Improved fuel economy has two benefits for Chesapeake drivers: less fuel is necessary and fewer emissions are released. Suffolk cars and trucks run cleaner than ever. Chesapeake car owners may not realize that the first federally mandated pollution control device came out almost fifty years ago.
Virginia car owners that were around in the early 60’s may remember that the PCV Valve came out on 1964 model cars. PCV stand for Positive Crankcase Ventilation. The crankcase is the lower part of the engine where the crankshaft is housed and where the engine oil lives. The crankshaft is connected to the pistons that power the engine.
When fuel is burned in the van engine, it pushes the pistons down and the crankshaft rotates and sends power to the transmission. Some of the explosive gases from combustion squeeze past the pistons and down into the crankcase.
Now this gas is about 70% unburned fuel. If it were allowed to remain in the crankcase, it would contaminate the oil and quickly turn it to harmful sludge. Sludge is like Vaseline and clogs passages in the engine leading to damage.
Also, the pressure build up would blow out seals and gaskets. So in the old days, there was just a hose that vented the crankcase out into the air. Obviously, not good for our air quality in Chesapeake.
Enter the PCV valve. It’s a small, one-way valve that lets out the detrimental gases from the crankcase, and routes them back into the air intake system where they are re-burned in the engine. Fresh air comes into the crankcase through a breather tube. This makes for good circulation in the crankcase. And that gets the detrimental air out. As you can imagine, however, the valve gets gummed up over time.
Suffolk drivers that skip oil changes now and then will notice that the PCV valve gets gummed up even faster. If the PCV valve is sticking in your van, the gases won’t circulate as well, leading to increased pressure in the crankcase. That, in turn, can lead to oil leaks. Fortunately, the PCV valve is very inexpensive to replace at West Service Center, Inc. in Chesapeake. Some can even be checked by your honest West Service Center, Inc. advisor.
Your van manufacturers usually recommend they be changed somewhere between twenty and fifty thousand miles. Unfortunately, PCV valve replacement is left out of some van owner’s manuals, but at West Service Center, Inc., we will make sure your PVC is replaced if needed.
All of us Suffolk car owners can do our part for the environment. Watch that lead foot, stay on top of our essential automotive maintenance and don’t forget to replace our PCV valve.
Don’t you hate it when you hear that squeal from under the hood when you’re zipping down a busy Chesapeake interstate? It usually means there is a problem with the serpentine belt. The serpentine belt powers a lot of engine accessories. It runs the alternator – which charges the battery; the water pump – which cools the engine; the air conditioning and the power steering pump. All pretty critical parts. It is called a serpentine belt because it snakes around a bunch of engine components.
Serpentine belts are amazingly tough. They can last for years and go for tens of thousands of miles. Like all critical moving parts, however, they eventually wear out. If your belt breaks while you are driving around Chesapeake, everything will come to a halt within minutes. You need to stop the van immediately or it will overheat, potentially causing costly engine damage. You can be sure that it won’t happen at a convenient time or place. (As if there was a convenient time or place!) You might even need to get your van towed to West Service Center, Inc.. It’s no wonder that car makers recommend a belt replacement on schedule. It’s one of those “have-to’s.”
Chesapeake auto owners who hear a squeal when accelerating or a slow, slapping sound at idle, should have their serpentine belt looked at. Your tech at West Service Center, Inc. in Chesapeake will visually inspect your belt to see if it needs to be changed sooner than scheduled. If the belt has more than three or four cracks an inch, has deep cracks that penetrate half the depth of the belt, is frayed, is missing pieces or has a shiny glazed look, it needs to be replaced regardless of age or mileage.
Serpentine belt replacement is relatively inexpensive, especially compared with the cost and inconvenience of being stranded or getting a disabled van back to West Service Center, Inc. for important repairs.
You’re mom was right: an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
West Service Center, Inc.
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
Modern cars and trucks in and around Chesapeake run on 12 volt electrical systems. 12 volts is enough to get the job done for Chesapeake drivers without having so much power that there is danger of electrocution. But today’s vehicles have more electrical components and do-dads than ever before. This really strains your electrical system, making it hard for the battery to keep up. Think about it: electric seats, seat heaters, power locks, windows and sun roofs. And then us Virginia drivers have all the power outlets for our cell phones, computers, and DVD players.
We also have navigation systems and powerful stereos. Plus there are all the engine and transmission computers, traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, sensors and on and on. Even the security system is running off the battery while the car is turned off.
Fortunately, battery technology has given Chesapeake auto owners resilient batteries that are able to meet these strenuous requirements. But the fact is, batteries just wear out over time. Eventually, every battery gets to the point where it cannot hold enough of a charge to start your van. Sometimes batteries need to be replaced because they have just worn out. Or, in other cases, they have developed a leak which makes it even more essential to get it replaced.
Special safety precautions are taken when working with batteries in the shop at West Service Center, Inc. in Chesapeake, Virginia. These precautions also apply to anyone who is poking around the battery. Batteries contain sulfuric acid that can damage your eyes and burn your skin, so safety glasses and rubber gloves are a must for any Chesapeake car owners working with their battery. Be careful to not spill acid on your clothes or the van’s paint. Of course, avoid short circuiting the battery as well.
Replacement car batteries come in all shapes and sizes. Some cars have limited space that requires a specially shaped battery to fit. Larger engines require more powerful batteries to get them started. If you live where it gets cold in Virginia you will need a more powerful battery because engines are harder to start when it is cold.
Sometimes there is quite a price range in Chesapeake auto part stores for batteries that will work in a particular car. Think of it as “good”, “better” and “best”. More expensive batteries have a longer warranty and are guaranteed to last longer. As with most things, paying a little more up front saves cash in the long run for Chesapeake motorists.
West Service Center, Inc.
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
Ever heard the sad tale of a staggeringly pricey repair bill from a broken timing belt? Bad news. Let’s Chesapeake motorists take a lesson from their woes and remember to think about our critical timing belt.
First, let’s review what a timing belt does. The top part of the engine, over the cylinders is called the cylinder head. The head contains the valves. There’s at least one valve that lets the fresh air into the cylinder. This air, mixed with fuel, burns to create power. Then another valve or two open to allow the exhaust out of the engine. Each cylinder has 2 to 4 valves – that’s 12 to 24 valves for a V-6, up to 32 values on a V-8. The opening and closing of the valves is done by a camshaft. The timing belt uses the rotation of the engine to drive the camshaft which opens and close the valves. It’s called a timing belt because it has to be adjusted to rotate the camshaft to keep proper time with the engine so that everything’s in sync.
The timing belt is a toothed rubber belt . But some cars use a timing chain or timing gears instead of a belt. Timing chains and gears are much more durable, but vehicle manufacturers are using belts more because they are quieter – and cheaper. If you have a small or mid-sized passenger car, crossover or mini-van, chances are you have a timing belt.
Unfortunately, timing belts fail without any warning. That shuts Chesapeake motorists down right away. Your West Service Center, Inc. service advisor can inspect your timing belt and look for cracks and looseness. But getting to the belt to take a look can be almost as much work as changing it on some cars. That’s why automobile manufacturers recommend replacing the belt from time to time. For most vehicles it’s from 60,000 to 90,000 miles or 95,000 to a 145,000 kilometers. If your owners’ manual doesn’t specify an interval ask your honest West Service Center, Inc. tech.
One AutoNetTV producer has had two timing belts fail. The first was while he was waiting at a stop light – that expensive repair cost several thousand dollars. The second was while driving on the highway – that one cost more than twice as much. Both had the cars out in the shop for three weeks. His cars had what we call “interference engines”, meaning that the valves and pistons are very close to each other. If the timing belt slips even one notch, the pistons will slam into the open valves. That’s why our friend’s highway failure was so much more costly – his engine was traveling so fast that the valves were smashed and they chewed up the cylinder head.
A non-interference engine will just shut down if the timing belt breaks. You’re stranded, but the engine doesn’t suffer permanent damage. In both cases, our hapless friend was just a couple oil changes past the recommended interval for changing the timing belt. This is one of those things that Chesapeake car owners just cannot put off. Now replacing a timing belt is not cheap – but repairs for a broken belt can be far more costly.
The team at West Service Center, Inc. recommends Chesapeake motorists check their owners’ manual ASAP – especially if you have more than a 60,000 miles or 95,000 kilometers. You may need to get that belt replaced right away. And on many cars, the timing belt drives the water pump. So, it may be a good idea to replace the water pump while you’re at it because 90% of the work required for the new pump is already done with the belt change. Doing both at the same time saves you a lot of cash because as they say, “timing’s everything”.
Local Chesapeake roadside emergencies can range from a flat tire downtown to being stranded in a snowy ravine for three days. So you may want to consider a basic emergency kit to keep in the car at all times and a travel kit tailored to a specific trip.
Your close-to-home kit for around Chesapeake would have some basic items to work on your car: everything you need to change a tire, gloves, a couple quarts of oil, some antifreeze and water. A can of tire inflator is a great temporary fix for minor flats. You’ll also want jumper cables or a booster box, flares, a flashlight and some basic hand tools.
Now for your comfort and safety: a first aid kit, drinkable water, high calorie food (like energy bars), blankets, toilet paper, cell phone, towel, hat and boots. Keep some change for a pay phone, emergency cash and a credit card.
People who live in areas with frequent severe weather or earthquakes may want to carry provisions for longer emergencies.
For trips away from home, consider the weather and geography as you assemble your emergency supplies. You’ll need to have a source of light and heat and will want to provide protection against the elements as well as adequate food and water for everyone in the car.
Always tell people where you are going and have a plan for checking in at waypoints. Then if you run into trouble, you can be reported missing as soon as possible and rescuers will be able to narrow the search area.
The key to safe travel is to keep your vehicle properly maintained, plan ahead, and let others know your itinerary.
Today we want to talk about timing belts. They’re something that many Chesapeake drivers don’t know much about and yet your vehicle won’t run if it’s broken – and it could cause many thousands of dollars damage if it does break. A broken timing belt is usually a tale of woe. Even though timing belt replacement is scheduled in the owner’s manual, it’s not the kind of thing that most Chesapeake car owners remember because it’s not well understood.
Let’s review what a timing belt does. As you know, the engine’s power is generated in the cylinders. A piston rides up and down in the cylinder. During the first down stroke, an intake valve at the top of the cylinder opens and air and fuel is drawn into the cylinder. Then the piston returns to the top, compressing the fuel and air mix. At the top, the spark plug fires, igniting the fuel pushing the piston down in the power stroke. As the piston once again returns up in the final stroke of the cycle, an exhaust valve opens at the top of the cylinder and the exhaust is pushed out. The timing belt is what coordinates the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves. It’s called a timing belt because the valves have to open and close at just the right time.
Now, not all Portsmouth and Norfolk vehicles have timing belts. Some have timing chains. Like the name implies, they use a chain rather than a belt to perform the function. It used to be that most engines used timing chains, which are extremely durable. Manufacturers started using belts rather than chains to save money in the manufacturing process. So now we’re left with a component that can break. They sort of shifted the problem to us. There are two broad categories of engine design: interference and non-interference. If the timing belt on a non-interference engine breaks, the engine simply stops running. That could be very dangerous depending on where you are at the time, but it causes no internal engine damage.
Interference engines, on the other hand, will get real messed up when the timing belt breaks, because the valves will actually fall down into the path of the pistons. Things get chewed up when that happens and it’ll cost thousands to repair the engine.
So, what are the warning signs? Unfortunately, there really aren’t any. There aren’t tell-tale sounds. In some vehicles, a technician from West Service Center, Inc. may be able to see part of the belt for a visual inspection, but many have a cover that’s in the way. The reality is that if the belt slips even one notch, it might as well be broken for all the damage it’ll cause. There’s no middle ground.
So how can we avoid these problems? Simply replace the timing belt when your owner’s manual calls for it. It can be 60,000 miles; it might be 90,000 or 100,000 miles. The point is, if you have 60,000 or more miles, ask your West Service Center, Inc. service advisor right away if your manufacturer requires a timing belt replacement.
Contact West Service Center, Inc. to learn more about your car’s Timing Belt
You can find us at:
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
Or call us at 757-487-4420
Sometimes you can go quite a while without a failure, but we’ve seen them happen within a couple of oil changes of being due. It’s not worth the risk.
What does it cost to replace a timing belt in Norfolk or Suffolk? Well, that really depends on what kind of car you have. I can tell you that it’s usually not very easy to get to the timing belt – you often have to remove some accessories to get at it. It isn’t a cheap procedure, but it’s a fraction of what it could cost to repair the damage caused by a failure.
At West Service Center, Inc. we’re all about trying to prevent costly repairs, keeping you and your passengers safe and increasing your driving enjoyment. Thanks to AutoNetTV for their great auto video tips.