Diagnosing the Oil Pressure Warning Light

When drivers see the oil pressure warning light appear on the dashboard they need to take immediate action. Unfortunately, the possible causes for the light to come on run the gambit of extremely serious situations or minor problems. Here in this article we’ll talk about both of these major and minor root causes. With this information drivers will perform a few checks and determine a course of action.

Overview of Oil Pressure Problems

Low oil Pressure Light

Low oil Pressure Light

Automobiles come equipped with an oil pressure gauge and or a warning light. Unfortunately, most of these automobiles get a simple sending unit that turns on a red oil pressure warning light. These sending units are simple pressure operated switches. They mount in an oil gallery and the pressure of the oil pushes up on a contact arm that opens the switch to turn off the lamp. Therefore, most of the sending units remain in the closed position when no oil pressure exists.

Obviously, the light notifies drivers to turn off the engine or damage could occur. DIY minded people can make some basic checks to determine whether they’re getting a false reading from a defective sending unit or if their problem represents a serious issue. The obvious first step when drivers see the oil pressure light come on is to pull the dipstick and check the oil level. A Low oil level causes low pressure and therefore turns on the light.

You can refer to your auto repair manual or owner’s manual for the location of the dipstick, the type of fluid and capacity required for your specific automobile. After taking this all important first step it’s time to move on to the other possibilities if the light remains on. In this article we’ll talk about the simple things and the best case scenarios, then work our way down to the more serious internal engine problems.

Checking the Oil Pressure Sending Unit

Oil Pressure Sending Unit

Oil Pressure Sending Unit

Diagnosing problems with the oil pressure sending unit really become a model specific operation. Some cars have a simple two wire switch that turns the oil pressure warning light on and off. Some automobiles feed power to the electric fuel pump through the sending unit. This gives manufacturers a layer of protection if the engine is suffering from an oil pressure problem. If the switch turns on the light it turns off the fuel pump to stop the owner from running the engine to destruction.

In the case of a simple two wire oil pressure sending unit you can simply unplug it and see if the light goes off on the dash. If this is the case and the light comes back on when you plug it in, you know the sending unit is commanding the oil pressure warning light to illuminate. This however, doesn’t mean the sending unit itself tests good. It means you confirmed the proper operation of the wiring and the.

Here’s the proper way to diagnose an oil pressure sending unit. First you remove the sending unit from the oil gallery and install a trusted mechanical oil pressure gauge. Then you start the engine and take an oil pressure reading. On new automobiles you would like to see 30 psi of oil pressure at idle. On older cars with more than 100,000 miles 15 to 25 psi keeps the light off on most models. If you see these pressures then you have a bad sending unit. As an alternative method just go ahead and replace the sending unit. The average cost of a replacement sending unit falls in the $20-$50 range.

Most Common Oil Pressure Problem

Testing oil pressure

Testing oil pressure

As a certified mechanic with 30 years of experience I have seen my share of oil pressure warning lights. Unfortunately, the most common thing I find with this complaint remains a lack of car maintenance. This rings truer on automobiles with over 100,000 miles or older than 10 years. When car owners neglect to change the oil and filter as recommended by the manufacturer problems result.

Specifically, the oil starts to thicken and develop sludge. This sludge settles to the bottom of the oil pan and clogs the oil pump pickup screen. When this happens, it restricts the amount of oil flowing to the pump and therefore throughout the engine. Automobiles with this problem often have a flickering lamp or an oil pressure warning light that comes on and off around turns and stops.

The only way to truly diagnose a situation like this is to remove the engine oil pan and perform an inspection. With that said, when I find sludge in the bottom of the oil pan, I’ll also find sludge throughout the engine. If we caught this soon enough it’s possible to soften the sludge and flush it out with engine flush type products. This is why jumping on the oil pressure warning light problem as soon as possible becomes so important.

Oil Pressure Warning Light the Worst Cause

test oil pressure

test oil pressure

The worst possible situation that can cause the oil pressure light to Flicker or stay on becomes a worn out engine. These motors usually show more than 150k or 200,000 miles on the odometer. As mentioned throughout this article, the oil pump sends pressurized oil through a network of passageways in the engine block. The two primary locations this oil flows to first are the camshaft and crankshaft bearings.

Pumping oil into these critical areas provides resistance. It’s this resistance that develops the amount of pressure from the oil pump. In fact, we can go as far to say the tighter the clearance the higher the pressure. This is why brand-new engines enjoy higher pressures than motors with 100,000 miles or more. The more the bearings wear the larger the clearances become and you start to see the oil pressure fall off.

This worst-case scenario of a worn out engine causing oil pressure warning lights to come on remains verifiable. In fact, you use the same tool that I mentioned for checking the oil pressure sending unit. First, remove the sender and install a trusted mechanical oil pressure gauge. On a hot engine you should see more than 15 psi of oil pressure on a warm or hot engine. If no sludge exists and the oil pump screen shows clear, then you could be looking at excessive clearance in the bearing area. Removal of the engine oil pan and checking the clearance of the crankshaft bearings with a product called plastic gauge verifies these excessive clearances.

Does My Health Insurance Pay for Hearing Aids?

Pay for Hearing Aids

Are you concerned about how you’ll be able to pay for hearing aids?

If so, you’re not alone. The average American pays $2,710 out of pocket for a hearing aid, and one in six spends $5,000 or more.

Will your health insurance cover the cost of your hearing aids? The answer depends on where you live and what type of coverage you have.

Read on to learn which types of insurance pay for hearing aids – and which don’t.

Ways to Pay for Hearing Aids

Medicare and Medicaid

At this time, hearing aids and many hearing tests are not covered by Medicare.

Medicaid often covers the cost of hearing aids, but policies vary by state. You can find state-specific information on The Hearing Loss Association of America’s website.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

If you have a flexible spending account, you can use that money to pay for certain out of pocket medical expenses.

In most states, the cost of hearing aids and batteries qualify for reimbursement. You cover the initial cost through your FSA account, which later reimburses you.

Veteran (VA) Benefits

Is your hearing loss connected to military service? Have you received treatment for hearing problems at a VA hospital?

If so, your veteran benefits should pay for hearing aids and associated tests. If your hearing loss is severe enough to interfere with daily life, you may be able to receive your hearing aids directly from the VA.

Private Insurance

Unfortunately, few private insurers cover the cost of hearing aids. The exception is health insurance offered in Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

If you live in one of these states, insurers must provide coverage for eligible adults. Check with your insurer to find out what type of coverage they offer.

Federal Employee Assistance

If you or your spouse work for the federal government, your insurance plan likely offers some coverage for hearing aids.

Most federal health plans cover the cost of a basic hearing aid. Employees may choose to pay for extras and upgrades.

Affordable Care Act

Under the Affordable Care Act, some states offer coverage for hearing aids and related expenses.

For the most recent information and updates, visit the federal site for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

HSAs are similar to FSAs in that both types of accounts cover the costs of hearing aids and batteries.

Unlike FSAs, the money in your HSA accumulates from year to year. This can help you to save toward the cost of a new hearing aid.

Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)

HRAs are set up and funded by your employer. Because of that, it’s up to them to decide whether hearing aids and batteries are reimbursable.

Check with your company’s benefits department to find out what’s allowable under your HRA.

Final Thoughts

Health insurance coverage is a tricky world to navigate. Policies are always changing, too, which makes it even harder to keep the facts straight.

Now that you’re familiar with different types of coverage, though, you should have a clearer picture of how to pay for hearing aids.

Do you have other questions about hearing aids? Don’t hesitate to call us at (580) 436-3277. You can also use our online form to contact us.

Complete Guide to Engine Valve Problems

This complete guide to engine valve problems will help you understand what can go wrong with this mechanical engine part. In addition, we’ll talk about why these parts fail and cost-effective ways to repair the damage. You’ll also find a section for those motorists that tried to drive through a deep puddle and suffered engine damage as a result. Finally we’ll talk about the term, “valve job” often associated with intake and exhaust engine valve problems.

How Engine Valves Work

The Wright Brothers Engine

The Wright Brothers Engine

The Wright brothers used an intake and exhaust valve set up in their aircraft engine built in 1903. All modern four stroke power plants still use an intake and exhaust valve today. Unfortunately, even though this technology has been around for more than 100 years it’s not always trouble-free.

In order to effectively diagnose specific engine valve problems, it’s a good idea to understand how they work. The intake valve allows an air and fuel mixture to enter an individual cylinder to power combustion. The exhaust valve opens to allow burned exhaust gases to exit the cylinder after the fuel burns. If the exhaust gases fail to exit the cylinder at the right time, then there’s no room for the next intake charge to enter. This causes an engine misfire condition.

Therefore, you can see that timing of the intake and exhaust valves becomes critical to the proper operation of an engine. Although the technology remains the same as in the Wright brother’s engine, automotive designers improved efficiency by adding larger diameter valves and in some cases multiple valves to increase volume, horsepower and fuel economy. You might’ve heard of the term VVT? This stands for variable valve timing and allows for precision adjustment of the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves on the fly.

Intake Engine Valve Problems

Intake and Exhaust Valves

Intake and Exhaust Valves

The piston pulls in air and fuel on the downward stroke of its travel. It’s necessary for the intake valve to open fully to allow the combustion chamber to fill with the volatile mixture. As the piston reaches bottom dead center the intake valve must close and seal. With this accomplished, the upward stroke of the piston creates compression required for complete combustion.

When an intake engine valve malfunctions it’s often this sealing ability that fails to work correctly. If compression leaks out from around the intake valve it gets pushed back into the intake manifold where it came from. This type of intake engine valve problem often causes a misfire condition.

More than likely the driver’s complaint includes a rough engine idle and lack of power. The telltale sign of an intake side issue is a popping sound heard through the intake system. More specifically, you can often open the air filter housing and hear compression leaking back through the intake.

Exhaust Side Engine Valve Problems

As mentioned above the exhaust valve has an important task to accomplish. It must allow the waste product of combustion to efficiently vent into the exhaust system. As mentioned with the intake manifold, the exhaust valve must also have a perfect seal to allow proper compression of the air fuel mixture.

If the sealing surface of the valve fails, compression leaks out of the exhaust system. Not only does this reduce the efficiency of the combustion process, but it can allow raw fuel to enter the catalytic converter. This is the number one enemy of this expensive emission component. As with the intake valve malfunction, when the exhaust valve develops problems, you can often hear a rhythmic popping through the exhaust system.

Terminology Associated with Valve Problems

Damaged Intake Engine Valve

Damaged Intake Engine Valve

You might hear a mechanic say you have a burned valve. We associate this term with an overheating of the valve face. This causes imperfections in the sealing surface. When the valve doesn’t seal properly, you’ll hear that rhythmic popping sound through the exhaust system. This problem only gets worse with time. The more heat leaking past the valve face, the more damage occurs.

Another term you often hear a lot when you’re visiting those car forums is people talking about getting a valve adjustment. This isn’t something that normally applies to most modern day engines. With that said, there are exceptions to the rule. In the muscle car days valve adjustments were done to solid lifter automobiles. When the hydraulic lifter came on the scene, it reduced the need for constant valve adjustments.

The sure fire way to verify whether your engine needs a valve adjustment is to look at your vehicle specific auto repair manual. If the manufacturer requires this adjustment they provide the procedure and the specifications to perform the valve adjustment properly. If you dig into the engine valve section you will probably find that it says no valve adjustment required. This is because the hydraulic lifters automatically compensate.

Engine Valve Problems Caused by Water

Engine Valve Problems

Engine Valve Problems

If you fail to heed the wise words of, “turnaround don’t drown” when you see a deep puddle, you can cause your own engine valve problems. Engines cannot compress a liquid and this remains the reason water becomes so destructive to an internal combustion engine.

This is why manufacturers atomize the fuel before it’s sucked into the combustion chamber. The only thing that belongs in this area is air and gas vapor. When water enters the cylinder something is going to break.

Sometimes it’s the piston. And sometimes it’s the engine valve. With that said, there are other degrees of damage related to how much water enters each cylinder. As an example, the valve might bend a little from trying to compress the water. This stops it from sealing properly and can cause all the problems mentioned above. The next question is how to repair engine valve problems.

Properly Repairing Engine Valve Problems

In the old days we use to remove the cylinder head and pull out the individual valves to repair them. As time went on we started sending out the damaged cylinder heads to machine shops. Why not let them fix it using their precision equipment? All of these methods led to a necessity to streamline the process. Now it is more common for auto repair shops to purchase rebuilt cylinder heads for their customers. Auto-parts companies that specialize in rebuilding cylinder heads work with such volume that they’re able to provide the cheapest and most effective way to solve engine valve problems by replacing the whole head.

The Tech Trends Innovating the Prevention of Road Accidents

prevention of road accidentsThe tech industry is growing.

While this helps us to stay connected, it also means we’re increasingly glued to our devices.

The good news?

Though it may sound counterintuitive at first, technology is actually playing a part in the prevention of road accidents.

Nearly 1.3 million people die in car accidents every year.

This number could decrease dramatically with the introduction of new, high-tech safety features.

This article will break down the tech trends that are helping to decrease the number of auto accidents and keep you safe.

1) Automatic Parking

For some people, parking can be a nightmare. Squeezing in to a small space in a hectic parking lot can be incredibly stressful.

To combat this (and prevent scratching your car or someone else’s) many cars are now equipped with automatic assisted parking.

Cars will soon even use cameras and radars to do the parking for you.

Unfortunately, this feature still can’t stop your kids from complaining that you parked too far away from a store. But it can ensure you make it inside the lines, and don’t take up more than one space.

2) Adaptive Cruise Control to Aid the Prevention of Road Accidents

Adaptive cruise control is a system that will slow down and speed up your car to help you keep pace with traffic. It will also maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front of you.

Some adaptive cruise control systems also have collision warnings if you’re getting too close to a car and automatic breaking features. 

When you’re on the road, sometimes cars can stop super suddenly — too suddenly for a human being to register what happened and stop.

This results in collisions and even unnecessary deaths. With adaptive cruise control, your vehicle can detect that stop in nano-seconds. It can stop your car from hitting another automatically.

While you still need to be an attentive driver, this feature does take some anxiety out of driving on the highway.

3) Blind Spot Monitoring

The days of having to ask your passenger to crane their neck around and check your blind spot are over.

Blind spot monitoring is a new safety feature that could aid in the prevention of road accidents. The blindspot detection system will warn you with a visual or audio alert that there’s a car or motorcycle in your blindspot.

The blindspot monitoring system may even link to the monitor in your car, and give you footage of whatever’s in your blindspot.

Remember that technology doesn’t always account for human error — and accidents do happen. If you find yourself in a tough situation you may need to call a car accident lawyer to help you.

Buckle Up and Hit the Highway

Technology is continually improving so many aspects in our lives, including the safety of our automobiles.

However, basic car safety like buckling your seatbelt is still very important.

If you have any questions about the technology we mentioned in this article, or you want to get in contact with us for any reason, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Don’t put your life at risk when safety is so simple. Always remember: until the tech trends catch up, always buckle up.

Stay Alert: 5 Tips to Avoid a Motorcycle Accident

motorcycle accidentApproximately 5000 people die each year in motorcycle accidents. And another 88,000 sustain injuries. Motorcyclists are 29% more likely to die than a car passenger.

There are some very good reasons to avoid motorcycle accidents.

You don’t want to trash your bike. You don’t want to end up in the hospital. You don’t want the expense of motorcycle repairs.

But perhaps the most important one of all is that most accidents are avoidable if you follow safe riding best practices.

Let’s explore some of those now.

Tail End Accidents

Among common types of motorcycle accidents, tail end collisions settle at the top of the list. Motorcycles have many advantages to cars, but “padding” isn’t one of them. It’s just you, your bike and the road.

Perhaps you needed to avoid someone walking through the cross walk. Or, like all drivers, you didn’t see the new stop sign in your neighborhood until you were right up on it.

Either way, you stop abruptly, the person behind you is distracted or surprised — and boom. You fly off your bike, hearing it crunch under a truck behind you.

To avoid this motorcycle accident…

Safety Tip #1

Develop a safety habit of always stopping closer to the curb, rather than in the middle. If the person behind you has trouble stopping, they can swerve slightly to miss you.

Safety Tip #2

When you have time, tap the brake lever a few times before stopping to get the attention of the driver behind you.

Safety Tip #3

When possible, pull up next to a car in front of you at a stop instead of behind it. If the car behind you can’t stop, you won’t take the force of the impact.

Blind Corner Crashes

Maybe you know the feeling. You’re riding safely down the street. Then you take a corner and debris is on the road. There’s nothing you can do. You spin out and crash.

Safety Tip #4

Our tip’s no fun. But this most often happens when we take corners too fast. Regulate your speed and take corners cautiously. If you can’t see the road ahead, slow down.

Lane Change Motorcycle Accident

Compared to cars, motorcycles are tiny. They’re hard to see. They’re loud to compensate. But if someone has their music bumping or is focused on an audiobook, they may not hear you or not realize you’re right beside them.

Safety Tip #5

Be alert and aware of your surroundings on lane-change likely highways.

Be ready to get over if someone starts moving over on you. Anticipate the need for vehicles to change lanes quickly. Make note of drivers who are checking their mirrors.

If you see a lane slowing down in front of you, you may not want to be right next to a car at that moment. That car might try to change lanes quickly rather than slowing.

Stay Safe on the Road

As motorcyclists, we choose to take on more than our fair share of road safety by looking out for car drivers who don’t see us. We do it because we’re the ones who get hurt if we don’t.

By following these easy motorcycle safety tips, you can stay safer on the road.

What would you add to our list of tips? Comment below.

5 Reasons Your Engine Burns Oil

The most common sign when your engine burns oil is an excessive amount of smoke. When this smoke takes on a bluish color it’s time to start looking into a possibly serious engine issue. I stress the word possible in the previous sentence. Although blue smoke often means a worn out engine, other less likely reasons can turn out to be the root cause. Here we’ll review five reasons an engine burns oil.

Why is the Smoke Blue

Engine burns oil blue smoke

Engine burns oil blue smoke

The oil is meant to lubricate the moving parts throughout the entire engine. However, it’s not meant for this oil to reach the combustion chamber. When a petroleum product burns it produces heavy smoke. In fact, the smoke takes on an unmistakable bluish tint. So when we see clouds of blue smoke coming from the tailpipe, we need to find out how and why the oil is reaching the combustion chamber.

Before we move on to the five reasons your engine burns oil, let’s talk about the amount of smoke from the tailpipe. The amount of blue smoke becomes an important measurement and provides some clues into the possible causes of the issue. The total output of smoke points to how serious the problem is. Furthermore, the timing can also provide some clues.

As an example, if a blue puff of smoke becomes visible after starting a warm engine and then disappears, it points to a valve train problem. If the bluish colored smoke pumps out steady, despite engine temperature, this points to an engine problem like worn rings or scarred cylinder walls. When you take this car to a professional mechanic provide your observations as these can help reduce diagnostic time.

Using the Wrong Engine Oil

thereadinggroup.us auto repair manualsOf course, it’s important to use the recommended engine oil. I’m talking about the recommendation in the owner’s manual or the one that’s provided on the oil fill cap. They manufacture modern engines with tighter tolerances and therefore use a thinner weight engine oil. Today we find 0W-20 and 5W-20 oils installed.

Engineers designed these special lubricants to reduce resistance and thereby increase fuel economy and horsepower. Again this type of petroleum product belongs in the automobiles manufactured to utilize them. Installing a 0W-20 viscosity product on your 1990 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck is a bad idea. Stick with the 10W-30 recommended by the manufacturer.

Engine Valve Seal Problems and Blue Smoke

Engine Burns Oil

Engine Burns Oil

It’s never a good thing when you see blue smoke coming from the exhaust. With that said, if a small amount of blue smoke comes out when the engine is first started the problem is often repairable. This condition points to a valve seal or valve guide issue.

The valve seals stop oil from dripping into the combustion chamber. When these seals become worn, they can allow small amounts of oil to drip down the valve stem. It’s important to recognize, that in this situation, after the engine is run for a while, the smoke disappears.

They install the rubber seals under the valve spring and they cover the top part of the valve guide. As you can imagine this part of the engine builds extreme heat. The rubber valve seals can shrink and become brittle. Replacing the valve seals isn’t an easy task. And it can cost hundreds of dollars. But it’s better than a major internal engine problem.

Engine Valve Guides with Excessive Clearance

Rocker arms and valve adjustment

Rocker arms and valve adjustment

The engine valve guide is an integral part of the cylinder head. This is a precisely machined hole that holds the valve stem firmly, yet still allows free movement. We call the distance between the stem of the valve and the guide that holds it the clearance.

If the valve guide wears and the clearance becomes excessive between the stem and the guide, oil can make its way down into the combustion chamber. In this situation you get blue smoke on engine startup that reduces in quantity as the engine warms up. Professional auto repair manuals include a specification for this valve guide clearance.

We usually take this measurement when performing the valve seal replacement procedure described above. Again, excessive valve stem clearance remains a better situation than needing to replace an entire engine. In fact, depending on the measurement, we can improve clearances by knurling the valve guides. This process includes the use of a special tool that operates inside the valve guide.

Worn Engine Piston Rings

Engine in a can

Engine in a can

As we progress down this list of five reasons your engine burns oil the causes are becoming more expensive to repair. Now it’s time to talk about worn piston rings. Unfortunately we often associate this problem with very high mileage engines.

And therefore it could ultimately lead to an engine replacement. Each piston carries three separate rings. Engineers designed the two upper rings to seal the combustion chamber. The lower ring we call an oil control ring. On the downward stroke this control ring scrapes off excess oil into the oil pan.

As the control ring wears it leaves more oil on the cylinder walls. In addition, worn compression rings allow this left over oil to make its way into the combustion chamber. Automotive technicians use a compression test to diagnose this internal engine problem.

First, they initiate a dry compression test and compare the readings to the specifications outlined in the service manual. Next, we remove the spark plug and add a small amount of oil to the top of the piston. Then we take another compression test. Technicians call this a wet compression test. Subtracting the dry test from the wet test provides an indication of the level of wear of the piston rings.

Cylinder Wall Damage and Wear

On the higher mileage engines that show signs of piston ring wear, cylinder problems can also occur. In fact, the cylinder walls themselves can get nicked and scratches in them. This happens with neglected engine oil changes and small pieces of carbon from the combustion chamber working past the rings.

In addition to cylinder wall damage these perfectly round cylinders can become egg shaped. Again this happens on high mileage automobiles. Believe it or not engine machine shops can cure this issue. However, it requires boring out the cylinder and installing a stainless steel sleeve in all cylinders. Replacing the engine with a junkyard unit or a rebuilt engine becomes a less expensive repair. With that said, it might make sense on a classic car that still has the original engine installed. Sleeving the motor can retain the value of a numbers matching classic car.