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TBT 3 – Mind Your Maintenance

TBT 3 – Mind Your Maintenance

For today’s Throwback Thursday, we’ll be taking a look at some cars that are rolling PSAs for staying on top of your vehicle’s maintenance.

First up is the Jeep Grand Cherokee transfer case that really blew us away when we saw it. According to the customer, they were driving on the highway, heard a noise and then their brakes stopped functioning. Once the vehicle was towed to us, we found that half the transfer case was missing, and the explosion had severed one of the hard brake lines, causing it to contact and wrap around the driveshaft. There are two main ways in which this could have happened — one’s related to maintenance, and the other is just plain ol’ knowing how your vehicle functions.

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First, a lack of proper transfer case maintenance could have left the transfer case low on fluid, and when levels got too low, the gears seized up and the resulting buildup of energy created the explosion. Second, they might have accidentally switched the vehicle into part-time 4WD mode. You see, in this setting, the front and rear wheels are forced to rotate at the same speed. However, especially when turning on dry concrete, the wheels need to be rotating at different speeds. This need for different rotational speed places a significant amount of stress on the transmission as it forces the faster-moving front wheels to slow down. This is called “driveline bind” or “axle binding.” Not only does it stress out many components in your vehicle, but it also causes the front wheels to understeer, nullifying emergency maneuvers and overall vehicle safety. This was basically a worst case scenario, whatever way you look at it. In either case, keep up on your maintenance and make sure your vehicle’s settings are optimized for the correct situation.

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Next up is a BMW E65 7-series. Its owner decided to follow along with the recommended oil change interval of 15,000 miles. Even with oil built for long-term use, we don’t recommend ever taking an oil change over ten thousand miles. Over time, if you keep following those overextended intervals, you’ll suffer from an accumulation of sludge in your valvetrain. This motor is one of the worst we’ve seen with this issue. Oil and fuel blowby (due to excessive idling and other non-load conditions where the piston rings don’t form perfect seals against the cylinder walls) meet together to form the perfect storm of engine-ruining crap. For the extra money you spend decreasing your oil change intervals, it’s much cheaper than having to tear an engine apart and clean the living hell out of it.

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Some of you might remember this severely overheated Nissan Altima from a year or so ago. Basically, the car was rolling down the street pouring steam everywhere. Once it came to a stop in the parking lot adjacent ours, it caught fire. We managed to sprint over there with extinguishers and saved the whole car from going up, but a simple lack of cooling system maintenance can produce an overheating situation that will quickly go from bad to worse. Make sure you’re keeping up with your vehicle’s scheduled coolant flushes, as well as ensuring your system is free of leaks and other potential issues.

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Finally, we have a coolant issue of another kind. Oil and coolant are not supposed to mix, which is why the cooling system and oil delivery systems are completely separated inside the motor. However, lack of maintenance can cause issues somewhere between those two systems — such as your head gasket. Coolant doesn’t lubricate very well, and oil’s not too good at transferring heat, and the parts in each system aren’t built to handle the fluid from the other. So when they start doing each other’s jobs, things can go haywire in a hurry. More often than not, a blown headgasket signifies big issues — up to and including a ruined motor. This car below suffered from this devil’s cocktail, as you can tell by the egg yolk-like consistency of the “coolant” inside the expansion tank. It needed some rather intensive cleaning, but thankfully the engine wasn’t permanently damaged.

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In short, especially if your car isn’t under the factory warranty, it pays to stay up to date on your vehicle’s condition. An extra inspection or two over the course of the year can catch problems early and before they become something much worse. Bad luck is bound to spring up from time to time, and some things are unavoidable, but if you do your best to stay one step ahead, it could wind up saving you a serious chunk of change. Have a great day, and we’ll see you tomorrow!

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