Piston Slap: Common Sense and RTFM Edition

piston slap common sense and rtfm edition

John writes:

Hello: I have a question about a 2003 Toyota Camry with 130,000 miles. Every time I get the oil changed the attendant comes out with a clipboard and a long list of items needed to be done. Such as flush the engine oil, flush the power steering fluid, start using high mileage oil etc. Should I do this? So far I have not given in as the car runs good and it’s paid for.

Sajeev Answers:

You sound like you take your car in for servicing on a regular basis. If so, kudos! A neglected car needs band aids (so to speak) to keep them running for a short period of time. A well kept Camry needs nothing until the universal signs of old age show up: burning oil, loss of power or fuel economy. As far as I’m concerned your car is just broken in.

Nothing needs to be flushed with specific flushing additives, since they can un-stick deposits that are better off stuck: engine flushes have been known to cause oil leaks, for example. So avoid those like the plague. That’s not to say that changing power steering, coolant, transmission fluids on a regular basis are for chumps. And with that…

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Always wondered why service advisors come up with seemingly random things you simply must have? Like most things in life, follow the money and the answer awaits. How do you save yourself from this cash grab?

Read the owner’s manual and remind the service advisor that you know what the factory recommends. Then add common sense things like inspection for vacuum line deterioration, unspoken fluid changes (i.e. power steering fluid) when the fluid loses its trademark color or smell. Unless you have the misleading, common sense defying, information in the manuals of an oil sludging V6 Toyota or VW/Audi, the owners manual is all you need.

(Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com)

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  • Jaron Jaron on May 18, 2010

    Sometimes manuals can be incomplete. Audi just sent out an owner's manual insert recommending biannual checking and clearing of the cowl and sunroof drains on most of their models. They did not just realize this; they were required to do this by a class action lawsuit. On the other hand, Mercedes has included this recommendation in their manuals for quite some time (Reference: 1992 W124). That these drains frequently clog and cause water damage has been known and discussed on Audi forums for a long time. Possible damage includes drowning the ECU - an over $1000 repair. I have absolutely no idea why Audi did not recommend this simple procedure - they must have known about the problem. Perhaps I should recommend that they read their competitors' owner's manuals and see what else they might have left out. The point of this little story is that owners should not take the manual as gospel - it's worth checking online forums for common problems and what should be done to prevent them.

  • Sastexan Sastexan on May 18, 2010

    If you really want to know how long to run oil, get an oil analysis. I have used Blackstone Labs a few times - not only does it tell you what is going on inside the engine, but also helps identify how long to run between oil changes with the filter you are using (oil itself doesn't wear out - the additives do - and the junky filters get clogged or just do a poor job of keeping the oil clean). Even with what I would constitute as "severe duty" service (drive it like you stole it), I run 6k between changes.

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