All-Wheel Drive and Four-Wheel Drive: What’s the Difference?

If you are currently car shopping, and are not a mechanic, you may be a little confused by the overwhelming amount of options to consider. Drivetrain options can be especially perplexing when you hear “all-wheel drive” and “four-wheel drive” as options. All cars have four wheels, so why are these options different?

4WD Vehicle

AWD and 4WD Compared

Both four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive systems are capable of transferring power to both the front and rear wheels of the vehicle. Generally speaking, the difference between the systems is that one uses all four wheels part of the time, and the other all four wheels full time. 

All-Wheel Drive (AWD) AWD vehicles are engineered to provide optimal traction, performing well on all types of roads and surfaces. These types of vehicles are great for rough road and off road driving, and also perform better in bad weather conditions.

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) A four-wheel drive vehicle provides these performance benefits only when the 4WD is engaged. When the 4WD function is not activated, the vehicle operates as a two-wheel drive system. The 4WD can be used as needed, when driving off road, on snowy roads, or other poor traction situations. 

Which is Better?

While driving with the power of all four wheels engaged seems like a great advantage, there are some drawbacks. The primary disadvantage is the amount of fuel needed to power four-wheel drive operation. Since 4WD is unnecessary for most types of roads and driving, the additional fuel consumption is not needed. Having the option to switch to two-wheel drive will save drivers money.

Other Options

When comparing all types of drivetrains, 4WD and AWD vehicles tend to be more expensive to purchase, fill-up, and keep maintained than 2WD vehicles. This is due to extra components, including the transfer case and differentials, which make 4WD vehicles heavier and more complex.

Alternatively, front-wheel drive vehicles offer a good combination of affordability and fuel economy, since front-wheel drive systems are less complicated and less expensive to produce. In a front-wheel drive, the car’s weight lies directly over the driven wheels, improving acceleration. That weight distribution also provides decent traction on slippery roads, which is a significant improvement over rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

Why are Potholes So Bad Every Spring?

potholeIt never fails. Every year, as winter gives way to spring, potholes seem to pop up all over the place, like dandelions in the front yard. If you have ever driven over a sizable pothole, you’ve experienced the jarring impact, followed by several moments of anxiety as you wonder if a part of your car has fallen off. You quickly check your mirrors to see if anything is lying in the road behind you, but all you see is that gaping pothole, mocking you.

So, why are potholes so plentiful this time of year? The pothole problem actually 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 as the salt melts ice on the roadway. In the spring, heavy rains infiltrate the cracks and cause more deterioration.

Not only do these road menaces make driving less comfortable, potholes can do significant damage to your vehicle. While we do our best to avoid them, sometimes it’s just not possible, so it is important to be aware of any problems your vehicle might have as a result.

Hitting a pothole can cause vehicle component damage, particularly with the shocks and struts. Shocks and struts control ride and handling, and serve as a cushion to dampen the bouncing action of the vehicle’s springs. They also regulate spring and suspension movement, keeping the car’s tires in contact with the road to facilitate proper steering, stability, and braking. Damaged 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:

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

An encounter with a pothole can also lead to tire and wheel damage, engine and  exhaust system issues, or suspension problems. It’s important to have your vehicle inspected if you experience any of the issues mentioned above. Dealing with pothole damage early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.

Best Way to Clean Your Car Interior and Kill Coronavirus

We have all been paying a lot more attention to keeping things clean lately. While you may be focusing on washing your hands and not touching your face, it is equally important to keep the things in your environment clean. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces you touch is one the best ways to protect yourself from the spread of COVID-19. The surfaces you touch could include your car if you are still driving it to work or shop for essentials. If you are using your car and are concerned about the virus, there is a safe way to clean your car interior and kill coronavirus that could be on surfaces.

clean your car interior

Cleaning your car interior to kill coronavirsus is an especially good idea if you or someone else who has been in your car hasn’t felt well. Surfaces to clean include things that are frequently touched, such as:

  • Door handles
  • Lock and window buttons
  • Grab handles
  • Steering wheel and shift lever
  • Wiper and turn signal controls
  • Knobs, buttons or touchscreens
  • Arm rests
  • Seat adjustment controls

You will need to be mindful of the type of cleaner you use. You want to disinfect, but you do not want to damage the interior surfaces and finishes. Fortunately, many of the same household cleaners that kill coronavirus on hard surfaces at home can also clean a car without damaging its interior. 

The CDC advises that cleaning solutions containing at least 70 percent alcohol are effective against coronavirus. Even alcohol on its own will work. According to Consumer Reports, isopropyl alcohol is recommended by the experts:

“Yanfeng is the world’s largest supplier of automotive interior parts, and works with almost every major automaker. If you’ve been in a car, you’ve probably seen or touched something Yanfeng has made—and it uses isopropyl alcohol for cleaning parts in its own factories.”

While you might use bleach for household surfaces, it should definitely not be used for your car interior because it is likely to cause damage. The same is true for hydrogen peroxide. And while you may use ammonia based cleaners for your auto glass, keep them away from any touch screens because they can damage their anti-glare and anti-fingerprint surfaces.

Though alcohol use is safe and effective for disinfecting, it is not the best option for repeated use, as this may cause damage over time. A simple solution of soap and water is better for general cleaning.

Because cars can vary, it is recommended that you refer to your owner’s manual for specific cleaning recommendations, or contact your local auto service shop to ask a pro.

Stay clean and be safe!

Car Care During the COVID-19 Shutdown

If you are currently stuck at home, you probably are not giving much thought to car care during the COVID-19 shutdown. Just because your car is sitting unused does not mean it still doesn’t require attention. If a vehicle sits unused for several weeks or months, precautions should be taken to avoid costly problems later.

Take Care of Your Car During the COVID-19 Shutdown

If you are working from home or having your groceries brought to you, your car may not be driven at all. Many drivers may not realize that problems can develop simply from lack of use. Just a week or two of non-use can kill a car battery – especially if the battery is on the older side. Another part of your car that may be vulnerable is the gas tank. If your tank is only partially full, the exposed metal inside of the tank could be susceptible to rust.

Here are some easy steps you can take for car care during the COVID-19 shutdown, or If you know that your car will be sitting idle for an extended period of time:

  • Make sure the gas tank is full to prevent moisture buildup that could cause rust or get in your fuel system.
  • If you are able, have your oil changed.
  • Check your battery and keep it charged so it is ready when you need it.
  • Start the car once or twice a week and allow it to get up to full operating temperature before you turn it off.
  • Inflate your tires to the recommended pressure (see your owner’s manual). Depending on how long it will sit, you may go 5 psi higher for longer periods.
  • Clean off winter salt, brine, and dirt underneath the car and on the outside of the car to prevent rust formation.
  • Make sure the inside of the car is clean to prevent any odor or mold from developing.
  • If you plan to park the car for more than 30 days, do not set the parking brake. Brake pads or shoes could seize to the drum or the rotor and cause problems later.

If Your Car Needs Service

If you are among the folks who must still go out and rely on your vehicle for transportation, the good news is that you can still get service and repair car care during the COVID-19 shutdown. While auto service shops are open, it is not exactly business as usual. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make an appointment. Your shop’s hours may be different during the shutdown, or they may have less staff. Scheduling an appointment will assure that the shop can take care of your vehicle.
  • Plan to drop it off. If you normally like to wait while your vehicle is being serviced, you will need to take a different approach this time. The social distancing that is required for health and safety still applies. Do not plan on hanging out at the shop.
  • Ask about pick up service. Many shops are offering pick-up and delivery service. This can be a lifesaver if you do not have anyone to give you a ride.

Take care and be safe!

Are You Driving on Bad Tires?

It is easy to take your tires for granted. If you are a driver who tends to neglect regular tire care, you may miss important signs that your tires are no longer in good shape. The condition of your tires has a direct effect on your vehicle’s performance and your safety on the road. Driving on bad tires is extremely dangerous, and you might not even know you are doing it. 

Bad Tires

 

Signs of Tire Trouble

Signs of tire problems may begin with small cracks in the rubber on the surface and inside of the tire. Over time, the cracking accelerates, and eventually the steel belting in the tread detaches from the tire. Once this happens, the tire is bad and no longer safe. We cannot stop the aging that ultimately leads to bad tires, but hot temperatures, under inflation, and poor tire maintenance are known to speed up the aging process. 

How Long Should Your Tires Last?

According to Car and Driver, the general consensus is that “most tires should be inspected, if not replaced, at about six years” and definitely “swapped out after 10 years, regardless of how much tread they have left.”

How to Determine a Tire’s Age

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires a DOT number to be printed on the sidewall of every tire. Tires manufactured after 2000 will end in a four-digit code. The first two digits indicate the week the tire was manufactured. The second two digits identify the year.  If your tire ends in a three-digit code, it is over 20 years old and should definitely be replaced.

To learn more about your tires, the Tire Safety Group offers a free tire facts app. Available for Android and iPhone, the app enables you to get a free Tire Facts Report by entering the DOT code from your tire.  The report lets you know if a tire is old, defective, or has been the subject of a recall. The app shows you where to find the code on the tire and even includes a flashlight function to help you see the code clearly!

The Winter Driving Hazard Most Drivers Don’t Think About

Driving during the winter months can be downright stressful. In our last post, we looked at preventable problems associated with cold weather driving, but, no matter how prepared you may be, slick roads are potentially dangerous for everyone. While road salt provides an effective way to deal with ice on the roads, it also creates an additional winter driving hazard that most people do not even think about.

icy-roads

Road salt exposure throughout the winter season has a punishing effect on the metal components of your vehicle. Most auto designs have an exposed underbody, which means the majority of salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your car can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. Rubber tires are mostly resistant to salt damage, however, your metal wheels are highly vulnerable to salt damage.

Vehicle manufacturers understand this winter driving issue, so the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. Also working to our advantage is the fact that corrosion and rust do not happen quickly. This means that you have time to undo salt damage potential with regular car washes.

Car Wash

It does not take long for salt and dirty snow to make your car virtually unrecognizable. But washing your vehicle when it’s just going to get dirty again the second you hit the road probably seems like a waste of time and money. On the contrary, regular washes are definitely worth the investment because they are the best way to remove the road salt that is a serious corrosion hazard. 

How frequently should you wash your vehicle? That depends on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out during the winter season, since salt is particularly hard on chrome. For extra protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing in the fall will help make your winter washes more effective.

3 Cold Weather Car Problems You Can Prevent

Depending on where you live, you may be one of the many who must face the potential dangers of driving through winter snow, ice, and sleet. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about winter weather driving, other than proceeding very cautiously and giving yourself extra time to get where you need to go. There are, however some cold weather driving problems that you can take charge of, to protect yourself and your vehicle.

Winter Driving

Cold temperatures can make your vehicle vulnerable to issues beyond what you may encounter on the roadways.The following are three cold weather car problems and how you can prevent them from leaving you stranded:

Problem: Lost Tire Pressure

Tires typically lose 1 pound per square inch (psi) for every 10 degrees of temperature drop.  Under inflated tires do not perform well, plus the tire pressure loss can eventually result in a flat tire. 

Prevention: Be sure to check inflation more frequently as the air gets colder.

Problem: Weak or Dead Batteries

Extremely low temperatures strain your car battery because the chemical reactions needed to make it work happen more slowly. If you already have an old battery, this can cause it to fail even more quickly. 

Prevention: Have the battery tested. Replace it if necessary.

Problem: Thickened Fluids

Freezing temperatures cause thickening of fluids your car needs to run properly, including transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, oil, and antifreeze. 

Prevention: Make sure these fluids are maintained at proper levels to avoid trouble.

Even after taking these preventive measures, always be prepared for a road emergency. During the winter months, travel with items in your trunk such as a roadside emergency kit, blankets, gloves, boots, packaged hand warmers, and a folding shovel. 

Stay warm, stay safe, and be prepared!

Three Ways to Lower the Cost of Driving

In the past century, owning a car has gone from being a luxury to a necessity, with the average number of cars per household in the U.S. at 1.88 in 2017. While car ownership is more prevalent these days, it still is an expensive proposition. From the initial cost of the car and insurance, to the price of gas and maintenance, when you add it all up, the cost of driving is considerable.

cost of driving

There are definitely things you can do to get the most value from your investment, beginning with buying the right car. Make sure the car you select is dependable. It is also a good idea to choose one that delivers good fuel economy. Most importantly, during the car buying process, be honest and realistic about your budget so you aren’t weighed down with monthly payments you cannot afford.

Once you have purchased your vehicle and insurance, the opportunities to save don’t end. There are additional ways you can lower the cost of driving that will provide you with a little extra financial breathing room.

  1. Make sure you stick with a regular car maintenance schedule.

Following the regular schedule of recommended maintenance will not only keep your car running more dependably, it will decrease the cost of repairs and replacements for preventable issues. While you do have to pay for things like tire rotation, oil changes, and wheel alignment, these costs are far less than the major problems that will result from neglecting maintenance. 

Regular maintenance typically includes services like brake checks and service, wheel alignment, tire rotation, oil filter changes, fluid checks, air filter changes and brake checks. Always read check your owner’s manual for your car’s specific requirements. 

  1. Make changes to your driving habits.

It is actually surprising how much money you can save by making some changes to your driving habits. Ride sharing will save you gas and mileage on your car. Planning shopping trips and errands can also help you consolidate trips for additional savings. If you are not familiar with the route options when driving somewhere, use an app to help you determine the most efficient way to reach your destination. 

  1. Optimize your fuel efficiency.

Aside from buying a car with good gas mileage, there are other things you can do to improve your fuel efficiency. Avoid jackrabbit starts – make it a habit to accelerate gently. Do not use your car as a storage facility. The extra weight of a loaded trunk will have an impact on your fuel economy. Lastly, keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure. This will improve fuel efficiency and extend the life of your tires.

Tire Pressure: What You Need to Know About the Cold

In the winter, when temperatures start dipping, it is not uncommon to see your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light come on more frequently than it normally does. The reason for this lies in the way a TPMS works. 

tire in snow
Tire pressure monitoring systems use sensor technology to detect when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. If the tire pressure in one or more of your tires drops, the light comes on. Since the environmental air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, the air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. This is why you will often see the TPMS light more frequently.

Does this mean you can ignore the TPMS light in the winter? While there may be a weather related explanation for the light, it is still important to check your tire pressure, and to check the pressure when the tires are cold. The reason being that once you hit the road, friction will cause the tires to heat up, increasing the pressure within the tire. Checking the tire pressure after you have been driving awhile may give an inaccurate pressure reading.

Proper tire inflation is always important, but it is particularly important in the cold winter months when weather conditions make driving more hazardous. This is because:

  • Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
  • Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not properly inflated
  • Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
  • Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money

It is a good idea to check your tire pressure once a month. To obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait about 30 minutes after parking or check the pressure in the morning.

Five Tire Care Resolutions You Can Make to Save Money

Thinking about improvements you can make to save money in the new year? Here are five tire care resolutions that will help your tires perform better. How will these tire care tips save you money? Following them diligently will significantly extend the life of your tires and value of your tire investment. Additional benefits you will get include better gas mileage and greater safety on the road.

Tire Care Resolutions

  1. Regularly Check Your Tire Tread

Follow these easy steps to check your tire tread depth:

  1. Hold a penny so that “In God We Trust” appears across the top. Insert it into five different sections of the tire, taking note of the visibility of Lincoln’s head.
  2. If you can consistently see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are excessively worn, and it is time to go shopping for a new set of tires.
  3. If the top of Lincoln’s head (to about the forehead hairline) is covered throughout the tread grooves, the tread is in good shape and your tires probably do not need replacement.
  1. Check Your Tire Pressure Monthly

Take time to check your tire pressure at least once a month.  While it doesn’t take long to do, it could save you big by improving your tire life and gas mileage. Check your owner’s manual to confirm the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires. Remember that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure. Don’t forget to check the pressure of your spare when you check your other tires, so it is ready when you need it.

  1. Have Your Tires Balanced

Make sure tire balancing is part of your regular maintenance routine.  Again, check your owner’s manual for the recommended schedule for your car, truck, or SUV. Tire balancing promotes a smooth ride and even tire wear by correctly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle.

  1. Have Your Tire Alignment Checked

Improper tire alignment will not only decrease the life of your tires due to uneven tread wear, it will also compromise the safety of your vehicle. Have the alignment checked any time you notice problems with your vehicle’s handling to assure your safety and protect your investment.

  1. Have your Tires Rotated

Rotating your tires on a regular basis is an essential part of tire maintenance that will significantly extend their service life. Be sure to refer to your owner’s manual for the tire rotation recommendations for your particular vehicle.