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                      Tips for Winter Car Preparations and Safety 

Technicians recommend that you service your car twice a year-Spring & Fall

An easy to remember tip is to use Daylight Savings Time: 2013: March 10 & Nov 2         

Use month of November as Your “second” servicing event of 2013

  1. 1.   Non-synthetic conventional oil is changed at 6 months & 6,000 miles
  2. 2.   Full-synthetic (Mobil One) oil is changed at 12 months & 12,000 miles 
  3. 3.   Change dirty summer motor oil & filter, use same viscosity all year
  4. 4.   Check all wiper blades for torn rubber and replace any torn blades
  5. 5.   Set tire pressure to 32 lb cold or to the value listed in owner’s manual
  6. 6.   Check the brake and power steering fluids inside the engine bay
  7. 7.   Fill washer reservoir using blue for above +150F, yellow under +150F
  8. 8.   Check tire tread using a quarter (picture above) Is George’s hair covered?
  9. 9.   Engage emergency + headlights: walk around to verify all lamps work
  10. 10.         With engine off + motor cold: visually check belts & hoses for cracks
  11. 11.         With engine off + motor cold: visibly verify is coolant in the reservoir*

*Careful consult owner’s manual for exact coolant type used in your car!

General automotive coolant information:

Long life coolant lasts 5 years or 100,000 miles, beyond 5 years acid develops     

Blue/green coolants last about 2 years/ 30,000 miles, or acid develops

Information by Don Wollum, owner Tech Check Mobile Auto Inspections:     




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                        Variable Torque Enhancement Systems

“Variable Torque Enhancement Systems (VTES) are PCM controlled inductive turbines instantly boosting engine power.”

“VTES systems combined with exhaust energy recovery systems will radically change hybrids as we known them today.”

A “Hybrid  describes 2 technologies blended into one: electric motors and gas engines as we have today.  

What exactly is a “Hybrid Four”* concept? Briefly, 2 more technologies added to the Hybrid cars of today.

1.      Use of a 1/3 smaller gas motor than the size engine found in Hybrid use today, for better mileage when cruising

2.      Hybrid individual electric wheel power is applied for acceleration and regenerates battery power during braking

3.      Inductive motor intake turbine will pressurize intake charge on demand, canceling out the smaller displacement. AndThe VTES engineers designed use stored battery power compresses the intake to produce 20-40% more free engine torque.

4.      Exhaust exiting the engine still contains energy now recovered in a turbo driven generator charging the battery. The VTES engineers recover waste thermal energy in the exhaust to drive a turbine coupled to a 6 kW generator. This concept stories previously wasted heat energy for later VTES or individual wheel motor power again improving overall thermal efficiency and with it big gains estimated to 70 MPG to the “Hybrid Four”.

 “The electric powered supercharger also can react more quickly, spinning up to 70,000 rpm in less than 350 milliseconds to provide the power boost precisely when the driver needs it. ” said Pierre-Emmanuel Strohl, Valeo’s Product Marketing Director of Powertrain Systems, at a media briefing in late July 2012 at the company’s North American headquarters in Troy, MI. “The VTES supercharger, compatible with both gasoline and diesel engines, uses electric power rather than the crankshaft to inject air into the engine and boost output. Because it is decoupled from the engine, there’s no power drag that forces the power plant to burn more fuel and produce higher levels of unwanted emissions. Tests have shown exhaust generators can produce 6kW of energy to the batteries to store”

“A VTES system equipped car then routes battery power to an inductance 12V supercharger that quickly produces instantaneous boost. The electrically driven supercharger works in conjunction with the fuel management to produce instant boost and lower emissions all-the-while using less fuel.”  Strohl continues.  The two devices together are claimed to improve fuel economy by 20%. French supplier Valeo has plans to supply new technology to help certain car manufacturers to each the 56 MPG our US EPA mandated for the year 2025. Engineers found the immediate response of inductive turbines, when combines with exhaust energy recovery generators powering the huge batteries in hybrid vehicles the best way to reach 60-70 mpg in a car not too different from today’s cars. 

Engineers estimate carbon-dioxide emissions could be reduced 15%-25% in a vehicle using the micro-hybrid technologies at a cost of $1,000-$2,000, well below what it says is the $2,100-$13,000 outlay for mild, full and plug-in hybrid powertrains. VTES (for variable torque enhancement system), could be beneath the hood of a production vehicle within 12 month. Nick Pascoe, chief executive officer CPT says: “use of the electric supercharger could help prevent future fuel-economy-focused powertrains that combine downsized engines with high-ratio transmissions from “driving like a dog.”

A 30% reduction in engine size can translate into a 15% reduction in CO2, Pascoe tells WardsAuto in an interview prior to the technology sale to Valeo last year “That’s a big improvement, but will anyone buy it? (This) gets you back to being (both) green and fun to drive.”

Don Wollum, Owner Tech Check, ASE Master Technician, Hillsborough NC. * “Hybrid Four” registered trademark of YAM  

After a record setting cool spring, Summer will push our highway temperatures above 100F!


Here are 10 helpful recommendations to help you and your car make through the hot spells:     

  1. Was oil changed in 2013? If not, change oil and service fluid levels, and inspect for good tires & brakes.
  2. When parked outside, leave each window lowered by 1 inch to vent the hot interior air to the outside.
  3. Set the air conditioning on 78 degrees, keep windows closed, follow posted speeds to improve MPG.
  4. Keep the fuel tank above a quarter tank; keeping the fuel pump immersed in liquid avoids vapor lock.
  5. In heavy rain: slow to 45 MPH, turn on headlights & flashers, avoid deep puddles where tires loose grip
  6. Do windows steam inside? Look for restricted A/C condensation drains causing water to drain into car, not underneath and outside car as it should.
  7. An organic smell is likely from #6 above where water seeps in carpets and molds, or cabin air filter dirty  
  8. Overheating or steam up front: pull over, stop engine, open hood, wait 1 hour to open rad cap to refill*
  9. Carry a gallon water, cell phone, AAA or towing roadside assistance, white towel assistance needed flag 
  10. Do not tow a trailer, camper or a boat unless your car/truck was bought with factory towing package.

 * Car cooling systems operate up to 15 pound pressures and are as hot as 235F. NEVER REMOVE CAP UNLESS ENGINE HAS BEEN OFF FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR WITH THE HOOD OPEN TO VENT EXCESS HEAT  


Here you are with a 13 year old reliable import with 268,000 miles on the odometer. The paint and interior and list of repairs needed outweigh any interest you have investing good money in a worn car. Your family has made subtle comments that it is time for a new or used car. You agree. All is go until you receive sticker shock at the price of new cars in 2013. Ouch!  

Fact: October 2012 average new car out the door price was 30,785.00 dollars. Ouch!

Fact: October 2012 average used car out the door price was 12.075.oo dollars. Oh, really?

In 2013, the economy is down, and it is still best to be careful taking a 5 year new car loan

Here are 8 great purchasing economic reasons why a used car may meet all your needs!

1.     Cars made in the last 10 years have vastly improved reliability and durability.

2.     New car prices keep growing: 5% last 3 years mainly by increased iron & copper costs!

3.     Technology improvements you want are fitted to late model cars, 3 to 5 years old.

4.     Many manufactures have longer warranties so many are still active on 5 year old cars.

5.     Modern engines have world class engineering and metallurgy that are proven durable.

6.     Today’s engine/ transmission oils are often synthetics and have improved engine life.

 7.     Safety margins have increased with each model redesign and side impact air bags.

8.     Insurance rates are lower for later model cars because of safety improvements

Don Wollum Senior Master ASE Technician and owner of Tech Check Mobile Auto Inspections;

Natural-gas in place of gasoline? It’s still a poor and expensive choice compared to hybrid and battery powered cars

Green automobile initiatives are focused on electrics, hybrids, or ethanol.  Almost invisible is the Honda Civic that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) The natural gas Civic has been on sale in California for 7 years.  Honda recently upgraded its CNG offering based on the current Honda Civic. Let’s take a closer look at natural gas powered cars.

On the positive side: CNG burns cleaner, and will have similar mileage costs, performance, and drivability when compared with gasoline. Comparing equal thermal units of energy CNG costs is about 40% less than gasoline. The negative side the price of the CNG Civic is 8 thousand higher than the gasoline-powered Civic.

Natural gas has been used as a motor vehicle fuel since the 1930s. But with the increased costs associated with domestic electricity, subsidized ethanol fuels and Bio-fuels, CNG-powered cars have better footing for production numbers to increase in recent years.

CNG burns much cleaner than gasoline. Environmental Protection Agency data shows that CNG can reduce CO emissions by 90 to 97 percent and nitrogen-oxide emissions by 35 to 60 percent. CNG also reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 50 to 75 percent, fewer cancer causing Benzene pollutants and trace PM10 particulates. For the environmental score card.  CNG is win-win-win.

Why has Honda developed a CNG Civic? Because the Civics’ CNG fuel delivery system is very similar to what a hydrogen gas powered car 10 years from now would need. So the CNG development experience Honda is gaining now with the Civic will be directly applicable when hydrogen becomes a cost effective transportation fuel source.

CNG Civics’ are geographic sold only in those few locations where there are CNG refueling stations. California and New York currently have just a few hundred CNG fueling stations. Limitations are the extremely high cost for storage and dispensing equipment costing 100’s of thousand dollars and that gas and in usually dispensed at 3000 PSIg c units.

On the negative side: Off-setting the advantages are some very real extra costs and limiting considerations:

  1.  With a usable range of 160-180 miles, you’re going to feel range anxiety as soon as the low fuel light comes on
  2. The scarcity of public access CNG filling stations, that basically restricts your used to just 3 major population centers
  3. The majority of CNG refueling stations privately operated by company with CNG fleets not open to the public.
  4. CNG fueling procedures take getting used to, using a special fitting to seal to the vehicle and safety precautions
  5. For example, a Honda representative suggested owners take a 15-minute training session before using the pumps.
  6. Most pumps work on a card-reader system specific to the CNG supplier. Users are billed monthly, none take cash.
  7. Refueling time for a CNG vehicle take about twice as long to fill the CNG car as it would using a regular gas pump.
  8. Poor range with a larger gas tank. A CNG tank is larger than a gasoline tank, yet you will get fewer miles per tank.
  9. Trunk Space concerns , roughly half the trunk space houses the CNG tank, with little space left for your luggage
  10. Honda claims a 220+ mile range; a 2008 CNG Civic did not reach 130 miles before the low-fuel indicator came on.

Safety:  The department of Energy says vehicles powered by natural gas are as safe as conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles, and their pressurized tanks have been designed to withstand severe impact, temperature, and environmental exposure.

Don Wollum, ASE Senior Master Technician, owner of Tech Check:

Symptoms of Driving a Car with a Lane Departure Warning Systems

When flying for Christmas, you just rented a 2013 luxury car, driving along and 1 or more of the following happens:

  1. The steering wheel vibrates
  2. An amber light appears on the left or right A-Pillar
  3. A chime on the dash sounds
  4. An illuminated  coffee cup symbol appears on your instruments
  5. When steering to one side the wheel gets very stiff
  6. Your seat begins to vibrate, but just on one side of it
  7. Your cars brakes apply just one front caliper on its own
  8. The bumps in the road get real rough and the car drives very firm and taught

You are very concerned about these problems your rental is having. You quickly call the rental company and they start to laugh, tell you to calm down.  After asking to speak to the manager, the clerk continues: “all new luxury cars do that!”  Next, the rental clerk asks a very good question: “Were you in traffic changing lanes, was there is a car in your blind spot?” I recalled that yes there was a hidden car in my blind spot and he honked to alert me. “Then the Departure Warning System was operating normally and helped you to avoid a collision!”

How does it work?

While carmakers use slightly different systems to create their lane departure warning system, the concept is the same. If you change lanes and there is a car beside you, the computer warns you that there is a car in your blind spot. How? By using a sound or a flashing a dash light, vibrating the steering wheel or seat, or in some cars, stiffening the steering effort or suspension, and in one car, the system will apply just one front brake to pull steer you back to safety.

Many systems use 2 cameras mounted on each side of the rear view mirror; while others use a radar unit to monitor the lane markers in the road and a motion sensor on each side of the car to look in the blind spot. Thousand times a minute, the system monitors where your car is in the lane and in relation to traffic around you and it will warn you or take control of your car if you drift out of your lane or near a car in your blind spot.

Are They Effective?

In a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), blind spot detectors and backup cameras showed mixed results in improving safety. The data on these technologies is just starting to come in, and the IIHS says more study is required, but in general the preliminary results are favorable. In a few years all cars sold will have a lane departure warning system and insurance companies will give discounts to every car’s equipped with them.

“This will become an industry standard,” said Don Grimm, senior researcher for General Motors, a leader in this field. “It’ll create some real cost advantages and could proliferate down to midsize and economy vehicles.”

Driving the new luxury car over the holidays, I gradually became to appreciate these subtle hints that the car produces. So now when in heavy traffic, I began to trust this information, and after calmly waiting, a hidden car did appear in the mirror from my blind spot and the lane detection system was right. The technology we thought was futuristic just 10 years ago is available in just about every car we can now purchase today. The future is here!

Answers to questions above:  1. BMW  2. Volvo 3. GM  4. Subaru  5. Ford 6. Buick  7. Infinity  8. Lexus

Don Wollum Senior ASE Master Technician, owner of Tech Check Mobile Auto Inspections:

Turbo Equipped Cars Set to Triple. 

It will be interesting to see what other technologies emerge to meet the 54.5 MPG is the EPA has mandated for the CAFÉ average by 2025, For the next 5 year though, we can expect manufactures to add turbochargers to even smaller engines.

Flash Back: Fuel Shortage 1976,

By 1980, just 4 years after the Arab oil embargo, it was clear adding engine displacement improve power was in direct opposition to improving fuel economy. To increase fuel economy, Saab, Ford, Mercedes and Porsche introduced turbo technology unbelievabley to their present day production cars. Engineer’s quickly found that turbocharging provided more than just power—turbocharging also increased fuel economy. Win/Win.  A fun review of these early Turbocharged cars can be viewed on this link:

Fast Forward 30 years to 2012:

Most car makers are ramping up turbocharged car production in numbers that are truly astounding.  For example, Ford’s Eco Power turbo engines will be available in 90% of the 2013 product range. Every car maker will add a boost gageto monitor the addition of turbocharging a smaller displacement engine.  It is predicted that direct injection and direct ignition and integrated turbocharging improved 2015 cars to 44 Highway and 36 MPG around town.

“With the 2016 37.5 CAFE standards looming, downsized powertrains and turbocharging is a primary adoption strategy,” said Tony Schultz, vice president of the Americas for Honeywell Turbocharger Technologies. “In North America, I don’t see any slowdown in the adoption rate.”

With near $4.00 per gallon gas prices in the USA, 2012 car buyer’s mention fuel economy as one of the most important factor when buying a new car.  By reducing the size of the engine then adding a turbo to regain power and acceleration, automakers are measauruing improvments to fuel economy in 10% to 20% in gas powered cars and up to a 40% mileage improvement in diesels.

Pike Research said:
“The market for turbo chargers in small engines is about to heat up. If Honeywell is to be believed the global market will grow from 17 million new turbo vehicles in 2009 to 35 million in 2015, while the U.S. market will see growth from 5% to 20% of the internal combustion engine market. With the tightening CAFE requirements and the growth in demand for smaller vehicles, these numbers are not too hard to believe. In fact, I might argue that the numbers for 2015 may be a bit on the conservative side assuming it includes diesels and Chinese manufacturers”

“The total number of turbo equipped product ion cars will jump from 1.3 million units last year to 4 million in 2017”, forecasts Honeywell, a leading turbocharger manufacturer. The Morristown, N.J., company also expects by 2017 25 percent of light vehicles sold in the United States will be turbocharged.

Praise for those first brave turbo car producers have really paved the road to mileage improvement and have bought us: “Back to the Future” with great MPG and more power from smalled engines.

Don Wollum, ASE Master Technician and Owner Tech Check mobile auto Inspections.

Air conditioning was working perfectly with R-12 so there was no change for 55 years (1940 to 1995).  Then, scientists suspected R12 refrigerant was associated with ozone depletion and larger atmospheric “holes” in the north hemisphere.  R12 eventualy was traced to the dereased protective ozone layer and UV radiation levels in Canada and Alaska soared and R12 played a major role in increasing Artic solar radiation damages. The effects of R-12 on the Northern Hemisphere ozone levels resulted in the EPA beginning in 1994 requiring manufactures to fill A/C systems with R-134a. By 1997, R12 was completely banned by the EPA for auto manufacturer A/C use at the factory.

Now just 17 years later it’s R134a turn for environmental phase-out because of “Global Warming” concerns. See, R134a has a carbon pollution rating of 1433 (bad).  HFO-1234yf on the other hand only has a global warming friendly carbon pollution rating of just 4.  By the end of this year the switch to HFO-1234yf automotive A/C refrodgerant will be underway.

For the most part, systems filled with HFO-1234yf are substantially identical to R-134a systems. Both systems work at very similar pressures, which became an attractive trait in helping the industry choose HFO-1234yf over carbon dioxide (CO2), which requires higher pressures. Of course, HFO-1234yf must have its own fittings and service label, which is typical for different refrigerants.

Cool. Then there is the not so cool other side to the story. This new refrigerant will bring a multitude of expensive changes to the A/C service landscape. One most noteworthy downside of the new refrigerant is that it is flammable and release into the atmosphere and sparks or flame will cause a fire in some settings.

Costs are noteworthy too. For instance, until manufacturing plants are in full swing in 2014, HFO-1234 will cost 10 TIMES more than R134a and the EPA has not yet made provisions for over the counter sales to the public. No shade tree mechanics unless trained and liecenced by the state, will have access to HFO-1234yf. On the other hand, every shop servicing A/C will need to have  all techniciqans HFO-1234yf trained and state licensed and the shop also must have the EPA required HFO-12234yf separate and specific A/C equipment that will require an inverstment of over $12,000.00!

2012 American cars using this new refrigerant is the Cadillac ATS and all 2012 Subaru’s. Dealerships will need to consider service equipment for HFO-1234yf during this year. This may also be the case for collision shops, depending on whether they perform A/C work in-house. Your local independent shop will need to consider HFO-1234yf-ready equipment within the next couple of years.

We can appreciate that the Supreme Court that ruled CO2 was a “greenhouse gas”, and this ruling opening the path in 2012 for EPA regulations specifying a new refridgerant for automotive use in 2010.

Don Wollum ASE Master Technician and owner of Tech Check automotive services in Hillsborough NC;

Today’s performance cars have as many as 8 gears and many small cars have stick shift or automatics with 6 gears.  Gas mileage has never been more important to new car sales and 8 gear ratios are mainly offered to ensure that smaller engines can accelerate like larger engines. This gives you a zippy small car and the manufacturer can gain credits that improve the corporate fuel economy averages.

Thinking outside of the (shift) box, you may want to consider skipping over some of those many gears.  Not because you are lazy, but because you are interested in improving your fuel mileage. Yes, it’s true, studies have shown that “non-sequential” gear shifting improves your gas mileage. Here are the main reasons why.

Having established that engines run best under partial load at low-to-moderate engine speeds, overall engine efficiency peaks between 1800 to 2400 RPM. Piston loading per fuel BTU charge is fully expressed in the longer duration exerted by the piston pressing on a slow turning crankshaft.  For example: When biking on a flat road we select a higher, slower turning pedal gear and reduced our leg pressure for better endurance and use of our available muscle energy.  Your engine responds to low RPM and moderate throttle with better gas mileage in much the same way.

The second mileage improving benefit of non-sequential shifting is reducing your average engine speed down so that the rotational friction is also reduced.  Piston and crankshaft rotating at high RPM create turbulence with the crankcase and the oil. Slow running engines also reduce oil film adherence properties that are indeed a form of “friction”. The faster an engine spins, the greater the rotational resistance values are.

Today’s car manufacturers now specify 0W-20 or 5W-20 viscosity engine oil in the crankcase leaving no stone unturned in the quest for improved fleet fuel economy averages.  Compared to 10W-40 oil, rotational resistance values at engine speeds above 3000 RPM are reduced by one third. It is much easier to rotate an egg beater in water than maple syrup.

How to put Non-sequential shifting in practice:  NOTE: For Flat road use only!

Manual transmission cars: Start from rest in 1st gear to 20-25 MPH, then shift to 3rd to 40-45, then 5th gear for cruising.

For automatic cars with floor shift or paddle shifting: start from rest in 2nd gear to 35 MPH, then select Drive above that.

Results will vary, but with regular low RPM shifting and moderate throttle use, 1-2 increase in MPG can be experienced.

Don Wollum, 25 year ASE Master Technician and Owner of Tech Check Mobile Auto Inspections in North Carolina

What are “Green” “Blue” or “ECO” Tires and do they Save Gas and Lower Driving Costs? YES!

Recent Tire Rack analysis confirms that a $600.00 dollar set of “green” tires over 6 years will indeed be less expensive than a set of $500.00 tires.  How is this possible without a Government rebate? Read on to find out!

Before I give the wrong impression, “green” tires are still black, have all-season tread and come in sizes that fit most cars on the road today. Green tires are In showrooms today, as you will find “green” tires are fitted on most new cars to improve gas mileage. Every increase in MPG posted on the window sticker greatly increases car sales. This makes sense for car makers subject to mileage mandates, but fitting “green” tires to a car you already own makes sense for you too!

“Green” tires have been around for about several years and are rapidly gaining acceptance for not only improving gas mileage, in addition “green” tires last longer and carry a long 6 year/ 90,000 mile warranty. “Green” tires have advanced internal ply structures and special rubber compounds and new tread designs that  significantly reduce rolling resistance.

Some “green” tire brands available:

  • Michelin Defender, Green-X  technology
  • Yokohama Avid Ascend, BlueEarth technology
  • Continetal CrossContact LX20, ECOplus technology
  • Bridgestone Turanza Serenity Plus, ECO-Products

A set of 4 green tires (P215/60R16) costs $600.00, same size 4 standard radials is $500.00.

There really are good economic, time saving reasons for spending $100.00 more for a set of “green” tires.

1. Gas savings of $240.00 over the 6 years/90,000 miles of ownership: 17% reduced rolling resistance translates to 2% improved MPG. A 30 MPG car driven 15,000 miles/year will save 10 gallons or $40.00 a year, and over 6 years that totals $240.00.

2. Savings of $60-100.00 for mounting and balancing a set of “green” tires ONCE over 90.000 miles. Non green tires are often worn and need replacement at 45,000 miles. So, you will save the mounting/balancing costs by NOT having to get new tires at 45,000 miles.

3. One less visit to the tire shop saves you 1-2 hours of your time keeping you productive and happy. Compared with conventional radial tires, many drivers need 2 sets of tires over the same 6 year/90,000 miles of driving. What is your time worth at 50,000 miles to NOT visit the tire shop to replace worn regular tires?

Over 90,000 miles, green tires lowers the total out of pocket costs of driving your car by over $300.00!

Get ready to say yes to green tires! The economics and time savings away from the tire shop are worth it!


Don Wollum, ASE Master Technician and Owner of Tech Check:

Article based on Tire Rack Articled: