• Oct 22, 2010
Extraneous maintenance procedures can take time out of ... Extraneous maintenance procedures can take time out of your day and money out of your wallet. Some you just don't need (Jupiterimages).

P.T. Barnum said "There's a sucker born every minute," before the dawn of mass-produced automobiles, but peddlers of bogus mileage-enhancers and proponents of unnecessary auto maintenance procedures are carrying on Barnum's tradition. Everything from magnets to vortex generators to water injectors and useless "ectoplasm traps" are hawked in the marketplace, and unnecessary tune-up processes can further bleed consumers' wallets. The best defense is to read your owner's manual and bone up on your car's needs, but in the meantime, here's a 5-point list of dubious or unneeded engine-enhancing procedures.

Engine Flushes ($100-$200)

An engine flush uses a machine and chemicals to rid your engine's innards of sludge, but it's not a normal maintenance checkpoint unless you've neglected your engine. We checked in with Tom Torbjornsen, maintenance editor at AOL Autos for his perspective.

"Change your oil according to manufacturer's recommendations and you won't need an engine flush," Torbjornsen said.

An examination into your oil-filler lid will reveal deposits and gunk.

"Sometimes, if you've got an engine with high mileage and deposits, a flush will break loose sludge that can get into the engine," he said. "It's really not necessary today if you've otherwise taken good care of your car."

Fuel-Injection Cleaning ($125-$200)

"If your Check Engine light isn't on and your car's running fine," says Popular Mechanics's Mike Allen, whose team of testers have debunked dozens of phony gadgets, "Skip this."

Torbjornsen agrees.

"An upper engine carbon cleaning is a good thing to have every 35,000 miles because of varnish deposits," Torbjornsen said. "When fuel injectors get dirty and deposits build up, you get poor fuel economy. But not every year. Once a year is overkill."

Oil Additives ($5 AND UP)

There are numerous oil additives on the market ranging from products designed to reduce friction and bolster fuel economy to those whose manufacturers claim their product will allow you to run your engine dry of oil without damaging bearings. Steer clear of all.

"Oil additives are designed to fortify and bolster the engine," Torbjornsen said. "But if you're following normal maintenance producers, you don't need it. In the testimonials you'll find on websites selling this stuff, people say they can drive without oil because of some magic elixir. But a real-world tester always fails."

Gas Savers ($10-$400)

Some of the pseudo-scientific gas savers on the market just plain don't work and may actually hurt engine performance, says Torbjornsen. The E.P.A. has tested over 100, from pills you pop into your tank to "cow magnets," and none have proven effective.

"Some of these products claim to 'polarize the molecules in the vortex'," he said. "It's all garbage."

Long-Life Antifreeze ($4-$8 Per Quart)

There isn't any evidence that "long life" antifreeze is any better for your radiator than standard antifreeze, and you shouldn't assume that because you've bought and used it, you can ignore maintaining your radiator, says Torbjornsen.

"I recommend a 2-year, 24,000 mile flush regardless of what kind of antifreeze is in your radiator," he said.

"Especially if you live in a wintery climate."

And don't mix coolants, either, says Allen.

"That's asking for trouble, especially if your car's engineered for a specific type of anti-freeze."


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  • 381 Comments
      • 7 Days Ago
      i WENT TO GET MY EARL CHANGED AT ONE OF DEM QICK CHANGE MONKEY PLACES AND THAT MAN THERE DUN TOLE ME THAT IM GONNA BE NEEDIN TO CHANGE MY DRIVERS SIDE AIR BAG . HE SAY IF WAS NERMAL TO BE CHANGEN THEM WHEN THEY DUN GET OLD BUT IMMA THINKIN HES JUS OUT TO BE RIPPIN ME OFF. I MEAN ITS ONLY POPPED OUT ONE TIME AND IS A HANGIN ON MY STEERIN WEEL BUT IM A THINKIN I STILL GOT THE PASSENJER SIDE ONE TO BE USIN. WHEN THAT POPS THEN ITS GONNA BE WERTH ME CHANGIN THE BOTH OF THEM. AM I NOT RIGHT? HE JUS WANTS MY MONEY. STAY WAY FROM THESE SNEEKY 5 MINUTE COMBINATION CHICKEN AND LUBE JOINTS CAUSE THEY JUS WANT YER MONEY!!!
      TM
      • 7 Days Ago
      I knew an old farmer who pulled an old buggy with an old horse. He was told that if he did not do maintenance on the buggy, the horse would someday die. The farmer said "NO WAY". Then one day the old horse died. The farmer said surprised, "that is strange, that horse never did that before". The moral of the story is, maintain your buggy!
      Will
      • 7 Days Ago
      Once a year is overkill to clean your fuel injectors? Hahaha I whole-heartedly disagree. I'm an ASE Certified mechanic, and while I don't recommend a fuel system flush unless there is a problem needing solved, I recommend using a fuel additive to prevent varnish deposits in the fuel injectors every oil change. Its a $5 insurance policy, because fuels are most certainly not created equally.
      • 7 Days Ago
      Let's say it truly depends on where you live!! NYC is a place containing roads filled with potholes and some of them unvisible when raining. People in NYC pay hundreds of dollars a year in car repairs from damaged streets and roadways. WAKE UP MAYOR!!!
      • 7 Days Ago
      This is a car site not a typing 101. Who cares how the info appears, as long as we can read it. You all need to get a life, or start paying more attention to your own behavior instead of policing everyone else . The proof I am right on this is that I am now disabled and I am typing this mess. When I was out living an active and productive life I never had time to do this, nor would I care either way. SO, TRY MAKING YOURSELF BETTER INSTEAD OF BITCHING ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE !!!
      • 7 Days Ago
      i always use major brand gas in my cars, and always change my oil at 3,000 miles,(also with a major brand oil). i never (ever) needed any fuel injection services or any additives on all my cars.i always try keep my fuel tank full, thats a must in extremely cold weather. believe me, its true what they say, you pay me now or pay me later.my cars engines never miss a beat!
      gwg45
      • 7 Days Ago
      I can overhaul a Rolls Royce high bypass turbo-fan jet engine but I don't change the oil in my truck, but I do on my planes and motorcycles. PRIORITIZE!
      • 7 Days Ago
      If you change the trans oil and filter You WILL put a trans in your machine. The trans will get used to running on the "impurities" in the fluid. Have seen it Many times .
        marcanagnos
        • 7 Days Ago
        Then you're not changing it often enough. It doesn't "run on impurities". If you waited too long to change it then you have to do it again after a month or 600 miles or so. Maybe even a third time if you still see the fluid is dirty after twice. Next time change it at 20,000 miles. The fluid in my trannys looks like it came out of the bottle. MARC
      billcoffer
      • 7 Days Ago
      94 Corolla--oil change every 3,000 miles. 193,500 miles and doesn't burn any oil.
      • 7 Days Ago
      Complete nonsense! Lead doesn't make a car run better, it simply acts as a cushion/lubricant for the intake and exhaust valves. Manufacturers when to hardened valve seats when lead got phased out, negating the need for lead. Manufacturers did not want to do this, because it drove the cost of the engines up. It had nothing what-so-ever to do with making the engines wear out faster. I love old cars. I currently have an all original 62 Falcon coupe. Love it, but I will absolutely take a new car over it for reliability and longevity, plus the power you can get given the fuel economy. As for using a higher octane fuel than recommended, you're wasting money. Octane is simply the fuel's resistance to detonation. All things being equal, a higher compression engine is more prone to detonation, so the mfg might recommend a higher octane fuel. A modern Porsche 911 GT3 runs over 13:1 compression, so it would naturally benefit from higher octane fuel. A base model Chevy pickup has has a much lower compression ratio, so the motor is not nearly as prone to detonation. 87 octane is all that is needed. Any higher has NO benefit. Your just wasting money. I don't claim to know everything. Anybody who does is full of it. But on the topics I just mentioned, trust me. I'm right. Vic Jolley, Porsche Goldmeister Technician BS, Automotive Technology ASE Master Certified with L1
        marcanagnos
        • 7 Days Ago
        Lead increased the octane, and if you run your 62 Falcon without it you will destroy the heads. Yes, they fixed it later but the older ones that haven't had the heads rebuilt will have a problem. Also yes if you don't need higher octane it's a waste of money, but if you really are a Tech you should know carbon buildup will increase the compression and require higher octane as the engine ages. This happened more in the older engines with carbs, it doesn't happen so quickly in newer vehicles. But after 200,000 miles without an overhaul yes it will detonate without higher octane. I doubt you really are a Tech, and ASE uses letters not numbers. MARC
        tony
        • 7 Days Ago
        So called premium gas has`nt been sold at the local station since 1974. Premium as any 1 with any knowledge knows is 100 + octane. People that think they are buying premium are sadly misinformed. That would be cause of places like road ranger that claim to sell premium but don`t. The gas buying public is getting lied to.
          marcanagnos
          • 7 Days Ago
          @tony
          Anything over 87 is now called "premium". And it was really called "high test". Guess you don't know as much as you think. MARC
        • 7 Days Ago
        many years ago when chrysler came out with the big engine, people who bought the chrysler and used it for city driving brought the car back complaining something wrong, when the car was brought back to the dealer the car was put on a dynamometer and run at top speed and the unburnt carbom came out of the exhaust . the custermer thanked the dealer for fixing the engine so quickly.
          marcanagnos
          • 7 Days Ago
          That mostly changed when they got rid of carbs. But it can still happen with fuel injection in pre 2007 models. MARC
      • 7 Days Ago
      I drive a Hyundai. I love it. I bought it in 2009. It is a very reliable car. I haven't had any problems with it and have not been told of any recalls for any problems on it. I bought it new and I do have the regular maintenance done to it., but I don't believe in all those addatives and junk they sell to boost your cars engine etc. If you use a medium or high grade gasoline it burns cleaner, last longer and you get better gas mileage than when you use the economy grade of gas. I don't always burn the better grade of gasoline, but I make sure that at least every 3rd fill up is with a better grade of gas to keep the engine running smoother and get better gas mileage because of it. I never have problems with my car being sluggish or having hesitation. Works for me.
        • 7 Days Ago
        Better keep a eye out for the airbag light those cars have problems and your air bag may or may not deploy in a accident..
      chuckpitboss
      • 7 Days Ago
      Give me a care from the 50's, 60's and even the 70's?? Are you kidding me. Tthose were garbage cars even the expensive ones. GM, Ford and Chrysler didn't give a damn about quality becasue they wanted amd expected to sell you a new car every other year after you got exasperated with the old one. I remember the appaearance and styling of each years car models were different. Car makers thought that was what the American public wanted, not qualtiy and reliablility. Even the simplest electronic gadjet from those years was due to break in short order. *It wasn't until the japanese came on the market that quality got better and electronics have come light years since those old garbage car years..
        marcanagnos
        • 7 Days Ago
        @chuckpitboss
        I'd bet you bought all the cheap cars, then complained about the quality. Buy a Buick back then, China can't get enough of those. With a v8 they are still running today, I see them all the time. MARC
        BOB
        • 7 Days Ago
        @chuckpitboss
        You must have really run your cars into the ground. If I didn't get over 100,000 per car it was because I traded for a new one. One thing I will say was safety sucked. I remember when Honda first came over with a car it was the biggest piece of junk ever seen.
        smithdeane
        • 7 Days Ago
        @chuckpitboss
        Japaneese Quality was always fraud , I worked on these pieces of scrap (20 yrs) and although the motors ran , nothing else was up to the par of the US mfg. , Note the recall list is topped by Japan and the Quality list is topped by the US . I bought my first ever new in 08 and the Quality and engineering is Top notch , If they wanted some educated input I could well improve them though . I still have my cars from the glory days and what I picked up repaired and drove and now the classics everyone wants . Get educated before you comment on the fine cars of the past , todays cars are not built to last , I still have most of mine from the last 30 years
          • 7 Days Ago
          @smithdeane
          So what happened when Chevrolet made the Cavalier? Mine's not even half as old as my previous "Jap Crap" Honda Civic, which I still see those cars on the road today, and yet the Cavalier has just about everything broken on it. I do regular oil changes, lube up stuff, all the normal bits, but the car has *literally* fallen apart when it is barely 5 years old. The old Civic wasn't half as bad. Also, the ride is rubbish, the gearbox makes noises (and its not just mine, half of every Cavalier has it), the seats are uncomfortable, the A/C broke at 70,000 miles, the dash gauges are laggy, and the paint just faded right away. The Civic still had its original A/C -that worked- and so on.
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