Car Care Tip: Gridlock Driving

June 11, 2013

How to Avoid Automotive Damage in Gridlock Driving

Summertime often means road trips, stop-and-go traffic, and if you live in Cleveland, road closures and construction zones are an everyday battle.  Unfortunately, this often leads to gridlock: major traffic jams which cause stress on the driver and the vehicle. Unfortunately, gridlock driving is considered a severe form of driving. How does gridlock and frequent stop-and-go driving effect your vehicle?

Engines, Brakes & Maintenance Services

While you are sitting in traffic with an idling engine, the charging, cooling and ventilation systems are at their weakest point. The battery and alternator are stressed, the cooling system has little to no air flow to aid in cooling, and the engine’s ventilation system is not operating enough. Your engine’s ventilation system helps to keep the engine cool and prevents acidic combustion products and incompletely burned fuel in your engine (engine deposits) from forming. The more accelerating and stopping you do, the potential for engine deposits increases. Over time, deposits can clog fuel injectors, form engine sludge and interfere with the flow of fuel to the combustion chamber. You may begin to hear a “pinging” or knocking noise. One way to prevent this damage is to avoid rush hour and grid lock driving altogether. However, this is not a very practical solution. Instead, leave plenty of space (3 car lengths) between your vehicle and the car in front of you. This allows the engine to stay cool and requires less aggressive braking. Gentle braking will extend the life of your brake system.

One of the simplest things you can do to maintain your vehicle in severe driving conditions is frequent oil changes. Check your owner’s manual for their recommendations on severe driving maintenance services. Stop-and-go driving qualifies as a severe condition, while steady-speed and highway driving is considered a “normal” condition. In addition to oil changes, we recommend adding a fuel injector cleaner to your gas tank every 5,000 miles to our clients who are constantly in rush hour traffic. This helps to remove valve deposits, prevent clogging and reduce knocking noises. Any good synthetic formula fuel injector cleaner will work.

Finally, how old is your vehicle? If it is 8 years old or older, check to see if the coolant filler pressure cap has been replaced. A new cap will hold the required amount of pressure and help keep your engine cool, while a bad/old cap will leak coolant. This is a simple maintenance step which could prevent costly repairs in the future.

Stop-and-go driving may be a fact of life, but the damage it does to your car doesn’t have to be. By taking a few precautions and following a regular maintenance schedule, you can keep your car in good shape and stay ahead of the game – even if you can’t stay ahead of rush hour traffic.