Proper maintenance, not snake oil, will keep your car running like a champ

Courtesy of Richard Perry
Richard Perry, The Hemet Car Guy.

■ By Richard Perry / Contributed

Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,

By the time you read this, I will be 53 and I must admit I am slowing down a bit. My beautiful wife makes sure I take supplements and vitamins to combat Father Time. I don’t know if these supplements are “snake oil,” but I follow her directions.
Your car may be older and perhaps starting to show its age, so it’s natural to wonder if it doesn’t need a little extra something to give it more oomph as well.
This got me thinking about all the automotive additives at the auto parts store, and these additives are big business. But are they snake oil?
While it is important to take care of your car and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on maintenance, don’t be tempted by snazzy advertisements or by the dealership that your car needs additives. I’ve talked with mechanics and they shared some great information.
Here are three common additives you might be enticed to buy. Here’s why you don’t need them.
Gas additives
The claims are big — improve performance, reduce emissions and improve gas mileage — but the fact is, none of these additives are necessary if your car is properly maintained.
Those designed to reduce knocking may actually do so, but using them simply masks a problem; it doesn’t fix it. Engine knocking is a sign that your car needs a repair, so see your mechanic to rectify the problem instead.
Tests on additives designed to clean your fuel system have not been shown to make any significant difference in reducing corrosion or deposits and don’t improve performance, and the Environmental Protection Agency has tested additives that claim to improve gas mileage, but results prove otherwise. The only gas additive that has proven useful is a stabilizer, but this should only be used in cars that aren’t driven very often.

Give your car the necessary care, do not be stranded along the way.

Extended-life radiator coolants
The proper mix of radiator coolant and water is essential to keeping your engine cool in both hot and cold temperatures as well as to prevent corrosion. Some coolants are promoted as extended life, and they use a different type of corrosion inhibitor.
While the claims are valid, automakers designate their cars for one type or the other, so don’t assume extended life coolant is best for your car. Never mix the two types, because that affects the corrosion inhibitors.
Your owner’s manual will tell you which type is recommended. Follow the manufacturer’s schedule for draining and replacing the coolant as well. More frequent coolant flushes are a waste of money.
Oil additives
With an older, high-mileage car, it’s easy to believe the engine is getting tired and needs an additive to improve performance or reduce wear. But oil additives simply don’t work and may actually harm your engine, according to numerous independent testing agencies.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has gone after several companies that sell these additives for false advertising. The dreaded engine sludge that causes an engine to run poorly or even seize is a rare occurrence and typically happens only when oil changes have been neglected or if the car has been driven a lot with an extremely low oil level.
There is really no magic potion for your older car; nothing beats good maintenance to keep your old car running.
And with that said, I think I may call my doctor and get a regular checkup for myself before my wife trades me in for another model.
Good driving and good health in 2017!

The Hemet Car Guy

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