeable Mira Mesa Automotive technician will look at tire condition.
From there, the vehicle is put on an alignment rack and an initial alignment reading is taken. The wheels are then aligned to the proper specifications.
Your vehicle’s owner’s manual probably has a recommendation for how often your alignment should be checked – usually every couple of years. If you suspect an alignment problem, get it checked at Mira Mesa Automotive in before you suffer tire or suspension damage.
Mira Mesa Automotive Answer:
It means that one or more of your tires has low air pressure. The dashboard warning light, which looks like a cross-section of a tire with some lines in it, comes on when the tire pressure is 20% below what the recommends. So if your recommendation is for 35 psi (pounds per square inch), the light will come on when your pressure falls to 28 psi.
It’s to note that 20% below recommended pressure is significantly under-inflated. This means that you will be experiencing degraded handling and that your tire will be running hotter than it should. This can not only be a safety hazard, but your tires will wear prematurely and could even suffer a heat related failure.
Drivers should not use their Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) warning light as their trigger for checking their tire pressure. They should still check their tire pressure at least once a month.
Some drivers mistake the tire pressure printed on the side of the tire as the recommended pressure for the vehicle. This is not the case. The information on the tire is the range the tire can handle. The correct pressure for your vehicle is on a plate or sticker on the driver’s side door or door jamb. This is the pressure your tires should have to match the engineered handling capacity of your vehicle. Please note that the pressure may be different for your front and rear tires.
You TPMS does not have a regularly scheduled maintenance interval. However, be aware that the batteries in the sensors mounted in each wheel will eventually die, illuminating the warning light and necessitating replacing the sensor. Sensors can also be damaged by road salt and other contaminants.
Some TPMS systems indicate tire pressures for individual wheels which will tell drivers which tire is low – as long as the system has been reset after rotating the tires. Other systems will simply give a warning and it is up to you to check all your tires (including the spare). For more information, your friendly and knowledgeable Mira Mesa Automotive service advisor.
The government mandated TPMS systems to reduce tire-related accidents, property damage, injuries and deaths. The automotive professionals at Mira Mesa Automotive in recommend that you have your tire pressure checked at least once a month to maintain your safety and increase tire life.
In San Diego, we know we need to take care of our cars, but it just seems really hard to remember to do it. We generally accept that many things in life require regular
maintenance, but just may have not applied it to our vehicles.
For example, we water and mow the lawn every week. And weed the flower beds and rake the leaves. We go to our San Diego dentist twice a year, take our clothes to the dry cleaner. Flu shots. Taking the kids for a checkup before school starts.
So CA people really are maintenance minded. They just have to learn to apply that mindset to their vehicles. I mean, if you never brush your teeth or go to the dentist, you’ll become painfully aware of your neglect when you get a big cavity. Once the damage is done, we learn our lesson and start to take better care of things. Unfortunately, San Diego drivers too often learn the hard automotive lesson when they have to bring their auto to their San Diego auto center on a tow truck. So many times, a little routine maintenance would have prevented a breakdown. Here’s something that will help: The key to good vehicle maintenance starts with the oil change. Think about it – when you go in for a full service oil change in San Diego, your tech will check all your fluids. If one of them is low, he can look for the reason why.
At Mira Mesa Automotive, if your serpentine belt is worn, we’ll see it and let you know. Corroded battery cable – we’ve got you covered. All of this takes a trained and experienced eye – more than you find at a quick lube center in CA. And we’ll check to see if your auto manufacturer has recommended any services at your current mileage. So when you come in for an oil change at Mira Mesa Automotive, you get a visual inspection and a reminder for recommended services so you can avoid a total failure. And remember that your friendly Mira Mesa Automotive service advisor can help you work out a maintenance and repair plan, prioritizing and scheduling the work to make sure you and your family are safe, and avoid expensive breakdowns.