SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 17, 2012

Auto Scanner: How often should I change the oil?

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: I am having a hard time deciding how to handle my oil changes. The recommended oil changes for my car are every 3,000 miles. I barely go 5,000 miles during the year since I am retired. How frequently do you recommend changing the oil in a car with a driver like me?

A: You are not alone in your problem. Lots of folks who have retired or those that do not have a job due to the economy are having similar situations. My best advice would be once in the spring and once in the fall. I would further add to bring the car to a professional ASE-certified shop. That’s your best chance to have the car looked over by a professional. The look-over will help you to evaluate your car’s needs and take care of them while they are still small repairs rather than wait until they get worse and cost you a lot more. In between visits to the professional shop, keep your eye on small items like windshield wipers that do not clean properly and the windshield washer fluid that can run dry and make it hard to see when you need it the most. Also, once a month, check your tire pressure. Low tires will cost you more in fuel. Those are just a few tips I can give you. Common sense will guide you the rest of the way.

Q: I have a Chrysler 300, six-cylinder, which I bought when it was a year old. I love the car, but last year, I had a problem with the car shuddering. When I put it in reverse and on the highway, it would shudder at speeds of 60 to 65.

I took it to a Chrysler dealership. They reprogrammed the transmission, and it ran fine until a month ago. I took it back to the dealership and said it probably needs to be reprogrammed. They called me and said the program was OK but the drive shaft was loose and damaged, with the bolts all loose and one almost falling out. They replaced the drive shaft. I drove it home and found that I still had the same shuddering. I took it back. They said that they should change the transmission fluid, gaskets, filters, and so on. When they dropped the pan, they called and asked me to come by because they found water in with the fluid and the pan was rusted. They changed the transmission fluid and replaced the gaskets, and so forth. That still didn’t solve the problem. They ended up rebuilding the transmission. I guess the whole problem was water in the transmission.

The car has only 65,000 miles on it. The pan has never been off. Do you have any ideas about this? So far, this has cost me more than $3,000, and I don’t want this to happen again. Chrysler said they have no idea how water got in the transmission.

A: There are tech service bulletins on this problem, and it’s everywhere on the Internet. The problem is an O ring on the dipstick tube that has no dipstick. Going through car washes, rainstorms, etc., was letting water get past the O ring and into the fluid. This is not a recall. Some people with this problem used a product called Sea Foam, which they claim displaced the water and solved the problem. Flushing your transmission every 30,000 miles would also have gotten rid of the water, as well as put a warranty on your transmission. Most after-flush transmission additives have a chemical that works like the Sea Foam. Keep an eye on the Internet or in your mail for a possible class-action lawsuit. This problem on the Chrysler 300 is more common than thought.

Car Care Tip: When changing your antifreeze this year, have the technician pay close attention to your serpentine belt, radiator hoses and heater hoses. If hoses are changed, insist on new clamps on the hoses. Reusing hose clamps will almost always lead to leaks.

---

Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to scanauto@aol.com.