To flush or not to flush? Car flu­ids you should ac­tu­ally re­place

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - By Brian Turner

AS the av­er­age Canadian ve­hi­cle owner op­er­ates his or her daily driver for a sub­stan­tial amount of time and dis­tance past a man­u­fac­turer’s war­ranty cov­er­age, be­ing able to ob­tain a low price guar­an­tee on some of the most ex­pen­sive-to-re­pair com­po­nents can be an at­trac­tive of­fer. Here’s a look at some of the most com­mon “rec­om­mended” ser­vices.

Trans­mis­sion flush ser­vice: Ser­vic­ing an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion can be done in two ways: re­mov­ing the drain pan and re­plac­ing the fluid and fil­ter, or power flush­ing the fluid with spe­cial­ized cir­cu­la­tion equip­ment and re­plac­ing the fil­ter.

Au­tomak­ers only rec­om­mend the first method even though it only re­moves about half of the fluid. A great deal of the trans­mis­sion’s fluid will re­main in the torque con­verter, and oil cooler and lines dur­ing a sim­ple drain and re­fill process. A power flush will cir­cu­late all of the oil fluid out be­fore pump­ing in new. The flush sys­tem will also re­move more solid and metal­lic de­bris, thus ex­tend­ing the life of the clutch plate and mov­ing com­po­nents. It also pre­vents oil cooler or line block­age. Car­mak­ers rec­om­mend an auto trans­mis­sion fluid change be­tween

50,000 and 100,000 km on av­er­age.

En­gine cool­ing sys­tem ser­vice: As many of to­day’s ve­hi­cles are us­ing long-life or five- to 10-year coolant, its re­place­ment in­ter­val has been sub­stan­tially ex­tended from what it was when or­di­nary green an­tifreeze was com­mon. As with trans­mis­sion fluid re­place­ment, there are two main meth­ods of re­place­ment. Power flush­ing an en­gine’s cool­ing sys­tem will re­move more of the old fluid and de­bris as well as in­tro­duce a wa­ter-pump lu­bri­cant into the sys­tem. Long-life coolant ser­vice in­ter­vals are usu­ally be­tween 100,000 and 150,000 km for most mak­ers. Those still us­ing the old-style green coolant should re­place it around the 70,000 km mark. In­di­vid­ual man­u­fac­turer in­ter­vals may dif­fer.

Brake fluid re­place­ment: This fluid sel­dom has a rec­om­mended re­place­ment in­ter­val with car­mak­ers. The main con­cern that brake fluid re­place­ment ad­dresses is the re­duc­tion of the wa­ter con­tent in the fluid. With age, wa­ter is in­tro­duced into brake lines and hoses via con­den­sa­tion on the steel por­tions of the lines and the cast metal parts of the wheel brake units. This ac­cel­er­ates cor­ro­sion lead­ing to fluid leaks. One hid­den ben­e­fit of this process is that ev­ery bleeder screw on the sys­tem must be opened to com­plete it, there­fore re­duc­ing the risk of them seiz­ing with age, which could lead to the re­place­ment of a caliper or two down the road.

Power steer­ing fluid ser­vice: This is an­other fluid that car­mak­ers con­sider “life­time” with no re­place­ment rec­om­men­da­tion. Power steer­ing sys­tems are rather sim­ple in de­sign, with only en­gine bay heat and sub-zero win­ter tem­per­a­tures to pro­vide any ex­treme op­er­at­ing con­di­tions. Flush treat­ment sup­pli­ers claim to re­duce the risk of steer­ing gear seals, pump and hose fail­ures. Opt­ing for a treat­ment sup­plier that pro­vides a sys­tem war­ranty with pur­chase can help al­le­vi­ate the of­ten ex­pen­sive and com­mon re­pair costs of steer­ing fluid leaks.

Fuel in­jec­tion/in­take ser­vice: There’s a mul­ti­tude of opin­ions both pro and con on this ser­vice, only matched by the num­ber of dif­fer­ent treat­ment sup­pli­ers. Car­mak­ers never rec­om­mend in­jec­tor ser­vice or fuel sys­tem purges in their main­te­nance sched­ules. But many ve­hi­cles have been prone to car­bon buildup on en­gine valves and var­nish coat­ings on throt­tle plates. The two main rea­sons are poor fuel qual­ity and low speed ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tion and stop/start driv­ing on short trips.

Re­pair shops can ac­cu­rately pre­dict the de­mand for this ser­vice based on fuel price in­creases. As the cost of fuel goes up, the weight of the driver’s gas foot gets con­sid­er­ably lighter. When high-ef­fi­ciency en­gines — de­signed to run at higher rev­o­lu­tions per minute — are sub­jected to poky driv­ing and/or poor qual­ity fuel, de­posits will oc­cur. A good fuel-sys­tem clean­ing treat­ment, when prop­erly ap­plied, can re­duce th­ese buildups.

Whether or not you say yes or no to your ser­vice con­sul­tant’s flush rec­om­men­da­tions de­pends on sev­eral things. Here are some ques­tions to ask your­self to help you de­cide:

Are you plan­ning on keep­ing the ve­hi­cle long enough to war­rant some ad­di­tional war­ranty cov­er­age that cer­tain treat­ment sup­pli­ers of­fer? Is this cov­er­age worth­while or cost ef­fec­tive? Do you have faith in your ser­vice provider’s ex­pe­ri­ence and opin­ion? Are you a pre­ven­tive­main­te­nance or drive-it-un­til-it-drops type of ve­hi­cle owner? Do you be­lieve the im­proved de­sign, en­gi­neer­ing, and con­struc­tion of to­day’s ve­hi­cles make them less re­liant on rou­tine main­te­nance in our of­ten ex­treme cli­mates and road con­di­tions?

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