Posts Tagged ‘engine’

AAA: Not All Gasoline Created Equal

July 7th, 2016 by AAA

ErinSteppTests show quality gasoline keeps engines 19 times cleaner

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 7, 2016) – New testing from AAA has uncovered significant differences in the quality of gasoline sold at fuel retailers in the United States. The independent laboratory testing compared gasolines that meet TOP TIER™ standards often marketed to consumers as having enhanced, engine-cleaning detergent additives with gasoline brands that do not participate in the automaker-backed program. Among brands tested, non-TOP TIER gasolines caused 19 times more engine deposits than TOP TIER brands after just 4,000 miles of simulated driving. Such carbon deposits are known to reduce fuel economy, increase emissions and negatively impact vehicle performance, particularly on newer vehicles. To protect vehicle investments, AAA urges drivers to use a gasoline that meets TOP TIER standards for engine cleanliness and performance.

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“AAA was surprised to learn the extent to which detergent additives impact gasoline quality,” revealed John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “As advertised, tested TOP TIER gasolines kept engines remarkably cleaner than other fuels we tested.”

In response to increasing levels of carbon deposits in modern engine designs, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated a minimum level of detergent for all gasoline sold in the United States in 1996. However, some automakers believe the minimum does not go far enough to ensure optimal vehicle performance and their ability to meet increasingly-stringent fuel economy and emissions requirements. The TOP TIER program and performance standard were developed to guarantee that program participants’ gasoline meets stricter targets for engine cleanliness.

“When it comes to selecting a gasoline, automakers got it right – TOP TIER gasoline performs best,” continued Nielsen. “By selecting a quality gasoline, drivers can minimize engine deposits, increase vehicle performance and improve fuel economy.”

Despite the fact that two-thirds of U.S. drivers believe there is a difference in quality of gasoline sold by different gas stations, a AAA survey reveals that Americans value convenience and price over quality when it comes to selecting a gas station.

  • Three-quarters of U.S. drivers choose a gas station based on location (75 percent) or price (73 percent).
  • Nearly one-third (29 percent) of U.S drivers choose a gas station based on a rewards program.
  • Only 12 percent of U.S. drivers select a gas station based on whether the gasoline contains an enhanced detergent package.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. drivers do not regularly buy gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent additive.
  • Men (44 percent) are more likely than women (26 percent) to regularly buy a gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent package, as are baby boomers (41 percent) compared to millennials (32 percent).

“Americans are six times more likely to choose a gas station based on the price of gasoline rather than the quality of the fuel,” continued Nielsen. “Since TOP TIER gasoline is widely available and only an average of three cents more per gallon, AAA urges drivers to reconsider their priorities when selecting a gas station.”

To ensure a gas station sells a high quality gasoline, consumers should research the fuel options near them. According to TOP TIER, one-third of gas stations meet the TOP TIER standard for fuel quality. Retailers interested in participating in the TOP TIER program can find additional information here.

“Fortunately, consumers can reverse some engine deposits simply by switching gasoline brands,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “After a few thousand miles with TOP TIER gasoline, performance issues like rough idling or hesitation during acceleration can often be resolved.”

For testing purposes, AAA selected TOP TIER and non-TOP TIER gasolines from a southern Texas market that represents the type of gasoline sold across the majority of the United States. To measure intake valve and combustion chamber deposits, AAA engaged the services of an independent International Standards Organization 17025 certified engine testing lab to perform an ASTM International standard test on fuels.

To evaluate consumer gasoline preferences, AAA contracted with a national research company to perform a telephone survey of 1,002 adults (18 years of age and older) living in the continental United States. Survey results are an accurate representation of the total continental U.S. population, 18 years of age and older, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

For additional information about fuel quality, including the full test report and fact sheet, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Ginnie PritchettAAA, the nation’s largest motor club, shares useful tips for drivers during Car Care Month

ORLANDO, Fla., (October 1, 2013) – October is Car Care Month and AAA is reminding drivers about the importance of properly maintaining their vehicles. There are a few simple things every driver can do to make sure their car is ready for the road.

“Learning how to handle common maintenance issues is beneficial to anyone who gets behind the wheel,” said John Nielsen, managing director of AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Proper maintenance can extend the life of your vehicle and help prevent costly repairs.”

Below are four simple car care practices AAA recommends every motorist perform on a regular basis:

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Check the Air and Wear of Your Tires

83% of American do not know how to properly inflate their tires, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The pressure on all tires—including the spare— should be checked monthly, with a quality gauge when the tires are cold. Proper pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker most often located on the driver-side door jamb. Do not use the pressure stamped on the sidewall of the tire. Note that the pressure levels on some cars are different for the front and rear tires.

Check the tread depth on each tire by placing a quarter upside down in the tread grooves. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed at any point, it’s time to start shopping for new tires. Also, look for uneven tire wear when checking the tread. This can be an indication of suspension, wheel balance or alignment problems that need to be addressed.

Every driver at some point deals with a flat tire. Click here for a step-by-step video that shows how to prepare for and repair or replace a flat tire.

Ensure Your Car Battery is Properly Charged

Extreme temperatures break down car batteries internally and can accelerate the rate of corrosion on battery terminals, leading to insufficient electrical power and the risk of being stranded without warning.

At every oil change, check the battery cables and ensure they are securely attached to the terminals. Clean the terminals if there are signs of corrosion. Disconnecting the cables to clean the hidden areas where they contact the battery terminals is the best way to remove external corrosion.  Most car batteries have a three to five year service life, depending on local climate and vehicle usage patterns. If your battery is getting old, have it tested at a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop or by using AAA Mobile Battery Service to determine if it needs to be replaced.

Keep Those Wipers Working

Inspect the wiper blades monthly. Check to see if they are worn, cracked or rigid with age.  Damaged wiper blades won’t adequately remove debris, compromising the driver’s vision and safety. The life of a rubber insert is typically six to 12 months depending on its exposure to heat, dirt, sunlight, acid rain, and ozone.  Streaking and chattering are common clues that the rubber is breaking down and a replacement is needed.  Click here to learn more.

The windshield washer fluid reservoir should be checked monthly. Top it off with a solution formulated to aid in the removal of insects or other debris. In winter, use a solution that will not freeze at low temperatures. Also, test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim before leaving on a trip.

Work with a Local Repair Shop You Trust

Every car requires routine maintenance and repair. The best time to find a mechanic or auto repair shop is before you need one. Start by asking friends and family for recommendations of repair shops and mechanics. Visit www.aaa.com/repair to find nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, take your vehicle to your top candidate shop for routine maintenance. While there, talk with the employees and take a look at the facility and consider the following questions:

  • Does the facility have up to date equipment?
  • Were you offered a written estimate?
  • Does the shop offer a nationwide warranty on parts and labor?
  • Are customer areas clean, comfortable and well organized?

Click here for more on finding the right automotive repair shop for you.

When having your car serviced, follow the factory recommended maintenance schedule to avoid under- or over-maintaining your vehicle.  Oil changes, tire rotations, changing transmission fluid, and replacing an air filter are the types of routine maintenance recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. The maintenance schedule for these services and more can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Ginnie PritchettAAA alerts drivers that extreme summer heat can push vehicles to limits if not properly maintained

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ORLANDO, Fla., (July 25, 2013) – With temperatures soaring to record highs around the country, AAA cautions motorists not to underestimate the ways in which extreme heat can wreak havoc on vehicles.  With an estimated eight million automobiles in need of AAA’s roadside assistance this summer, heat will take its toll on vehicles and their occupants.

“Prolonged exposure to high temperatures is not only a threat to passengers, but a vehicle concern as well,” said John Nielsen, AAA Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Knowing the dangers and preparing your vehicle for extreme heat can help keep your vehicle running smoothly during the hot summer months.”

To keep your vehicle running smoothly this summer AAA recommends motorists address the following common heat-related car problems:

Over-Heating Engine

Automobile engines work extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system’s job to protect the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper cooling system maintenance, the odds of long term engine damage, and a summer time boil over, definitely increase.

Over time, engine coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives are depleted. That’s why the system should be flushed and the coolant replaced periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Older coolants required changing every two years or 24,000 miles, but most modern formulations are good for at least five years and 50,000 miles, and many do not require replacement until approximately 100,000 miles. See the owner’s manual or maintenance booklet to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.

Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper levels by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer. CAUTION! – Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns.

Other fluids help keep vehicles running cool as well. Most vehicle fluids don’t just lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers to should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.

Battery Failure Due to Heat and Vibration

Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. While drivers cannot do much about the heat, they can make sure their battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration.

If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last. This test can be performed at any AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, or AAA members can request a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician come to them and test their battery free of charge. Should the battery need replacement, the technician can usually replace it immediately on location. For more information on the AAA Mobile Battery Service visit AAA.com/Battery.

Blown Tire

Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it also can cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high.

Tires should be checked when the car has not been driven recently, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer—not the number molded into the tire sidewall. Recommended tire pressures can be found in the owner’s manual or on a tire information sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb. Drivers also should inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem.

Air Conditioning Failure

During extreme summer heat, a properly operating air conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. If a car’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it did in the past, it may mean the refrigerant level is low or there is another problem. Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician.

Many automotive climate control systems today are equipped with a cabin filter that prevents outside debris from entering. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.

If you think your vehicle is experiencing problems due to the extreme summer heat, have it checked out by a trained automotive technician. The AAA Approved Auto Repair program is a free public service that helps motorists identify high-quality auto repair facilities they can trust to work on their vehicle. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops must meet stringent professional standards and maintain an ongoing customer satisfaction rating of 90 percent or better. To locate a nearby AAA-approved repair shop visit AAA.com/Repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Ginnie PritchettMotorists’ smart key learning curve results in risky and costly lesson

ORLANDO, Fla., (March 06, 2013) – Even as the technology, security and convenience of automobile “smart keys” evolve, AAA finds motorists are not keeping pace and are frequently outsmarted by their “smart” keys.  In 2012, AAA came to the rescue of over four million members who locked themselves out of their vehicles, a number that has dropped little in the past five years; even as use of smart keys has increased.  First available in luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, almost all automakers now offer the smart key  as standard or optional equipment within their fleet of vehicles. As a modern convenience, transponder fobs allow motorists to enter and start their vehicle key-free.

“Traditional car keys will likely become obsolete and be replaced by technologies offering even greater security and convenience,” said John Nielsen, AAA Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Motorists will need to adapt with the technology to avoid the hassle and expense of smart key replacements.”

While new smart key features provide long list of conveniences, including remote start and stored driver profiles, motorists unfamiliar with operating keyless fobs can face risky situations and lockouts. Forgetting to turn off the car before exiting the vehicle, or not knowing how to quickly shut down the engine in an emergency, has proven to be a problem for some. And, for those systems with remote start capability, it is critical that motorists never start the vehicle in an enclosed space where engine exhaust gasses containing poisonous carbon monoxide can be trapped – with potentially fatal consequences.

Just as motorists adjust to smart key features, they may be surprised to learn that smartphones may soon be an option to replace their car key altogether. Electric vehicles from Chevrolet and Nissan today have special mobile apps that can be used to monitor and control many of their basic functions.  And, Hyundai recently unveiled a more advanced concept that allows motorists to enter and start a vehicle using a specially-configured smartphone that can then interface with the vehicle to provide additional functions and services. Some of this technology could be seen in vehicles as soon as 2015.

The greater conveniences and features of modern car keys do not come cheap and require more maintenance. The purchase price of vehicles that offer modern key technology are higher, the fob battery must be changed periodically and it can cost hundreds of dollars to buy, cut and program a new or replacement key.

“The cost to replace a transponder key runs around $100, and replacement smart keys can cost several hundred dollars depending on the make and model,” continued Nielsen. “Many newer keys must be programmed by a dealer or locksmith with special electronic equipment and accesses to highly confidential codes that are required to service the vehicle security system.

AAA recommends motorists take special care of their transponder and smart keys. Here are some steps that can help prevent danger, loss or damage of vehicle keys, and limit the replacement cost in the event a key is misplaced:

  • Familiarize yourself with the full capability of your smart key and know what to do in an emergency situation
  • Become comfortable with the features of the smart key in a safe environment
  • To avoid keyless-entry remote or smart key failure, replace the key/fob battery every 2 years or when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer or the in-car low battery warning system.
  • Don’t expose your keyless-entry remote or smart key to harsh elements – especially water.
  • Obtain a spare key and store it in a safe location for emergency use only.


ORLANDO, Fla., (January 25, 2013) –  A survey by AAA has found that newer cars with built-in maintenance reminder systems are allowing owners to spend less time worrying about when to service their vehicles and more time enjoying vehicle ownership.  According to the survey, 63 percent of motorists drive vehicles with a built-in maintenance reminder system that alerts them when it’s time to have service work performed. More than half (51 percent) of those drivers rely solely on the reminder system and have maintenance done only when the system says it’s due.  AAA recommends that motorists always follow automakers’ maintenance recommendations as found in vehicle owners’ manuals, including the use of in-vehicle maintenance reminder systems (where equipped) as an accurate indicator of when a car needs service.

“It’s encouraging to see motorists accepting this technology. Maintenance reminder systems make vehicle ownership easier, and having required services performed at the appropriate intervals results in better overall performance and longer vehicle life, “ says John Nielsen, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Reminder systems can also save money by helping drivers avoid unnecessary service work.”

Reminder Systems and Vehicle Maintenance

Unlike traditional maintenance schedules based on time and/or mileage, maintenance reminder systems use various sensors and a computer algorithm to monitor vehicle operation and determine engine oil life based on real world use. The factors considered vary by reminder system, but commonly monitored values include hours of operation, engine rpm, cold starts, outside air temperature, vehicle speed and more. This analysis of real-time vehicle operating conditions makes choosing an oil change interval based on traditional “normal” or “severe service” driving conditions obsolete.

Frequency of Scheduled Maintenance

Motorists who follow their in-car reminder systems may also see a change in the frequency of recommended oil changes. While older vehicles sometimes required oil changes as often as every 3,000 miles, advancements in engine and lubricant technology have extended oil change intervals to 5,000 miles or more on most newer cars. In some cases, engines that use synthetic or semi-synthetic oils can have oil change intervals of more than 10,000 miles! AAA survey data show today’s motorists are beginning to accept longer oil change intervals, with 48 percent of drivers changing their oil every 3,000-6,000 miles.

Not All Oils Are the Same

While maintenance reminder systems typically call for extended oil change intervals, those recommendations are based on an assumption that the oil used in the engine meets the automaker’s specifications. AAA found that nearly 75 percent of motorists whose cars have built-in maintenance reminder systems understand that the accuracy of those systems depend on using engine oil that meets the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.

Many newer cars today require the use of semi-synthetic oil (a blend of conventional and full-synthetic stocks) to maintain the warranty and ensure proper engine protection between oil changes. The use of full-synthetic oils is very common in European imports, high-performance models and engines equipped with turbochargers or superchargers. Using a lower quality oil than required will compromise engine protection, decrease the accuracy of the maintenance reminder system and potentially void the engine warranty. It is important that motorists and service providers be aware of the relevant standards for each vehicle and only use engine oils that meet them.

AAA Recommendations

AAA advises motorists to follow their vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and, if their vehicle is equipped with a maintenance reminder system, to perform necessary maintenance when prompted by the vehicle. Ignoring maintenance reminders can increase vehicle wear and tear and potentially cause long-term damage. It is also important to know what type oil your vehicle requires and ensure that your service facility uses an appropriate product. The wrong oil could void a vehicle’s warranty, leaving the motorist to pay any needed repair bills.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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