Tag Archive | "Oil"

Oil And Water Don’t Mix – Check Your Engine! Part Two.


Down in the bowels of your engine where wise men fear to go lies – the gearbox. Otherwise known as the transmission, this is an area of the car that tends to be overlooked but it too sometimes needs attention. Auto ‘boxes need a little more TLC than their manual counterparts. The gear oil needed is usually red, which helps to differentiate it from engine oil and helps identify tell-tale signs of problems. Fortunately, gearbox lubricant doesn’t need changing with anything like the frequency of engine oil.

As with the engine oil in Part One, if you feel metal flakes in the fluid on your latex gloved fingers then your gearbox is eating itself and repairs are needed. When clutches are slipping a burning smell occurs and a remedy is called for. Change that clutch fast! As mentioned, transmission fluid is usually red but if it turns to a schoolgirl pink then, somehow, coolant is mixing with it. The bad news here is that coolant has a tendency to attack the seals in the transmission so you have to find the leak, change the seals and replace your gear oil immediately. Again, like engine oil, if the fluid is foamy or sticky then it is an indication that your gearbox has overheated at some point or has been over filled. Put simply, when there is bubbles in oil there must be air and air doesn’t lubricate.

You know that sinking feeling when you notice a puddle under your car? Yes, that’s right – there’s a leak. If the offending liquid is brown or black then it is engine oil. Get some on your finger and sniff it. If it smells like oil then it is oil. If however, the leak is red then it’s coming from the transmission. Seriously, don’t put your finger in this one. If it appears to come from the centre of the car then it is the gearbox, if it’s near the wheels then it is probably brake fluid. Either way, go directly to your garage.

Next, there’s that good old standby, the water leak. If the liquid is clear then it is probably just run off from scuttles or drainage points. You also get it as part of the normal operation of air-conditioning systems, so nothing to worry about. If it is green or blue then it’s coolant. The location of the leak will give clues as to where it is coming from. The water pump, the radiator or a hose. Often these are simple jobs that can be done at home. Just don’t delay.

Finally, a word about dead rainbows. These appear under your car when any form of oil leaks into water. The two don’t mix so form rainbow colours when light is reflected off them. Have your car checked for leaks anywhere. Any form of leak affects the performance of your car in some way and, if not attended to, could herald serious and expensive problems in the near future. Repairing or replacing gearboxes is horrendously expensive. Regular maintenance is key to a happy life with your beloved motor.

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Oil And Water Don’t Mix – Check Your Engine! Part One


Just because a car is new or modern doesn’t mean that it looks after itself. In one way that’s fortunate; it would be a bit of a worry if a car never needed our intervention – and then what? Our presence?

Although cars have warning lights to advise you of impending doom, they also have more subtle ways of letting you know when something is wrong. It pays to check your fluids. Engine oil should be toffee coloured when new. Some synthetics may be lighter. As it ages it starts to turn darker. This is perfectly normal, but there are tell-tale signs when something is starting to go wrong.

Check your oil in the usual way via the dipstick. Is there a glob-like sludge? This means your oil has long since reached the end of its life and should have been changed way back. It may even have been contaminated by water, for which see below. This is a crisis which is a major contributor to engine problems and can require the motor to be replaced, if the damage is severe. Are there tiny metal flakes? This isn’t unusual of itself but if you rub the oil with your fingers – wearing rubber gloves of course – and can feel the flakes then something serious is afoot. A gritty feel means that the oil filter should have been replaced a long time previously. It always pays to check immediately after a service that these jobs have been done. The oil should be clean and, if you can see the filter, it should look brand spanking. Finally, when checking oil, if it has a milky appearance – look for yoghurt-like gunk around the inside of the oil filler cap – then it is mixed with water from the cooling system. This can mean one of two things. Either a blown head casket, which can be attended to, or a crack in the engine block which will mean reaching for the visa card and holding your breath!

If, when regularly checking your oil as you should, you find that the level always seems low then, rather obviously, you’ve sprung a leak. If you think your engine is dropping oil under the car – a big overnight piece of cardboard is useful – then it’s more than likely a gasket is leaking somewhere. Blue smoke means burning oil. If you see it from the exhaust at start-up it is probably a leaking valve seal. This is when oil drips into the engine when it’s cold and burns off when you start the engine. If the problem is a blown piston ring it means oil is burning in the combustion chamber and you’ll get blue smoke in normal running. Finally, if the oil is foamy then the bottom of the crank is churning the oil in the sump and is an indicator of too much oil in the engine. This is as bad as a lack of oil.

If you see any of these problems then your car is trying to tell you something. Ensure a regular maintenance schedule and act immediately to resolve these issues. You might just avoid a massive bill.

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