Tire Sales and Service
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If you’re confused about motor oil—the right time to change it, how often to change it, what’s the best oil for your car—Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic, John Ibbotson, can set you straight.
The answer to a lot of these questions is the same: Check your owner’s manual. It should be your car maintenance and operation bible. Don’t make assumptions on the interval based on past experiences or guidance from mechanics who profit from the work, because the timing has evolved over the years.
Many cars, pickups, and SUVs now have service reminder monitors that alert drivers when to change their oil. “These systems typically monitor the number of miles a vehicle has traveled, and they also sense how hard the car is being driven, and adjust accordingly,” Ibbotson says.
Make sure you get your oil change soon after you receive such an alert.
You should keep an eye on your car’s oil levels. Our reliability survey results have shown that even newer cars can need the oil to be topped off between changes.
CR recommends checking your oil level at least once a month. Be sure to get repairs done at the first sign of a leak.
Check the owner’s manual and follow the automaker’s recommendations. Some newer cars have electronic oil monitors and don’t have traditional dipsticks for manual inspection.
If you do have a dipstick, and you’re checking it yourself, make sure the car is parked on level ground. If the engine has been running, be aware of potential hot spots under the hood.
With the engine off, open the car’s hood and find the dipstick. Pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe any oil off from its end. Then insert the dipstick back into its tube and push it all the way back in.
Pull it back out, and this time quickly look at both sides of the dipstick to see where the oil is on the end. Every dipstick has some way of indicating the proper oil level, whether it be two pinholes, the letters L and H (low and high), the words MIN and MAX, or simply an area of crosshatching. If the top of the oil “streak” is between the two marks or within the crosshatched area, the level is fine.
But if the oil is below the minimum mark, you need to add oil.
Pay close attention to the oil’s color. It should appear brown or black. But if it has a light, milky appearance, this could mean coolant is leaking into the engine. Look closely for any metal particles, too, because this could mean there is internal engine damage. If you see either of these conditions, get the car to a mechanic for further diagnosis.
If everything is okay, wipe off the dipstick again and insert it back into its tube, making sure it’s fully seated. Close the hood and you’re done.
Some swear by the “every 3,000 miles or every 3 months” rule, but advances in engines and oil have made that guidance obsolete. Many automakers have oil-change intervals at 7,500 or even 10,000 miles and 6 or 12 months for time.
“Your owner’s manual has more detailed information about your car than any mechanic does,” Ibbotson says. “Don’t get talked into too-often oil changes. Follow the manual and your car’s engine should stay well-lubricated and perform well.”
Over the course of two years and 30,000 miles, assuming that your oil change costs $40 a pop, you could save $240 if you get it changed every 7,500 miles vs. every 3,000 miles.
It’s not just about miles: If you don’t drive your car a lot, your oil still needs to be kept fresh. Even if you drive fewer miles each year than your automaker suggests changing the oil (say, 6,000 miles, with suggested oil-change intervals at 7,500 miles), you should still be getting that oil changed twice a year.
Why? Oil becomes less effective as it ages, and by not getting the engine warm enough, excess moisture that forms in the engine will not be removed, which can lead to shorter engine life.
Again, take a look at your owner’s manual. “Don’t be upsold into synthetic oil if there is no need,” Ibbotson says.
In many newer models, the weight of your car’s motor oil is printed on the cap where you add oil. “Make sure you know what’s recommended or required by your automaker before you visit your mechanic so that you can control the cost of the oil they’re putting in,” he says.
If you have a much older car, do you need special motor oil?
“Not if it’s running well,” Ibbotson says. “If you’re not sure what oil you should be using because you don’t have an owner’s manual, check with your local dealer or an online enthusiast group for your particular model,” he says.
“Only if your manufacturer calls for it,” Ibbotson says, “because it can cost from two to four times as much as conventional oil.”
Synthetic oil is designed to be more effective at resisting breakdown (and because of that, it lasts longer) and withstanding high temperatures.
There are situations where that resistance to breakdown can help prolong the life of your engine.
“If you make lots of short trips, standard motor oil may never get warm enough to burn off moisture and impurities, which means it may not be doing enough to protect your engine,” Ibbotson says.
Another consideration is your lifestyle. “If you live in a region with very cold winters or very hot summers, or if you use your vehicle for towing or hauling heavy material, synthetic oil is your best bet,” he says. “While synthetic generally holds up better and can serve for more miles, it is equally important to not extend oil changes beyond the time interval recommended by the manufacturer—typically six months or a year if it is a motor that is not driven many miles or on many short trips.”
Synthetic oil can also help engines that are prone to building up sludge; some Volkswagen and Toyota models have had sludge issues in the past. This residue, formed when oil breaks down, can block the flow of oil, leading to the quick death of an engine. Synthetic oil would be beneficial in these engines because it helps to reduce sludge buildup, helping to extend the engine’s lifespan.
A carefree family hops in the car, excited for a weekend at the beach. After a few hours on the road, disaster strikes. The engine starts smoking, and the family has to pull over. What will happen next?!
Seems like no summer horror movie is complete without this iconic scene, but it’s certainly not something you want to reenact on your next road trip! Make sure you’re prepared if disaster strikes and learn what to do (and not do!) when your car engine overheats.
Engines can overheat for many reasons. In general, it’s because something’s wrong within the cooling system and heat isn’t able to escape the engine compartment. The source of the issue could include a cooling system leak, faulty radiator fan, broken water pump, or clogged coolant hose.
Regardless of the problem’s source, an overheating engine isn’t something you want to let linger. Your engine could sustain serious, if not permanent, damage.
If you’re able to take steps to cool your engine before it overheats to the point of failing, you may reduce the risk of irreversible engine damage. But first, you’ve got to notice the symptoms of overheating, which can include:
As soon as you notice the engine overheating, take the following steps and contact your nearest repair shop.
1. Kill the A/C and crank the heat.
Immediately turn off the air conditioner to reduce stress on the engine. Then, turn the dial to maximum heat. This can help pull heat away from the engine to keep it from overheating until you can pull over in a safe location. You may get a little hot yourself, but a few minutes of discomfort is a small price to pay compared to major engine repairs.
2. Find a safe place to pull over.
Pull over and shut off the car. Allow the engine to cool for at least 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge, as it should move back to a normal range as the engine cools.
While you’re waiting (and watching the gauge), put together a plan to get your overheated engine checked out. Call a friend, a tow truck, or your local Firestone Roadside Assistance for help. We’ll dispatch a trained representative to tow your vehicle to the nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care store or help with step number three.
3. Check and add coolant (if you have it).
If your coolant level is low, a quick top-off could help protect your engine and prevent overheating until you can get things fixed. However, this step won’t do much good if a coolant hose is clogged or the source of your troubles is a broken radiator fan or water pump. Consult your owner’s manual to find the location of your coolant reservoir tank and to learn how to add coolant to your vehicle.
4. Restart the engine.
If your car isn’t being towed, now’s the time to carefully restart your engine and drive to your nearest auto repair shop. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge as you drive. If it rises again, pull over and let the system cool.
1. Don’t panic.
Your engine isn’t keeping its cool, but you can! Avoid swerving through traffic or slamming on your brakes when pulling off the road.
2. Don’t keep driving.
If your engine is overheating but still running, you’re not doing it any favors by staying on the road. Sure, you may be able to get to your destination before it gives out entirely, but you may cause significant (and costly) damage by pushing your engine too far.
3. Don’t open the hood immediately.
Once you’ve pulled over, wait for the engine to cool before popping the hood to check things out. Opening the hood immediately can put you at risk of burns or injuries from spewing steam or smoke. Patience is key. Wait until the engine temperature gauge settles before opening the hood.
4. Don’t let the issue linger.
An overheating engine won’t resolve on its own, even if it seems to be fixed after you add a little coolant. It will only get worse if left unaddressed. Get to the root of the issue to help save your engine. Bring your car to Firestone Complete Auto Care for a Complete Vehicle Inspection so we can diagnose the problem and make recommendations for solving it.
Take care of your car, and it’ll take care of you. The best way to prevent an overheating car engine is to have regular coolant flushes and exchanges performed on your car, and stay up-to-date with radiator maintenance as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. Routine inspections can also help you fix any potential radiator or engine issues before they worsen.
This summer, feel the heat at the beach, not on the road. Keep your cool and head to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care for the nationally-trusted auto repair advice and service you need.
From $5 per quart
When looking for a motor oil, why not choose one from the company that invented the product? Valvoline founder Dr. John Ellis is credited as the inventor of motor oil, creating products for steam engines and later worked with Ford to make a formulation for the Model T.
The company’s in-house development team continues to be at the leading edge of lubrication technology, working together with motorsport teams to meet the demands of their engines while also spearheading the development of formulations that improve the performance of high mileage engines.
Valvoline NextGen meets all the standards for a conventional oil, but it costs less than many major brands and is made with 50 percent recycled oil.
When Scientific American reported on the oil when it first came to market, they found that the refining techniques used to create this formulation allowed it to meet all the API requirements as a standard motor oil. Since then, other options using recycled base oils have hit the market, allowing buyers to maintain their vehicles while having a lower impact on the environment.
Valvoline is one of the few oil manufacturers who backup their high mileage oil with a guarantee. If your engine has under 125,000 miles on it, you can register it in a program that will give you some warranty protection from the company provided that you keep up on maintenance records and only use their oil.
Valvoline MaxLife SAE 5W30 – Using the latest breakthroughs in distillation, this engine formulation is engineered for the issues facing high mileage engines. This oil helps by reducing friction, removing corrosive deposits and helps prevent oil leaks.
From $5 per quart
The best synthetic motor oil (just beating out the Amsoil mentioned below), is Mobil 1 10W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil.
Many of the cars in top level motorsports use Mobil 1. The company prides itself on its motorsports partnerships. They make the official engine oil of NASCAR and they’re the oil sponsor of McLaren-Honda’s F1 team. Their testing and development of oils designed for demanding racing conditions has worked its way into their consumer products.
Their synthetics are great at maintaining a low viscosity in very cold temperatures, and they’ve led the way in developing oils formulated for turbocharged engines. Turbocharged motors are notorious for high oil consumption due to the extreme heat generated by the turbo bearings, and with their adoption across the industry as a way to increase fuel efficiency, this is becoming an issue for not just sports cars, but regular consumer cars and trucks as well.
The best engine oils are synthetics like Mobil 1, Valvoline SynPower and Castrol Edge. Despite being highly refined and processed, they can be fairly affordable if you keep an eye out for sales and rebates.
There are also higher-end synthetic oils like Royal Purple, Motul and Amsoil. While they’re often touted by armchair enthusiasts on online forums for their supposed superior protection, there is little concrete evidence to back up these claims. However, they offer at least the same level of protection as more affordable, widely available synthetics.
All that said, if your car and driving habits don’t demand the added protection of a synthetic, there’s no harm saving money by using a conventional oil.
From $6 per quart
No matter how well lubricated the inside of your engine is, the metal components will wear down and internal seals will dry and shrink over time, allowing oil to get into places where it will burn away or leak out.
It used to be common practice to use thicker oils as engines got older, but these formulations cause extra strain on the oil pump and don’t reach all the pathways to fully lubricate the engine. That means rather than fixing the problem, they can actually accelerate engine wear.
Contrary to popular belief, a synthetic won’t slip through these spaces more easily and burn faster than a conventional oil. Synthetic and conventional oils with the same viscosity will flow exactly the same way. For high mileage engines, there’s a better alternative to either of these: semi-synthetic oil.
Castrol GTX HM doesn’t just work better in older engines, it adheres to parts longer, offering better protection when starting an engine after a long period of sitting. This makes it a great choice for older vehicles that are only used occasionally such as antique cars and winter beaters.
From $8 per quart
Royal Purple is almost unheard-of outside of racing circles, but independent tests show their oils are able to keep up with oils offered by the industry’s leaders. Hot Rod magazine has experimented with their lubricants and managed to get more power out of a classic car and improving the fuel economy on a late model Ford pickup by switching to their oil and transmission fluid. While not a thorough test of their products’ capabilities, these tests are much better than the speculation surrounding most oil claims.
From $5 per quart
Valvoline and Castrol may offer semi-synthetic high mileage formulations, but Quaker State has gone the extra mile, creating conventional, synthetic blend and full synthetic oils all designed for older vehicles, allowing buyers choose the trade off between price and performance that works for them. There are many supporters of their Defy High Mileage blends who have run the oil in vehicles that have anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 miles on their engines.
From $8 per quart
Total may not be a big name in the U.S, but they’re a major player in Europe thanks to their extensive petroleum operations. If you follow any motorsports outside of America, you’re probably familiar with the brand as they’ve sponsored Red Bull’s F1 team since 2009. That’s the same team that won the constructor’s championship title, and whose driver, Sebastian Vettel, took the driver’s championship title that same year.
They’re also involved in rally racing, supporting Citroën’s efforts for over 20 years. Here in the states, they recently became the top sponsor for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) racing series, a top level North American-based motorsport that was formerly known as Grand-Am racing. Like Mobil, they’re able to apply their experience developing oils for severe racing conditions to create formulas that meet the demands of regular consumer vehicles.
From $4 per quart
While other manufacturers concentrate on lubrication performance, Pennzoil’s development aims at reducing the formation of sludge to keep the inside of the engine as clean as possible. That translates to lower friction, maintaining power and fuel economy.
There’s more to this strategy than just marketing. The brand works hand-in-hand with automotive manufacturers to develop oils for their engines and recently became the official oil supplier for Ferrari. There could be few better endorsements than the approval of one of the world’s top supercar manufacturers, and even if you aren’t going to run out and buy one of these vehicles, the resulting marketing campaigns with IMSA driver Rhys Millen tearing around Barcelona in a 488 GTB are great fun to watch. Using Pennzoil may not turn your commuter into a V12 sports car, but there’s no doubt it will protect your engine.
From $7 per quart
When did you first hear about synthetic oil? The 2000s? The 90s? Amsoil led the way, bringing lubrication technology developed for fighter jets to the automotive market in the 1970s, beating their competitors by almost two decades. Their synthetic formulations were the first to be recognized by the American Petroleum Institute, the same API that formulates all the standard performance tests for oil that automakers design their engines and lubrication systems around. Despite this leading position, the company has remained a small, family-owned enterprise with a focus on quality over sales.
Since it was founded, the company has stayed at the leading edge of oil development, concentrating on motorsports applications. Instead of working with a single high high profile series, they sponsor a wide range of racing events in the U.S. and Canada including motocross, Sprint Cup, Canadian Snowcross Racing and numerous off-roading events.
According to promotional materials and advertisements, each brand and formulation of engine oil is the best oil, offering unparalleled engine protection, fuel economy and performance. The truth is that almost every motor oil on the market these days meets the same API standards and can provide the protection our vehicles need, so long as they meet the specifications of the automobile’s manufacturer.
Since oil manufacturers do their testing internally and secretly and there’s no standardization other than the API’s requirements, any advantage a particular formulation may have is hard to determine as the information available is speculative at best.
No matter what oil you choose, always compare the manufacturer’s recommendations with the API “donut” seal on the back of the oil container. This seal will include the service category, oil viscosity, and whether or not the oil formulation is “energy conserving,” which means it reduces friction for improved fuel economy. As long as the requirements of your engine are met, the oil is safe to use in your vehicle.
Today is world Emoji Day and Friday is National Stick Out Your Tongue Day. We don’t need much to give out some deals so this Friday and Saturday we are running a weekend special.
Ready for road trip season? Roll down the windows and turn up the tunes. Thanks to its expansive roadways and varied terrain, the U.S. provides many excellent road trip routes, including ones that run from north to south along either coast and others that cut from east to west across multiple scenic states. For a trip packed with fun, adventure, and beauty, check out our list of top road trip routes and recommended stops.
The Pacific Coast Route is perfect for dreamers and romantics! Breathe in the salty air as you cruise along 1,650 miles of stunning coastline from Seattle, WA to San Diego, CA. Plan on a leisurely drive, because you’re definitely going to want to stop to eat fresh oysters, sip a California Cab at a local winery, and take in the picturesque views. Enjoy these jaw-dropping sights along California 1:
This 2,000-mile coastal route takes you from New York to Florida on I-95 and US-1. You can savor different states’ cuisines by making pit stops for Carolina barbecue, Maryland crab, and fresh-caught Florida seafood! Leave time for detours to laid-back beach towns like Wilmington, NC where you can (and should) check out the River District for eclectic vibes and amazing eats, and charming Southern cities like Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. No scenic drive is complete without beautiful views, and these are three sights you can’t miss on your journey along the Atlantic Coast Route:
Blaze a trail like the American pioneers of the 1800s! The Oregon Trail runs 3,300 miles along US-20. Start at Cannon Beach in Oregon to see Haystack Rock and journey east to Cape Cod National Seashore. For guaranteed adventure, make room in your itinerary for these stops:
Get your kicks here! This 2,448-mile Dust Bowl migration route is known for its neon signs, old diners, and quirky destinations—like the 66-ft tall pop bottle at Pops 66 Soda Ranch and the Blue Whale of Catoosa. For the full experience, start your drive in Chicago and end at the Santa Monica Beach and Pier in California. While you’re there, check out three infamous road trip pit stops:
These cross-country road trip routes are sure to please! Just make sure that when you hit the road, it doesn’t hit you back. Make Firestone Complete Auto Care your first stop for a Courtesy Check or Complete Vehicle Inspection. A technician will thoroughly examine your vehicle from bumper to bumper to help make sure your car is in good shape for a long road trip. We’ll let you know if anything needs to be fixed for your safety. Once your vehicle is checked out and ready to go, turn up the music and point your dash in the direction of adventure.
If you need us along the way, we’ll be there, too. We have 4,000+ technicians working at thousands of Firestone Complete Auto Care locations from coast to coast.
The post Iconic Cross-Country Road Trip Routes for Your Bucket List appeared first on Completely Firestone.
That little engine part called the spark plug performs a huge job in delivering a vehicle’s power, performance, dependability and fuel efficiency and, according to the non-profit Car Care Council, should be replaced periodically.
“Spark plugs are one of the hardest working parts of a vehicle. A spark plug can fire 400 times per minute per cylinder or 1,600 times a minute on a four-cylinder engine,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Many car owners delay spark plug repair on their vehicles, even after they have failed. This is a mistake since fouled, damaged or worn out spark plugs can lead to engine damage, reduced fuel efficiency and poor performance like misfiring, hard starting and sluggish acceleration.”
If you spot any of the following symptoms, the Car Care Council recommends having your vehicle checked to prevent more costly problems from developing.
The Car Care Council recommends that consumers consult their owner’s manual for the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended spark plug replacement intervals. The council also recommends replacing all of the plugs at the same time and with the same type of spark plug that the vehicle was originally equipped.
“Replacing spark plugs is a relatively inexpensive maintenance task and can be performed by a do-it-yourselfer or by a professional technician at any auto repair shop,” said White.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For the latest car care news, visit the council’s online media room at media.carcare.org. To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at www.carcare.org.