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For Your Car

Article from the National Car Care Council:

It's All in the Timing

With automotive engines as with many aspects of daily life, timing is critical. One vehicle component often overlooked during routine maintenance is the engine timing belt. If it fails, the engine will stop and the car will coast to a stop. The lucky motorist will only have the inconvenience of being stranded on the side of the road until the car can be towed to a repair facility to have the timing belt replaced. On the other hand, the engine might suffer severe, if not catastrophic, damage to its internal components.

This potential disaster can be avoided easily and relatively inexpensively by replacing the timing belt within the required replacement interval.

Timing belts resemble an engine accessory serpentine belt in appearance, only they typically have square teeth on the inside surface. They usually are constructed of rubber reinforced with nylon. The timing belt transfers the rotation of the crankshaft to the camshaft. The rotating camshaft activates the valves, which provide air and fuel to the cylinders and expel combustion gases to the exhaust system.

 

The valves and pistons are constantly moving up and down at very high speeds. When the pistons are down, the valves are open; when the piston is at the top of its travel, the valves are closed. Some engines don't allow clearance between a valve at its lowest point and a piston at its highest. The timing belt, therefore, is the critical link to ensure that these components don't collide. If collision occurs, damage to the valves, pistons, cylinder head and cylinder walls can result. This can be an expensive repair.

Timing belts usually are protected from foreign objects by a cover, making visual inspection impossible.

Many domestic vehicles built within the last several years and the majority of imports are equipped with a timing belt. Other engines rely on a timing chain rather than a belt. Refer to your owner's manual or take your car to a repair facility if you are unsure. The owner's manual maintenance schedule is a source of timing belt replacement intervals, typically every 60,000 to 90,000 miles.

Timing belt replacement usually requires removal of the engine drive belt that operates the alternator, water pump, power steering pump and air conditioner. Consider replacing this belt, or multiple belts, when having a new timing belt installed.

Take Control of Rising Gas Prices: Don't Let Your Money Evaporate

Fight skyrocketing gas prices by taking control of your vehicle's unnecessary fuel consumption, advises the Car Care Council. Consumers can add miles to every gallon they pump by following a few easy and inexpensive maintenance steps with their car, SUV, minivan or pickup truck.

"Most motorists don't realize that it's the little things that don't take a lot of time or cost much that can really make a difference when it comes to saving money at the pump," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "Loose or missing gas caps, underinflated tires, worn spark plugs and dirty air filters all contribute to poor fuel economy."

The Car Care Council offers gas saving maintenance and driving tips that really work:

  • Vehicle gas caps - About 17 percent of the vehicles on the roads have gas caps that are either damaged, loose or are missing altogether, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year.
  • Underinflated tires - When tires aren't inflated properly it's like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon.
  • Worn spark plugs - A vehicle can have either four, six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical erosion. A dirty spark plus causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly.
  • Dirty air filters - An air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a "rich" mixture - too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving about 15 cents a gallon.

Fuel-saving driving tips include:

  • Don't be an aggressive driver - Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets, which results in 7 to 49 cents per gallon.
  • Avoid excessive idling - Sitting idle gets zero miles per gallon. Letting the vehicle warm up for one to two minutes is sufficient.
  • Observe the speed limitGas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each mpg driven over 60 will result in an additional 10 cents per gallon. To maintain a constant speed on the highway, cruise control is recommended.
  • Combining errands into one trip saves gas and time. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance.
  • Avoid carrying unneeded heavy items in the truck. An extra 100 pounds can cut fuel efficiency by a percent or two.

As part of the "Be Car Care Aware" education campaign, the Car Care Council is also offering a free service interval schedule to help take the guesswork out of what vehicle systems need to be routinely inspected and when service or repair should be performed. The schedule can be printed for free from the Car Care Council's Web site at http://www.carcare.org/service_schedule.shtml

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