Automotive Service & Repair FAQ

Middle Country Automotive in Selden NY 11784 and Centereach NY 11720 realizes that understanding everything about a vehicle is a challenge for even the most experience automotive experts - let alone the majority of average car owners. As such we are happy to be able to use our website as a means to answer some commonly asked questions about auto repair and service including service tips that can extend the life of your vehicle. Please browse the index of the questions to the right to see if there is already an answer to a question you may have about your vehicle. If you do not see an answer to your question feel free to contact us as we will be happy to provide an answer to any vehicle service & repair question you may have.

To view or hide an answer to a question below just click on the icon to the right of the question

Are today's cars really better than the ones built in the 1950s?
Answer:
The old models were more colorful and simpler to fix. But they were fuel-guzzling, overweight polluters that didn't stay in tune as long as modern cars. Also, while most 1950s cars rarely exceeded 100,000 miles without lots of maintenance and gentle driving, even low-priced 1990s autos are routinely driven far more than 100,000 miles with minimal maintenance. They're also safer, with items such as air bags, advanced safety belt systems, anti-lock brakes and "crush" zones that let the car--not its occupants--absorb the impact in collisions. Being lighter and more efficient, they're faster with a V-6 than most of the old V-8s.
How must extra fuel is burned when using air conditioning?
Answer:
It is estimated that the use of air conditioning in a typical car reduces fuel economy by one to two miles per gallon. For larger cars, or when traveling in extreme heat, air conditioning cuts fuel economy up to four miles per gallon.
Is 93-octane gasoline only for race cars?
Answer:
No. A fair number of vehicles have high-performance engines that call for 93-octane gasoline. But most do fine with 87- or 89-octane fuel. Sometimes older engines need all the help they can get. The higher the compression ratio with older cars, the more need for a higher-octane fuel. If the car performs better with 93-octane, use that grade of gas. It won't hurt the engine. Race cars? They like 100-plus octane fuel.
Does it matter where you buy gasoline?
Answer:
Buy gasoline at busy stations to ensure you don't get a "bad load" that has been sitting too long in a tank. Also, don't buy gas at a station at the same time you see a delivery truck filling an underground tank--and stirring up impurities in the fuel in that tank.
Does putting extra air in the tires help a car cope with carrying extra weight?
Answer:
Definitely. When tires are cold, add five pounds to the pressures recommended by your car's manufacturer. But don't overload the car because excessive loads and sharp impacts can cause tire cord breaks and create damaging heat buildup because of abnormal sidewall flexing.
What should you do if the engine temperature gauge begins rising during rush-hour traffic?
Answer:
Don't panic. Give the car a little gas to let it rid itself of some engine heat. Turn on the heater, which will draw heat from the engine. If the gauge is firmly in the danger zone, pull to the side of the road and let the motor cool. Most cars shouldn't overheat--so have the cooling system checked. The problem could be anything from a clogged radiator core to low engine coolant to an inoperable radiator fan.
Should you turn your car off when stopped for extended periods?
Answer:
A car engine shouldn't be left idling unnecessarily for more than a minute. It takes less fuel to start a car than it takes to let it idle while waiting, say, for a long freight train to pass.
How long should you warm up an engine before winter driving?
Answer:
An engine shouldn't idle for more than 15 to 30 seconds in any season, especially if it's fuel-injected. One exception: The engine of a vehicle about to pull a heavy load such as a trailer should be allowed to idle for five minutes or so to allow the oil to become adequately warm.
How should you use antilock brakes in an emergency?
Answer:
Firmly apply and maintain continuous pressure on the brake pedal while continuing to steer away from obstacles. Anti-lock brake systems use sophisticated sensors to automatically pump the brakes up to 18 times per second. Even racer Mario Andretti can't move that fast. Steer normally. The main benefit of an anti-lock brake system is that it doesn't allow the front wheels to lock, which causes loss of steering control. "Most importantly, don't jerk the wheel," says David Wills, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "That's a natural thing to do, but with ABS the car will respond to steering input and go off to the side" and not slide into an accident.
How do you clean dirty battery terminals?
Answer:
After disconnecting both terminal cables, use a baking soda paste--three parts baking soda and one part water--to clean corrosion built-up from battery terminals without the need for a wire brush. The slightly alkaline paste neutralizes corrosion. After reconnecting the clamps to the terminals, wipe them with petroleum jelly to help prevent future corrosion. Be careful when working around a battery because it contains a strong acid.
Will putting radial tires on an older car that came with bias-ply tires hurt its suspension?
Answer:
I'd recommend radials for anything short of a Conestoga wagon. Radials improve ride, handling and steering response. And they deliver a more cushioned ride that is easier on suspension components than the older bias-ply tires.
How do you know how much air to put in tires?
Answer:
Inflate tires according to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure found in the owner's manual or on places such as the door post and glove box door. As the Tire Industry Safety Council puts it: "Just because the speedometer in your vehicle measures speeds up to 120 m.p.h. doesn't mean the manufacturer is suggesting 120 as a recommended cruising speed. The same applies to air pressure limits stamped on the sidewall of your tires." Unless you load your vehicle to its maximum carrying capacity, using the maximum pressure listed on the tires will result in a terribly hard ride and may adversely affect steering control.
Can spark plugs really go 100,000 miles before being changed?
Answer:
I have heard of spark plugs found seized in cylinder heads of vehicles with as little as 60,000 miles. It took over four hours' labor just to remove the plugs. There are documented cases where it was necessary to remove cylinder heads just to get the plugs out. Experienced mechanics suggest that to maintain peak performance, spark plugs should not be run longer than 30,000 miles, even though they continue to fire. Car buyers should take those "100,000-miles" marketing claims of manufacturers with a grain of salt.
How do you protect yourself from being overcharged by mechanics?
Answer:
First, use a repair facility with a good reputation. Then get a written estimate of repair costs before giving your consent to have work performed. If the facility finds more work is needed that would increase the cost of the original estimate, get an estimate for the extra work before consenting to have it performed. You should receive written invoices that list repairs performed, parts prices and the cost of labor. You may request the return of replaced parts, unless they must be returned to the manufacturer to satisfy a warranty or exchange agreement.
Is covering a car in winter a good idea?
Answer:
Many covers trap moisture and lead to rust. Have a fan--hooked to a timer--blow on the car a few hours a day to get rid of moisture.
How should you care for cars not driven for extended periods of time?
Answer:
Make sure someone you trust starts the car every three weeks--or preferably drives it until it is warmed up to prevent items such as gaskets from drying up. Move the car backward and forward in the garage if you don't want to take it on roads. Getting everything to operating temperature on dry, saltless roads at least once a month is best.
What maintenance should be done during long car trips?
Answer:
Check the oil level when you stop for gasoline on long trips, where autos are likelier to use more oil. Pull over immediately and call for help from a mechanic if the oil pressure light goes on; otherwise, the engine could be destroyed. If the car begins overheating, check for coolant leaks or broken belts. If there are no such problems, switch off the air-conditioner and turn on the heater to maximum to bleed some heat from the engine. Then drive to the nearest service station while keeping an eye on the temperature gauge.
Do oil additives that contain liquid teflon help protect the engine?
Answer:
Most of those products are a waste of money. You'll be fine just changing your engine oil and oil filter on a regular basis, using name-brand oil.
Are extended service plans a good deal?
Answer:
Don't waste your money on a service plan. With good care, a new car doesn't need service protection beyond that offered by the factory.
Is it true that cars with 50,000 or more miles have timing-chain problems?
Answer:
Cars with rubber timing belts should have them replaced at 50,000 miles to prevent engine damage. Cars with timing chains can be driven considerably farther because chains are stronger and last longer--partly because they are oil-lubricated. But timing chains can still break. A broken chain can ruin the whole engine and leave you with a large repair bill. Usually, timing chains should be replaced at the 100,000-mile mark, although some cars call for an earlier replacement. Preventative maintenance results in a better-running car and lower repair bills in the long run.
How can you tell what size replacement tire is best?
Answer:
To maintain your car's original ride and handling, make sure the aspect ratio of your new tires matches the ratio listed on your car's original tires or on the placard on the door edge, fuel filler door, glove box or visor. The aspect ratio is the ratio of the height to the width of the tire. If looking at the tire, find the two numbers listed before the letter "R." They designate the aspect ratio. For instance, a tire with the size designation P215/65R15 has an aspect ratio of 65--meaning the tire is 65 percent higher than it is wide. You thus want "65-series" tires.

GEICO Warranty GWC Warranty Nissan Extended Warranty Penn Warranty Superior Automotive Extended Warranty Car 1 Extended Auto Warranty Enterprise Fleet Maintenance