Car Maintenance Terms All Drivers Should Know
When you drop off your vehicle for service whether it's for routine maintenance or you have an issue, do you feel confident about it? Do you have concerns that the bill may be big, your car may be out of commission for a while, even if you bring your car into a shop that you trust? Unfortunately this anxiety car owners face, often stems from lack of knowledge about car repair in general or what goes on under the hood of your car. Although every vehicle that is brought in we provide a courtesy inspection that includes a detailed outline and photos of what is the most immediate repair needs and what can be dealt with later, understanding technical terms may help you when it comes to decision making to authorize repairs, here's a list of some of the most important maintenance terms all drivers should know.
Alternator: The alternator is the part in the vehicle that generates electricity to feed the electrical system and charge the battery when the vehicle is running. Alternator is not usually part of car maintenance because there is not a great deal you can do to extend the life. Failure is usually sudden rather than gradual. Keeping your alternator clean by avoiding fluid leaks (i.e., oil leaking on to the alternator) and repairing those leaks as soon as possible is something you can do to prevent any damage. In general most alternators last 100,000 miles but it all depends on how the vehicle is driven.
When replacing one we recommend to purchase a quality product so you can have another long lasting product. We have experienced cheap alternators that can be purchased at the local parts store that continually fail within months. While you may be offered a life time warranty, remember the labor to keep replacing an inferior part isn’t free. Also you have to ask yourself, “is it worth your time and inconvenience having to be towed?”
Signs of a failing alternator include:
• Headlights Flickering or dimming
• Battery Warning sign is on, stays on longer than usual or goes on and off
• Making abnormal whining noise
Fuel Pump: Fuel pump is the part in the vehicle that transfers fuel under pressure from the gas tank to the engine to keep your engine running. The fuel pump is yet another component that is not part of car maintenance because there is not a great deal you can do to extend the life. Failure can be sudden but usually you will notice a decrease in vehicle engine performance as the fuel pump wears out.
One thing you can do to increase the fuel pump life is to never run the fuel level below a quarter tank of gas. Most fuel pumps today are located inside the fuel tank. The fuel acts as a coolant to prevent the fuel pump from overheating. Overheating the fuel pump will decrease the life of the fuel pump. Most fuel pumps on average last 100,000 miles. We have seen them go bad before that but we have also seen Honda fuel pump last over 250,000 miles.
Spark plugs: Spark plugs is the part in the engine that creates a spark that ignites the compressed air/fuel mixture which creates an explosion that makes your engine produce power. With changing technology spark plug replacement intervals has increased drastically and today's spark plugs are replaced on average every 100,000 (of course depending on the type of spark plug your vehicle has). The different types include, COPPER, PLATINUM, DOUBLE PLATINUM, and IRIDIUM. The most important detail in a spark plug is matching the correct spark plug to your engine’s design.
When vehicle manufacturers set the spark plug replacement interval to 100,000 (for example) miles, this is based on normal driving. We have worked on police fleet vehicles that are driven all day/night hard and fast with spark plugs that often only last 30,000 miles. So again the life all depends on how the vehicle is driven.
To make sure your spark plug lasts as long as or more than the manufacturer, make sure your vehicle is running smooth and maintained properly. In today’s vehicle spark plugs can be difficult to access and replacement cost really vary from vehicle to vehicle.
Oil Filter: An oil filter is the part that removes contaminants from your car’s engine oil that can accumulate over time. It is important to keep the engine oil filtered and clean because if left unfiltered these contaminants could damage the engine. We recommend to replace the engine oil filter with every oil change.