Butler Heating & Air

Maintenance Service Guide

Here are some explanations of the basics of car maintenance:


Sometimes it's hard to know what to buy for your car, for instance, oil. It is accepted among repair technicians that synthetic oil is better than conventional oil. Why? Because oils have different pour points and oxidation points. This means that the oil stops flowing and burns up at certain temperatures. Generally speaking, higher pour and oxidation points mean that the oil in your engine can tolerate a greater range of temperature, which is desirable. A synthetic oil has a higher pour and oxidation point than any conventional oil. However, the added expense may not be entirely worthwhile if you live and only drive in extremely mild and predictable climates.

Oil Filters

Oil lubricates engine parts. It also carries heat away from parts that build up an incredible amount of friction, enabling your engine to withstand more extreme heat than without it. An oil filter removes impurities from the oil that is coursing through your engine, improving overall performance. Oil becomes full of particles at a certain point regardless of how premium your filter is, which means it is sending more impurities to your engine each time it cycles through. For normal driving, a change every 7,500 miles is sufficient, unless you live in an extreme climate, are a stop-and-go driver or pull a trailer, in which case a change every 3,750 miles is recommended.

Fuel Injection System Flush And Filters, Pipes And Hoses

When considering a fuel injection flush, wait until a problem develops. Some injector systems are actually damaged by flushing. Dirt, or any particle, will destroy an engine faster than almost anything else. Fuel system filters are designed to trap dirt or rust particles before they flow through the engine. There are three filters in a fuel injection system, located in the fuel line, air intake duct, and gas tank. Changing filters regularly protects all engine systems. Inspecting fuel system hoses, pipes and connections will help you discover a leak before much damage is done.

Cooling System

Your cooling system helps prevent your car from overheating and keeps radiator water from turning to steam. Coolant/antifreeze also contains rust inhibitors, water pump lubricants and anti-foaming agents. A once a year flush in summer or winter is recommended. Coolant loss due to a leaking hose or connection can equal major engine damage. Hoses should be pliable, spring back 1/2" when depressed, show no visible cracking, and be tightly attached. Replace hoses after four years. Never use more than 60% antifreeze as the effectiveness of antifreeze is significantly reduced the more you use above a 60-40 mixture.

Transmission Fluid And Servicing

Transmission fluid must be changed three or four times before it is completely replaced, and this should be done every 30,000 miles. Overheating because of worn-out fluid causes 90% of all transmission failures. Rebuilding a transmission can cost thousands of dollars, so be sure your service includes a fluid and filter change, as well as a leak check. If your new car says it comes with lifetime fluid and filter, well, the jury's still out on that one. Just to be sure, have it changed.

Air Cleaner Element

Service your air cleaner every 50,000 miles. If you live in a particularly dusty environment, change it more frequently. To service, remove the air filter, gently tap it on a hard surface to remove any loose dirt and brush it with a soft brush. Soak it in a pan of air filter cleaner, then dry, oil, and replace. Be sure to consult the manufacturer's directions and recommendations.

Emissions Certification

Most states require your car to be tested for emissions when you renew your registration. Your car must meet certain pollution control guidelines in order to be certified. Chances are your car will pass, unless the factory smog detection equipment has been removed or you have major exhaust problems. If you don't pass, you'll have a chance to do any necessary repairs and try again. Contact your local Department of Environmental Quality, or your Department of Motor Vehicles for more information.

Drive Belts

If you have a V-belt, visually examine it for cracking, fraying, missing pieces, or peeling. If you observe a hard shiny appearance called "glazing" your belt should be replaced immediately. Even if it looks good, consider the belt's mileage and age. A belt's chance of breaking rises considerably after the fourth or fifth year of use. For serpentine belts, replace every 40,000 - 50,000 miles. V-belts should be changed more frequently, every 35,000 - 45,000 miles.


Is your car slow-starting? Are your headlights dim? If so, you need a battery check. A good quality battery costs $50.00 - $100.00 and lasts about five years. There are things you can do to prolong your battery's life, such as adding distilled water in unsealed batteries, replacing valuable electrolyte levels. To test your battery's charge yourself, you'll need a digital voltmeter for a sealed battery, or a temperature compensating hydrometer for an unsealed battery. First, visually inspect for rust, damage, corroded or loose cables or clamps, low electrolytes, or a loose alternator belt. If you've just driven or charged the battery you'll need to eliminate the surface charge by letting the car sit for two to three hours. A loose, worn, or broken alternator belt is the most common battery problem. With a good battery, volts should register as 13-15. Volts above 15 is an indication of overcharging.

Exhaust/Muffler Problems

What does it mean if your exhaust is blue, black, gray or white? Are they all the same? Not at all. Blue smoke is an indication that your engine is burning oil, while black smoke means your fuel/air mixture is too rich. White, on the other hand, means coolant is being vaporized. Grey smoke is what you want to see.

Engine Diagnostics

It's a good idea to know how your car behaves when it's healthy, because if something starts to change, you'll know there's a problem. Your engine exhibits certain symptoms depending on the problem. A trained mechanic has many diagnostic tools at his disposal to pinpoint the noise you're hearing, but here are some common worries:

If you're getting bad fuel mileage and your engine is missing a beat, there's probably a dead cylinder. You'll need to find the problem cylinder to find out why it's not firing.

Are your spark plugs sparking? Are the tips covered in gunk? While disconnecting spark plug wires, be sure the engine is turned off to minimize risk of shocking.

If you have sparks and your tips are clean, you may have a dead fuel injector.

An oil test can help determine the problem. A sample of oil sent to a lab can reveal traces of metals in your oil. Aluminum in oil comes from pistons. Bearings and radiators are made of brass or lead. Steel comes from the crankshaft. If the test shows coolant or water, you know there's a leak.

A badly tuned engine will use more fuel and money. Pay attention to when your dashboard engine lights come on and what you're doing. For instance, does your "check engine" light come on when you're going uphill, or at certain speeds?

Fuel-High Octane Vs. Regular

Have you ever thought, "Hey I know how to make up for neglected maintenance - I'll put in high octane gas!" People, people, people. It's not a vitamin supplement.

If an engine is supposed to run regular gas (87 octane), it will, barring an unrelated problem, run well on that fuel. The only legitimate reason to use high octane is because your car's engine was designed for such gas.

If your engine won't turn over easily, knocks or pings on hills, gallops after you shut it off or in general runs rough, using a higher octane gas may help as a temporary measure. But that inexpensive fix will eventually lead to severe problems. So do us all a favor - don't treat the automotive equivalent of a heart problem with aspirin.

Starting System

What a sinking feeling to start your car and hear nothing. No turn-over, not even a click. First, is your battery dead? Are your cables loose or corroded? Test your ignition switch to see if it's getting voltage. Maybe it's a bad solenoid. These are the most common reasons your engine might not respond. If there's total silence when you turn the key, that means your starter is getting no juice at all. A clicking sound indicates there is voltage, but it's either not getting to the solenoid or it's not enough. An undercharged battery is the most common problem.

A/C Servicing

The most common reason your A/C doesn't seem very cold is that it probably needs refrigerant. Old air conditioning systems can leak several ounces per year. Leaks in your system should be repaired immediately, but have a professional do it. Recharging your system with refrigerant requires an Environmental Protection Agency certification, because refrigerant is ozone-depleting. If you feel you have a leak but aren't sure, "leak detector" fluid can identify areas where leaking is occurring. Be wary of "stop leak" products as they often don't work. Before repairing a leak, old refrigerant must be pumped out and recycled by a trained technician.

Inspecting Brake System Components

There is no timetable for brake replacement. It really depends on what kind of driver you are. Front brakes usually wear out before rear brakes do, but they both need to be checked.

A squeaking brake is one of the most common noises to identify. It means your pads are vibrating. In that event, noise suppression strips can be installed, but with new brake systems a little noise is expected.

Metallic scraping sounds means your brake linings need to be replaced.

Get your brakes professionally checked if your car pulls or grabs and if the pedal must be pushed low to get a response, if you feel vibration, strange noise, etc. Literally, brakes are the car's most important system. Cheap pads or shoes may be quieter but they are not recommended.

Understanding Your Brakes

ABS is an abbreviation for "anti-lock braking system", a system which most new cars have as standard equipment. If not, it's worth the extra money to find a car with ABS. ABS prevents your wheels from locking up by automatically pumping the brake pressure. This may save you on an icy or wet road, by allowing you to continue driving without being in a panic braking situation. All newer cars have dual systems, which means that each system controls two wheels. That way, if there is a failure of one system, the other will take over. Here's the way it works: just like that old rhyme "...the ankle bone's connected to the knee bone" the master cylinder connects directly to the brake pedal, which is connected to wheel cylinders or calipers at each wheel by lines and hoses. The wheel cylinders or calipers act on the shoes and pads to contact the drums and rotors, which in turn exert pressure and slow the car.

Why Do A Brake Fluid Flush?

Brake fluid is designed to absorb moisture, this keeps the fluid from boiling. However, the fluid will reach a moisture saturation point, which will make it unable to dissipate extreme heat caused by friction--up to 1200 degrees. Too much moisture, or an inability to absorb heat, can and will cause brake failure. Also, brake fluid removes water so your internal parts don't rust. This buildup of contamination can cause cylinders to clog, which in an ABS system is a costly repair. Manufacturers recommend flushing brake fluid at intervals of 2--3 years or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first.


Your suspension system has two functions, which are to keep the tires in contact with the road and to provide a comfortable ride. Front and rear springs, shocks, struts, and sway bars absorb bounces when driving. Shocks and struts should be changed every 50,000 miles, or when you experience symptoms of suspension failure such as uncomfortable ride or tire wear.


Proper alignment keeps your tires in the right spot for even wear. Noticing an uneven tread on your tires means there is an alignment problem. If the car pulls to one side, first check tire pressure. If that solves the problem, all is OK. If it pulls to the other side, it's likely a defective tire. If it keeps pulling, get yourself an alignment.


Tires can be confusing. What do all those numbers mean? What size is right for my car? How much air do they need? Let's see if we can simplify the issue. First of all, higher tire pressure keeps tires in better shape longer, and it helps with fuel economy, however, the ride is more rough than with softer tires. The inflation numbers found on the tire wall, the driver's side door sticker and your owner's manual may not match. Find a balance between what is comfortable and what is efficient. The number on the tire is the maximum pressure you should have. Let's look at the numbers on the tire wall, for instance "P215/75R15"

"P" means the tire is a passenger tire, and "R" means it's a radial.

"215" means the tire is 215 millimeters in width.

"75" indicates that the tire's height is 75% as great as it's width.

"15" is the overall wheel size in inches.

The tire may also come with three ratings. The first rating will be a number such as 300. A rating of 300 means the tire is twice as good as one rated 150. Take the rating, multiply by two and add two zeros to get the mileage expected out of the tire under ideal conditions. The second rating will be a letter indicating traction. "A" is best for mud and snow, "B" and "C" are general highway ratings. The third rating involves temperature. A rating of "A" will withstand less high temperatures than "C". Always check your tires once a month, and before trips.

Tire Rotation And Replacement

Rotating your tires on a regular schedule will even out wear and tear. It also offers an ideal time for a brake inspection as the tires are already off the car. There is some disagreement as to the proper rotation pattern, but the most common one is to switch sides. Rotations should be done every 6,000 to 7,500 miles. When replacing tires, replace them all at once, and if you're not sure which size to get, ask a mechanic. Never mix tire sizes. If your car has both radials and non-radials, the radials belong on the rear axle. Check your spare once a year.

Tread Wear, Traction And Temperature

Any irregularity in tire performance will result in uneven traction. Unbalanced tires, running over a deep pothole or bent rims can result in uneven wear. If you notice that your tires are wearing out in the middle, it means they're over-inflated. Under-inflating shows up as outside and inside edges being worn. If one tire is worn significantly different than the others, it's a sign you need an alignment. During cold weather, keep in mind that a temperature drop of 10 degrees will cause a loss of air pressure of 1 to 2 pounds per square inch, so check your tires frequently during winter.

Fixing Flats

Use a patch for best results. The inner lining must be sealed and the injury must be filled to be properly fixed. Don't use a tube in a tubeless tire. All punctures must be professionally repaired.

Road Salt

In many cities, salting roads during winter is a fact of life. It is, however, the fastest way to cause rust on the radiator core and the entire bottom of the car. In addition to not going out when the roads are salted, you can spray off the underside of the car every few days. Besides that, there's not much you can do.

Know Your Car's Sounds

When your car is operating smoothly, noises, vibrations and general oddities will hopefully be at a minimum. When you do begin to notice something unusual, pay close attention to what happens and when. It will save time and costly unnecessary repair bills if your mechanic has an explicit description of the problem you're experiencing. Also, don't neglect that little noise just because your car still seems to be running fine. A small problem can and likely will turn into a big problem over time.

How Do I Store My Car Over A Long Period Of Time?

First of all, when you're not planning on driving for a while, say, over a month, give your car a general check up. Have an oil and filter change, inflate tires, top off fluids, fill the gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer. Then lock it up and don't let anyone touch it. It's a myth that a car needs to be "turned over" when it's in storage. The car should either not be started at all, or taken on an occasional long highway drive.