This has definitely been the summer from hell based on the amount of overheating damage we have witnessed in our shops. In just this past month we have seen no less than six, multi thousand dollar head gasket failures directly caused by overheating the engine.
The sad truth is that every one of these was preventable. Poor folks driving these cars just did not understand enough about how their vehicle functioned or what exactly was happening to prevent further damage.
In most cases it was some minor cooling system failure like a hose or water pump that failed but the customer continued driving and then the head gasket blew.
So what is a head gasket?
Glad you asked…
This gasket separates the top of the engine where the valves are from the bottom of the engine where the pistons are. When the head gets too hot it warps and sometimes cracks.
As you can see here this is a major repair taking multiple days and thousands of dollars.
Here is how to prevent this…
Have your cooling system flushed every 30k miles. If your coolant is asked to go farther than this it turns acidic and literally eats holes in not just the gasket but every other part of the cooling system jacket.
- While driving pay attention to what your car is telling you. If you have a temperature gauge watch it and know how to interpret what it is telling you. Anything over 230 degrees Fahrenheit is TOO HOT.
- Finally, abnormal behavior for your car. Most commonly the Air Conditioner suddenly starts blowing hot air. If this happens immediately pull over and start looking for why. Your AC system is designed to take itself off line in the event that the temperature of the engine gets too high. This is a damage protection system is in most cars built in the last quarter century.
- Other abnormal behavior may be strange noises or possibly steam from the engine compartment. Also some cars just have a light. Normally red in color and looks like a thermometer. If it is blowing thick white smoke out the tail pipe it is already too late in most cases.
Following these suggestions can save you and your car a lot of headaches.
While we are in the business of repairing and maintaining your car, I just like your doctor, am trying to give you the longest trouble free life I can. Understanding how it all works and when you are in trouble is the first step.
Well they are if you are like most people and have a bunch of keys, key tags and other stuff hanging off of your vehicle’s ignition key. Yes, having anything other than just the ignition key in the key slot on your dash or steering column can and will cost you big time, later.
Take that big wad of keys for just a moment and hold them by the ignition key. Feel the weight. That weight is causing your key to wear out the ignition lock cylinder in the dash or steering column.
Think of a teeter totter or any lever and you can quickly see how all that weight could easily place extra force where it is not welcome.
Yes, the ignition key can be re coded to fit the original key. Only problem is that the key itself is usually worn out and can cause other issues. I usually recommend the new key option. Cheaper for the customer and better for your car.
Next time you see a big wad of keys, help the person out and tell them about what you read here. You could be a real hero.
We all have whipped into a parking lot, late for something or other, let the front tires hit the barrier and hop out. Of course, later when we return and back up, we hear the grinding of the parking stop on the bottom of the car. I am seeing more and more damage these days from something as simple as parking.
Cars are getting lower all the time for aerodynamic reasons. The lower the car is the less chance of air creating a cushion underneath and causing a floating sensation when driving. Anybody remember the boats we used to drive in the 70s? Get them above 50 or 60 mph and the front wheels would not even touch the road.
Another reason for controlling the passage of air around, over and under the car is for engine and transmission cooling purposes. You may be surprised just how much science has gone into that little piece of plastic or rubber under the engine. Air flow is a critical component with today’s lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles.
Today we have front air dams, front spoilers, and other body parts that almost scrape the road. And recently, I have been seeing damage to the bottoms of radiators, air conditioning lines, electrical components and sensors, oil pans, transmission cooler lines, just a whole raft of ruined components, from these wheel stop barriers and other items that we used to be able to ignore.
Here are a couple of tips to avoid costly repairs:
- Always back into a parking space. There is very little chance of damaging anything back there and there is a very real safety benefit to parking backwards. According to the NTSB (National Traffic and Safety Board) 92.7% of all low speed accidents happen in parking lots when folks are backing up. The numbers of injured children every month from cars backing over them are nothing short of staggering. All of this could be avoided if you park such that you all always go forward when leaving.
- Then driving along, always go around instead of over debris in the road. I know, it sometimes is unavoidable, but if you can go around something it is better. It may look like an empty box or bag but more and more this debris really fouls things up. Or worse, it isn’t empty at all. A brick or some other hard something can really tear things up when travelling at highway speeds.
Now of course, if you drive a truck or SUV, this whole article may seem a little silly (except the part about backing over kids). Still, these are good habits to get into. A great deal of driving and parking is done on auto pilot these days. What with cell phones, meetings, deadlines, stereos, kids and God knows what other distractions these days, should you find yourself in a rental car or someone else’s car, that autopilot SUV driving might really cost you.