Five Ways to Improve Fall Driving Visibility and Safety

Changing of the seasons is always a good time to think about vehicle maintenance. In addition to taking your car in for its required mechanical checks, there are things you can do in your own garage to prepare for autumn. Falling leaves and tree debris make keeping your windshield clean for clear visibility a challenge. To assure you can see clearly while driving, be sure to take a few minutes to clear off your vehicle – especially at the base of the windshield and other crevices where debris may accumulate.

Leaves on a Car Representing Fall Car Care

Here are five more things you can do to assure clear visibility while driving so you and your passengers will be as safe as possible on the road.

Check Your Wipers

Fall typically brings more rain, so make sure your wipers are in peak condition to assure their effectiveness. You should inspect your wiper blades regularly, and ask your auto service professional to check them whenever you bring in your car for other service or repair. As a rule of thumb, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.

Regularly Clean Your Windshield

Leaf litter and other tree debris lead to a dusty and dirty windshield. This can be particularly dangerous at night, when oncoming lights hit the dirt on your windshield and impair your vision. Try to make a habit of cleaning the windshield every time you fill up. Most gas stations have what you need right by the pumps.

Polish Up Those Headlights

Take a moment to check out your headlights. You may be surprised by the amount of dirt and bug grime that has accumulated on them. If not cleaned, it will eventually get to the point of making your headlight beams dimmer. Regular cleaning will make clear headlights easier to maintain.

Fix Windshield Cracks or Chips

A small crack in the windshield might be annoying, but drivers tend to live with it. Unfortunately, all it takes is one bump or pothole, and suddenly that small crack spreads all the way across the windshield. Have those cracks repaired as soon as possible to maintain safe visibility and to avoid the cost of a windshield replacement.

Top Off Your Washer Fluid

For your windshield wipers to function properly they need an ample supply of windshield washer fluid. Letting wiper blades drag across a dry surface is not only ineffective, it can lead to damaging of the blades. Top off your washer fluid at every service interval or whenever the seasons change to avoid being left high and dry. Use windshield washer antifreeze in winter months to prevent damage to your washer system.

Back to School Safety Part 2 – Prepare Young Drivers

Back to school season means more young drivers on the road. New drivers have more temptations to distract them than ever, including cell phones. Young adults and teens have proven to be especially vulnerable to this risky driving behavior. 

Prepare Student Drivers

Texting and Driving Can Be Fatal

Many bad choices and risky habits only affect the person who engages in them. Texting and driving is different. Everyone around the texting driver is in danger, whether it is passengers in that car, nearby vehicles, or pedestrians in the vicinity. According to recent data

  • Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause a car accident than drunk driving
  • 4,637 people died in car crashes in 2018 due to cell phone use.

It is true that drivers of all ages can be guilty of texting and driving, but young, inexperienced drivers may be most likely to engage in unsafe behaviors. The risk-taking attitude of teens and young adults combined with their lack of driving experience tends to result in a higher likelihood of accidents.

All it Takes is a Few Seconds

According to the advocacy website, Texting and Driving Safety, the minimum amount of time a driver is distracted by a text is five seconds. In that amount of time, at highway speeds, you will travel the length of a football field. Just a few seconds can result in a huge amount of risk.

An infographic on the website provides some frightening statistics regarding texting and teen driving:

  • 77% of young adults are very or somewhat confident that they can safely text while driving
  • 55% of young adult drivers claim it is easy to text while they drive
  • Teens who text while driving spend approximately 10% of driving time outside of their lane.

If you have a young driver in your family, now is a great time to remind them of what’s at risk with texting and driving.

Back to School Safety Part 1 – Watch Out For School Traffic

It is back to school time, so it is a good time to think about safe school season driving. Though school traffic can be frustrating, it is important for everyone’s safety that we exercise patience. We also need to watch for students in school zones who may be excited or distracted as they make their way to and from school.

Children on a School Bus

Time for the Stuck-Behind-a-School-Bus Blues

No driver wants to see a school bus in their path, especially if they are on their way to work. If you find yourself in this frustrating situation, try to keep in mind that students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when traveling in a school bus. The National Safety Council reports that school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation for students. 

The council does caution, 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.

Keep in mind following points to remind drivers of school traffic safety laws and procedures:

  •  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.Never block crosswalks when waiting to turn or when they are stopping 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.

If your commuting route includes an area with school bus stops, consider ways to help you safely share the road. Listen to music or a podcast to help you exercise patience with frequent stops. Leaving a bit early so you won’t have to stress about delays also helps. Remember, the most important thing is that EVERYONE arrives at their destination safely!

Tire Industry Woes Continue to Cause Supply Issues and Price Increases

The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on virtually every segment of the economy, including tire manufacturing. Unfortunately, the problems have been ongoing for the automotive and tire industries with the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Automovie Tires in Stacks

The conflict has not only impacted tire production in these countries, but also the European Union. Increases in inflation and interest rates, as well as rising oil, diesel and gas prices, are all factors that continue to plague the tire industry.

According to tire industry projections, improvements in the situation are not expected to come this year:

“In terms of when issues will be resolved completely, this is likely a multi-year process, given the constraints at play. Demand remaining robust will continue to be a drag on shipping times, given the increased volume of goods without the expanded capacity to accommodate the increase in volumes being transacted.”

Until these ongoing issues are resolved, manufacturers will be forced to pass on escalating costs to the consumer.

Taking Care of Your Tires Has Never Been More Important

The best way to avoid dealing with tire supply problems and rising prices is to take care of the tires you have. If you are not already following a tire service and maintenance plan, now is the time to get started!

Protect Your Tire Tread

Regularly checking the condition of the tread on your tires is essential for extending the life of your tires. We don’t often think about looking at our tire tread unless we suspect a leak or have had an encounter with sharp road debris. Regularly looking at your tire tread means you’ll be more likely to notice wear trends before excessive damage can occur. If caught early enough, improper wear patterns in the tread, such as feathering or cupping can be corrected before too much damage occurs.

Keep Tires Correctly Inflated

Proper inflation is an extremely important part of tire maintenance that will prolong tire life. If tire inflation drops to a level that is below the recommended pressure, added load is placed on the shoulder of the tire, causing premature wear. Under-inflation also generates heat build up within the tire, which in turn increases rolling resistance and reduces fuel economy.

Stay On Top of Regular Maintenance

Wheel alignment is an essential regular maintenance service you need. When tires are unable to run straight ahead, accelerated tread wear occurs on some areas of the tire. Tire rotation should also be performed on a regular basis. A consistent and documented schedule of tire rotation will promote even tread wear. Failing wheel and suspension components can also compromise tire service life. Replace shock absorbers and other suspension components as part of overall maintenance.

Consistent tire maintenance will prevent your vehicle from experiencing a variety of problems, including uneven and premature tire tread wear. Protecting your tire investment will pay off when you need to watch your budget the most.

 

Your Summer Car Care Checklist

You depend on your car to perform safely  and efficiently in a wide range of conditions. Are you giving it the care it needs to assure that performance? The extra seasonal needs of a vehicle are obvious in the winter time, with its snow, ice and freezing temperatures.  But summer’s punishing effects might not be as obvious.

Summer Driving

Excessive temperatures can cause engine overheating, which can compromise engine components and cause expensive damage requiring extensive repairs.  When the engine temperature exceeds 230 degrees Fahrenheit it is overheated. At temperatures above 245 degrees Fahrenheit, engine damage may result.  Engine overheating is also a dangerous situation that can quickly put you and your passengers in danger.  Make sure your vehicle’s cooling system is working properly to avoid overheating.

If you haven’t given much thought to car care lately, take some time to review this summer car care checklist to help your vehicle beat the heat:

  • 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. 
  • Tires – Keep your tires inflated to the pressure recommended for your vehicle. Soft, under-inflated tires generate heat, which can result in a blowout. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.

 

 

Five Signs You Might Have Fuel Injection System Problems

The purpose of your vehicle’s fuel injection is to assure that the engine runs smoothly and efficiently by feeding it the right mixture of fuel and air. Before fuel injection systems,  autos had to rely on a carburetor to supply fuel to the engine. Today, most newer vehicles are equipped with fuel injection systems.

Close-up of car engine at repair garage

Automobile parts photo created by peoplecreations – www.freepik.com

Fuel Injection Systems vs Carburetor Systems

Fuel injection systems offer several advantages over carburetor systems:

  • Fuel injected systems deliver fuel in precise bursts, and are typically more powerful and efficient
  • Fuel injection is also more economical and produces less emission pollution.

Although fuel injector systems offer advantages, they do experience problems 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. 

Five Signs of Fuel Injection System Trouble

The following are five signs that your fuel injection system may be compromised or heading for costly problems:

 

  • Check Engine Light Turns On – Seeing the “Check Engine” light is an obvious sign of trouble. This light can signal several problems including a bad fuel injector. Any time an injector delivers too much or too little fuel, engine efficiency is reduced, which can trigger service light illumination.
  • Stalling and Rough Idling – If your car is not getting enough 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 will cause the engine to vibrate as it tries to finish each cycle without adequate fuel.
  • Engine Misfires – When the engine does not get enough fuel because of a clogged injector, the engine can misfire as you drive. This may be felt as a struggle to accelerate or a hesitation after you step on the gas pedal. This problem should be addressed as soon as possible or the engine will be vulnerable to overheating or other issues.
  • 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.

 

To avoid fuel injection system problems, have the system cleaned and inspected as part of your regular maintenance routine.

 

How Taking Care of Your Tires Can Help Offset High Gas Prices

Record high gas prices have everyone thinking about ways to save money. While you may not have the option to drive less, there are other vehicle related expenses you can reduce to make your overall driving budget go farther. 

Gas Prices Vehicle Expense

Taking care of your tires will help extend your driving budget by protecting your tire investment. Not only will your tires last longer and perform better, you will also get better gas mileage and be safer on the road.

Five Tire Care Tips for Extending Your Driving Budget

  1. Inspect Your Tire Tread on a Regular Basis

The tread on your tires is essential for proper performance. Regular tread inspection is important for identifying tread wear problems before too much damage is done. The penny test is a simple way to confirm that your tire tread is in good shape.

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. 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. 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

Check your tire pressure at least once a month.  This one quick chore could save you money 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. Get Your Tires Balanced

Tire balancing should be part of your regular scheduled maintenance. Your owner’s manual will provide a 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. Get Your Tire Alignment Checked

Incorrectly aligned tires will decrease tire life because poor alignment leads to uneven tread wear. Poor alignment also compromises 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. Get your Tires Rotated

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

5 Common Questions & Answers About Electric Vehicles

As gas prices continue to skyrocket, more people are considering the purchase of an electric vehicle. On the outside, electric vehicles do not look a whole lot different than their combustion engine counterparts. There are, however, significant differences on the inside, which are designed to make them more economical and fuel efficient. 

Electric Vehicles at Charging Station

The most obvious difference with an electric vehicle is that it relies on a high-powered battery rather than the gasoline that a combustion engine requires. When it comes to the engineering of an EV, about 70% of EV component parts are different from those in a gas powered vehicle. 

If you don’t know much about electric vehicles, we’ve got some basic answers to questions many people have when first learning about this new generation of cars. 

1. Are electric vehicles more expensive than gas vehicles?

Even though the up front price tag may be higher, an EV will be a much less expensive vehicle to operate, especially considering the rapid rise of gas prices since the beginning of 2021. However, the cost of natural gas for power generation also caused electricity prices to rise in that same period. Unfortunately, current instability in the market will continue to impact the cost of driving any type of vehicle. 

Looking at maintenance costs, an electric vehicle has far fewer moving components than a combustion engine vehicle, which has hundreds of moving components. For this reason, EVs could prove to be less costly to maintain over time.

2. How does a hybrid car differ from an EV?

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) primarily rely on gas but also have electric components. Hybrid vehicles have a gas-powered combustion engine as well as a small electric motor. They self-charge during operation, with some models also having plug-in charging.

Fully electric vehicles have one high-powered electric motor that is fueled by a large electric battery, which requires charging at a charging station.

Both EVs and HEVS have regenerative-hydraulic braking systems, which are designed to recover energy and “top-off” the battery. 

3. What is the charging process for an electric vehicle?

Electric vehicles must be regularly plugged into a municipal, commercial, or residential charging station to be recharged. Hybrid electric vehicles have the ability to self-charge as they drive, but may also have to be plugged in to charge. There are rapid charging stations that deliver power faster, but lower-powered home chargers are designed to charge a vehicle overnight.

4. How long does an electric vehicle charge last?

Of course times will vary depending on the vehicle and the charging equipment used, but normal driving should take an electric vehicle approximately 200 – 400 miles before requiring another charge.

5. Are EVs as fast as combustion engine vehicles?

To answer this question, it is important to note the difference between quick and fast in this context. Quick refers to accelerating from point A to point B, and fast describes the ability to achieve top speeds for sustained periods of time. Electric vehicles are actually quicker than gas-powered vehicles, the combustion engine of the latter is faster.

Why Good Tire Tread Matters on Wet Roads

When talkin’ tires, we talk a lot about tire tread and why it is so important to tire performance and safety. In previous posts, we’ve talked about how there are specialized types of tire tread for different types of driving. This post will look at the important role tire tread plays in managing tire performance on wet roads.

Tire Tread Track Driving Wet Road

The Role of Tire Tread in Driving

Tire tread is a crucial factor in a tire’s ability to provide traction. Traction is the resistance between the tire and the ground in reaction to the torque being exerted by the wheel axle under the power of the engine. Good traction enhances your ability to maneuver and brake as you drive.

You might be surprised to learn that race car tires have no tread. Racing tires are designed to put as much of the tire rubber on the road as possible in order to maximize traction for increased speed and better control of the vehicle. This works for racing because racing is done in a very controlled environment, with optimal road conditions. Obviously this is not the case with everyday driving, where we regularly encounter challenges like wet roads.  

Tire Tread vs Hydroplaning

Tire tread is critically important to prevent hydroplaning, which occurs when water comes between the road surface and your tires. Because the tires are riding on top of water and getting no traction with the surface of the road, your vehicle becomes unresponsive to steering or braking. This frightening phenomenon can occur even when road surfaces are slightly damp. 

Unlike racing tires, tires meant for regular passenger vehicles must have an ample amount of tread to assure safe handling. Thanks to innovation in tire technology, the tread on tires has been designed to prevent hydroplaning by channeling and dispersing water away from the face of the tire. 

Properly Maintaining Tires Optimizes Tread & Safety

Tires with excessively worn tread cannot disperse water safely because the channels lack the necessary depth. Condition of tire tread should be monitored regularly. A consistent and documented schedule of tire rotation will extend tread service life by promoting even tread wear.

Under-inflated tires are also unable to disperse water properly. Keeping your tires properly inflated is an extremely important part of extending tire life, as well. 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. Under-inflation also causes heat to build up within the tire, which increases rolling resistance and reduces fuel economy.

Pay Attention to These Signs of Pothole Damage

Whether as a driver or a passenger, we’ve all felt that horrible thud of hitting a pothole. But potholes are more than simply a springtime nuisance. They are actually one of the most abusive hazards your vehicle faces on a regular basis. Hitting potholes can lead to a host of problems for you and your vehicle. It is best to avoid them, but in some cases they are just unavoidable.

road pothole collecting rain

Potholes Prey on Shocks and Struts

While you might just think of getting a flat tire or bent rim when you hit a pothole, did you know that shocks and struts are a component of your car that can also be seriously damaged if you hit a bad pothole? Shocks and struts control your car’s ride and handling, and act as a cushion to dampen the bouncing action of the car’s springs. They also control spring and suspension movement to keep your car’s tires in contact with the road so that it will steer properly, maintain stability, and brake safely. 

Watch for the Warning Signs

Compromised shocks and struts can impact steering and handling, so it is essential to be aware of the warning signs that your vehicle’s shocks or struts may need to be replaced:

  • Rolling or swaying on turns
  • Front-end dives when braking or rear end dips when accelerating
  • Bouncing or sliding sideways on rough or winding roads
  • Bottoming out or thumping on bumps
  • Unusual puddles under the car or leaking fluids
  • Loss of directional control during sudden stops

It is a good idea to have your car inspected if you experience any of the above signs. Catching pothole damage issues early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.