Planning a Thanksgiving Road Trip? Expect Lighter Travel

According to the American Automobile Association Travel Forecast, the number of travelers hitting the road for Thanksgiving this year will be much lighter than normal. This is no surprise considering the effects of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Julie Hall, AAA Public Relations Manager states, “With health and government officials stressing that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick, AAA anticipates at least a 10% drop in travel – the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008.”

Thanksgiving

Every year, AAA makes projects for travel numbers based on various models. Mid-October models indicated there would be up to 50 million Thanksgiving travelers, down from 55 million in 2019. Given the ever-evolving landscape, which includes rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) travel health notices, AAA now projects that the actual numbers will be even lower this year.

If you are among those who are healthy and do still plan to travel, make sure you are prepared. Look up state and local guidelines where you are, along your route, and at your destination to learn about any restrictions that may be in place. If you are set to proceed, here are a few preparation tips that will be helpful for any auto journey:

  • Be sure your vehicle is ready for the trip with a service check. Things to inspect include: battery, brakes, wipers, lights, oil, coolant, fluids, and tire pressure.
  • Download an app like GasBuddy to help you find the best gas prices along the way.
  • Be sure your maps are current, whether it’s updating your GPS or getting the good old paper kind.
  • When packing the car, you may need to remove things you normally keep in the trunk in order to make room for crockpots, casserole dishes, and luggage. Just be sure not to leave behind your roadside emergency items such as jumper cables or a folding shovel.

Have a safe road trip and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Why It’s Important to Choose a Certified Technician

Choose a Certified TechnicianHaving auto work done can be a bit of a stressful experience, since most of us do not know a lot about the inner workings of a vehicle. That is why it is very important for you to have the utmost confidence in the experience, capability, and professionalism of your auto service provider. What is the best way to have that confidence? Choose a Certified Technician to do your auto service and repair.

What Makes a Certified Technician Different? 

An independent non-profit organization called the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), has established standards to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and certifying automotive professionals. In addition to passing an ASE Certification test, certified technicians must have completed two years of on the job training or one year of on the job training and a two-year degree in automotive repair to qualify for certification.

According to ASE.com

“The tests are challenging. Only two out of every three test-takers pass on their first attempt. To remain ASE certified, professionals must retest every five years to keep up with ever-advancing automotive technology.”

How Do You Benefit From Choosing a Certified Technician?

You will have confidence knowing that your technician knows how to service or repair your specific vehicle make and model. ASE technicians receive comprehensive training on parts used in a diverse range of makes and models. Some technicians also earn original equipment manufacturer (OEM) certifications to perform repairs on globally recognized vehicle brands. These OEM certifications assure that an auto body technician has not only been trained to repair specific makes and models, but they are also tested and evaluated.

Along with up-to-date training, certified technicians understand and use the latest technologies when servicing your vehicle. Shops that use the most advanced technologies will complete your services and repairs with speed and precision.

Another advantage of using certified technicians is their commitment to best practices. Since certification standards must be met, certified auto body technicians develop and implement car repair best practices to keep their shops accountable. 

Perhaps the most important way that you benefit from choosing a certified technician is that your work will be done by a professional who cares about you and your vehicle. Technicians work hard to achieve and maintain their credentials, and they do so to provide you with confidence in their abilities and satisfaction with their work.

Don’t stress about car repair or put off essential vehicle service because you are not sure where to go! Choose an ASE Certified Technician with confidence.

Don’t Get Stuck In a Scary Situation – Take Care of Your Car!

Don’t Get Stuck In a Scary Situation - Take Care of Your CarMost of us associate October with Halloween and Trick or Treat, but did you know that October is also Fall Car Care Month? The Car Care Council recommends that you take care of your car with a seasonal maintenance visit so you can avoid the potentially scary situation of a breakdown leaving you stranded. 

Regular vehicle maintenance is  essential for assuring the safety and dependability of your vehicle. Fall Car Care Month is the perfect time to take care of your car with some much needed attention before the punishing winter weather sets in. 

The AAA Exchange offers this checklist as a guide to what items you should have inspected to take care of your car fall maintenance needs: 

Battery, Terminals, Cables, & Charging System – Have your technician test the battery and charging system. Confirm that the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight.

Drive Belts & Engine Hoses – Have the underside of accessory drive belts checked for cracks or fraying. The cooling system hoses should also be inspected for leaks, cracks, brittleness, or loose clamps. 

Brakes – If your car has been showing signs of a brake problem, have the system inspected by your technician to ensure all components are in proper working order.

Tires – Have your tires inspected and replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear may be a sign of improper alignment or wheel balance, or even an indication of suspension problems. Have all of these things checked if your tread is wearing too fast.

Tire inflation pressure should be checked, as well. Did you know that tire pressure drops as temperatures drop? Pressure should be checked more frequently in fall and winter.

If you plan to get winter tires, now is the time.

Fluid Levels – This is another thing you can check yourself. If your coolant is low, add a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water. If you don’t need to add fresh coolant, you should test the effectiveness of the coolant in your tank. You can buy a tester or ask your technician to test it for you.

Fill the windshield washer fluid tank with a winter cleaning solution that contains antifreeze elements to prevent it from freezing.

Check the transmission, brake and power steering fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum required levels.

Air Filter – You can check your air filter by holding it up to the light. If there is no visibility through it, it should be replaced. If you are not sure, have your technician check it when your other services are being done.

Lights & Wiper Blades – Verify that all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights are functioning properly. Replace any wiper blades that leave streaks or miss spots. If you see a lot of snow in your area, you can install winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup.

 

How Falling Leaves Can Make Driving More Dangerous

As fall approaches, people look forward to seasonal pleasures like apple cider, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin spice everything. One of the best things about the season is the spectacular display of color in the autumn leaves. Unfortunately, once those lovely leaves start falling, they can cause a lot of problems relating to your vehicle.

Wet Leaves On Road

Once the autumn leaves start falling, there are several reasons for exercising a little extra care and caution with your car and your driving habits.

Leaves On the Road

Accumulation of leaves on the road can make for dangerous driving conditions, particularly when those leaves become wet. Driving on a layer of wet leaves can be much like driving on a sheet of ice. Water stands on the waxy surface of the leaves, leading to potential loss of traction and instability. To see what happens when a vehicle travels on a layer of wet leaves, watch this video simulation posted by The Weather Channel.

Other problems associated with falling leaves relate to visibility. Lane lines and other road markings can be concealed. Road hazards such as potholes can be camouflaged, as well. 

In addition to reducing speed and maintaining ample distance, the National Highway Safety Administration cautions drivers to make sure their tires have good tread to help channel water away from the tires. Maintaining proper inflation is also helpful for assuring your tires provide you with the best possible performance.

Falling Leaves In the Driveway

If your car is parked outside, you should plan on spending a few extra minutes clearing your car of leaves and debris. Wet leaves tend to “stick” on your windows and windshield, so don’t expect them to blow away once you hit the road.

Leaves on Cars

Also, take time to clear leaf litter from all of the nooks and crannies of your car’s exterior. Not only does this make your car look nicer and cleaner, it will reduce the chances of any debris impairing the performance of important features like your windshield wipers.

A Final Fall Tip

How are you doing on your vehicle maintenance schedule? Fall is a great time to schedule a visit with your trusted automotive technician to make sure your car is performing at peak level and ready for winter!

Do You Need Winter Tires?

Not sure whether or not you need winter tires? Consider the typical winter weather conditions in your area and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have to drive in icy conditions?
  • Is the snowfall significant or consistent?
  • Do you wait to leave the house until the roads on your route have been cleared?
  • Does your area consistently see temperatures in the low 40’s during?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more these questions, snow or winter tires may be a wise investment for your driving safety.

Winter Tires

What Makes Winter Tires Different Than Regular Tires?

Tires designed for winter driving offer superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. The tread is designed to bite into snow and ice, while channeling water away from the contact surface. They are also made from softer rubber, which is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. 

It is important to note that the soft rubber used to make winter tires causes the tire tread to wear faster than all-season tires. For this reason you need to switch back to your all-season tires in the spring, your investment should last for several seasons.  

Now is the Time to Buy!

Fall is the time to shop for new winter tires. Retailers begin to stock the latest models in the fall, so now is when you will find the best selection. If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need, retailers can usually order them and install them when they come in. 

Winter tires are usually manufactured during the previous summer, so quantities are often limited. To be sure you’re prepared before winter weather hits, start shopping now. You will also be more likely to get the tires you want for a competitive price. 

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Dependable winter tires have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. It assures you that they passed an industry test for severe snow use.
  • Not all winter tires are the same. Make sure you get the right shape and size to suit your vehicle make, model, and year.
  • Know the laws and regulations that specify what is acceptable in your area. For example, some states have minimum tread requirements or do not allow studded winter tires.
  • When comparing prices, be sure to consider the cost of installation. You may see a great deal on a set of winter tires online, but after you factor in installation costs, the deal might not be that great.
  • As with any tire purchase, keep in mind that it is safest and best for your vehicle to buy a full set of four winter tires when possible. 

 

 

Six Clear Ways to Improve Driving Visibility

When we think of things that compromise driving visibility, we are likely to think of elements like sleet, snow, and rain. It is true that weather can compromise your ability to see clearly while driving, but there are other factors that affect visibility, which are easier to control. 

Windshield Wipers Driving Visibility

Debris from falling leaves in the air, particularly at this time of year, can cause the accumulation of dust and dirt on your car. This includes surfaces that affect your driving visibility, such as your windshield.

In terms of your vehicle’s equipment, there are important maintenance tasks you need to perform, to make sure your visibility while driving is optimal. 

Below are six simple maintenance tips to assure clear driving visibility so you and your passengers will be as safe as possible on the road.

  1. Keep your windshield clean.

A dirty windshield can be especially dangerous at night. Street lights and oncoming headlines will hit the haze on the windshield and create “stars” that make it difficult to see. Make a habit of cleaning your windshield every time you fill up to keep grime from building up.

  1. Make sure your mirrors are clean.

Your car is equipped with mirrors to enhance your ability to see the road at different angles. In order to use your mirrors for optimal visibility, it is important to keep them clean and free of dirt or debris.

  1. Check the condition of your wipers.

Wiper blades need to be in good condition in order to do their job properly and thoroughly. Inspect your wiper blades regularly, and as a rule of thumb, replace them every six months.

  1. Keep your washer fluid level filled.

Washer fluid enables windshield wipers to clear your view, even when there is little or no rain or moisture. When wiper blades drag across a dry surface, not only are they ineffective, they can also be damaged. Check your washer fluid at every service interval or when the seasons change. Use windshield washer antifreeze in winter months to prevent damage to your washer system.

  1. Keep your headlights clean.

The amount of dirt and debris that accumulates on headlights can be surprising. If left uncleaned for a long time, your headlight beams may actually become dimmer. Regular cleaning will keep them clear and bright.

  1. Have a cracked or chipped windshield repaired or replaced.

A tiny crack in your windshield can happen in an instant, but become a huge problem over time if left unrepaired. One day you may hit a bump or pothole, and suddenly that small crack spreads all the way across your windshield. Fix windshield cracks as soon as possible to maintain safe visibility and to avoid the cost of a windshield replacement.

Five Steps for After Road Trip Car Care

Summer is the time for road trips! Especially with this year’s COVID-19 restrictions interfering with air travel. A recent AAA article reports, “Car trips will reign supreme this summer, accounting for 97 percent of summer travel.” According to the article, AAA anticipates 683 million road trips this summer. While getting your car ready for a driving vacation is essential, after trip car care is important, too.

summer vacation car trip

Earlier this season we discussed checks to prepare your car for Summer heat and road trips, but what should you do once you return home? Whether your road trip takes hours or days to complete, your car will probably experience more wear and stress than it normally does. Just like you, it is going to need some time and TLC to recover. This means taking some time for after road trip car care to get the vehicle ready for its normal routine. 

The following are five after road trip steps you can do to help your vehicle recover from a summer road trip.:

  1. Clean the interior and exterior of your vehicle. Being in a vehicle for an extended period of time is a great way to accumulate trash from your favorite road trip snacks and fast food wrappers. The front of your vehicle will also become a sort of graveyard for a variety of unlucky insects. In addition to the bugs, depending on your destination, you could have a lot of dust, sand, and dirt sitting on every surface of your vehicle. Give your vehicle a thorough after road trip clean on the inside and outside before you head back to reality. 
  1. Check your tires. Driving through numerous state lines and on different terrains will inevitably have an impact on your tires’ tread. Go ahead and do a thorough tread inspection and make sure your tire pressure is at the desired psi while you’re at it. If you notice that your tire pressure is decreasing unusually quickly, it may have a puncture. You can simply go to your trusted mechanic and see if it can be plugged or patched before committing to an entirely new tire. 
  1. Top off your fluids. Add more windshield wiper fluid and coolant to your vehicle. This should be a very quick and easy task that can be performed in just a few minutes.
  1. Change your oil. An extended drive puts more strain on your motor, especially if your vehicle was towing a trailer or carrying more luggage and passengers than usual. Oil changes are also a quick task, and should be performed consistently, to keep your vehicle in great condition.
  1. Run a vehicle diagnostic report. Check your filter and engine health with a vehicle code scanner, also known as an OBD II scanner. This is a great way to catch a vehicle problem before it worsens and becomes costlier to fix.

Following these simple after road trip car care steps will go a long way toward keeping your vehicle in great condition, and ready for everyday use as well as your next road trip.

 

What Does a Transmission Flush Do for Your Vehicle?

 

transmission gear shiftTransmission fluid is an essential lubricant that cools and protects the moving components in an automotive transmission. This lubricant also enables the gears to shift properly. Vehicle fluids tend to degrade over time – transmission fluid is no exception. The deterioration of transmission fluid can be accelerated in the case of a car that does a lot of city driving, or a truck that does regular hauling. Flushing the transmission clears out degraded transmission fluid so it can be replaced with new transmission fluid.

In addition to clearing out old fluid, a transmission flush washes away tiny particles, such as clutch material and metal shavings, which accumulate in the fluid over time. When transmission flush service is neglected, those particles clog passages and wedge between moving parts, causing wear within the transmission. Regular transmission service allows your transmission to function properly significantly longer, which means you’re less likely to breakdown and be faced with a major transmission repair.

Transmission service is typically recommended every 50,000 miles. As with all auto services, it is important to refer to your owner’s manual to see the recommendations for your specific vehicle.

Four Signs That You Need New Spark Plugs

Spark PlugsSmall, but essential to the functioning of your internal combustion engine, is the humble spark plug. Its purpose is to transmit an electrical signal from the ignition to create a spark, which in turn ignites the air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber. Spark plugs are uniquely designed for the type of vehicle in which they will be used. During installation, the technician will set the designated spark plug gap that is appropriate for the vehicle.

In proper condition, spark plugs efficiently burn fuel, but like other vehicle components, they can go bad. They require routine inspection and maintenance to ensure optimal engine performance.  

According to AutoBlog.com, for most vehicles sold in the U.S. recommend spark plug replacement every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. They note that while some newer vehicles have advanced ignition systems that presumably make spark plug replacement unnecessary, there still can be times when a spark plug wears out or shows signs of failure.

It is important for your vehicle’s safety, performance, and reliability to pay attention to these signs that you may need new spark plugs:

  1. Trouble Starting – Compromised spark plugs may be unable to provide enough spark to start the engine. If the vehicle does not start at all, the battery may be to blame, but intermittent problems may be due to faulty spark plugs.
  1. Reduced Fuel Efficiency – Worn out spark plugs tend to increase a vehicle’s fuel consumption since they don’t effectively burn the fuel that goes into the engine. You will notice that you are filling up at the pump more frequently.
  1. Poor Acceleration – If you notice a lack of responsiveness or inability to accelerate as your car normally does, the problem could be worn out spark plugs.
  1. Engine Misfiring – While in most cases, engine misfiring is due to sensor malfunctioning, this problem could also be caused by a damaged spark plug. 

The CarTalk.com blog explains that the spark plug gap, we mentioned earlier, is an additional issue to watch for if you replace spark plugs yourself. They recommend always checking the gap measurement when installing spark plugs because a gap that is too small may not allow enough room for the spark to jump, and a gap that is too large may mean the spark can get blown out at high speeds.

Nine Checks to Prepare Your Car for Summer Heat

Summer is finally here and so are the hot temperatures. It is important to make sure your car is ready to handle the extra heat.

Prepare Your Car for Summer Heat

Here are nine important things to check in preparing your car to safely handle the summer heat:

  1. Air Conditioning System – Check your air conditioning system to assure it is properly maintained to adequately cool your car’s interior. This will protect you and your passengers from dangerous heat while you are traveling.
  2. Battery – Like extreme cold, extreme heat can also put your battery at risk. Battery fluid evaporates faster when it is exposed to high temperatures, which can lead to corrosion on terminals and connections. Be sure to keep these clean, and have your battery tested if it is older than three years.
  3. Radiator – Have your radiator inspected to be sure it is in good condition, and that the radiator core has not been damaged by salt corrosion. Another issue to watch for is a plugged radiator core. This problem can happen when coolant flushes are not performed.
  4. Coolant – Antifreeze and coolant are critical to your car’s heating and cooling system. Having the coolant flushes performed per your owner’s manual recommendation is extremely important in assuring your engine runs clean and cool.
  5. Cooling Fans – A cooling fan failure can lead to engine overheating problems. In some cases, trouble with the air conditioning system can be a sign that you have a cooling fan problem. Cooling fans should be regularly inspected to avoid engine problems.
  6. Thermostat – There is no set mileage that predicts when it will fail, but when it does, it’s important to replace it as soon as possible. A bad thermostat is a common cause of engine overheating. A failing thermostat can also  be indicated by the check engine light illuminating or the car heater not working.
  7. Water Pump – A compromised water pump will often cause a coolant leak, so if you notice the coolant level dropping at a faster rate, you should have it checked as soon as possible. An experienced auto technician will be able to spot a water pump that is about to fail.
  8. Belts and Hoses – The belts and hoses in your cooling system should be inspected to make sure they are tight and in good condition.  Cracks or deterioration of the rubber are signs of trouble.
  9. Tire Pressure – Check the pressure of your tires to make sure they are properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can overheat, which increases the chance of a blowout during summer months.