Certified Pre-Owned – The Affordable New Car Option

Certified Pre-owned VehicleThere are few experiences in life that are as awesome as kicking the tires on a new car. Once you slide into the driver’s seat, take in that divine new car aroma, and realize that baby is all yours, well, it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

Sadly though,  just because you want a new car, doesn’t mean you can afford one. If finances are a challenge, buying a “new” used car can be a great option. Though many car shoppers are wary of the risks that come with buying a used car, choosing a certified pre-owned vehicle can alleviate some of those risks.

Back in the early 1990s, automakers started offering certified pre-owned  vehicles to profit on low-mileage trade-ins and lease returns. Since vehicles were returning to dealerships in excellent condition, manufacturers decided to resell the cars complete with detailed inspections, reconditioning, and extended warranties.

Buyers usually get more car for their budget with a certified pre-owned vehicle than they can with a new car. To be considered certified, a vehicle needs to meet specific age and mileage requirements, and pass a dealership inspection. Certified pre-owned cars carry an extended limited warranty, but also go for a higher price. Many buyers are okay with paying that premium, because of the peace of mind the warranty gives them.

While a certified pre-owned vehicle, does minimize the potential for used car problems, there is no guarantee that you won’t have issues. With the certified used vehicle, you know that mechanics who are trained to spot trouble have inspected it. The manufacturers warranties vary, so it is important that you look at the warranty of each certified car you are considering. Depending on the program, you might get roadside assistance and a loaner-car when needed. Make sure you understand the extent to which the manufacturer will assist you if you need help resolving an issue at the dealership.

If you find a used car you like and it happens to not be certified, you might not have to rule it out. There are resources such as CARFAX and AutoCheck, which allow you to check on the background of car using its vehicle identification number (VIN) . The VIN can be found by looking at the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle or on the door post of the driver’s side door.

It is also a good idea to test drive the car and if you are seriously considering it, ask your own mechanic to check it out.  To assist you with what questions to ask and organizing information, Edmunds has a downloadable used car questionnaire you can use for each car you are considering.

With a little research and smart shopping,  buying a used car can be just as fun and rewarding as buying a new one. Plus you may end up with some remaining funds to take a nice summer road trip in your new ride.

More Travelers Than Ever Expected for Independence Day

Next week a record number of people will be travelling on America’s roadways for Independence Day vacations. According to AAA, a new record will be set with 41.4 million Americans traveling by automobile this Independence Day.

Independence Day Travel

Travel  numbers are up this year for several  reasons. Lower gas prices have more people making road trip plans and a robust economy has greater numbers of Americans planning vacations across the United States.

When making your plans for your Independence Day holiday or other summer travel, make sure your vehicle is safe and ready for the road.  Start with this check list:

  • Test your battery
  • Check your lights to make sure all are working
  • Make sure wiper blades are in good shape
  • Check fluid levels
  • Check the pressure on all tires including your spare
  • Pack roadside emergency items like jumper cables and travel compressor

Other ideas for planning a smoother trip include:

  • Make sure your maps are up-to-date – whether paper or GPS
  • Download an app like GasBuddyto make sure you find the best gas prices
  • Check out the Waze app for real-time traffic info
  • Pack snacks and drinks for the car to save time and money
  • Plan your route and stops before you leave
  • Bring along a cell phone charger with a car adapter

Where ever you are planning to go, have fun and have a safe trip!

Taking Care of Tires and Tread

Tires and TreadTires are perhaps the most important and most overlooked safety features of your car. In our last post, we looked at why tire tread is so important. This follow up post will look at how taking care of your tires and tread will assure they remain safe and keep performing at their best.

What Can I Do to Protect My Tires and Tread?

Tire tread is a key performance feature of your tires. Periodic tire tread checks are important to the preservation of your tires. Drivers don’t often think of inspecting their tread unless they have a noticeable leak or have had an encounter with glass or other road debris. Looking at your tire tread regularly provides you with the opportunity to notice wear trends before excessive damage can occur. Issues can be identified by sight inspection or by running your hand over the tread and feeling for problematic areas. These might include distortion in the tread, feathering or cupping. If caught early enough, bad wear patterns can be corrected to extend tire service life.

Keeping your tires properly inflated is also an extremely important part of tire maintenance and extending tire life. If tire inflation decreases to a level that is below the recommended pressure, an additional load is placed on the shoulder of the tire. This will cause that area to wear prematurely. Another problem with under-inflation is that it causes heat to build up within the tire, which increases rolling resistance and reduces fuel economy.

What Services Do I Need to Preserve My Tires and Tread?

Per your owners’ manual, wheel alignment is an essential regular maintenance service you need. This service has a direct effect on your tires because poor vehicle alignment is a very common cause of unusual tread wear. When tires are unable to run straight ahead, accelerated tread wear occurs on certain parts of the tire. Consistent alignment service will prevent your vehicle from experiencing a variety of alignment related problems, including uneven and premature tread wear.

Tire rotation should be performed on an regular basis. A consistent and documented schedule of tire rotation will extend tire service life by promoting even tread wear.

Compromised wheel and suspension components can also adversely impact tire service life. For example, a wheel bearing that has been incorrectly torqued can cause irregular tire wear, or a worn shock absorbers can create depression wear on treads. Rather than waiting until trouble strikes, replace shock absorbers and other suspension components as part of regular maintenance.

 

Why Tire Tread is So Important

Tire TreadIn terms of safety, there may not be a more important component on your vehicle than its tires. Tires have evolved significantly since the earliest types, which were designed primarily for utility. Now, tires are made from specially formulated rubber compounds and the tread is engineered to provide specific safety features.

The First Tires

The earliest wheels were simply a solid curved piece of wood. As Continental Tires describes, “… leather was added to soften the ride. As time progressed it became solid rubber which led to today’s tire–the pneumatic, or air inflated, radial tire.”

Charles Goodyear is credited in the 1800’s with the discovery of the vulcanization process used to transform sticky raw rubber to firm pliable material which makes rubber a perfect material for tires. Tires were fabricated from solid vulcanized rubber until later in the century, when John Boyd Dunlop developed the popular pneumatic tire.

From that point, tire design gradually became more and more sophisticated with the development of bias ply tires and radial tires.

The Significance of Tire Tread

Tire tread is another important development in tire evolution. The tire tread is the part of the tire that actually meets the road. The elements of tire tread include tread blocks or tread lugs, tread grooves, tread voids, wear bar, and any extra features such as a rain grooves and siping. Tire tread spans the entire surface of the tire from shoulder to shoulder where the tread approaches the sidewall.

The areas between the tread blocks are referred to as the tread voids or tread grooves. Tread voids provide the tire with traction by enabling the tread blocks to move and flex as the tires to grip the road. They also allow the water to escape when roadways are wet. Tires with a high tread to void ratio provide better wet traction and braking ability.

Just as vehicles are engineered with a particular type of performance in mind, there are specific tread types and patterns that match each kind of intended performance. Tire tread is helps vehicles to corner tighter, accelerate more smoothly, and brake reliably. Tire tread is also capable of helping to maximize fuel economy.

Now that you know a little more about the importance of tire tread, you will understand why proper tire tread maintenance is so critical. In our next post, we will take a closer look at the best ways to maintain your tires and tire tread.

Signs That Your Fuel Injection System Needs Attention

Fuel Injection SystemMost vehicles on the road today are equipped with fuel injection engines. Since the early 80’s, fuel injection systems have gained popularity as an alternative to carburetors.

In order for your vehicle to run smoothly and efficiently, the engine needs to be fed the right mixture of fuel and air. For a long time, auto design always relied on a carburetor to supply fuel to the engine. Most newer vehicles are now equipped with fuel injection systems.

Fuel injection systems deliver fuel in precise bursts, and are typically more powerful and efficient than carburetor systems. Fuel injection is also more economical and produces less emission pollution.

While fuel injector systems offer many advantages, they do experience issues such as a clogged or dirty fuel injector.  Periodic maintenance should include proper cleaning of fuel injectors to address issues before they become serious and costly.

The following are some signs that your fuel injection system needs service attention:

Check Engine Light Turns On

Perhaps the most obvious sign of trouble is seeing the “Check Engine” light glow on your dashboard. This light can signal several problems including a bad fuel injector. Any time an injector delivers too much or too little fuel, the engines efficiency is lowered, which can trigger service light illumination.

Stalling and Rough Idling

If your car is not getting adequate fuel or an inconsistent supply of fuel, the idling RPM drops below the optimal level causing the idle to feel aggressive or rough. If the RPM falls too low, the car will eventually stall.

Engine Vibration

A compromised fuel injector will cause the corresponding cylinder to not be able to fire. This in turn will cause the engine to vibrate as it tries to finish each cycle without adequate fuel.

Engine Misfires

When the engine does not get sufficient fuel due to a clogged injector, the engine can misfire as you drive. This can be felt as a struggle to accelerate or a hesitation after you step on the gas pedal. This problem should be address right away or the engine will be susceptible to overheating or other problems.

Fuel Leak

It is possible for a fuel injector to become broken or cracked from damage or old age. This will result in fuel leaks and inability of fuel to reach the nozzle. Inspection of the fuel injector may reveal gasoline on the exterior or on the nearby fuel rail. In many cases the leak comes from the fuel injector seal, which deteriorates over time.

For optimal vehicle performance, be sure to have your fuel injection system cleaned and inspected as part of your regular maintenance routine.

Spring Auto Cleaning

Spring Auto CleaningSpring is here, and it’s time for spring auto cleaning. Spring cleaning will get your car looking great and provide you with the opportunity to undo some of winter’s damage. Many drivers also choose spring and fall as the time to have regular auto services performed such as oil and fluids changes, wheel alignment,  and tire rotation.

Your spring auto cleaning should begin with a thorough car wash including underbody. After a winter of driving on icy roads, the bottom of your car will be coated with corrosion causing salt, sand, and grime. Corrosion leads to rust which will be extremely damaging your car, so it is important to clean it from top to bottom. Be sure to get the undercarriage power wash at your car wash or spray the car’s bottom with your own hose. A thorough rinsing is all you need – special cleaners are not necessary. After washing your car’s exterior, waxing provides it with protection and gives it a beautiful finish.

Don’t forget the inside of your vehicle. Wipe down the engine to clear away all the debris that has accumulated under the hood.  Clear away any white residue off the battery with a toothbrush, baking soda, and water. It is important to do this because if corrosion residue accumulates,  it may prevent your car from starting. Cleaning also helps prepare the battery for the stress of warmer temperatures.

Be sure to include tires in your spring cleaning since they can become cracked or dry-rotted.  Scrub your tires with a good quality cleaner and finish up with a protective product. There are a number of options, with some providing a slick finish, others a more matte finish. The important thing is that it conditions and protects the rubber in your tires, and contains a UV protectant.

As part of your car care spring cleaning, be sure to scrub the bottoms of doors and clean the window channels. It is a good idea to apply a silicone spray that will repel dirt and lubricates the surfaces so the windows will not stick. Take the time to clean rugs and upholstery to remove all the salt from the car’s inside. Salt can damage some fabrics and lead to damage.

Be sure to check the wiper blades and replace them if necessary.

 

April is National Car Care Month

April is National Car Care MonthDid you know that April is National Car Care Month? That means it’s time to get your car ready for spring driving and summer road trips. Supported by the Car Care Council, National Car Care Month reminds you to take care of any auto-related issues that may have put off over the winter months.

If you are like most people, your vehicle is your second largest investment next to your home. Caring for your vehicle will ensure it delivers the dependable performance, lasting value, and enjoyment you’ve come to rely on. Properly maintained vehicles offer the greatest return on investment in that they will operate safely for you and your loved ones. Regular maintenance also helps you avoid costly repairs down the road, which should provide you with the right motivation to consistently take care of your vehicle.

According to the Car Care Council, 7 out of 10 vehicles fail at least one component of a vehicle inspection. These results show that a majority of vehicle owners could save money, time, and trouble by being more proactive when it comes to maintaining their vehicles. Whether you’re doing it yourself, or relying on your auto service pro to take care of your ride, it’s time to get ready for the spring and summer travel season.

The following services are typically recommended for regularly scheduled car care:

  • Check the oil filter and fluids
  • Inspect hoses at each oil change; replace any that are cracked or brittle
  • Check the brakes and engine brake system
  • Make sure the battery connection is tight, clean, and free of corrosion
  • Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage, or broken supports
  • Schedule a tune-up to make sure your fuel economy is performing at its best
  • Check the car’s heating and air conditioning system to ensure interior comfort and safety
  • Inspect the steering and suspension systems annually
  • Check the pressure of all tires, including the spare
  • Test interior and exterior lights and replace any non-working bulbs

 

Why Wheel Alignment and Tire Balancing Extend Tire Life

Wheel Alignment and Tire Balancing Extends Tire LifeTires are an expensive investment! Shouldn’t you be doing all you can to protect your tires so they will deliver the longest service life? Wheel alignment and tire balancing are two recommended services that will absolutely improve tire performance and extend tire service life.

How Wheel Alignment Extends Tire Life

Sometimes referred to as “front end alignment” or “tire alignment”, wheel alignment service involves the adjustment of the angle of your vehicle’s wheels to the original position recommended by the manufacturer. Improper wheel or tire alignment can cause your tires to wear unevenly and prematurely.

Wheel alignment includes inspecting tire tread for signs of poor alignment as well as checking the toe, camber, and caster to precisely measure wheel orientation. Wheel alignment checks are typically recommended every 10,000 miles. You may need wheel alignment service before your recommended service time if you notice the vehicle pulling to one side, or if the vehicle has recently been in a collision.

How Tire Balancing Extends Tire Life

Tires lose balance as you drive, so periodic tire balancing service is needed to return proper balance. As the miles on your tires accumulate tread wear causes the distribution of weight around the tire to change, creating an imbalance. Unusual shaking or vibration as you drive can result from this imbalance. Out-of-balance tires are uneven and experience faster tread wear.

During tire balancing service, the technician will use a calibrated spin balancer, testing non-moving or static balance as well as moving or dynamic balance. Tires will be adjusted to the proper balance in accordance with the test results. Tire balancing is usually every 5-6,000 miles or 6 months.

Wheel alignment and tire balancing services are not expensive and do not take a lot of time to get done. It is well worth the effort to extend tire life and protect your tire investment.

 

 

Slow Down and Look Out for Potholes

potholeNow is the time of year when legions potholes bring appearing everywhere. Not only do these annoying, and often cavernous craters jar you with a panic-inducing thud when you hit them, they can inflict some significant damage on your car.

While it may seem as though an army of gremlins equipped with pickaxes and jackhammers has launched a full scale assault on your neighborhood roadways, there is actually a more reasonable explanation for potholes.  The pothole problem begins in the winter, when freezing and thawing cycles cause cracks in road surfaces to get larger and further degrade. The application of road salt can accelerate the damage because it creates more freezing and thawing stress while melting ice on the roadway. In the spring, heavy rains infiltrate the cracks and cause more deterioration.

Potholes are more than an annoyance. Hitting potholes can lead to serious vehicle component damage, typically to the shocks and struts, which control ride and handling. Shocks and struts dampen the bouncing action of the vehicle springs by regulating spring and suspension movement. They keep the car’s tires in contact with the road to facilitate proper steering, stability, and braking. Compromised shocks and struts can create a dangerous situation, so it is important to be aware of the signs that your shocks or struts may need to be replaced:

  • Bottoming out or thumping on bumps
  • Bouncing or sliding sideways on rough or winding roads
  • Swaying or rolling on turns
  • Front-end dives when braking or rear end dips when accelerating
  • Loss of directional control during abrupt stops
  • Noticeable puddles under the car or leaking fluids

Hitting potholes can also result in tire and wheel damage, engine and  exhaust system issues, as well as suspension problems. Have your vehicle inspected if you experience any of the these types of issues. Addressing pothole damage issues early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.

Remember, it is really important to slow down and look out for potholes, especially at this time of year. When you see ones that are particularly bad, look up your local DOT or government website to see if you can report them. Crews are out repairing potholes, but they can only fix the ones they know about.

Winter Tires – Storing Them the Right Way

Storing Winter TiresMarch is here, and while winter is still hanging on in some areas, warmer weather is definitely on the horizon! Now is the time to schedule your appointment to have your winter tires changed out for your normal driving tires.

An important part of winter tire maintenance that is often overlooked is proper tire storage. Storing your winter tires the right way will keep them looking great and performing well.

Tires should be stored in a clean, cool and dry place. Keep them away from sunlight and be sure they are not exposed to strong air currents. It is true that the rubber used to make tires is engineered to resist the effects of sunlight, ozone, and water, however these elements still cause wear. Seasonal storage time provides a great opportunity to minimize exposure to these stresses and give your tires a break.

When storing your winter tires, follow these guidelines and you should get years of safe service from them:

  • Tires stored while mounted on rims should be inflated to 10 psi.
  • Tires that are put in storage during warm weather should be inflated to about 15 psi to offset the pressure drop during cold weather months.
  • Cover or wrap tires for storage. Many types of covers are available from auto parts retailers.
  • If tires are mounted on rims, they should be stacked four deep underneath a tire cover.
  • Tires should be stored upright and under a cover if they are mounted on rims, rather than stacked or suspended from the ceiling.
  • Tires with whitewall or raised white lettering should be stored with the whitewall or raised white lettering facing each other to avoid black rubber staining.
  • It is best not to store tires outside, but it is unavoidable, keep them raised off the storage surface.