How to Choose the Right Motor Oil for Your Car


Choosing the right oil is vitalYou probably realize that motor oil is essential for any vehicle. Oil is what lubricates and cools your car's moving engine parts while your vehicle is running. Without it, the engine in your car would lock up, which potentially causing major damage to your engine. Even if your engine doesn't have enough oil in the system or if the oil is too dirty, it could still cause engine problems.

Knowing that oil is crucial for your vehicle is one thing, but you should also know how to choose the right motor oil for your car.

There are two important factors when it comes to choosing motor oil for your car. One of them is something called viscosity, and the other is knowing what type of oil you need.

What is Viscosity?

When you look at a container of motor oil, it will have two numbers, along with the letter "W" and a dash. Here are some examples:

  • 5W-20
  • 10W-30
  • 0W-30

Viscosity is used to measure a liquid's resistance to flow and usually refers to its thickness. For example, water has low viscosity while honey has high viscosity. The molecular structure of a liquid also figures into how viscosity is measured. Because there is friction between the molecules of a fluid, viscosity determines how much energy is required to make a liquid flow.

All of this comes into play with motor oil. Something else that plays a huge role in how well motor oil flows through the engine is temperature. When it comes to the viscosity of motor oil, most people think the W stands for "Weight," but it actually stands for "Winter."

The number before the W refers to how well oil flows at 0 degrees F. The lower the number, the less chance it has of getting too thick in colder temperatures. The number after the W refers to how oil flows at 212 degrees F. The higher the number, the less chance it has of becoming too thin in warmer temperatures.

How do you know which viscosity to use for your car? One way to know is to look at the owner's manual for your vehicle. However, if you live in areas where the winters are freezing cold but the summers are very hot, you may want to switch your oil from season to season accordingly.

What Are the Different Types of Oil?

Besides knowing which viscosity of motor oil to use, you'll also need to know what type of oil your car needs.

  • Conventional: Most people use this type of oil for their vehicles, and it is usually recommended for engines with a basic design.
  • Synthetic: Chemically engineered, this type of motor oil contains fewer impurities and more additives. It is often recommended in climates with extreme changes in temperature.
  • Synthetic blend: A blend of conventional and synthetic oil that works well in lower temperatures, this type of oil is better able to resist oxidation.
  • High Mileage: This oil is designed specifically for vehicles that have over 75,000 miles on the engine.

It's also important to note that while conventional motor oil is fairly common, some car companies, such as BMW, recommend that only synthetic oil is used.

When Should the Oil Be Changed?

In the past, mechanics have recommended changing the oil every 3,000 miles. However, in recent years, it has been proven that some vehicles can go 7,500 before an oil change. If, however, you drive in what are considered "severe conditions," such as driving in stop-and-go traffic in hot weather, you may want to continue changing it every 3,000 miles.

To learn more about proper car maintenance, take a moment to look through our other blog posts. If you are thinking about getting a different vehicle, consider donating your old one to Newgate School.

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Which Type of Brake Pads Is Best for Your Needs?


Brake pads provide the muscle you need to stop your car, so their composition is important. Brake pads are composed of several different substances but can be put into a few major groups. Below is more information about the various brake pad groupings and some of the advantages and drawbacks of each type.

Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

A common type of brake pad in use with passenger vehicles, semi-metallic brake pads are composed of metals and a special binding agent. Some of the metals used in semi-metallic brake pads include steel, copper, and iron, though brake manufacturers may add more exotic metals for special applications such as racing.

Semi-metallic brake pads also contain their own special sub-classification, low-metallic brake pads, which are a hybrid of semi-metallic and organic brake pads and have characteristics of both major groups.

Though the exact percentages vary depending on the specific product, the usual composition of semimetallic brake pads is half metal and half binder. Semi-metallic brake pads offer numerous advantages that make this type of brake pad the favored choice for a lot of vehicle owners:

  • Economical to produce and buy
  • Good heat dissipation characteristics during average driving
  • Firm, confident braking "feel" when pedal is depressed
  • Average to above-average durability

Semi-metallic brake pads do have a few drawbacks, most notably their tendency to make squealing or grinding noises under certain circumstances. In addition, semi-metallic brake pads tend to generate more wear on rotors, which may necessitate more frequent rotor replacement.

Organic Brake Pads

Organic brake pads are another major group of brake pads. Organic brake pads originally consisted of asbestos bound with other fibers and resins, but knowledge of the dangers of asbestos have nearly eliminated its use in automotive products, including brake pads.

Today's organic brake pads use safer fibers, such as glass or Kevlar, mixed with a binding agent. These pads excel in several areas, including the following:

  • Extremely affordable cost
  • Quiet braking action
  • Most environmentally friendly of brake pad options
  • Relatively low levels of wear and tear on other braking components

Organic brake pads aren't perfect for every application, as they do have a few disadvantages, including a less certain feel to braking action. In addition, organic brake pads tend to wear out much faster than other pad types and are more sensitive to overheating.

Ceramic Brake Pads

Ceramic brake pads make up the third major group of brake pad types. As their name indicates, ceramic brake pads are composed primarily of ceramic materials, but the pads also have metallic fibers interspersed throughout.

Ceramic brake pads are the newest, but they represent a major stride forward in braking technology. Ceramic brake pads offer several advantages to vehicle owners and operators, including:

  • High durability and longevity
  • Extremely quiet operating characteristics
  • Lower levels of brake dust production
  • Stable heat-dispersion characteristics

Since ceramic brake pads are a fairly new technology and also require more attention during manufacturing, one of their chief disadvantages is cost. Ceramic pads are the most expensive brake pads to make and sell, though the longer lifespans do help offset the upfront costs.

If you have questions about brake pads and what type might be best for your vehicle, then it is important to talk with automotive repair professionals for assistance. They can make recommendations on brake pad types as well as perform replacements that will match your driving needs and available budget.

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What You Need to Know About Tax Deductions for Donating Cars in Minnesota


When you donate a vehicle to charity, you can receive a tax deduction on your income tax return. Wondering how that works? Here's an overview of what you need to know.Deductions for your donation

1. Charitable Tax Deductions

The Internal Revenue Service allows you to claim a deduction on your tax return for charitable donations. Essentially, the value of the donation lowers your taxable income. As a result, you owe less tax. To put it simply, let's say you have $60,000 of taxable income and you make a donation of $5,000. That $5,000 lowers your taxed income to $55,000.

2.   Qualifying Charitable Organizations

A 501(c) (3) organization is the most  common non-profit organization.  The majority of them are operated in support of religious, educational, literary, and scientific purposes.  The advantage of donating a vehicle to a 501 (c) (3) organization is that you may use fair market value for your tax deduction, if the donation is used to support the charity's mission.  For example, donating a car to a school will qualify for a fair market value deduction when the car is used for training purposes and is substantially improved in the process.

3. Value of Vehicle Donations

When you donate a vehicle, the amount of your deduction can vary based on the selling price of the vehicle. As of 2017, if your donated vehicle sells for less than $500, you can claim the fair market value of the vehicle up to $500. To illustrate, imagine the fair market value of your vehicle is $1,000. The vehicle sells for $399. In this case, you can claim $500. On the other hand, if your vehicle sells for $399 but the fair market value is only $300, you can claim only $300.  If the charity sells your vehicle for more than $500, you can claim the sale price as a tax deduction. For instance, let's say your vehicle sells for $3,000. That is your tax deduction, regardless of the actual value of the vehicle.

4. Qualifying Donations

To claim a tax deduction, you need to donate the vehicle to a registered  501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. If you give the vehicle to a relative, a friend trying to start a business, or to a local organization that is not registered as a nonprofit yet, it is considered a gift and does not meet the tax deductible guidelines .

5. Paperwork

Once you donate your vehicle, you should receive a receipt (form 1098-c) so you are able to claim the deduction on your tax return. Most organizations mail this receipt to you within 30 days after they sell the vehicle, but some organizations can give you a receipt when you drop off your vehicle.
You also need to provide your title -and lien release if necessary - to complete the process.

6. Claim for the Deduction

To claim a deduction for a donation on your federal tax return, you need to itemize your deductions. This means that you take several deductions such as the home mortgage deduction and others rather than just taking the standard deduction. Generally, only homeowners fall into this category. Unfortunately, if you claim only the standard deduction, you can't claim charitable donations on your federal tax return.
Luckily, Minnesota lets you claim a special deduction on your state taxes if you don't itemize and can't claim the donations on your federal taxes. You can claim half of your donation over $500.

7. Trades

Finally, if you get a benefit in exchange for your donation, you will have to subtract the value of that gift from your donation. Imagine you donate to a charity and receive a free radio for your donation. In this case, you will have to subtract the value of the radio from your donation. This is also true if you donate a vehicle and receive a "thank you" gift.
If you're interested in donating your vehicle and receiving a tax benefit, contact  Newgate School today. Because we are a registered charity that has been accepting car donations for years, and we make the paperwork easy and the process simple for you. Best of all, when you donate a vehicle to Newgate, you help support our tuition-free mechanic training program and our mission to help low-income adults become self-sufficient.

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Everything Vehicle Owners Need to Know About Fluid Leaks



Engine Fluids Safety

Your car relies on a variety of fluids to keep the engine cool, powered, and well-lubricated. Sometimes, you find these fluids in a puddle underneath your car instead. Certain fluid leaks require immediate attention and repair, while others aren't as serious.
In this blog, we give you the basics that you need to know when you notice a vehicle fluid leak. 

Types of Fluid That May Leak

While you may assume that the liquid dripping from your car is gasoline or engine oil, several different varieties of vehicle fluids can leak.
Common fluids found in leaks include:
• Brake fluid. This oily liquid usually ranges in color from yellow to brown. Brake fluid leaks are rare in most modern cars.
• Coolant. Also known as antifreeze, coolant may appear pink, orange, or green. This sticky, sweet-smelling liquid is one of the most frequent vehicle leaks. 
• Engine oil. Depending on how old your oil is, the puddle may look dark yellow or brackish brown. Engine oil leaks may smell like burning rubber.
• Gasoline. If your vehicle's leak smells like a gas station, the liquid is probably gasoline. A puddle near the back bumper may indicate a faulty tank, while a leak near the front bumper could be due to fuel pump damage.
• Power steering fluid. Power steering fluid leaks may look reddish. If you have one of these leaks, you may also notice that it's harder to take sharp turns in your vehicle.
• Transmission fluid. Like power steering fluid, transmission leaks are usually red. Your car will usually spring a transmission leak near the front or middle of the vehicle.
• Water. Most steady dripping leaks under a car are water from the climate control system.
The severity of the leak often depends on what the puddle under your car consists of, so identifying the possible fluids involved is an important first step.

Common Signs of Fluid Leaks

While an active drip or standing puddle can clue you in to the presence of a leak, not all leaks are immediately visible. If you suspect a leak, but haven't seen the problem in action, first check your fluid reservoirs.
Slow or small leaks may affect your fluid levels over a long period of time, so it's important to know what fluid consumption is normal for your vehicle. If your dashboard lights recommend fluid changes too often, this issue may also indicate the presence of a leak.
If you suspect a leak, place a ground covering underneath your car overnight. If there is a strong odor of gasoline, you may wish to move it outside the garage to protect against a potential fire hazard.  Coverings like aluminum foil or even paper may work because motor fluids show up clearly on the surface.
If you can't explain why your car loses fluids so quickly, visit a mechanic. You may have an engine inefficiency or other mechanical problem rather than a fluid leak.

When to Worry About a Fluid Leak

Certain fluid leaks are considered normal. For example, water condensation often drips from underneath cars that use their air conditioning in warm weather. In most cases, leaks that do not cause sudden and dangerously significant drops in fluid levels or large puddles aren't serious.

Potential dangers of fluid shortages:
Brake  fluid.  A shortage of brake fluid is a potential safety hazard.  If you suspect a leak, have your car towed to a shop as soon as possible, regardless of how much fluid actually escapes.  Do not attempt to drive a car with a suspected brake fluid leak since a drop in fluid pressure can cause your brakes to stop functioning unexpectedly.
Coolant.  A shortage of coolant will affect your engine's ability to perform in a safe operating temperature range.  Look at your instrument panel to determine if your vehicle is running at an abnormal temperature.  An overheated engine will soon fail and the repair is extremely expensive.
Gasoline.  Easily recognized by its odor, gasoline is explosive, and an accumulation is extremely dangerous and a safety hazard.  Call your mechanic immediately to determine the level of severity so that its repair can be expedited.
Engine oil.  A shortage of engine oil will result in internal engine components not receiving sufficient lubrication and the engine will overheat and eventually fail - an extremely expensive repair.
Power steering fluid.   Insufficient power steering fluid will make your vehicle difficult to steer which has potential for a driving safety hazard.  Have it checked out immediately by your mechanic.
Transmission fluid.  If you feel any abnormality in your vehicle shifting, it may be a result of low transmission fluid.  If it is not replaced to the appropriate level, an expensive repair will likely ensue.
Always refer to your owner's manual to determine appropriate fluids and your car's maintenance schedule.  Timely care and attention to your vehicle's operating symptoms can save you a lot of money and allow you to avoid downtime.
If your car springs a leak and you decide to trade up, consider donating your current car to Newgate School. We use vehicles in varying conditions to teach our students the basics of car mechanics.

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What You Should Know About Spark Plugs, Their Adjustment, and Their Replacement


Mechanics adjusting spark plugs

Spark plugs are inside every gasoline car engine, but most vehicle owners know little about these small but vital engine parts. Knowing more about their operation, maintenance and replacement is one key to making sure your engine runs well. Below is more information about spark plugs, how you can check them for proper adjustment and functioning, and how to know when it is time to replace them.

The Purpose of Spark Plugs

The basic operation of an internal combustion engine, which describes your car's gasoline motor, is not particularly complex. The motor first mixes gasoline and air in small quantities and then ignites the mixture inside a cylinder with an electrical spark.

As the hot gases from the explosion expand, they push a piston, which in turn is linked to a shaft that transfers power to the transmission and ultimately the wheels. This process occurs thousands of times per minute, but for it all to work, the source of the sparks, the spark plugs, must fire consistently.

The Anatomy of a Spark Plug

Spark plugs are constructed of an insulating material and a metallic conductor. At the top end of the plug, the tips connect to the spark-plug wires and send an electrical current down the interior of the plug to the electrodes. There are two electrodes separated by a small gap; as the current approaches the end of one electrode, it effectively "jumps" across the gap to the opposite electrode and creates a visible spark.

The Spark-Plug Gap

One of the key factors that makes a spark plug work well, or not, is the size of the gap between the electrodes. If the gap is too small, the spark will likely be too weak and cause the engine to run poorly or with poor efficiency. However, if the spark plug gap is too large, the spark is unlikely to consistently "jump" across the long distance between electrodes, thus leading to a rough-running engine or one that doesn't run at all.

Fortunately, spark-plug gaps can be easily adjusted by mechanics, including many amateur do-ityourselfers. A spark-plug gap gauge both measures and adjusts the gap and is inexpensive and simple to use.

There are different types of gap gauges, but they all basically function the same way; simply locate the recommended gap for the spark plugs in your vehicle and then insert the gauge edge into the gap and measure the distance between the electrodes.

Should the gap be too narrow, the mechanic will gently pry the gap apart with the gauge. On the other hand, should the gap be too wide, it can be narrowed by the mechanic's squeezing the electrodes closer together with a tool or pushing the bottom electrode down onto a tabletop.

Replacement of a Spark Plug

Spark plugs undergo a remarkable amount of stress because they experience electrical currents of tens of thousands of volts, hundreds of degrees of heat, and constant vibration. Eventually, all spark plugs will wear out and need to be replaced. Knowing when a spark plug needs replacing is sometimes a matter of knowing the lifespan in terms of miles, but the presence of certain engine symptoms can provide clues. Here are some things that can help you know when it's time to install new spark plugs:

  • Difficulty starting the engine, especially during a cold start
  • Poor running or idling at any point
  • Lack of acceleration when pedal is pushed
  • High fuel consumption unexplained by other factors

If your car is experiencing problems that lead you to believe your car's spark plugs need replacing, then contact a qualified automotive technician for assistance. They can perform spark-plug replacements and offer sound guidance about other plug-related issues.

If you find that the issue isn't with the spark plugs, and you end up deciding to get a new car, consider donating your old car to Newgate School, which teaches disadvantaged young adults auto mechanics skills. 

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