It can be worrisome when you move your car or truck from its parking spot and notice a puddle of liquid on the ground beneath it. Any time fluid escapes from the engine is a cause for concern, whether it’s coolant, oil, or transmission fluid.
Finding a puddle of oil beneath your parked car is perhaps the most concerning. The oil keeps moving metal components in your engine lubricated while it operates, preventing catastrophic metal-on-metal friction, a death sentence for any motor.
Unless the leak is significant, do not worry, your engine is not in immediate danger. Regardless, if you notice oil on the ground where you parked your car, you need to look at it before it gets worse.
How to identify an oil leak
Identifying an engine oil leak is not particularly difficult. If you notice a puddle of brown or black liquid under your car, you likely have one. If the pool contains pink, green, or orange fluid, the leak is likely coolant or transmission fluid.
The challenge with identifying an oil leak comes with modern vehicles. New cars have a lot of plastic shielding under the engine. The shielding will catch leaking oil before it hits the ground, meaning may not even know you have an oil leak until you bring your car to a mechanic for service. Sometimes when looking under the hood you will notice oil on the engine itself.
What causes an oil leak?
Old and worn-out gaskets
The surfaces in the engine that are sealed with gaskets are the most likely areas to leak oil. Some of the more common areas are the valve cover gasket, head gasket, and oil pan seal. If you have a leaking head gasket, you may not notice oil on the ground. Sometimes a failed head gasket will only leak internally, so you may see blue smoke coming from your tailpipe.
Damage to the oil pan
The oil pan sits on the bottom of your engine. Oil settles in the pan when the engine is off. When you drive, the oil starts and finishes cycling through the engine in the oil pan. Because of the oil pan’s close proximity to the ground, debris from the road and impacts with objects can puncture it. A punctured oil pan is a serious issue and can leave your engine without any oil. The potential for engine damage under these circumstances is much higher than with a slow oil leak from a gasket.
Improperly installed or poorly tightened parts
If the studs or bolts used to hold together engine components are not tightened to the correct specifications, an oil leak is possible. It’s important to have a qualified mechanic perform a major engine like an oil pan seal or valve cover gasket replacement. An incorrectly tightened oil filter can also be to blame for an oil leak.
The oil drain plug is not tight
The oil drain plug is located on the oil pan and allows for the oil to be drained from the engine. If this bolt is not tightened properly when it is replaced, an oil leak can result.
Can I drive my car with an oil leak?
It entirely depends on the severity and cause of the leak. A small oil pan gasket or valve cover leak shouldn’t prevent you from driving as long you check your oil level frequently and add more if needed. However, an oil leak caused by a punctured oil pan or other major engine damage will usually require your car to be towed.
Pay attention to the size of the oil puddle on the ground under your car. A large puddle of oil indicates a dangerously fast oil leak. If you know you have a slow leak, check the oil level in your car every time before you drive. If the oil light comes on when you are driving, pull over and turn off your car immediately to prevent catastrophic engine damage.
Preventing future oil leaks
The best way to stay ahead of an oil leak is regular maintenance and paying attention to your car. Every time you have your car serviced, ask your mechanic to do a quick look around for any leaks. If you notice a puddle of oil where you park your car, get it to a repair shop right away.
Let us fix your oil leak!
If your car is leaking oil, visit Matson Auto and Marine! Our skilled mechanics can get to the bottom of an oil leak, or any fluid leak, quickly at our Riverton based shop. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online today!
Tire age is an often-overlooked factor that can drastically affect driving safety. Drivers usually gauge the life of their tires by the amount of tread it has left, rarely taking into account the effect age has on them. Just because your tires have tread left doesn’t mean they are safe.
For daily drivers and work vehicles, tire tread tends to wear out long before age compromises their performance. For classic cars, show cars, and weekend drivers, tires are much more likely to reach an unsafe sage before the tread wears out. Tires that are kept in storage for an extended period and spare tires are also more likely to succumb to the effects of aging.
How to identify the age of a tire
The manufacture date is on the sidewall of a tire. Locate the four-digit number after the visible DOT (Department of Transportation) designation. The number shows as a week and year. For example, a DOT number of 0820 would mean the tire was made on the 8th week of 2020.
If you check the DOT number and it only has three digits, the tire was manufactured before the year 2000. If you have a tire of this age on any vehicle, replace it as soon as possible.
How long can a tire last?
Most auto manufacturers recommend replacing tires over six years old regardless of tread depth. Some tire manufacturers like Michelin and Continental give a 10-year limit.
As rubber compounds age, they deteriorate and become weaker like other rubber and plastic components on your car. This process is called rubber oxidation, which dries out the compound. As the rubber oxidates, it becomes stiff and brittle, resulting in internal and external cracking under load.
There is no mandated rule on tire age, but the older they are, the more dangerous they become. Several factors can shorten a tire’s life while it is in storage or off the road.
Exposure to heat
Heat contributes to faster rubber oxidation. Exposure to sunlight and warm climates can make your tires age faster.
Tires kept in storage are not immune to the process of aging and rubber oxidation. Storage spaces without climate control like a garage or shed will cause tires to oxidize and breakdown due to the effects of heat.
Even if a tire is stored in an environment that protects it from extreme temperatures, the rubber compound will still breakdown over time. A tire stored inflated on a wheel will succumb to oxidation faster than one stored unmounted.
Remember, a tire that has been in storage for years may look completely fine, but the effects of time will still impede its performance.
Summer and weekend car tires
If you have a vehicle that sees the road less than your daily driver, you may hit the tire age limit before they wear out. The temperature and storage factors from above also come in to play on summer and weekend vehicles. Check the age and condition of the tires on your summer or weekend vehicle whenever you take it out of storage for the season.
Spare tires are rarely thought about unless you get a flat, but they are exposed to poor storage conditions. Spares mounted beneath a truck or SUV are continually exposed to road salts, oil, dirt, and temperature fluctuations. Spare tires kept inside a car are baked by the sun and frozen in the winter.
Tire damage and care
A tire that has been patched, over or underinflated, or has not been rotated will age faster. Tires that are cared for will have a longer life than those that are not.
So are my tires too old?
It depends. Generally, a tire over 6 years old will not be as safe or effective as it was new. However, factors like temperature exposure, care, storage, and use can increase or decrease the amount of time a tire can be used before being retired.
The DOT tire age designation will tell you when a tire was manufactured. The DOT designation is particularly useful when buying tires from a non-dealer, or inspecting the tires on a classic/weekend/summer vehicle.
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Matson Point S in Riverton, Utah is your one-stop shop for tires, repair, maintenance, and marine services. Give us a call or schedule an appointment today!
It may start suddenly or gradually get worse, but when your steering wheel shakes, you notice it. The steering wheel connects you to the front suspension, brakes, wheels, tires, and the road. With so many components, many issues can contribute to a shaking steering wheel. The conditions under which the wheel shakes can be indicative of the problem. At Matson Point S, our technicians will diagnose and fix the issue making your steering wheel shake. Before making an appointment, read up on the most common causes of a shaking steering wheel!
Steering wheel shaking conditions
Not all steering wheel shaking is the same. In some cases, shaking is only noticeable under certain driving conditions. The three main conditions that shaking can occur are:
1.) Continuous – The wheel shakes continuously at any speed
2.) Braking – The wheel shakes when the brakes are applied.
3.) Speed Specific – Shaking is noticed only at specific speeds.
If you notice your steering wheel shaking when you drive, be sure to take note of when it happens. This information can help quickly narrow down the cause of the shake
Causes of a shaking steering wheel
Warped Brake Rotors
The brake rotors are an essential part of your braking system, providing the calipers with a surface to clamp on and slow down. Several factors can cause rotors to become warped.
1.) Rapid Cooling – If you are driving aggressively or braking heavily and immediately wash your car, the rapid temperature change can cause your rotors to warp. Allow your brakes to cool before exposing them to water.
2.) Excessive Heat – Brakes work to disperse heat from the friction created by pads and rotors coming together. If the rotors get too hot, they can warp and cause your steering wheel to shake. Trucks towing heavy loads and vehicles descending steep hills have a higher chance of warping brakes from excessive heat.
3.) Sticking Caliper – A sticking brake caliper creates non-stop friction on one rotor. As you drive, excessive heat from the additional friction can warp the rotor and cause a shake in the steering wheel.
4.) Age – any moving part will become worn out with age. As your rotors age, the overall structural integrity will go down as the material gets worn away. The rotors will become less effective at distributing heat, increasing the likelihood of them warping.
If you notice your steering wheel shaking when you apply your brakes, and the shaking continues until you come to a stop, the likely cause is a warped rotor. Replacing brake pads and rotors is considered a regular maintenance item, meaning a shaking steering wheel caused by warped rotors is a relatively affordable and quick fix.
Balancing is essential in eliminating vibration and shake while driving. When tires are mounted, wheel weights get installed on the rim. If a wheel weight is lost or a wheel is improperly balanced, there is a good chance you will notice shaking in your steering wheel while you are driving. A bent or cracked wheel can throw a wheel out of balance as well.
If improperly balanced wheels are the cause, the shaking will occur at specific speeds, most commonly between 35-50 MPH. Shaking at a specific speed is a good indicator that the issue is related to wheel balancing, not failing suspension components.
Cupping and other irregular tread wear can will cause shaking in the steering wheel. To prevent uneven wear, make sure your vehicle is properly aligned, and the tires are rotated every 5000 miles.
In some cases, vehicles that have sat for extended periods may have shaking in the steering wheel from flat spots in the tires. Most of the time, driving the vehicle will smooth out these flat spots and eliminate the shaking, but not always.
Worn Out or Broken Suspension Components
More common on older vehicles, worn out suspension components like ball joints and control arm bushings can cause shaking in the steering wheel at speed, on rough roads, and under braking. When components connected to the steering wheel wear out, the car loses its “tightness” and can become upset by rough roads or rapid speed changes.
Aggressive braking can cause the wheel to shake as the forces of speed change disrupt the damaged suspension. Unlike warped rotors, once the suspension has settled down, the shaking will stop.
Vibration in the steering wheel that is not speed dependent is more likely to be the result of suspension damage or wear. Suspension issues can be a safety concern. If your car doesn’t handle like it used to or feels “loose”, bring it to a technician as soon as possible for a diagnosis.
If you notice shaking in your steering wheel while you drive, don’t wait to get it diagnosed! Give Matson Point S a call or schedule an appointment today. Our experienced technicians will quickly find and correct the issue making your steering wheel shake.
Molded into the sidewall of your tires is a series of numbers and letters indicating information like diameter, aspect ratio, tread width, and speed rating. The speed rating is expressed as a letter, a combination of letters, or a combination of letters and numbers. Load ratings are expressed as numbers between 70 and 126.
What does a tire speed rating mean?
The speed rating indicates the highest speed a tire can operate for a sustained period while carrying a load within its load index. A speed rating is not an indicator of the maximum speed a tire can go in a short burst.
Typically, the higher letter used in the speed rating means the tire can sustain higher speeds and heat levels. It is important to remember that tire testing is done in a controlled lab environment, and don’t factor in real-world variables like rough roads, cold weather, and wet or icy surfaces.
What is the tire load index?
Tire load rating indicates the amount of weight it can safely support. Combing the individual load rating of all tires on a vehicle will give you the total amount of weight it can support. It is important to pay attention to the load index of your tires, particularly on trucks or SUVs that haul heavy loads. The likelihood of exceeding the load index of a tire is much higher than the chance of going over the speed rating.
How to read the speed rating and load index.
The speed rating and load index can be found together on the sidewall of your tire, usually after the tire dimensions. The load index number is first, followed by the tire speed rating.
How do tires get speed-rated?
The procedure for the ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) tire speed determines the maximum speed a tire can safely operate at for an extended time under load.
The tire is mounted to a wheel and put on a machine that simulates 80% of its load index.
The test room is kept at a temperature between 68 and 86 degrees.
The tire is rotated for 10-minute intervals at increasing speeds until the maximum speed is reached.
Once the maximum speed is reached, it is held for 20 minutes.
The tire is removed and inspected for damage and wear.
What tire speed rating do I need on my car?
The tires that come on your car from the factory should be the baseline for the speed rating you should get in the future. The factory rated tire is safe for your vehicle’s capabilities, and a lower-rated tire could be dangerous. However, you can move to a higher speed-rated tire without concern. Remember, if you have tires with different speed ratings, do not exceed the maximum speed of the lowest rated tire.
What’s the benefit of a higher speed-rated tire?
Higher speed-rated tires can have a stiffer sidewall, and marginally impact the stiffness of your vehicle’s ride. In general, the design of the tire will have a bigger impact on on-road feel than the speed rating.
For example, tires with speed ratings in the ZR range (W, Y) are oriented toward high performance. Tires of this caliber are designed to handle the abuse of performance vehicles and track driving. Any notable difference can be attributed to the design of the tire rather than its speed rating.
Matson Point S is your destination for tires
Have more questions about speed ratings? Need advice on tires? Give us a call and talk to one of our friendly service advisors, or schedule an appointment today! We are the Salt Lake valleys tire experts.
As the summer boating season begins to wind down and temperatures start to drop, winterizing your boat is probably on your list of cold weather preparations for the fall. Cold temperatures cause residual water to freeze and expand, which can cause catastrophic damage to the engine and other components of your boat. Finding out a crack in the block has rendered the engine useless or your onboard septic system has been ruined would not be a pleasant surprise
The main goal of winterizing a boat is to remove any excess water from the engine, plumbing, and body to prevent freezing damage. Proper land storage is another step of the winterization process in areas where freshwater lakes freeze. Correct storage and water removal are the most important steps of winterizing a boat, but there are other precautions you can take to keep it safe during the winter months
Regardless of the engine in your boat, these same winterization steps apply. Following these steps will provide the best protection against freezing damage. The steps and process, later on, will become more specific depending on the drive type of your boat.
After running all summer long, moisture and other impurities can end up in the engine’s crankcase. Changing the oil and filter will ensure that no surprise damage to the engine internals will occur when the weather gets cold. Be sure to run the engine for a few minutes before doing the change. The warmer and more viscous oil will be easier to remove and ensure more contaminants go out with it. When replacing the filter, be sure to prime it by filling it with fresh oil and coating the gasket to ensure it seals properly.
Stabilize the fuel tank and change the fuel filter
Water in the fuel tank can be disastrous for an engine. Unfortunately, the ethanol additives in modern gasoline can cause issues when it sits over for long periods (like during the winter months). As it sits, a process known as phase separation can occur. Ethanol absorbs a lot of water, and phase separation happens when the ethanol absorbs enough water to separate from the gasoline. This process will create two distinct layers, gasoline on top and a layer of water and ethanol on the bottom of the gas tank.
Many issues can arise when attempting to run an engine with phase-separated fuel. In some cases, the engine may simply not start. However, damage can occur when the engine is running, and suddenly takes in the ethanol/water mix instead of gasoline. Water in the combustion chamber can hydro lock the motor, potentially destroying the engine. A more common issue with phase-separated fuel is poor performance and operation.
The only guaranteed way to prevent phase separation is to completely drain the gas tank before storage, but this is not always convenient or possible on a boat. A much easier solution is to add gas to the tank to around 95% full. As temperatures change fuel expands and contracts, allowing excess water to enter the tank. A full gas tank has a lot less “breathing” room, and can not take in as much water as an emptier one.
In addition to filling the tank, adding a fuel stabilizer will also help prevent phase separation. A fuel stabilizer increases the threshold of phase separation, allowing more water to be absorbed into the gasoline without the ethanol separating away.
By adding a fuel stabilizer and storing your boat with a nearly full gas tank, the likelihood of phase separation occurring during the winter will be significantly reduced.
Engine fogging and cylinder protection
“Fogging” the engine is a process that protects its internals from corrosion. It is done with a waxy fogging oil that is sprayed into the engine intake/carburetors while it is running to fully coat the pistons, piston walls, and other components
You can use the fogging process as an opportunity to run stabilized fuel through the engine as well. Let the motor run for a few minutes and begin spraying fogging oil into the carbs/intake. As the engine burns off the fogging oil, it will begin to choke, and white smoke will come out of the exhaust. Continue spraying fogging oil in bursts for a few minutes, and eventually choke the engine out with it
An extra precaution can be taken by removing the spark plugs and spraying fogging oil into each cylinder. After this, turn the engine over by hand or with the starter, but do not start it.
Winterizing the drive and cooling system
Just like winterizing the engine and fuel tank, the primary focus of prepping the drive for the winter months is removing water. Water in the engine block can quickly cause severe damage if the temperatures drop below freezing. Depending on the drive type, the winterization process can vary from boat to boat due to variations in the cooling system.
Winterizing inboard boats
Raw water-cooled inboard:
A raw water-cooling system cools the engine by taking in water from the lake or ocean and running it directly through the engine. The cool water absorbs heat and is then expelled back into the lake or ocean. With water running through the entire engine, winterizing a raw water-cooled system needs to be done with care to prevent freeze damage.
Winterizing a raw water-cooled engine can be done in two different ways; dry storage and antifreeze. Dry storage is done by draining all water from the engine and storing it empty. While simple, this method can lead to issues if pockets of water remain trapped within the engine. Blasting pressurized air through the motor can help eliminate these water pockets, but there is no way to know for sure if all water has been removed. When draining the engine, it is critical to clear debris from all petcock, seacock, and other valves to ensure all water is removed.
A more effective method for winterizing raw water-cooled systems is to run the engine and pump antifreeze into the block. Like before, drain the water out of the block.
Using an antifreeze that meets the manufacturer’s recommendations, allow the engine to take in antifreeze from an external reservoir. Remember that until the engine is up to temperature, the thermostat will stay closed on some engines. Waiting until the engine is warm before introducing the antifreeze will ensure complete protection.
Watch the exhaust until the liquid exiting the engine matches the color of the antifreeze, then shut off the engine. The engine is now ready to be laid up for the winter.
Closed system inboard:
Some boats use a cooling system that combines the water circulation of the raw water system, and the conventional closed-circuit coolant system found in cars. This system uses a heat exchanger (the marine equivalent of a radiator) that allows engine coolant to come in close contact with cold lake/ocean water, extracting heat. Winterizing a boat with this type of cooling system is simpler than conventional raw water setups. The lake/ocean water side of the system is winterized by pumping in antifreeze exactly like a raw water setup.
The engine block itself will be protected from cold temperatures year-round due to its supply of conventional coolant. It can be beneficial to change this coolant, but it is not required to protect the boat from cold temperatures.
Winterizing sterndrive boats
When winterizing inboard/outboard boats, it is important to determine if your boat takes in water through the lower unit (outdrive) or through the hull. Boats that take in water via the lower unit will need to use muffs to pump water into the engine while it is operating out of the water. Sterndrive boats with this style of water intake will follow slightly different winterization steps than boats with through-hull intakes. For boats that require muffs, run the engine until it is up to temperature. Run tubing from the muffs to a bucket of antifreeze and allow the engine to take in the coolant until you see it coming out of the exhaust.
At this point, the engine and lower unit have been filled with coolant and prepped for winter storage. For boats with through-hull intakes, follow the same steps and allow antifreeze to enter the engine and lower unit via the hull.
Sterndrives require prepping the lower unit for storage. The process of winterizing the lower unit can vary depending on the brand. Generally, greasing the moving components through grease fittings. Changing the gear lube should be done yearly. Milky gear lube can indicate water is present in the unit and a pressure test will be needed to find the bad seal.
Winterizing outboard boats
The steps for winterizing an outboard vary depending on the make and model, but the general procedure follows a similar path to what is done for inboards and sterndrives. Change engine oil, gear oil, stabilize the fuel supply and run antifreeze through the engine. Look at the manufacturer’s recommendations for winterizing to be sure you are preparing it for lay-up properly.
Winterizing jet drive boats
Much like outboards, winterizing a jet drive varies depending on make and model, so make sure to consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer website to make sure you are following the right steps. For smaller watercraft like jet skis, winterizing consists of stabilizing the fuel, and running the engine out of the water for short stints to blow any remove excess water from the jet system. For larger boats running jet drives, winterizing may need to be done by a professional.
Engine damage is the most common result of improper winterization, but there are other areas of the boat that can retain water, leading to potential freeze damage.
If your boat has an onboard toilet or marine head, it is crucial to winterize this system to prevent freeze damage. The steps for winterizing the marine head and septic system on a boat are pretty straightforward:
1.) Start the process by emptying the holding tank and running fresh water through it. This step ensures the system is clean and sanitized when you take your boat out next season.
2.)Next, run antifreeze through the marine head by removing the raw water intake hose from the seacock valve and putting it in a reservoir of antifreeze. Some boats use a closed system instead of raw water. In this case, empty the water supply and replace with antifreeze. Flush the head to suck antifreeze from the bucket into the septic lines and holding tank
3.) Close off the seacock and double-check raw water strainers to ensure they have antifreeze in them.
Fresh Water System:
The process for winterizing a boat’s freshwater system is relatively simple.
The steps are as follows:
1.) Begin the process by turning on the water pump and allow all water fixtures to run until the tank is empty. Fill it with antifreeze and turn on the hot water side of the water fixture the greatest distance from the water pump.
2.) Once antifreeze is flowing from the fixture, close the hot side and open the cold, repeating the process until antifreeze comes out.
3.) Repeat this process from the furthest fixture back to the one closest to the water pump, remembering to do sinks and showers. Once the antifreeze is flowing from all fixtures, the system is ready for winter storage.
What antifreeze should I use to winterize my boat?
Remember to use nontoxic antifreeze. Many lakes double as water supplies for communities, and all bodies of water are homes to animals and support ecosystems. Additionally, using a toxic antifreeze in your boat’s drinking water storage system is not a great idea. RV antifreeze is a good choice to use for boat winterization. It’s made with either propylene glycol or ethanol, making it nontoxic to the environment and people. Closed system inboards utilize a traditional toxic coolant in the engine, but this will not be at risk of entering the boat’s fresh water supply or the lake, as it remains in the engine circuit.
There are several ways a boat can be stored while it is laid up for the winter. Storing your boat safely is as important as other parts of the winterization process to prevent external damage during harsh winter weather.
Cover it up:
This one may be obvious, but ensuring your boat is properly protected with either a fitted over or well-secured tarp will protect it from the elements. If you choose to use a tarp instead of a fitted cover, remember to make sure it fits snug. Any loose material can become a trap for rainwater or snow, which can weigh down the tarp. This additional weight can add stress to the supports used to store your boat as well.
If you are storing your boat on your property, try to lay it up at a distance from roofs and trees. Roofs can poor large quantities of water onto a boat throughout its layup period. Trees bring several hazards to boats such as damage from falling branches and sap dripping on to the boat.
Types of Storage:
A cradle is one of the most secure ways to store a boat. Cradles support the heaviest parts of the boat body and allow it to sit safely upright while out of the water
Jack stands are a cost and space effective solution. When using jack stands, it is important to know the areas of your boat’s hull that need the most support. To provide stability in high winds, jack stands need to be placed at the widest possible points on the boat. Lastly, if solid concrete or packed dirt is not available, using plywood underneath the jack stands will prevent them from sinking when the ground gets wet.
If you trailer your boat to and from the lake, leaving it on the trailer during the winter can be a secure solution. The trailer will support all the critical points of the boat during windy or muddy conditions, much like a cradle. The trade-off is security; a trailered boat can be stolen much easier than one in a cradle or on jack stands. Have a secure yard, garage or barn will keep the risk of theft low.
Dry storage racks offer stable and secure storage. Storage racks can store many boats together . If you are uncomfortable with laying your boat up on your property, dry storage racks might be a good solution.
For those with lakeside property, storing your boat on a lift by the water makes the transition from lay-up to boating season much easier. Rain and snow can add significant weight to the boat and potentially break the lift. Additionally, lifts are not stable in high winds. If you live in an area that sees harsh winter weather this storage method may not be best.
Check on your boat
This is probably the easiest preventive step you can take to ensure you don’t run into any problems. Visit your boat every few weeks during the winter or immediately following bad weather. Check the cover for tears or water/snow buildup. Make sure the support system you are using is keeping the boat level. Tighten the cover and remove built up water and snow to keep stress off of the supports.
Do you need help winterizing your boat?
We are boat experts at Matson Auto and Marine. Our skilled technicians can assist you with any winterization needs, backed by a guarantee if the winterization is done before the first freeze of the year. Give us a call or schedule an appointment today!
Download a copy of our boat winterization checklist to help you through the process if you do it yourself!