Monday, May 23, 2011

Charging a battery or jumpstarting a car

One thing that I do frequently is end up charging a car battery or jump starting someone's car. Frequently this is because someone let a vehicle sit for a long time (probably a month or more), or they left the lights on. Every once and a while it is because of an actual failed battery. I also charge up my wife's car every few weeks since she only drives about 2 miles a day so her battery never gets fully charged unless I do it and I charge the car battery when changing oil. When it comes to charging a vehicle's batter there are right and wrong ways of doing it which I will discuss below. As a side note if you have a limited use vehicle I highly suggest getting one of those solar trickle chargers that sell for about $20 just plug it into the 12V outlet (cigarette lighter) and put in on the dash. I use one in my Bronco II and that thing will sit for a month consistently and still starts without issue.

Jump starting a car:
I suggest carrying around a good set of jumper cables. Good ones have real heavy clamps and are at least 6 gauge wire 4 gauge wire is better (lower gauge is thicker wire).
  1. Move the running vehicle so that it's battery is as close to dead battery in the other vehicle as possible
  2. Leave the vehicle with the good battery running
  3. Make sure all accessories (lights, radio, etc.) are off in the vehicle with the dead battery
  4. connect the red cable to the red (+) terminal on the vehicle with the dead battery
  5. Connect the other end of the red cable to the red (+) terminal on the running vehicle
  6. Connect the black cable to the black (-) terminal on the vehicle with the dead battery
  7. Connect the other end of the black cable to the black (-) terminal on the running vehicle
  8. Do not attempt to start the vehicle with the dead battery yet, it probably won't start and if you do try it will only take longer.
  9. Go sit in the running vehicle for a few minutes. I suggest bringing the engine up to a faster idle (1500 RPM) so it will charge the dead battery faster. To do this just lightly press on the gas pedal, you will hear the engine speed up some
  10. After 5 or so minutes have someone else go and try to start the vehicle with the dead batter. Keep the running vehicle at the faster idle.
  11. If the vehicle with the dead battery started continue to step15
  12. If the vehicle with the dead battery turned over (tried to start) but didn't start go to step 9
  13. If the vehicle with the dead battery didn't turn over go to step 9 but let it charge for 10 minutes
  14. If you get here and have tried starting the other vehicle and it won't start the battery is probably totally dead so go get a new one, or the starter is the problem and go get a new one. Continue to step 15 and disconnect the jumper cables.
  15. Disconnect the black cable from the car that has been running the whole time
  16. Disconnect the black cable from the car that got the jump
  17. Disconnect the red cable from the car that has been running the whole time
  18. Disconnect the red cable from the car that got the jump
  19. If the car that got the jump is now running have them take it for a drive for at least 30 minutes to get the battery charged back up. Highway driving is better as that is at a constant speed and will charge the battery quicker and will put less of a load on the battery. You can end now
  20. If the char that got the jump isn't running check the battery and starter. (This will be discussed in another post later)
Using a battery charger (also applies to connecting battery boosters)
  1. Do NOT have the battery charger plugged into the wall
  2. Connect the red cable to the red terminal (+) on the battery
  3. Connect the black cable to the black terminal (-) on the battery
  4. Plug in the battery charger
  5. Select the type of charging. Some chargers don't give you an option, these are trickle chargers. The various options are below
    1. Trickle charge (1-2 amps)  This is the best way to charge a char battery, use it if getting the vehicle started can wait several hours (overnight)
    2. Quick charge (5-20 amps) This is used to quickly charge a battery, expect to let it charge for several minutes (10-30 depending on battery size and output of charger)
    3. Start (50-200 amps) This is used to start a vehicle. You should still let charger charge the battery for a few minutes (5 is probably plenty). This is really hard on batteries
  6. Let the vehicle charge
  7. Unplug your charger
  8. Disconnect the black cable from your battery
  9. Disconnect the red cable from your battery
When I charge a battery when changing oil I use the trickle charge setting on my charger. My charger is a 2/10/50 amp charger. I also use the trickle (2 amp) setting when charging my wife's car overnight.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The best oil change ever

Changing the oil on your vehicle is probably the single best thing you can do for it. Getting your oil changed isn't very expensive and doing it on a regular schedule will help to greatly extend the life of your vehicle. If you are in a pinch you can always take it to one of those oil change places and and get it done in 30 minutes or less. This is better than nothing and if more people would do this then they would have fewer issues with their cars. Personally I don't really like these places as they don't seem to do a very good job and I keep hearing horror stories of them stripping out the threads on the oil pan so I just do my own oil change.

Benefits of doing your own oil change:

  1. It is done correctly
  2. Cheaper
  3. You can take care of other things as well
Mandatory Supplies:
  1. Oil (probably between 4 and 8 quarts). If you don't know how much you need, or what type ask at you local auto parts store, they are helpful. I prefer O'Reilly because they are close and seem to have most of the part I need. I recommend synthetic oil, grease, and other fluids as they are better.
  2. Oil filter. The people at the parts store can help you with this as well
  3. Funnel
  4. Hydraulic floor jack (don't use the crappy spare tire jack, those are junk)
  5. Oil drain pan
  6. Socket set or wrench set (you will need the size that fits the oil drain plug)
Recommended additional supplies:
  1. Power steering fluid
  2. Grease gun
  3. Fluid transfer pump
  4. Synthetic Grease
  5. Antifreeze
  1. Drive the car around until it is fully warmed up. This will make it so the the old oil drains out quicker. Additionally this will get all the crud in the oil in suspension so it will be carried away with the old oil.
  2. Open the hood
  3. take off the oil filler cap
  4. Jack the car up (use one of the jack points for changing the tires)
  5. put the drain pan under the oil drain plug
  6. Remove the oil train plug
  7. Do these optional (recommended) steps as the oil drains out as the oil draining will take a while (probably close to 30 minutes)
    1. put the battery on a charger (trickle charge ensures that the battery is fully charged)
    2. using the fluid transfer pump remove all the fluid in the power steering reservoir. (cheeper to replace the fluid a little at at time than to pay for a new power steering pump)
    3. refill the power steering reservoir with fresh fluid (probably close to 12 ounces)
    4. grease all suspension parts using synthetic grease (makes these parts last longer. These are expensive)
    5. Shake the dirt out of your air filter (this will help extend its life)
    6. Check to see that your belts aren't cracked or worn (you don't want to get stuck somewhere)
    7. Check the radiator hoses 
    8. Check the tire pressure (don't want to get a flat)
    9. Check your coolant level (refill as needed, you don't want to run low on coolant as a blown head gasket will probably be the end of you car)
    10. Fill your windshield wiper fluid.(you want to see don't you?)
    11. Check lights and blinkers (this avoids a visit from a L.E.O.)
    12. Take the battery off the charger
  8. Now that the oil has finished draining out put the oil plug back in. Initially put it in finger tight (several full turns) then use a wrench or socket to tighten it down the rest of the way. This will prevent you from stripping the threads on the oil pan.
  9. move the oil drain pan so it is under the oil filter.
  10. Remove the oil filter and put it in the oil drain pan (more oil will drain out)
  11. Fill the new oil filter with oil (This will get oil into the engine quicker when you start it)
  12. put a light coat of oil on the rubber gasket on the oil filter (This will make it so you can easily get it off when you change it next time)
  13. Put the new oil filter on. once it makes contact with the engine turn it another 1/4 to 1/2 turn. this will keep oil from leaking out.
  14. Take the oil drain pan out from under the car
  15. Take the car off the jack
  16. Put the funnel in the oil filler hole and pour in the correct amount of oil.
  17. Put the oil filler cap back on.
Congratulations you have just done the best oil change ever. I do all of this each time I change oil on any of my vehicles. At this point you are stuck with some old oil, an old oil filter. Some auto parts stores will take the old oil and filter, but if not you can always dispose of them at the local hazardous waste disposal site. In Dakota county MN it is free. My local O'Reilly store take used oil so I just save up the old filters and bring a bunch of filters to the Recycle center at once (about 3 or 4 times a year).

Note* I am NOT sponsored by or in anyway affiliated with O'Reilly auto parts, I do NOT own stock in O'Reilly either.  I have had better experiences there than at any of the other auto parts stores so that is what I am basing my recommendation on.