STOP! Pay Attention to Signs of Brake Problems

Stop for Brake ProblemsYour car’s brake system is highly complex, involving multiple integrated components, all of which are prone to wear and eventual failure. Brake problems can have serious and deadly consequences, so drivers need to pay attention to any indications of brake trouble. People often ignore the signs, thinking they do not have the time or money to deal with it. But when you think of all that is at stake if your brakes fail, you cannot afford to ignore any warning signs.

Today’s vehicles have many ways of letting you know that brake problems may be starting. Pay attention to brake problem warning signs and you can have brake problems fixed before they put the safety of you and your passengers in jeopardy.

Common Warning Signs of Brake Problems:

Strange Noises

If you hear a high, screeching sound when you apply your brakes, it might mean that your brake pads are excessively worn and need to be replaced.

When Braking Causes the Vehicle to Pull to One Side

When your car pulls to one side as you are braking, it could be an indication that the brake lining is wearing unevenly or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

Brake Pedal Feels Odd or Spongy

When you hit the brake pedal, it might feel spongy or sink to the floor. This could mean a leak in the braking system, such as an air leak in the brake hose or a brake fluid leak. A brake pedal that feels stiff or is difficult to press may indicate a blockage in the brake line or an issue in the vacuum system.

Excessive Vibration When Braking

You might notice excessive vibration in your brake pedal during breaking, similar to the vibration you feel when the anti-lock brakes feature engages. This vibration or pulsating can be an indication of warped rotors.

Jerking Sensation As Brakes are Applied

If you experience a grabbing or jerking feeling when applying the brakes, it could mean the rotor is unevenly worn or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

Along with these warning signs, the brake system service light on your car’s dashboard will illuminate if your on-board diagnostic system senses any problems. It can happen that service lights come on even when there is not a problem, if you see the brake service light up, you definitely should take your vehicle in for a brake system inspection.

What Happens During Tire Rotation Service?

Tire Rotation ServiceWhen your service technician rotates the tires on your car, typically the front tires are exchanged with the rear tires. In most cases the driver side tires stay on the driver side and the passenger side tires stay on that side, however with certain types of vehicles or tires this approach may vary.

Tire rotation service is an essential maintenance operation that over time will save you money by protecting your tire investment. Rotating your tires is so important because of the different ways front and rear tires wear. Front tires are subjected to much more pressure than rear tires, so the tread wears faster on the front tires. By rotating the tires, you can balance out the wear, getting the most out of all four tires, and making sure that all four tires have a safe amount of tread. This is why regular tire rotation also enhances driving safety. And as if safety were not reason enough to have regular tire rotations done, keep in mind that inconsistent tread wear can lead to poor performance and bad gas mileage.

Tire rotation service will keep your vehicle safe and to keep your tires properly maintained to get the most from them. Generally speaking, tire rotation is recommended every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. Your service manual will provide you with the best maintenance schedule for your particular make and model vehicle.

 

Back to School Road Safety

In most areas, kids are now back in school and you are seeing more school-related traffic on the roadways. This includes those dreaded school buses, which always seem to magically appear in front of you when you are running late. While sharing the road with school buses can be somewhat of a pain, try to keep in mind that buses play an essential role in the safe transportation of children. It is important to support them by knowing and obeying school bus traffic laws.

School Bus

According to the National Safety Council, school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation for students. They warn, however, that more children are hurt or killed outside of the bus when they fail to watch where they are going, or when a motorist does not pay attention and illegally passes a stopped school bus.

The council offers the following points to remind drivers of school traffic safety laws and procedures:

  • In all 50 states it is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children.
  • In all 50 states traffic in both directions is required to stop on undivided roadways when students are being picked up and dropped off.
  • State laws vary on divided roadway requirements, however in all cases, vehicles driving behind the bus, and moving in the same direction must stop when the bus does.
  • Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate the bus driver is preparing to stop to load or unload passengers. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals that the bus has stopped and children are exiting or entering the bus.
  • A required distance of 10 feet around a school bus must be observed to allow sufficient space for children getting on or off the bus.
  • Be on the lookout for children who may run or fail to observe safety rules when moving to and from the bus stop.
  • Drivers should never block crosswalks when waiting to turn or stopped for a red light.
  • In school zones be alert for warning flashers, and while you are in an active zone, be sure to yield the right-of-way to students crossing in the marked crosswalk.

To learn more about the laws in your area, see AAA’s summary of school bus traffic laws state by state

If your morning commute takes you through an area with school bus stops, just leave a little early so you won’t have to stress about delays. Remember, we are all sharing the same roadways, and it is up to each of us to keep the drive safe!

8 Checks to Help Your Vehicle Beat the Heat

Driving in the summer heat is rough on your vehicle, especially during road trips.  It is important for drivers to be aware of the punishing effects extreme heat can have their cars.

Help Your Vehicle Beat the Heat

One problem excessive heat can lead to is an overheated engine, which can compromise engine components and cause serious damage requiring expensive repairs. Engine overheating is also a dangerous situation that can quickly put you and your passengers in danger.  When the engine exceeds 230 degrees Fahrenheit, is overheated, and at temperatures above 245 degrees Fahrenheit, engine damage may result.  Make sure your vehicle’s cooling system working properly to avoid overheating.

Before you head off on your next long drive, take some time to review these eight checks to help your vehicle beat the heat:

  1. Batteries – Have your battery tested to be sure it is strong enough to endure the heat. People think of dead battery problems in the winter, but many do not realize hot summer temperatures can be just as rough on batteries.
  2. Tires– Keep your tires inflated to the pressure recommended for your vehicle. Soft, under-inflated tires generate heat, can result in a blowout.
  3. Coolant– Have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer as part of scheduled maintenance. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is usually required every two to five years.
  4. Radiator – Have your radiator checked to be sure it is in good condition and that the fluid level is correct. Another issue to watch for is a plugged radiator core. This problem can happen when coolant flushes are not performed.
  5. Cooling Fans – Cooling fans should be regularly checked to avoid engine problems. 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.
  6. Thermostat – Have your thermostat inspected. 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.
  8. Belts and Hoses – The belts and hoses in your cooling system should be checked to make sure they are tight and in good condition.  Cracks or deterioration of the rubber are signs of trouble.

 

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.