A while back CarMD Corp conducted a study and compiled the findings into what they called their Vehicle Health Index. CarMD is a device that you plug into your vehicle's under-dash OBDII data connector, the device then downloads vehicle repair data, letting you know what's wrong with your car. Among the findings of the study were the top fifteen most expensive vehicle repairs in the US. I decided to explore these top five in depth in an effort to give you tips on how to avoid them.
Remove cylinder and inspect for faulty components, replace as necessary - $8,216.97.
In this area, the study speaks of "remove cylinder and inspect for faulty components, replace as necessary." Specifically, this area refers to engine damage and major engine work or replacement. Typically we see engines fail due to long-term wear and neglected maintenance practices. For instance, when oil changes are let go too long between drain intervals and cooling systems are allowed to go too long between flushes and refills, engines tend to develop internal wear from increased heat and friction. Cylinder walls are lubricated when the piston strokes up and down, distributing oil on the cylinder walls. When oil is left inside the engine too long, it breaks down and stops lubricating properly; hence heat and friction buildup eventually causing internal failure and massive repair costs. Additionally, coolant that is left in the engine too long loses its ability to absorb heat and prevent rust and scale buildup, which increase engine operating temperatures and friction, which increased engine wear. So to prevent engine wear and/or failure, practice vigorous maintenance, according to the severe service schedule in your owner's manual and you'll get better performance and a lot more miles out of your engine.
Replace hybrid inverter assembly $7,391.57; Replace inverter assembly with converter $3,921.68.
Tom Torbjornsen is an automotive expert of 38 years. An automotive journalist in good standing with the International Motor Press Association and Motor Press Guild, Torbjornsen has been the Repair and Maintenance editor for AOL Autos, At Home Portals, and many other websites. Hear his radio show AMERICA'S CAR SHOW, locally on WKSN 1340-AM via the SSI Radio Network Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. See Tom's television show, "America's Car Show" on Buffalo's all new WBBZ-TV, channel 5 on Dish, channel 67 over-the-air and on DirecTV. The show airs weekly Wednesday nights 6:30-7 p.m.. It is re-aired on Thursday mornings at 9 and Saturday mornings at 11. For more info on Tom Torbjornsen, visit AMERICA'S CAR SHOW website at: www.americascarshow.com. You can send Tom your car questions and TV show topic suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Find Tom's book, "How To Make Your Car Last Forever" in local Barnes & Noble booksellers and online at Amazon.com.
Inverters and voltage converters are devices used specifically in hybrid powertrains. Before we explore what we can do to prevent failure of these devices, let's first look at what they do, so that we can gain a better understanding of the nature of the hybrid beast.
An inverter converts DC (Direct Current) electrical current from the batteries to AC (Alternating Current), which is required to power the electric motor/s of the hybrid powertrain.
A (voltage) converter is a device that changes the amount of voltage (either AC or DC) of an electrical power source. There are two types of voltage converters: step up (which increases voltage) and step down (which decreases voltage). These devices are used to take low voltage and step it up to high voltage for heavy duty work in a high power application where only a low power source is available, and conversely can be used to reduce voltage from a high output source for a light load application. Voltage converters can either be a separate unit in the system or part of the inverter assembly.
Inverters and voltage converters operate at high temperatures because of the use of resistors and semi-conductors, which results in high electrical resistance and thus, heat. Typically such systems incorporate the use of a dedicated cooling system including the use of a radiator with pump driven liquid, a fan and/or heat sinks and aggressive ventilation. For this reason the air intake in the front grille of the vehicle must be kept clean of organic debris and unencumbered so maximum airflow is achieved. If your particular hybrid vehicle has a dedicated cooling system for the hybrid system, do not neglect servicing it according to the manufacturer's suggested maintenance schedule. As a mater of fact, I would err on the side of aggressive maintenance practices and service it according to the severe maintenance schedule. If your vehicle's hybrid cooling system is part of the engine's cooling system, again, err on the aggressive side (severe schedule) of maintenance practices, at the listed replacement prices, a few extra cooling system flushes seem trivial in cost as compared to a new inverter assembly.
Replace transmission assembly and reprogram Engine Control Module - $3,699.34.
Automatic transmissions have their own maintenance schedule for fluid and filter replacement. Typically every 35,000 miles the fluid should be flushed and the filter replaced. When fluid is left in the unit too long, heat and friction buildup results in transmission failure. Keep the trans fluid and filter clean and fresh according to the aggressive maintenance schedule I mentioned above and you will realize trouble-free operation of your transmission for a long time. Transmission replacement usually involves Engine Control Module or Drivetrain Control Module reprogramming because the trans is electronically controlled and integrated into the performance system, this is why reprogramming is included in the cost factor above.
Replace camshaft and lifters - $3,077.74
People are keeping their cars much longer today than days of old. The average car on the road today is between 10 and 12 years old. This means that the vehicles are racking up higher and higher mileage every year. Over time, camshafts and lifters, which are made of metal, wear out, thus the need for replacement at high mileage. The lubricants of today are much better than they used to be, therefore offering better protection over time. To achieve maximum engine mileage follow the severe service schedule for oil drain and filter replacement intervals. You may consider starting your new engine out on a diet of high quality synthetic motor oil, which is much tougher in formulation than petroleum based motor oil. Typically a high grade synthetic motor oil such as AMSOIL or Mobile One will go double the mileage of petroleum based motor oil. Good quality synthetic lubricants offer superior lubrication, greater resistance to viscosity breakdown, better flow-ability in cold temperatures and higher resistance to vaporization from heat and friction. All this translates into maximum internal protection and longer mileage of your engine including the camshaft and lifters.
Replace cylinder head assembly and spark plugs - $3,608.36.
Cylinder head problems usually can be attributed to the root cause of overheating of the engine. Cylinder heads are typically made of aluminum, a metal that offers overall weight reduction, which is good for increasing MPG, and dissipating heat much better than cast iron, the problem is that aluminum is very unforgiving when it comes to being overheated. One little bad thermostat valued at $10 to $20 can result in repairs costing upwards of $,3000. Overheating happens as a result of a coolant leak, plugged radiator, stuck thermostat not allowing coolant flow or coolant that has been in the system too long and that has lost it's ability to absorb and carry away heat from the combustion chambers. When the engine overheats, either the cylinder head gasket burns and stops sealing the head to the engine block and/or the aluminum head/s warp or crack resulting in internal coolant leakage and loss of compression (engine power). To repair this, the top of the engine must come off and be refurbished or replaced depending on the extent of the damage; typically the spark plugs are replaced when a repair operation of this nature is done. Expensive to say the least.
Well, that covers the top five most expensive repairs as per the CarMD study. Remember, you can avoid these major costs if you are diligent when it comes to maintaining your vehicle.
'Til next time ... Keep Rollin'