5 Things to Know About Oil Changes for Your Car

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.

1. When to Change the Oil

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.

Oil level gauge.

2. How Often to Check the Oil Level

Checking car oil.

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.

3. How Often to Change the Oil

Changing car oil.

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.

4. Choosing the Right Oil for Your Car

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.

5. Do You Need Synthetic Oil?

Conventional engine oil vs. synthetic engine oil.

“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.

Bridgestone Retail Operations Names Darin Stalker 2019 ASE Master Technician of the Year

Darin working on a vehicle engineBridgestone Retail Operations has announced Darin Stalker, vehicle service technician, is the 2019 Bridgestone Automotive Service Excellence Master L1 Technician of the Year! Stalker was recently honored at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence annual awards banquet in Phoenix, Arizona alongside other outstanding technicians from across the industry.

“We’re pleased to recognize Darin as the 2019 ASE Master Technician of the Year,” said Joe Venezia, president, BSRO. “Attaining this level of knowledge and skill takes a great deal of time, hard work, sacrifice and a commitment to lifelong learning. We are extremely proud of Darin’s many contributions to our organization as we work to deliver our mission of being the most trusted provider of tire and automotive care in every neighborhood we serve.”

Stalker, who works at the Firestone Complete Auto Care store in Springfield, Missouri, was nominated by his leaders and selected for the top honor among 5,000 ASE-certified technicians in the BSRO organization. He joined BSRO in 1997 as a general service technician with no formal automotive service training. For the past 22 years, he has advanced through the technician levels and currently holds nine ASE certifications. Stalker also serves as a mentor for less experienced technicians throughout the greater Springfield area, having led many ASE test preparation classes for BSRO.

ASE Technician of the Year honorees are submitted by their employers based on rigorous criteria including ASE test scores, on-the-job performance and community activities. ASE certified technicians are skilled at handling challenging mechanical service and maintenance. Achieving ASE Technician of the Year recognition is one of the highest honors a technician in the vehicle service industry can receive.

A subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, BSRO is the world’s largest company-owned network of tire and automotive service centers with more than 2,200 store locations across the U.S. BSRO includes the Firestone Complete Auto Care, Tires Plus, Hibdon Tires Plus and Wheel Works store brands.

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How Good Are Blizzak Snow Tires? Your Blizzak FAQs Answered

Close-up of Blizzak snow tire treadSo, you’ve decided that you need winter tires. That’s great! You’ll be joining many drivers on the road who have also decided to make safer driving a priority this winter. While consumers and critics agree that the Bridgestone Blizzak tire is one of the most popular and effective winter tires on the road (thanks, Auto Guide!), there’s still plenty to learn about its technology and uses. Here we answer the most commonly asked questions about Blizzak tires.

How good are Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires?

The only thing more common than Blizzak’s appearance on winter tire review sites is the high rating both professional reviewers and owners give them. The tire’s ability to stop on both snow and ice is unparalleled thanks to its special design. Four key features set the Blizzak tire apart from other winter tires.

  1. Nanopro-Tech & RC Polymer: The advanced material that makes up the Blizzak tire is designed to maintain grip in wet and cold conditions.
  2. Zigzag/3D Sipes: Sipes are essentially the teeth of the tire. They “bite” the road as you drive and keep your vehicle from sliding around. The Blizzak’s zigzag sipes are specifically engineered for extra bite in winter conditions.
  3. Optimized Tread Width: No two tread widths are the same and each design has a unique purpose. With a wider tread width, the Blizzak tire allows for better traction and handling in slick or wet conditions.
  4. Multicell® Compound: The Blizzak tire has millions of tiny pores that remove the top layer of water on an icy road to help your vehicle maintain traction.

Blizzak tires are designed to help drivers avoid dangerous hydroplaning situations. Additionally, high marks are also awarded for Blizzak tires’ ride, comfort, and value.

Are Bridgestone Blizzak tires good for all seasons?

No. Blizzak tires are not made to be used in all seasons. For safety and driveability, nothing beats a winter tire in the winter. But if you want your tires to last and perform as intended, do not use winter tires in the summer. The shoulders and tread will wear unnecessarily fast.

Different tires are strategically designed to handle certain types of vehicles and road conditions. Winter tires are made specifically for cold, wet, and snowy conditions. For example, they grip the road in a different way than tires developed for non-winter conditions. Features of all-season tires, such as tread design, type of rubber, and sipe depth make them more suitable for milder winters.

How long do Bridgestone Blizzak tires last?

There’s a reason drivers give Blizzak tires higher ratings for overall value. Depending on your driving conditions, you can expect to replace them every three or four years. Optimal design and durability lend to the longer lifespan of the Blizzak tire.

Equip your vehicle with Blizzak tires for the winter season and replace them with all-season tires once winter is over. This helps ensure Blizzak tires stay winter-ready for many years to come. Proper tire storage between seasons will also help.

When do I need to replace my Blizzak tires?

As with other tires, Blizzak tires will show visible signs of treadwear. The penny test is a good way to quickly check the tread on your tires. Put the penny head-side down into your tire’s tread. If you see the top of Abe’s head, it’s time for new Blizzak tires.

If you’re unsure if your winter tires are worn down too much, stop by your local Firestone Complete Auto Care to talk to one of our technicians. We’ll help you determine if it’s time for new winter tires.

Are Bridgestone Blizzak tires directional?

Blizzak tires are directional. This means they feature a tread design that enhances water dispersal — a crucial factor in avoiding hydroplaning — as well as snow traction. Directional tires can also help improve fuel efficiency since they have lower rolling resistance.

Are Bridgestone Blizzak tires studdable?

A studdable tire is designed to hold little metal studs that dig into the ice, enhancing traction. Winter tires come in studded, studdable, and studless varieties. Blizzak tires are the latter of the three.

Blizzak tires are not studdable because they don’t need to be! They’re designed to forgo the time, cost, noise, and potential road damage associated with studded winter tires by featuring an independent block tread design. This design enhances winter traction without the need for additional metal studs.

Where can I buy Bridgestone Blizzak tires?

Ready to drive into winter with confidence? Stop by your local Firestone Complete Auto Care today to talk to a technician about Blizzak tires! Are you more of an online tire shopper? Buy Blizzak tires online for ultimate convenience.

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Arctic Blast Wake-Up Call: Winterize Your Vehicle Now

The recent record cold weather in a large part of the country should be a wake-up call to motorists who have not yet winterized their vehicles, warns the Car Care Council.

“Freezing cold temperatures can stress out a vehicle, as well as its driver,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “The recent record low temperatures are a harsh reminder to be car care aware. Motorists should invest a little time now to check their vehicles so they have one less worry when arctic temperatures strike again.”

Very cold temperatures reduce a vehicle’s battery power so it’s important to keep the connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Batteries don’t always give warning signs before they fail completely, so if the vehicle’s battery is more than three years old, it’s wise to replace it.

Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate. Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.

Have the brakes inspected and check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly.

Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling, so if you’re due for a tune-up, have it done before the temperatures drop again. Also, clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system and have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.

For good visibility, make sure that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.

Also check to see that heaters, defrosters, lights and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. Wiper blades that are cracked or torn, or that chatter, streak and don’t properly clean your windshield should be changed.

Keep the gas tank at least half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. Lastly, stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.

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.

The post Arctic Blast Wake-Up Call: Winterize Your Vehicle Now appeared first on Be Car Care Aware.

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NATIONAL HAPPY HOUR DAY – Take $7 Off – Click Here

What is National Happy Hour Day?

If you’re sitting at your favorite watering hole with a group of buddies chowing down on free or reduced price buffalo wings, chips and salsa, fries and maybe some coconut shrimp with cocktails or beer between 5-7pm on November 12, then you’re right on time for National Happy Hour Day! Life would be dull without it, so, enjoy!

National Happy Hour Day History

Surprisingly, something that most of us associate with fun after work in mostly urban settings, actually got its start with the U.S. Navy as far back as 1914.  (However, in 1900 “Happy Hour” social clubs did exist.)

Happy Hours, as we know them today, got started during the early days of the Mexican-American war. During the occupation of Veracruz Harbor,  American sailors aboard the U.S.S. Arkansas were the subject of desperate reporters looking to fill out mundane stories after earlier fighting had used up all the exciting copy. Notices,  as in this lead in the “Washington Times” of May 1, 1914, “ ‘The Happy Hour’ Aboard Ship Makes U.S. Tars (short for “tar heels”, a slang for sailors from North Carolina) Contented.” were common. After a busy day, happy hours boosted morale with boxing matches, dancing and drinking. (Although liquor was expressly banned from naval vessels starting in 1899, sailors may have sneaked booze onboard.)

By the end of WWII, happy hours were a “thing.” The relaxing practice had spread throughout U.S. naval fleets. But on April 25, 1959, a “Saturday Evening Post” article popularized, “happy hour” for everybody outside the Navy.  According to “Bustle,” an article entitled, “The Men Who Chase Missiles” described the hazards for people who “ lived and worked on remote island outposts tracking Cape Canaveral’s missile launches… “Except for those who spend too much during “happy hour” at the bar — and there are few of these — the money mounts up fast.”

As much as we love National Happy Hour Day (and we really do!), the day itself remains uncredited. This may be one of those internet-generated days that makes life so much fun. So, at the end of this day, let’s meet at the bar after work, say, around 6?