Thursday, November 17, 2016

Vehicle Safety Report

We held the twice-yearly Vehicle Safety Day yesterday Wednesday before Thanksgiving Break) as part of Student Appreciation week. Fifteen students from Physics: Mechanics and Energy Lab checked the safety of thirty-eight student vehicles between 12.30 and 4.00 pm.

If you planned to get your vehicle checked and were not able to because of the change of venue, email and ask for an appointment.

Most safety checks were routine. The following specific problems were noted and are reported here so other vehicle owners can learn from them:
  1. Two vehicles were consuming large amounts of oil, as determined from low oil measured on the dipstick and the owner's knowledge of the last oil added or oil change. More than a quart of oil consumption between fillings of your gas tank is too much, and it is time to consider getting a different vehicle. The exception is if the oil consumption is due to a leak, in which case the leak should be fixed.
  2. Two vehicles had bad brake pads. This was detected first by noticing the low level of brake fluid in the brake fluid reservoir, then confirmed by using a flashlight to look at the rotors and pads through in the gaps in the wheel trim. Time to get a brake job. When your pads are this bad, you don't stop as well. This is a dangerous condition, but it also makes it more likely that you damage the rotors too, necessitating a more expensive brake job, so not replacing the pads on time is false economy.
  3. One vehicle had a loose engine fan housing. A clip had come loose. It was a simple matter to reattach. More expensive damage would have resulted, had it not been noticed. In general, you should examine your engine bay and the underside of your vehicle two or three times a year, and certainly before big trips, to look for loose components or foreign objects.
  4. Two vehicles and more than twice the oil in the sump that was needed. Apparently in both cases this was the fault of the professional oil change establishment, not the student owners. There are two obvious responses: a) don't go back to that particular Quik-Lube! b) This is asking for blown crankcase seals. Take the vehicle to a reputable shop, have the extra oil removed, or pay for an oil change and make sure the right amount is put back in this time. Drive very, very slowly in the meantime. Crankcase seal replacement can cost up to $500 or more.
  5. One vehicle's wipers had quit, but were made to restart by pulling on them while the wiper switch was on. This often happens, usually due to rusty wiper arm bearings. If your wipers stop, check the fuse first, then pull on the wiper arm gently while the switch is on to see if you can free the wipers. A little spray lubricant that can be sprayed judiciously into the cabin air intake grill where the wiper mechanism lives is called for. Use the aerosol kind with the helpful red extension hose. (Not too much, or your cab will stink of lubricant.)

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