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What’s the Minimum I Should Drive My Car? And Other Winter Car Storage Tips

Keep the battery on a slow charger

What’s the Minimum I Should Drive My Car? And Other Winter Car Storage Tips

The roads are home to all kinds of vehicles. Daily drivers that clock thousands of miles each year. Seasonal vehicles that only clock hundreds. And then there are some whose odometers move only when being loaded or unloaded from a trailer.

In any instance, winter vehicle storage is sometimes inevitable.

What to consider when storing your vehicle for winter

There are several things to consider when storing a vehicle. Read on for some tips to ensure your vehicle is ready to answer the call when you awaken it from its storage-time slumber.

1) Seek shelter

There are plenty of good locations for storing your vehicle. Here are a few.

  • Garage – If you own a garage, it’s the obvious first choice to protect your vehicle from the elements, pests or thieves during storage. Ensure that all entries are secure, including windows or side doors.
  • Storage facility – If you live in an urban area or you don’t have access to an enclosed space, consider renting space at an indoor storage facility. There are businesses geared toward storing vehicles. Depending on your region’s weather, some offer both indoor and outdoor options.
  • Friends or family – If the above options don’t work, call in a favor with a family member or good friend who has space in his or her garage, shed, barn or other secure building.

Outdoor storage isn’t ideal, but if it’s your only option, buy a quality weatherproof cover that will protect your vehicle from the elements. There are tons out there ranging from low quality to virtually impenetrable, so do your research to find the best one capable of properly covering your ride.

Covers are effective at protecting the body of the car, but consider the underside of the vehicle. Parking on a concrete slab will help avoid moisture from the ground collecting under the cover and causing rust damage from the bottom up.

2) Clean your vehicle before storage

When you let your car sit for long periods of time you want to make sure it’s thoroughly clean. Even small amounts of the following can damage the paint.

  • Water droplets
  • Salt from the road or the air
  • Sand and dirt
  • Bird droppings

Show your vehicle some love by washing it well, completely drying it with a shammy and giving it a proper coating of wax. If you’re really feeling fancy, use a clay bar to remove dirt trapped inside the paint.

Inside the vehicle, vacuum all dirt, debris and crumbs. Even small crumbs will attract insects and rodents.

3) Keep out the undesirables

Speaking of which, mice and other rodents love finding a good stationary vehicle to hole up inside for the winter. They’ll build a nest in an inconvenient place, chew through wires and wreak general havoc during their uninvited stay.

Keep them out by closing off any entry points such as the exhaust and air intakes. Dryer sheets are an effective deterrent, so try placing those in and around the vehicle to deter them from considering your vehicle as a winter home.

4) Check fluids & fill ‘er up

Perform an oil change prior to storing a vehicle. This will keep the engine from holding harmful contaminants for a lengthy period of time.

Add a fuel stabilizer to prevent the gas from deteriorating, then fill up the gas tank to prevent moisture from accumulating. AMSOIL Gasoline Stabilizer is an excellent choice. It’ll inhibit the oxidation process in stored fuel, which will help prevent sludge and varnish from clogging injectors, fuel lines, carburetors and other components. Keep the fuel as fresh as possible since deteriorated fuel makes up the highest percentage of problems associated with vehicle storage.

5) Take it for an occasional spin

Start the vehicle every two weeks and take a short 10-minute drive if possible. A battery that is not used will soon lose its charge and lead to a headache later on.

If you’re looking at long-term vehicle storage, it’s not a bad idea to disconnect and remove the battery entirely. Or, purchase a battery tender and connect that instead. Doing so will deliver a regular charge to keep the battery from losing all power. Look for one with an automatic shut-off feature so it’s not overcharged.

Regular startups or a short drive will also keep the engine and all its components lubricated, which is another important area requiring regular TLC. Just be sure to remove any rodent-repelling measures you may have taken earlier, like the dryer sheets in the exhaust pipe.

If you aren’t in a position to conduct routine starts or short drives, you’ll need something to prevent surface rust from accumulating on engine components. A good coat of AMSOIL Engine Fogging Oil sprayed into the cylinders will do the trick.

6) Mind the Tires

This is another important area to consider, as they are what the vehicle rests on for the duration of the storage period. First, make sure the tires are properly inflated to the correct psi before storage. Sitting vehicles can create flat spots on tires that render them useless later on.

If you won’t be driving at all, roll the vehicle forward or backward a few inches from time to time.

You can do this when you conduct the occasional engine start to keep the battery alive and engine parts properly lubricated. For those who don’t mind a bit of extra work to ensure road-ready tires later on, you can also take them off entirely and replace them with jack stands.

Based on your environment you can pick a storage protocol and do the best you can. Just be aware that vehicles don’t like to sit for extended periods and need opportunities to “stretch their legs,” so to speak. They need to be started and moved at least once per year to keep seals from drying out and internals coated with oil. Follow our vehicle storage advice and your ride will be ready for the road when you are.

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Getting prepared for Winter driving

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Originally posted Nov. 11, 2016

With the worst of winter right around the corner, now is a good time to get your vehicle prepared for the worst. Being based in northern Wisconsin, we at AMSOIL talk a lot about how synthetic lubricants make life a little easier, as the cold air starts to pierce our engines and lungs.

Wherever you may be, nasty road conditions and winter driving can be dangerous, so it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Weather.com blogged about how bad-weather car accidents are more deadly in the U.S. than many of the worst storms.

Snow, rain, fog and wet pavement all pose a hazard during the season. To be ahead of the game, here are some preparedness tips:

Garage Time

  • Battery check – Cold temperatures are a battery killer. Be sure you’ve got the juice to keep going. Check the terminals for corrosion that needs cleaning and ensure the alternator and belts are in good shape.
  • Antifreeze and coolant – Look for any radiator and hose leaks and top off the reservoir, if necessary. If it’s been several years since you’ve changed the coolant, be sure to get some fresh fluid in there.
  • Windshield wipers and fluids – Make sure the wipers are working and the blades are not worn. Fill the washer reservoir with a good-quality fluid that doesn’t freeze.
  • Brake system– Being able to stop is crucial when roads are slick. Look to see that the floor mats aren’t blocking the pedal. If you notice braking issues, have the brake fluid, pads, rotors and lines checked.
  • Tire pressure and tread – Tires should be checked monthly for wear and proper inflation regardless of the season. Make sure you have a spare tire, and keep a pressure gauge in the vehicle with you.
  • Fuel and oil level – It’s a good idea to keep your fuel tank at least half-full in case you get stranded on the side of the road and need to stay warm. Motor oil should also be topped off.

Emergency Roadside Kit

  • Flashlight – I like to carry an LED flashlight in my truck since they last a long time. But a traditional flashlight works well and tends to be brighter.
  • Tool kit – It should have the basics, including screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench and a socket set. Work gloves, tape, fuses and a good pocket knife or multi-tool are all handy to have as well.
  • Blanket – Not only does it keep you warm in winter, but it can also block out wind and help treat shock victims.
  • Jumper cables – It’s best not to settle for chintzy. Good-quality, thick cables with multi-strand wire, heavy duty clips and extra length can save you from headaches. Invest in four-gauge, 20-foot cables that won’t break the bank and will last a long while.
  • Food and water – Keep a stash of high-energy foods such as granola bars and nuts in the car.
  • Fire extinguisher – Often overlooked, but good to have. A multipurpose A-B-C type is the way to go.
  • First-aid kit – Any kit should contain bandages, gauze and prep pads to stop bleeding and prevent infection.
  • Other items to consider – Maps, shovel, broom, ice scraper and flares.

Even if you don’t get any snow, it’s good to be ready for any emergency. Got any more tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

Help Revive a Lawn Mower (and other equipment) that Runs Rough

lawn mower needs AMSOIL or maintenance if not kept up

Help Revive a Lawn Mower (and other equipment) that Runs Rough

Judging someone’s character can be boiled down to this key question: do they love going to the dump?

An affirmative answer indicates a visionary – one who sees a fashionably distressed dining set where others see a worn out table and chairs. One who sees the south wall of their new chicken coop where others see dusty old windows. One who sees his new (free) rolling shop stool where others see a ratty office chair.

Why drop $50 on a shop stool when you can get a sweet unit like this free at the dump?

So, while I salivate at adding a lawnmower, snowblower or other piece of equipment from the dump to my family fleet, I also burn with shame toward my fellow man for discarding something that might have been easily repaired.

There has to be a better way

One of the biggest reasons people junk their lawnmower, string trimmer, chainsaw or other equipment is because it starts hard and runs rough. A dirty carburetor is often to blame.

Over time, oxygen deteriorates the gasoline in the carb, leading to the formation of varnish and other deposits that stick the float, block the screens and plug the tiny fuel passages. The result? Fuel that doesn’t flow properly and an arm nearly ripped from its socket from fruitlessly yanking the starter cord.

Engine deposits are another problem

The combustion chamber grows intensely hot during operation. The heat breaks down motor oil, creating carbon that can lodge in the ring lands and cause the piston rings to stick. Stuck rings reduce engine compression, which makes starting more difficult and reduces engine power.

Gasoline byproducts can form deposits on the piston crown, which can lead to pre-ignition. That’s when a super-heated chunk of carbon ignites the fuel/air mixture before the spark plug fires, causing a shock wave in the cylinder that can lead to piston damage.

In two-stroke engines, deposits can block the exhaust port or spark arrestor screen, choking off airflow and leading to rough-running. If bad enough, the engine will quit running altogether.

String trimmer exhaust port plugged with carbon deposits, causing it to run poorly.

An effective way to prevent hard-starting, rough-running equipment is to treat gas with gasoline stabilizer prior to storage and to periodically clean the carburetor and combustion chamber with a good fuel additive. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself at the dump paying to dispose of your lawnmower, snowblower or other equipment while people like me lie in wait, rubbing our hands together with glee.

If your engine and carburetor are already dirty and causing grief, clean them with AMSOIL Power Foam. It’s a potent cleaning agent that…

  • Cleans deposits from ethanol and degraded fuel
  • Removes gum and varnish
  • Maximizes horsepower
  • Restores startability
  • Helps improve fuel economy
  • Reduces pollution

It will not damage seals, gaskets, rubber or plastic materials commonly used in gasoline engines.

I’ve tried it a few times on my lawn and garden equipment, and it’s pretty simple to use. Just run the engine to normal operating temperature, remove the air filter and spray Power Foam into the intake as fast as possible without stalling the engine. You may have to rev the engine to facilitate the process. Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area because an impressive volume of smoke will emit from the exhaust.

Then, shut off the engine and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

While you’re waiting, Power Foam‘s potent formula attacks and loosens the built-up carbon and varnish, helping free stuck rings, clean the valves and piston crown, and remove varnish from the carburetor. If the engine is especially dirty, you may want to repeat the process.

Replace the air filter, start the engine and pat yourself on the back for helping prevent the addition of one more perfectly usable piece of equipment to the local dump.

It may be unfortunate for scavengers like me, but it’s great for your wallet.

And here’s another Sioux Falls secrete for you lawn care customers!! A frequent weedeater problem easy to repair.

What’s the Difference Between DOT 3 and DOT 4 Brake Fluid?

DOMINATOR DOT 4 Synthetic Racing Brake Fluid

What’s the Difference Between DOT 3 and DOT 4 Brake Fluid?

The primary difference between Dot 3 and Dot 4 is their respective boiling points.

I suspect I know your next question.

But first, some background. The U.S. Department of Transportation classifies brake fluid into four main categories:

  • DOT 3
  • DOT 4
  • DOT 5
  • DOT 5.1

Their primary differences are their wet & dry boiling points and their composition.

DOT 3 is the most common type used in cars and trucks today. DOT 4, however, is gaining popularity due to widespread use of anti-lock braking systems and traction control, which benefit from DOT 4 fluid’s lower viscosity.

DOT 4 is compatible with DOT 3, but features a higher boiling point. DOT 5 is silicone, meaning it doesn’t absorb water. It’s not compatible with the other brake fluids and is used mostly in classic cars that remain in storage for long periods and need a brake fluid that doesn’t absorb water. DOT 5.1, meanwhile, is used in high-performance and heavy-duty applications due to its high boiling point.

Bring it to a boiling point

So now we’re back to boiling point. What does it mean? After all, we’re not cooking this stuff.

Well, in the right operating and ambient conditions, you are cooking it.

Aggressive braking can lead to intense heat.

Braking generates intense heat between the brake pads and rotors. Maybe you’ve seen a race on TV where the producers stick a GoPro under the car to show the brakes literally glowing red when the driver depresses the pedal. The intense heat can vaporize the brake fluid, causing it to become compressible, which leads to a spongy feeling when you apply the brakes.

Braking also places the fluid under intense pressure, potentially causing the fluid to boil. That leaves gas in the lines, which is compressible, leading to a soft pedal. In racing and performance-driving circles, this is known as brake fade, and it’s something drivers actively want to avoid. To drive as effectively and safely as possible, the driver must be confident that the brakes will perform on lap 10 as they did on lap one.

Brake fade can also come from the brake pad/rotor interface. The pads release gasses as well, which reduces contact between the pads and rotors. That’s why high-end rotors are slotted and drilled – to release gasses quicker, limiting fade.

Brake fade isn’t just for racers

Brake fade can affect nearly anyone. Descending a steep hill, especially when hauling a heavy load or towing a trailer, can generate tremendous heat if you ride or pump the brakes.

PRO TIP: Next time, downshift into a lower gear before descending a steep incline.

By the time you reach the bottom, your pedal may go nearly to the floor, making your heart rate go nearly through the roof.

If you like to toss your vehicle around a curvy country road for a little therapy, standing on the brakes going into corners can create sufficient heat to cause brake fade, too. If you get a little too zealous, you may end up going right through a corner and into the woods.

The fluid’s boiling point indicates the temperature at which the brake fluid vaporizes. The higher the DOT classification, the higher the boiling point, thus the better the fluid is at resisting heat. That’s why racers use DOT 4, not DOT 3, brake fluid.

Boiling point is separated into dry & wet boiling points

The dry boiling point is determined using fresh fluid straight from a new container. The fluid’s wet boiling point is determined using fluid that’s been contaminated with 3.7 percent water, thus it’s always lower than the dry boiling point. Why would test administrators contaminate good fluid? Because it’s a reflection of what happens in the real world.

Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water (except silicone-based DOT 5 brake fluid). DOT 3 fluid, for example, can absorb up to two percent water every year. Moisture can enter the system when you remove the reservoir cap to add fluid, through worn seals and even through the rubber brake lines themselves. Thus the fluid’s wet boiling point is the number that more accurately represents what’s really going on in your vehicle.

Which makes it important to periodically flush the brake system and replace the fluid to remove moisture. Otherwise, not only will your brakes become spongy and unsafe, the moisture will slowly corrode metal components.

A good rule of thumb is to change the brake fluid every other year in passenger vehicles, and at least every year in racing vehicles. The AAA says 88 percent of motorists overlook brake maintenance, so you’re not alone if you haven’t changed brake fluid in awhile, like since you bought your vehicle.

It’s not too late to start, though. And when you do, check out our line of brake fluids for your vehicle. The easiest way to determine the correct brake fluid for you vehicle is to use our Product Guide.

Find AMSOIL Brake Fluid for my Vehicle

Sioux Falls Webmaster note: AMSOIL’s Dot 4 outperforms it’s new 5.1 because the 4 is designed purely as a racing brake fluid where as the 5.1 id the latest for all uses yet still beyond the minimum standard.

Why You Should Be Wary About Using Break In Oil in Powersports Equipment

Why You Should Be Wary About Using Break In Oil in Powersports Equipment

Why You Should Be Wary About Using Break In Oil in Powersports Equipment

Marco Navarro asks on our Facebook page about break in oil, with attention paid to powersports engines.  (Break in oil importance, drain interval on it, and applications. To include motorcycles and ATVs since life of engine is shorter and rebuilding occurs more often.)
Thanks for the question, Marco.

Let’s get to it.

Maintaining an engine is a constant fight against wear. Over time, wear not only results in expensive damage, it reduces compression, robbing your engine of power.

That’s why it can be tough to accept that “controlled wear” during a new or rebuilt engine’s break in period is critical to maximizing its power and longevity.

Take a seat

One of the primary reasons to break in an engine is to seat the piston rings, and that means allowing the rings and piston skirt to carefully wear down the peaks (called asperities) on the cylinder wall.

The images show what we mean.

Although a new or freshly honed cylinder appears smooth to the naked eye, it contains microscopic peaks and valleys. If the valleys are too deep, they collect excess oil, which burns during combustion and leads to oil consumption.

The sharp peaks, meanwhile, provide insufficient area to allow the rings to seat tightly. That means highly pressurized combustion gases can blow past the rings and into the crankcase, contaminating the oil and taking potential horsepower with it.

Breaking in the engine wears the cylinder-wall asperities, providing increased surface area for the rings to seat tightly. The result is maximum compression (i.e. power) and minimum oil consumption.

Getting the shaft

That brings us to the other primary reason to break-in an engine: to season, or harden, the flat-tappet cam. Flat-tappet cams can wear out faster than their roller-cam cousins, especially in engines modified with high-tension valve springs.

And cam wear is bad. Really bad. Worn lobes or tappets affect valve lift and duration, which reduces engine power and efficiency. In extreme cases, increased pressure can remove material from the lobes and deposit it in the oil, where it circulates through the engine and causes damage. Break-in helps harden the metal so it’s more resilient to wear.

That raises a critical question: How do we simultaneously allow controlled wear to the cylinder wall/piston rings while protecting the cam against wear? Those two tasks seem mutually exclusive.

In a word, oil

The solution is to use a properly formulated break in oil that allows controlled wear at the cylinder wall/piston interface, but that also protects the cam lobes and tappets from wear.

How do we accomplish this black magic?

Most break in oils, including AMSOIL Break-In Oil, use conventional base oils. Compared to their higher-quality synthetic counterparts, conventional base oils result in a thinner, less durable protective oil film on engine parts. The thinner fluid film allows controlled wear at the cylinder wall/ring interface.

But what about the cam? Won’t it wear, too?

ZDDP

That’s where anti-wear additives come into play. ZDDP anti-wear additives are heat-activated, meaning they provide wear protection in areas of increased friction. In this case, it’s at the cam lobe/tappet interface. The additives form a sacrificial layer on the surface of parts, which absorbs contact and helps prevent cam and tappet wear.

As a rule of thumb, a good break in oil should be formulated with at least 1,000 ppm ZDDP. At AMSOIL, we take it a few steps further; our Break-In Oil contains 2,200 ppm zinc and 2,000 ppm phosphorus.

How long does break in require?

Another rule of thumb states you should season a flat-tappet cam by running the engine above 2,500 rpm for 15 minutes.

As for seating the rings, our testing has shown it can take as little as seven dyno passes. That time varies depending on the engine, ring tension, cylinder hone and other factors.

If you don’t have access to a dyno, follow the engine builder’s or manufacturer’s recommendations. If none are provided, consult the recommendations on the break in oil label. In general, run the engine under light-to-moderate loads for about 500 miles. Again, that duration is a rule of thumb, but break in shouldn’t exceed 1,000 miles. Then, drain the break-in oil, install the synthetic oil of your choice and commence driving.

An engine dyno provides the best method of determining exactly when the rings are seated. You’ll notice a boost in horsepower as the rings seat. Eventually, horsepower will stabilize once the rings are seated.

Check out 5 Ways to Boost Horsepower for Under $500

You can also perform a leak-down test. Another, albeit more time-consuming, method is to remove the exhaust headers and check for oil residue in the exhaust ports. Presence of oil shows the engine burning oil, meaning the rings aren’t completely seated. Once the oil residue is gone, the rings are seated.

What about powersports engines?

Ask yourself a few questions about your motorcycle, ATV or other powersports application before using a break in oil:

  1. Does it have a wet clutch? If so, the break in oil may not be formulated for wet-clutch compatibility, leading to reduced performance.
  2. Does it use a shared sump with the transmission? Many motorcycles use one oil to lubricate the engine, transmission and primary chaincase. The churning action of transmission gears, especially in high-rpm applications, can tear apart – or shear – the oil if it’s not formulated to handle the stress. Using a break in oil not designed to handle high-shear applications can lead to damage.
  3. Does it have a dry sump? Some motorcycles store motor oil in a tank separate from the engine. Residual break in oil can collect in the system following the break in period and contaminate the service-fill oil. In this case, run the engine long enough to circulate the oil throughout the system and change it a second time to ensure the break in oil is completely removed.

Given the above challenges, we recommend breaking in a rebuilt powersports engine using the motor oil you’ve always used. Run it according to the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) new-engine recommendation, then change the oil. In short, treat it like a new engine from the factory.

For new engines, just follow the OEM guidelines. Typically they recommend a shorter interval for the first oil change to remove wear particles and contaminants from the factory. Then, change to the AMSOIL synthetic motor oil that’s recommended for your application and commence riding.