Memorial Day Road Trip Travel Forecast & Tips

According to AAA Travel, a significant rebound in the number of travelers is anticipated this Memorial Day holiday weekend. Looking at the data, more than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home on a Memorial Day road trip. This is an increase of 60% from last year when only 23 million traveled.

Memorial Day Road Trip Woman in Car

Last year’s number, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000, dropped during the early phase of the pandemic. The 2021 projection still represents nearly 6 million fewer travelers than in 2019. 

If you are planning a Memorial Day road trip, take some time to make sure your vehicle is ready for the road. Here are a few road trip tips:

  • Confirm that your tires are in good condition and properly inflated
  • Test your battery
  • Check your lights to make sure all are working
  • Make sure wiper blades are in good shape
  • Check fluid levels
  • Pack roadside emergency items like jumper cables and travel compressor\
  • Plan your route and stops before you leave
  • Keep a cell phone charger with a car adaptor in your car
  • Download an app like GasBuddy so you can find the best gas prices 
  • Consider the Waze app for real-time traffic info and driving directions

If your plans include traveling on toll roads, using a toll app can be a real time saver. There are state specific options like FastToll (for Illinois) or PayTollo, which covers multiple regions. Whatever your plans are, have a fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend!

Understanding Tire Tread Patterns

To the untrained eye, it may look like tire tread patterns are all the same. In fact, tires have a variety of tread patterns, depending on tire type. Since the early days of the rubber tire, engineering has changed a lot. While the first rubber tires were solid, today’s rubber tires are made from specially formulated rubber compounds and the tread is engineered to provide specific safety features.

tire tread tires on rack

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

Basic Tire Tread Patterns

Directional Tread – This type of tire tread is designed to roll in one direction and often features arrows to indicate the proper direction. Directional tire tread allows for water to be displaced from the tire to decrease the risk of hydroplaning. In order to maintain the best performance, directional tires should be rotated front to back.  Because each tire is designed and angled to perform best on a specific side, they should remain on the side of the vehicle they are in when doing front and back rotation.

Symmetrical Tread – This tire tread has the same pattern of continuous grooves, independent lugs, or both across the entire tread surface. This quiet and long-lasting tread type is very widely used, and is found on most non-high-performance passenger cars. Symmetrical tires may be rotated in a variety of different ways to help extend the life of the tires.

Asymmetrical Tread – A popular choice for sports cars, this tread type is like a hybrid in that it combines a variety of tread patterns to provide maximum grip on both wet and dry roads. In most cases, the inside and middle areas of the tire will be designed for wet traction. The outer side of the tire features large tread blocks for maximum cornering capability on dry surfaces. Many different rotation patterns can be used for tires with asymmetrical tread patterns. Asymmetrical tread tires typically have position guidelines stamped on them to ensure proper placement.

Directional/Asymmetrical Tread – Offering the best attributes of both kinds of tread, this tread type has the V-shaped pattern of the directional tread for discharging water away from the tire as well as the dry weather traction of the asymmetrical tread. The proper rotation for this tread pattern is the same as is used for directional tires. 

When you are ready for new tires, talk to your local tire specialist to find out the right tire type and brand to meet your needs.

Get Ready for Summer with a Clean Ride

After dealing with the dirty, salty, sludge of winter, how great will it feel to hit the road in a clean and shiny car? A seasonal car cleaning will get your car looking great and provide you with a chance to undo some of winter’s damage. Spring and fall are also a great time to have regular auto services performed such as oil and fluids changes, wheel alignment, and tire rotation.

summer clean car

A seasonal car cleaning should begin with a complete car wash, including underbody. After a winter of driving the bottom of your car will be coated with corrosion causing salt, sand, and grime. Corrosion leads to rust that is extremely damaging your car, so it is essential to clean it from top to bottom. It is a good idea to get the undercarriage power wash at your car wash or spray the car’s bottom with a 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.

Cleaning the inside of your vehicle is also beneficial. Wipe down the engine to clear away all the debris that has accumulated under the hood.  Clean any white residue off the battery with a toothbrush, baking soda, and water. If corrosion residue accumulates, it may prevent your car from starting, so it is worth taking the time to clean those connections. Cleaning also helps prepare the battery for the stress of warmer temperatures.

Cleaning your tires is important, too, because 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 main objective is to condition and protect the rubber in your tires, and coat them with a UV protectant.

A truly thorough seasonal car cleaning should include scrubbing the bottoms of doors and cleaning the window channels. Apply a silicone spray that will repel dirt and lubricate the surfaces to keep the windows from sticking. Include a cleaning of the rugs and upholstery to remove all the salt from the car’s inside to prevent damage. Finally, check the wiper blades and replace them if necessary.

 

Tune Up Service & Spark Plug Replacement

Spark PlugsTune up service and spark plug replacement are important for maintaining the power and efficiency of your vehicle’s engine. The engine is made up of many components working together to ensure proper starting and functioning. These components eventually wear out or break down, which may result in lost performance and inefficient fuel economy. Tune up service performed by your auto service professional will help maintain and extend auto life.

Spark plugs are an essential component that is checked during a tune up. Spark plugs initiate the combustion and power needed to move a vehicle. This combustion drives clean gas and air to the vehicle’s cylinders. Eventually fuel injectors become clogged, fuel filters get dirty, and the spark plugs become corroded. When parts are compromised, the engine will not perform as it should, and gas mileage will suffer. During tune up service, your auto professional will inspect your car and follow the recommendation schedule for replacing components.

While your car is in for a tune up, other maintenance services can be done. This may include checking the brakes and clutch, fluid and oil levels, and any other components. Having tune up service and spark plug replacement done on a regular basis will prevent serious and costly problems down the road.

Generally speaking, you should have a tune up every two years or every 30,000 miles, whichever comes first. See your owner’s manual for your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.

Extend Winter Tire Life With Proper Tire Storage

The saying goes, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, as winter finally gives way to spring. Depending on the weather in your area, now may be the time you are thinking about replacing your winter tires with your regular tires. When you switch out your tires, be sure to follow these tire storage tips to make sure they stay in good condition and will be ready when you need them again. 

tire storage

All tire types benefit from proper tire storage, and should be stored in a clean, cool and dry place. Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and strong air currents. Although the rubber used to make tires is engineered to resist the effects of sunlight, ozone, and water, these elements still cause deterioration. Consider seasonal tire storage a time to give your tires a break and opportunity to minimize exposure to stresses.

Other tire storage tips include:

  • 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.

Follow these tire storage tips when storing your tires so they will provide you with years of safe service and performance.

Tire Noise – What’s Normal, What’s Not

The amount of noise you experience while driving can depend on a wide range of factors, from the condition of the road pavement to the construction of the vehicle and its components. In fact, a great deal of engineering and technology goes into vehicle design to specifically promote a smooth and quiet ride. This includes the development of tire technology. 

Tire Noise

While we can expect to experience some degree of noise when we are driving, we may on occasion hear something that doesn’t sound quite right. It is important to pay attention to tire noise that seems unusual or unfamiliar, as that noise may be a sign of trouble with your vehicle.

How much or what type of tire noise is normal? That is going to depend on the type of tires you have. For example, it is common for low-profile tires to create more noise since they have a lower amount of sidewall rubber. Also, the wider a tire is, the more noise it tends to generate, simply due to there being more in contact with the road. 

Tire Noise That Sounds Like Trouble

Hearing tire noise that doesn’t sound like what you normally hear on the road could be an indication that something is off. Alignment problems, suspension issues, or improper tire inflation can all cause strange or unusual tire noise that sounds a bit like thumping or bumping. 

Misaligned or underinflated tires might sound like squealing or screeching. Keep in mind that squealing that occurs when you stop might also be an indication of brake problems. 

Tire humming can be another sign of tire trouble. Humming may happen if tread wear is not even, or if there are problems with the wheel bearings.  

If you have been noticing tire noise that seems out of the ordinary, don’t ignore it. Taking just a little time out of your busy schedule to have your tires and vehicle inspected by a qualified auto pro could save you a lot of time, trouble, and expense.

Two Car Heating Problems That Could Leave You Cold

The recent cold snap has everyone thinking about the importance of being prepared for winter driving. Making sure your car’s heating system is functioning properly is essential – particularly if you are preparing for a long car trip. 

Vehicles in Snow

In this post, we will focus on recognizing two common car heating problems that can be avoided.

Understanding the Heater Function

Your car heating system depends on its heater core. The heater core serves as a heat exchanger, distributing heat into the cabin of the car. The car’s engine provides the original source for this heat, which increases as the engine operates.

Heat is transferred from the engine to the heater core through a liquid called coolant. Coolant pumps through the engine to cool it to protect it from overheating, and also recycles the heat it removes by sending it into the radiator and circulating it to the heater core.

Common Car Heating Problems

In the event of car heating problems, one of two issues is typically to blame:

  1. The coolant is not properly flowing through the heater core
  2. The air from the blower motor is not being directed through the heater core

Coolant flow issues can often be attributed to a plugged heater core. Air flow problems could be due to a malfunctioning, or stuck blend door. These doors are the flaps inside the ducts that open and close to allow heat or stop heat from coming through the vents into the passenger compartment.

If you notice any car heating problems or a heating irregularities, be sure to have your car checked out as soon as possible by your trusted auto technician. Getting the problem fixed will assure you don’t get stuck in the cold.

Feeling Salty? Protect Your Car from Salt on Roads

Salt on roads plays a key role in making winter driving safer by preventing accidents due to lost traction on slippery snow and ice. Salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water, making it a fast and inexpensive way to melt snow and ice on the road. The problem with salt on roads is that it is a highly corrosive element, which can be highly damaging to your vehicle.

Snowy Street Salt on Roads

Exposure to salt on roads throughout the winter is very hard on the metal components of your car. Most vehicles have an exposed underbody, so a great deal of salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your vehicle can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. While your rubber tires will suffer little or no damage from salt, your wheels are highly vulnerable, since the metal areas of your car are most at risk for  damage from salt on roads.

The good news is that the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of protecting vehicles against salt damage. The process of salt leading to corrosion and rust takes awhile, you fortunately have time to undo salt damage potential.

The best way to protect your car from road salt corrosion is to take it to the car wash for regular washings during the winter months. How frequently your car should be washed will depend on how much salt and road sludge you drive through on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out in the winter months, since salt is especially damaging to chrome.

Waxing seasonally will make your washes more effective and provide additional protection for your vehicle.

Understanding The Importance of Brake Maintenance

The Importance of Brake Maintenance, Part Two  

Brakes are critical to ensuring our safety on the road. Vehicle owners should have a general understanding of its brake system and the brake maintenance it requires. This is part two of our overview brake system and what services brakes require.

Brake Maintenance

Brake System Maintenance

Brake system maintenance allows your auto technician to evaluate the degree of brake pad wear and determine when replacement is necessary.

Brake Pads and Rotors

Brake pads and rotors are the point at which the braking system connects with the tires. Due to the stress of extreme friction, these components deteriorate more easily than others and need more frequent maintenance. It is important to inspect the condition and depth of the pads to make sure there is sufficient resistance.

Brake Fluid

A car’s brake system relies on a hydraulic fluid, commonly referred to as brake fluid. Flowing through the brake lines, brake fluid provides the power or force necessary to bring a vehicle to a stop. It is necessary to drain and replace brake fluid periodically because it absorbs moisture from the air and degrades over time. Changing brake fluid at recommended intervals will assure proper brake system functioning. Brake fluid changes are typically done every one or two years, however different vehicles will have different recommendations for best performance.

Since your vehicle’s brake system and brake fluid are so crucial to its safe operation, it is really important to have brake service maintenance done by a qualified professional automotive technician.

In addition having regular brake system maintenance performed, it is important to pay attention to any signs of brake problems and have them looked at right away.

Signs of trouble might include:

  • Strange Noises When Braking
  • Braking Causes the Vehicle to Pull to One Side
  • Brake Pedal Feels Odd or Spongy
  • Excessive Vibration When Braking
  • Jerking Sensation As Brakes are Applied

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. Take your vehicle in for a brake system inspection.

Understanding The Importance of Brake Maintenance

The Importance of Brake Maintenance  – Part One

We all know how important our brakes are to ensuring our safety on the road. What we might not keep in mind is the importance of brake maintenance. Drivers should have a basic understanding of their vehicle’s brake system and the brake maintenance our vehicles need. This two part post will give you a simple overview of how brakes work and what services they require.

Importance of Brake Maintenance

Types of Brake Systems and How They Work

There are three basic types of brakes: anti-lock brakes, emergency brakes, and service brakes. 

Anti-lock Brake Systems (ABS) are a safety feature included in most newer vehicles. This computer-controlled technology works with a vehicle braking system to decrease stopping distance and also increase control and stability. ABS monitors the speed of each wheel and automatically pulses the brake pressure. When hard and sudden braking occurs, ABS prevents the wheels from locking up, and keeps the tires from going into a skid. 

Emergency or Parking Brakes function apart from the service brakes and are typically non-hydraulic, using cables to mechanically apply the braking function. How emergency brakes are applied can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Some emergency brake systems are operated using a stick lever, some with a floor pedal, and some feature a button or handle near the steering column.

Service Brakes refers to the overall brake system used to decrease speed and bring the vehicle to a stop. In most cases, service brakes include a four-wheel disc or a combination of disc on front and drums on the back wheels. They are activated when the brake pedal is pressed, distributing hydraulic force to all wheels. Front brakes provide more force than the rear brakes for stopping the vehicle since braking propels the weight of the vehicle forward onto the front wheels.

Disc brakes use calipers, brake rotors, and brake pads. Each disc brake has a brake pad on both sides that push against the brake rotor when pressure is applied to the brake pedal. Drum brakes are enclosed within the wheel cylinder and have brake shoes that press out against the drum when pressure is applied to the brake pedal. 

In part two of this series, we will take a look at brake maintenance and signs of brake problems.