Lynn Beckwith & The Break Down Syndrome

 Lynn Beckwith--the owner of Beckwith's Car Care--approached me a few days ago to prepare a handout for a seminar she was to give at the local college. The following is a transcript is what I derived from her notes.

    Vehicles have become one of the biggest parts of the American experience—especially living in Texas—and one of our most significant investments. Because we rely on them so much the last thing that we need is to be broke down on the side of the road. That is why it very important for us to make sure that we are properly maintaining our cars, trucks, and SUVs with regularly scheduled maintenance and service to avoid the break down syndrome.

Reason that cause us to break down most often:
•    Tires – One of the most familiar reasons we’re left on the side of the road is because of the part of the vehicle that sees that road the most: the tires. Making sure that all the tires are inflated with appropriate amount of air pressure is your number one way of taking care of them. It is also important to keep an eye out for any unusual and uneven tire wear. Keep in mind that your spare tire can be just as important as the one on the car at the time of a blow out, so make sure to monitor its pressure as well.
•    No Start – A no start can be a quick start to a bad day. There are many reasons why this happens; it can be anything from a fuel issue—to an electronic failure. However, more often than not one of the top reasons we see a no start is because the battery has died.
•    Cooling System Failure – During the hotter months, your vehicle’s cooling system has to work harder than normal to prevent the engine from overheating. Because of the strain that is put on the system it is possible for the rubber components to deteriorate leading to a leak of coolant, and engine overheating.
•    Engine Running Badly – There are a myriad of complicated reasons that an engine can run bad, and sometimes there is nothing that you can do to prevent them. However, sometimes keeping an engine running smoothly is as simple as keeping a clean air filter in your vehicle.  Like your lungs, your vehicle always needs to have an appropriate amount of clean air going into it in order to keep it from working harder than it should.
•    Fuel Related Issues – Fuel related issues that cause a vehicle to break down are at times cannot be prevented through maintenance, but in order to do what you can it is important to always make sure that the fuel injectors and the throttle body are kept clean from carbon build up. By doing this you can also regulate the vehicle’s fuel economy to that of the manufacture’s standards.

What Can You Do?

    The reality is that no vehicle—regardless of make & model—is indestructible. There will always be brake jobs that will need to be done, and failed starters that need to be replaced. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to make any vehicle out last its life expectancy.
•    Fluids – Though it is not realized by every consumer, there are many different fluids in your vehicle that, like your engine oil, should be replaced regularly. These different fluids keep the “hard” parts lubricated to avoid wear; the unfortunate thing is that over time the additive packages within the fluids begin to break down, and can cause damage to their corresponding system as they become corrosive and lose their ability to clean, cool, and lubricate.
It is always important to recognize what type of fluid is to be used in each of the individual systems of your vehicle. By referring to the owner’s manual, you can properly discern the exact specifications that are required.
The trick to keeping up the health of your fluids is to change them while they’re still healthy, and before they begin to degrade. Once fluid has a burned odor or is dirty, damage may have already begun to take place.
That is why is recommended to keep your fluids changed on a regular basis. Standard engine oil should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, while other fluids like transmission, brake, coolant, power steering, and differential should be replaced every 30,000 miles.
•    Rubber – In the days of the less complicated vehicle, it was not uncommon to carry around a spare drive belt with you at all times. Though rubber components do not fail as often as they used to, it is very wise to have all of these rubber parts inspected regularly.
o    Belts – It is not uncommon find at least two to three belts on a standard vehicle. The most easily recognized belt is the one that is referred to as your drive belt. As the belt ages it can develop cracks and fraying that can lead it to breaking.
        Another very important belt is the one that is out of sight behind the timing cover. This belt that controls the timing between the top and bottom of the motor, and is appropriately called the “timing belt”. Consequently in the event of this belt braking more significant damage can be done to the motor. It is standard that this belt is changed every 100,000 mile.
o    Hoses – The hoses that carry the coolant throughout your engine can often be the culprit involved with overheating issues. As these simple parts begin to fail it is not always visible through observation. Hoses tend to break down from the inside out. When a technician is inspecting your vehicle he may also find that an aged hose is swollen or is crunchy whenever it is squeezed. It is best to always have fresh hoses; if your vehicle is older than six years and still has the original hoses from the manufacturer it is suggested to have them replaced.
o    Tires – Tires tend to be a big investment to put into a vehicle. It is inevitable that they will wear out, but by making sure that they maintain the proper air pressure, are rotated every other oil change, and balanced every other rotation you will be sure to get the most out of your tires.
o    Wipers – This is one of the few components on a vehicle that upon failure will not leave you stranded on the side of the road. However like all the rubber on your vehicle it is important to keep a good set of wiper blades. You will thank yourself on that rainy day.
•    Batteries – Most batteries can be rated to last you as long as five year, but when you live in states like Texas that have hotter than average Summers that rating is reduced rather to about three year. Batteries tend to last 60% longer in colder climates; unfortunately that is not the case for the south!
Driving short distances do not do any justice to your battery because the alternator is not able to completely recharge it. Though long distance driving is not always possible while living in the suburbs, one way to avoid this is to by an automatic battery charger that shuts off when charging is finished. Be careful not to over charge because this could do further damage.
Keeping the terminals clean is another ways to insure the battery’s life. If they are corroded it could lead the battery to running hot, shortening its life.
So there you have it!
By putting into practice these simple steps towards better maintaining you vehicle you can be sure that you will have a more reliable means of transportation, and a better return on your investment.
Happy Driving – That Car Lady!

For more information on Lynn Beckwith and her shop, Beckwith's Car Care, check out her blog That Car Lady.