Posts Tagged ‘oil’


What’s Causing All This Smoke?


I just replaced my valve cover gaskets and am having some troubles.  The day after I replaced the gaskets, I started the car, and smoke billowed from the exhaust.  I thought the whole thing was going to blow up.  Any ideas?

Danielle B., CO


The most likely problem is that those new valve gaskets weren’t installed properly.  If that’s the case, it would leak oil all over the exhaust manifold and cause all the smoke you’re noticing.  Assuming this job was done in a shop, the mechanic should stand by his work and pay for the replacement of the gaskets.  He may even pay for the tow to the shop since you shouldn’t drive then car when it’s burning up fuel that intensely.

- Ken the Car Guy


Why Is My Tailpipe Dripping?


I’m experiencing some sludge dripping from my tailpipe.  The car is new… Is this normal?

-Brad G., TX


This actually is a fairly normal thing to happen to new cars.  What’s happening is that the engine is “breaking in”, which consumes more oil than normal.  This burnt oil gets sent out with the exhaust.  By the time it gets to the end of the tailpipe, the burnt oil gasses condensate, and form the sludge that you’re seeing.

If your tailpipe continues to drip badly, you might have a problem, but with  new car, it is perfectly normal.

- Ken the Car Guy


How Can I Clean My Engine?


My engine is a wreck hygienically.  Changing oil and shredded V-belts have left gunk and oil all over the place.  How should I go about cleaning it?

-Katie D, NM


A product which is really catching on with car owners is Simple Green.  This product is great for oil, dirt…. pretty much anything under the hood.

To top things off, Simple Green is biodegradable.  It was also used by the air force to clean aircraft, so it’s gotta be good.

Just spray it on your engine, let it sit for a few minutes, and wash it all off within a few minutes.  It’ll clear away nearly all of the gunk in your engine and should make it look like new.

- Ken the Car Guy


How Do I Check My Oil?


I know it’s important to check your oil every so often, I just don’t know how.  Could you walk me through the process?

-Neil D., WI


You’re certainly right, checking your oil can help you keep a close eye on your engine and help you catch problems before they start.

The first step is simply to find the dipstick on your engine.  The dipstick can vary from car to car pretty dramatically, so if need be, check your owner’s manual.  Dipsticks generally have a looped end to help you grab and pull it out, so start by looking for that.  Some models however have a screw in dipstick which might be harder to find.

Once you’ve located the stick, pull it out, wipe it completely clean with an old rag, and insert it again.  When checking the level, it’s important not to reinsert the dipstick all the way.  Instead, insert it just before the point that it is locked in place.  Remove the stick again, and this time note the level.  Most dipsticks will be marked with “High” and “Low” levels, but some will only have a groove showing you what the ideal level should be.

If the oil level is low, add oil slowly to the filler cap (or directly into the dipstick hole) until it reads a proper level.

- Ken the Car Guy


How Often Should I Change My Oil?


I’ve been told I should change my oil every 7,000 miles, but I only make short trips so I never drive more than a couple thousand miles a year.  How often do you think I should get my oil changed?

- Dan K., CA


Most engine manuals recommend changing the oil after a certain number of miles because oil inevitably gets dirty after use.  Carbon buildup, humidity and temperature changes can all affect the viscosity of oil.

If your engine only sees occasional use, the oil can still loose it’s functionality due to humidity and temperature changes which cause condensation to bleed water into the oil system.  If you don’t drive the suggested number of miles, a good practice is to get an oil change once a year, especially if your car is kept outside and sees regular changes in temperature.  This will keep your oil system healthy and prevent problems down the road.

- Ken the Car Guy


What Should I Do Before Starting An Unused Car?


I just bought a car that has been garaged for several years and want to make sure I don’t damage anything when I try to start it for the first time.  What should I do to improve the chances of a clean start?

- Derek C., FL


Your first step should be to replace all the fluids in the car.  Over time, condensation in the gas tank can lead to water buildup which can damage the engine.  After draining and replacing the gas, you should give it a good oil change and top off the radiator.

Another good thing to do is to spray some oil to the cylinders.  Simply remove the spark plugs and shoot a burst of penetrating oil inside.

Before actually trying to start the car, use a socket wrench to turn over the crank shaft by hand a few times.  This should distribute the oil in the cylinders and also tell you if the engine has seized.

With all these steps complete, you can try to start the engine normally.  If it does fire up, keep your eyes on the gauges for a few minutes to make sure everything is running smoothly.

And don’t forget to cross your fingers!

- Ken the Car Guy


What Should the Oil Look Like in a Used Car?

Dear Ken, just got a good deal on a 2001 Honda Odyssey from CarsforaGrand. May seem like a silly question, but what is the proper way to check the oil and what should it look like?

- Fred Y., ME

Fred, there’s no such thing as a silly question. That being said here’s what you need to do. Park the car on a level spot, turn the engine off and set the hand brake. Locate the engine oil dipstick, pull it out, wipe it off with clean cloth and insert it back. Pull it out again and have a close look. If you find the oil is completely black (although for the Diesel engine black oil is normal) and (or) the oil level is very low (left picture) – suspect excessive oil consumption and (or) lack of maintenance. In either case the engine will more likely to have problems in the future. Another sign of poor maintenance would be dark stains (carbon deposits) covering the oil dipstick along its length.

A well maintained engine will more likely to have cleaner oil and the proper oil level, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that the engine is in good shape; the oil just could have been changed recently.

Hope this helps.

- Ken the Car Guy