Did 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
Tires 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.
Now 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.
March 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.
Don’t forget to show your tires some love this Valentine’s Day by making sure their pressure is right. Not only will your tires love you for extending their service life, you will be happier because properly inflated tires mean safer driving and better gas mileage.
Unscrew the valve cap and press the tire gauge on the valve stem. You will hear a hissing sound when you first press down, but it stops once you press all the way down. You only need a few seconds to get an accurate reading. Be sure to check your owner’s manual to find out the manufacturer’s recommendation for proper tire pressure. Although you will see a tire pressure number on the tire, that number is the maximum pressure, so you’ll want to inflate to the pressure recommended in the manual instead. Once you’ve reached the right pressure, replace the valve cap. Do the same for all four tires.
If your tires need air, you can fill them with a portable compressor, or use the air pump at your gas station. Filling the tires is a lot like checking the pressure except that instead of pressing the gauge to the valve stem, you’ll be pressing the fitting on the air hose to the stem. Watch the pressure as you inflate until you reach the right pressure number. If your tires are over inflated, remove the excess air from the tires with your gauge. Remember that hissing sound? When you hear it, let it go for a moment, then recheck the pressure. The more experienced you become with checking your tires, the better you will be able to tell how long you need to inflate or deflate to get the right pressure.
Remember, even if your tires look okay, that does not mean the pressure is correct. By the time a tire looks underinflated, tire pressure is extremely low. Make sure you catch it before it gets to that point.
Each year a new batch of younger drivers pulls onto America’s roadways. During their intensive training, they learn the rules of the road, how to maneuver a vehicle, and the importance of safe driving. Especially poignant for this new tech-savvy generation, they are warned about the dangers of distracted driving. With all of this preparation, there is one important area that seems to have been overlooked with younger drivers. That area is the importance of vehicle and tire maintenance.
A recent Tire Review article illustrates this problem by highlighting a recent study commissioned by Goodyear Auto Service and Just Tires. According to the study, “Younger drivers (millennial/Gen Z) are more than 1.5 times more likely to identify popular emojis correctly than the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning symbol.”
As the article points out, failure to identify the TPMS light likely means that the necessary services indicated by vehicle warning lights are being ignored. The study also found that most of the surveyed younger drivers were not taking adequate measures to prepare their vehicles for winter:
“Among drivers who live in areas with usually cold winters, less than half (42%) get their tires checked in advance of the winter season. And almost two in five winter drivers (37%) do not take any action at all to prepare their cars for winter unless they have an issue. As a general rule of thumb, drivers should check their tires monthly, especially during temperature shifts of 10 degrees or more.”
One of the best ways to combat the problem of poorly prepared younger drivers is for seasoned drivers to seek out the young people in their lives and offer them guidance. Educate new drivers on the importance of preventative car care and how proper maintenance directly effects driver safety.
CarCare.org offers free online resources for new drivers. Among the available resources are:
Take time to prepare the younger drivers in your life. They will benefit from increased confidence and you will enjoy the peace of mind in knowing they are fully ready for the road!
How much thought do you give to your vehicle and how it is running? Do you only notice your tires if they are flat? Perhaps your resolution for 2019 should be making a commitment to preventative auto and tire care. Consistent auto and tire care not only make sense for protecting and prolonging the life of your vehicle and tires, it also means you will be safer on the road.
When it comes to taking care of your tires, the most important things to check regularly are tire pressure and tread depth. Set a reminder on your calendar to check your tire pressure at least once a month. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. The pressure of your spare tire should also be checked to assure it is ready when you need it.
Make sure the tread depth of your tires is sufficient by using the penny test. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into several different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it is time for a new set of tires. If the tread is in good shape, Abe’s head will be covered to about the forehead hairline.
In order to be sure your vehicle is running properly and performing at its best, you must stay on schedule with recommended regular maintenance services. While it is easy to put these services off, it is always far less costly in terms of time and money to catch problems before they become serious and expensive. The services listed below are commonly recommended, but you should consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s suggested services and frequency.
- Coolant Flush and Replacement
- Oil Change
- Fluid Checks – Power Steering and Brake
- Brake Inspection
- Check Belts & Hoses
- Filters – Air and Fuel
- Battery & Cables
- Exhaust System
- Windshield Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades
Both your vehicle and tires will also benefit from consistent tire balancing and rotation service. These services should be performed in accordance with your owner’s manual recommended schedule. Tire balancing assures even tire wear and provides a smooth ride by properly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire rotation will greatly extend the life of your tires. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines.
Establishing a regular care routine allows you to drive with confidence knowing that you are traveling safely. You will also get to enjoy your vehicle and tire investment much longer.
The American Automobile Association Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast reports that more than a third of Americans will travel over the holidays. This is the highest number since AAA has been tracking holiday travel in 2001.
According to the AAA forecast, a recent drop to the cheapest national gas price averages of the year and an increase in disposable income are motivating more Americans to roadtrip this holiday season. Gas prices averaged $2.46 for the first week of December, which is two cents per gallon less than one year ago.
If a road trip is part of your holiday plans, make sure you are safe and prepared. Here are a few preparation tips to keep in mind:
- Be sure your vehicle is ready! Have a service check including: battery, brakes, wipers, lights, oil, coolant, fluids, and tire pressure.
- Get an app like GasBuddy to help you find the best gas prices on your route.
- Update your GPS or print a fresh set of directions for your trip. If you are the old school type, visit a gas station or AAA for a new set of paper maps.
- As you pack the car, do not remove roadside necessities to make room for packages and luggage. (No matter how tempting it may be to do so) You may need emergency items such as jumper cables or a folding shovel.
Wishing everyone happy holiday travels!
In the winter time, getting out of bed and facing the day is just a little bit harder. I, personally, need to take a moment to prepare with a cup of coffee to warm me up. But what about the cold vehicles we are about to climb into to take us where we need to go – don’t they need some warm up time, too? Despite a common misconception, the answer is actually no.
While cars used to require warming up in the days of carburetor fuel systems, today’s cars are equipped with fuel-injection technology, computer systems, and thinner synthetic oils. These new developments make warm ups unnecessary in newer cars.
Instead of warming up your vehicle by letting it idle, try taking it easy as you hit the road.
According to the Car Care Council, warming up, or idling longer that 30 seconds is unnecessary. A better way to warm up an engine is to drive slowly as you begin your trip. As you pull out of your driveway or parking lot, do not gun the engine, instead just take it slow for the first few minutes as you head down the road.
While warming up the car may not do anything for the car mechanically, starting your car before you are ready to go can get the car warmed up for your comfort. Keep in mind, though, warming your car does have some drawbacks. Idling reduces fuel economy and causes excessive wear or stress on engine components, such as cylinders, spark plugs, and the exhaust system. Another reason why warming up is not such a great idea is pollution. A vehicle that idles for more than 30 seconds increases air pollution.
It is easy to underestimate the impact of one car, but together, we can make a significant reduction in air pollution.
Are you ready for the cold? How about your car? Believe it or not, cold weather can have serious effects on your vehicle. Cold weather maintenance involves preventative measures of all sorts.
Here are five important items you should add to your to-do list, to make sure that your car is ready for the cold weather:
- Fill your antifreeze: When was the last time you checked or refilled your antifreeze? If it’s been a awhile, then your car could definitely use it.
- Check your oil: If your car is due for an oil change, consider refilling it with a lower viscosity oil, which does a better job of handling extreme temperatures. The lower the viscosity, the thinner it is, and the more it will retain its fluidity in cold temperatures.
- Stock up on emergency items: Preparing your car for a winter season includes packing some emergency items in your trunk/back seat. Items include: an ice scraper, blanket, first-aid kit, extra clothes, flashlight, jumper cables, and anything else you think you might need in case of emergency. Of course, this is completely out of precaution, but it always helps to be prepared.
- Monitor tire pressure: Even the slightest temperature changes can impact tire pressure. Make sure to check the optimal tire pressure on the label of the driver’s side door frame or in your owner’s manual.
- Think about new tires: Especially in adverse conditions, car tires are one of the only things keeping you from a major spin out, collision, and other roadside disasters. Chances are if you’ve been thinking about getting new ones, you probably need them.
Before holiday season festivities fill up your schedule, take care of these winter car care items. You will be prepared when the winter weather arrives in full force.