Q: I have a 2006 4.7-liter V-8 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 50,000 miles, and we change our own oil every 3,000 miles. We always have. This last time we went to change the oil, my husband and I battled for two and a half hours to get the oil filter off! We started with a cap-style oil-filter wrench, which started slipping. Then we used every wrench we could find, including a Channellock. A few hours later, the filter looked like a crushed beer can! The filter is in a tight spot, so we don't have a lot of room to work the thing. We got so desperate that we drove a screwdriver through it to use that for leverage. Didn't work. We finally realized we'd lost this battle, so now our car needs to be pushed out of the garage and towed to our mechanic. But for future reference, are there any other techniques or tricks for loosening stuck filters? Lasha
Ray: No, you pretty much hit 'em all, Lasha!
Tom: The one other advantage we have at the shop is that we have some better wrenches to try. We have one that grabs around the bottom of the filter, and attaches to a ratchet. But sometimes even that doesn't work.
Ray: And then the only option is to grab the air chisel and break it off. And you're absolutely right to tow it to a professional to have that done. It's not something you want to try yourself, because if you screw it up and take a chunk out of that mating surface on the engine block, every filter from then on will leak.
Tom: And you want to be able to blame the SHOP for that, rather than your husband.
Ray: I can tell you why the filter stuck: You forgot to put oil on the filter gasket. The filter comes with a rubber O-ring on top that creates a seal between the filter and the engine. If you don't lubricate the seal with oil before tightening the new filter, it will "wed" to the engine block, and be extremely difficult to remove.
Tom: How does he know that? Personal experience!
Ray: Right. Nowadays, we prefer a nice, healthy dollop of Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil to lube the gasket, but the truth is, a fingertip full of motor oil will do just as well. You'll remember it next time, I'm sure, Lasha.
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Long drives are overrated
Q: My sister and I recently had an argument. She drives only short distances, rarely more than 5 miles. She wants her '98 Buick Regal with 40,000 miles to last as long as possible. Therefore, she refused to drive the 350 miles to visit for the holidays. I believe that an occasional long drive extends the life of the car. Which one of us is correct? Bill
Ray: Well, I think she just didn't want to visit you, Bill. Do you have a houseful of bratty kids or a neglected cat box or something?
Tom: She certainly wouldn't ruin the car by putting another 700 miles (round trip) on it. After all, that's what cars are designed to do: Drive places. But is it GOOD for the car? Not really.
Ray: In the old days, when cars had carburetors, and excess fuel poured into the cylinders, taking a long, high-speed ride could help burn off some of the carbon deposits that tended to build up on the pistons. But fuel injection meters the fuel so precisely on modern cars that carbon deposits rarely are a problem.
Tom: The only problem with repeated short drives now is moisture. When the engine runs, one of the by-products of combustion is water. That water is sent out the tailpipe. But if you drive only a few miles, the exhaust system and muffler never get hot enough to vaporize that water. That makes the exhaust system rust prematurely.
Ray: So your sister may drive up to the pumps and say, "Fill her up, check the oil and change the muffler!"
Tom: But you don't need to drive 350 miles to heat up your exhaust system. Five or 10 miles will do it, depending on the weather. And, in any case, a long trip once a year is not going to help keep your muffler from rusting anyway, if it's staying moist the other 364 days.
Ray: So there's no real advantage for her car in making this trip. In fact, the opposite is true. There's a pretty direct correlation between the number of miles driven and the end of a car's life. So in general, the fewer miles a car is driven, the longer it lasts.
Tom: So forget about the car. Send your sister a plane ticket for Christmas next year. But if she starts chirping about all the potential wear and tear on the airplane, give up.