What is Engine Displacement?

When talking about cars, you may have heard a few random numbers thrown around in reference to the engine. From 2.0 to 3.6, to 4.3, these numbers can be confusing for the uninitiated but have crucial meaning for owners and mechanics alike. While these single-digit numbers with decimals refer to liters, it’s common to see CCs (cubic centimeters) or even cubic inches as measurements for the same metric. 

What Does it Mean?

All these numbers refer to the displacement of the engine, which is essentially the amount of space within the engine block used for combustion. Engine displacement is a huge deal, as it not only relates to the physical size of the engine within your vehicle’s engine bay, but also affects the power output, torque output, and fuel efficiency of the vehicle. 

Most vehicles will list their displacement in liters (i.e. 3.0L), while cubic centimeters are often used for small engines on bikes (i.e. 1000CC), and cubic inches became the norm in the early American automotive scene (i.e. Chysler’s 440 V8, 440 being the displacement in cubic inches). Nowadays, car and truck engine displacement is almost exclusively described in liters.

Audi 4.2 Liter V8 engine

Does Bigger Mean Better?

While many think the displacement number directly decides the power of the engine (bigger = better), that idea often falls short in practice in modern vehicles. The advent of turbochargers and other forms of forced induction becoming the “next big thing” in everything from grocery-getters to supercars has allowed smaller displacement engines to fight with their bigger counterparts in terms of power output and put them to shame in the efficiency department. 

The reason for this confusion comes from older vehicles, where in an oversimplified way, bigger engines meant larger combustions which meant more power. The increased size of the combustion chambers meant more air and fuel could be introduced, resulting in more powerful engines. While modern large V8s are still famous for their huge power outputs and displacement numbers upwards of 5 or 6 liters, the more efficiently designed smaller engines of modern vehicles with forced induction means that the benefits of huge engines are somewhat diminished, especially with their gas-guzzling tendencies. 

The common trope of “there’s no replacement for displacement” is one that came from the history of inefficient large engines being the only choice for those looking to go fast, but holds much less true today with modern engine designs. In 2019, Mercedes-Benz’s M139 set the record for the most powerful production four-cylinder engine at 416 horsepower. This new generation of potent undersized engines has changed the narrative on the necessity of large displacement in high-performance vehicles. 

Why Do Engines Have Different Displacements?

The most common type of engine, the inline-4, is found in everything from small econoboxes to large family SUVs and sports cars these days. These engines only use 4 cylinders, and in turn, require much less space to fit, weigh significantly less, and have lower displacement numbers. These engines are generally considered the least powerful and most fuel-efficient of the common engine configurations, but recent innovations have made them some of the most popular platforms with turbochargers and more efficient designs. 

Inline 6 engine block
160SX, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Larger engines like V6s, I6s, and V8s have more cylinders, which means larger displacements. Often these engines are used for high-performance vehicles, heavier vehicles, or ones that require large towing capacity. 

Increasing displacement used to be an easy way for manufacturers to increase the power of a motor, but as emissions restrictions and gas prices have increased, so has the demand for performance vehicles built on small-engine platforms. That said, high-displacement sports cars are still available such as the Dodge Challenger/Charger and Ford Mustang in their V8 trims, for those looking for some old-school power and noise. 

Engine Service at Matson Point S

If you’re looking for quality engine services in the Salt Lake Valley, the ASE-certified technicians at Matson Point S have you covered! Our team has extensive experience working on all makes and models. Call or schedule online today.

How Long Do Brake Rotors Last?

Most car brakes are made up of three major components. The brake pads are responsible for creating friction that allows your vehicle to stop. The pads are held within the brake caliper, which uses hydraulic brake fluid to press the pads against the final component, the rotors. Your brake rotors are the discs that spin with your wheels and allow the friction between them and the pads to slow the whole vehicle down. 

While all three of these components (pads, rotors, and calipers) need replacement eventually, pads and rotors specifically have important service intervals due to the nature of how they work. 

Why do Brake Rotors Need Replacement? 

With this constant friction coming at the expense of a small amount of both pad and rotor material, rotors start to lose their effectiveness over long periods of usage. 

Brake rotors last a surprising amount of time in spite of how they operate, but eventually, they will need replacement eventually.

Worn and rusted brake rotor
Maly LOLek, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

How Often Should I Replace My Rotors?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to brake rotor replacement intervals, as it varies on a range of factors.

One of the most important is how the brakes have been used over their lifespan. Those that brake later and more aggressively will find their brake rotors losing stopping power earlier, while those that brake slowly and gradually (or just drive less in general) will be able to use theirs for a longer period of time. 

Another major factor is the brand and type of brake setup itself. Higher-priced or OEM-quality replacements will often last much longer than their cheap counterparts. This is especially true of performance options such as carbon-ceramic, which will see increased stopping power and lifespan along with their high price tag. 

However, we do have a range of when you should be keeping an eye on the performance of your rotors as well as visually inspecting them from time to time. Most rotors will need to be replaced within 30,000-70,000 miles, dependent on the above factors.

The easiest way to know when its time for a brake job is mechanic recommendations. A trusted mechanic or dealer will often know when your brakes are past their prime and you should start considering a replacement. 

Rotors and Pads or Just Rotors?

While it can be tempting to save the cash and just get a rotor or pad replacement by themselves, getting them done concurrently can provide benefits. Getting both new pads and rotors means that your rotors will not be warped or grooved by new pads, and will in turn last longer. 

Brake shoe
Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

How to Know When I Need New Rotors?

Besides a mechanic recommendation, there are a few common signs of old rotors that you should be aware of. These symptoms often mean the rotor is grooved or warped, and will only be worsened by new pads without replacement.

  • Vibrations when brakings
  • Squealing noise when braking
  • Pulsations from brake pedal
  • Visible scratches or corrosion
  • Smell of overheated brakes

Brake Service at Matson Point S

If your vehicle is in need of a brake service, trust it to Matson Point S in Riverton, Utah. Our friendly service advisors will help you find the right replacements for your vehicle, and our ASE-certified technicians will install them so you can have peace of mind in the safety of your brakes!

Call or schedule online with us today!

Do Diesels Have Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters have become a household name for their price and importance to the environment, but do diesel vehicles still utilize this technology despite their differences to traditional gasoline engines?

What Are Catalytic Converters?

Catalytic converters are exhaust devices that use a honeycomb-patterned metal component plated in catalyst material (rhodium, platinum, palladium), and are responsible for removing harmful pollutants from exhaust gasses. 

These catalyst materials engage in a chemical reaction with the emissions that removed harmful gasses before they reach the outside air. 

Cross section of catalytic converter
User Stahlkocher on de.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Are Catalytic Converters Used on Trucks?

Since 1975, the United States has required the use of catalytic converters in gasoline engines to reduce the number of harmful emissions. 

Diesel engines on the other hand burn a different type of fuel and operate in a different way, so most diesel vehicles did not use to utilize catalytic converters and avoided regulation from the government following 1975. 

Come the 1990s, however, and manufacturers and government entities alike started to realize that catalytic converters were also important in diesel vehicles. Since then, the vast majority of diesel vehicles have utilized catalytic converters in their exhaust systems.

Gasoline vs. Diesel Catalytic Converters

While they serve the same purpose, catalytic converters used in diesels are different than their gasoline counterparts. Since gas and diesel are different fuel sources and are ignited in different ways, they let off a different mix of gasses.

Emissions from diesel engines are higher in levels of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, while also exiting the engine at a higher temperature. 

So not only do diesel catalytic converters use a variation of the part found in most cars called a diesel oxidation catalyst, but their exhaust systems also use diesel particulate filters (DPFs) to catch particulate matter (better known as soot).

The vast majority of modern diesel engines also use Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and require the use of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). DEF is a solution of urea and water used to neutralize nitrogen oxides. 

The Wrap Up

So, the answer to the question of if diesels have catalytic converters, the answer is yes in most cases. As we become more vigilant of our carbon footprints, it would be hard to find a modern diesel vehicle that doesn’t utilize some version of emissions reduction.

Diesel catalytic converters still use the precious metals that make their gasoline counterparts so prone to being stolen, so you should keep an eye on yours. 

If you’re worried about your diesel vehicle’s emissions system, bring it to the experts at Matson Point S in Riverton. Our team will inspect and repair your vehicle with the highest level of service!

Is Driving on Bad Ball Joints Safe?

Ball joints are an easy component to forget. They don’t often need service, and owners can go the entire length of ownership without once needing to have them replaced. Despite this, ball joints are an essential part of your suspension setup, and allow for your vehicle to stay comfortable and under control.

What is a Ball Joint?

The ball joint is a spherical bearing located on the control arm. It allows for both up-and-down as well as side-to-side movement. This ability to freely move allows for bumps and dips to be absorbed, which keeps the ride smooth and comfortable.

Why Do Ball Joints Fail?

Over years of use and abuse, the soft rubber ball joints will begin to tear and become weak. With each speedbump and pothole, the ball joins takes the brunt of the impact, and absorbs the energy. While built to last, ball joints eventually wear like any other component on a vehicle. 

Symptoms of a Bad Ball Joint

  • Clunking noise when driving over dip or bump
  • Rough ride
  • Loose and wandering steering
  • Heavy vibrations 
  • Unusual noises when taking turns

Can I Drive With a Bad Ball Joint?

Because a faulty ball joint doesn’t stop the vehicle from functioning, many people either ignore the issue or fail to notice it at all. Although there’s no way to predict when the ball joint will fail entirely, it should be inspected at the first sign of any symptoms.

Without proper control of the vehicle, drivers may find themselves in very unsafe situations. Failing or faulty ball joints can cause the vehicle to react harshly to uneven road surfaces and cause a change in direction. 

In the most serious cases, where the ball joint completely fails, it can result in the wheel entirely falling off the vehicle and the driver losing any and all control.

wheel that has fallen off car due to ball joint failure
Elfix, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

So while the car will drive, that doesn’t mean you should. You should have your suspension inspected and serviced immediately to avoid the problem worsening a potentially causing an unsafe situation. 

How Often Do Ball Joints Need to be Replaced?

The answer as to how long ball joints last has no one answer, but the general rule of thumb is that 75,000-100,000 miles is the usual range for their lifespan. It depends on a variety of factors, such as make/model, vehicle age, and how it’s been driven over time.

Suspension Service at Matson Point S

If you’re experiencing any suspension issues, the experts at Matson Point S in Riverton, Utah are your premier destination for service in the Salt Lake Valley! Call or schedule an appointment online with us today!

Five of the Best Off-Road Trails in Utah

With the winter coming to a close and the temperatures rising, it’s time to take that 4×4 out for a spin again! Utah has some of the most scenic and challenging off-road trails in all of North America, which can make for some amazing experiences.

In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the state’s best trails that you should mark down on your bucket list. Whether you’re driving a Jeep, Bronco, 4Runner, or otherwise, these tails are sure to give you an off-road experience unlike anywhere else.

Please note that this list contains trails that are not for inexperienced drivers or stock vehicles. Some of these contain extremely aggressive elevation changes and technical challenges that should be avoided if you are looking for a safe and easy time.

So without further ado, here are five of the best off-road trails in Utah in no particular order!

Moab Rim Trail – Challenging

This 8-mile out-and-back course located right outside of downtown Moab is one of the more popular trails in the area. Due to its popularity with hikers, Moab Rim can be a little crowded during peak hours. However, if you are able to find time to go when it’s emptier, this trail strikes the perfect balance of being beautifully scenic, close to a city, and challenging even for experienced off-road enthusiasts. 

Toquerville Falls – Intermediate

This lengthy 11.7-mile out-and-back trail is one of the most unique on the list, with it providing a breathtaking view of the waterfalls. It’s regarded as a moderately challenging route, and fairly technical. It’s a popular spot, so expect to run into other off-road explorers on your journey. 

White Jeep sitting on dirt trail in Toquerville, Utah

Mesa Arch Trail – Entry Level

One of the shorter trails, Mesa Arch is a great trail for those getting their feet wet in off-roading or even advanced drivers looking for a relaxing and scenic drive. Located in Canyonlands National Park, this 0.8-mile loop is popular for hikers, runners, and off-roaders alike. Open year-round, it’s one of the most accessible on this list by far. 

Sunrise above an arch on Mesa Arch trail

Red Canyon – Intermediate

True to its name, Red Canyon provides some of the brightest red rocks you can find as you drive through the slot canyons of Kanab. It’s an intermediate 8.7-mile out-and-back trail with some of the most breathtaking views of southern Utah’s best nature. It’s dog friendly, and a popular choice for locals with 4x4s. 

Hurrah Pass – Easy/Intermediate

While not too technically difficult, Hurrah Pass in Moab is the longest on this list. Measuring in at over 19.3 miles, the trail can take the better part of a day to complete. It’s a family-friendly adventure and a fun weekend trip. A high clearance 4×4 should have no problem taking on the challenges posed by this trail, but there are a few points where it’s possible to become stuck, and the inexperienced should beware of water crossing along the way (though generally shallow). 

4×4 Service in the Salt Lake Valley

Do any of these trails sound enticing? Make sure your off-road vehicle is prepared for whatever you throw at it with the 4×4 service at Matson Point S in Riverton. Whether you need new off-road tires, suspension work, transmission service, or anything in between, our ASE-certified technicians will ensure your vehicle is ready to go!

So call or schedule online with us today and our friendly service advisors will walk you through the service process every step of the way.


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