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.

Make A Resolution to Take Better Care of Your Tires

Are you making a New Year’s Resolution to take better care of yourself? Consider also making a resolution to take better care of your tires! 

New Year's Resolution 2021

Here are some simple ideas that will help your tires perform better and last longer. Additional benefits you will enjoy include better gas mileage and greater safety on the road.

Check Your Tire Tread 

Follow three simple steps to check your tire tread depth on a regular basis:

  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.

Keep an Eye on Your Tire Pressure

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. Refer to your owner’s manual to confirm the ideal pressure for your vehicle’s tires. Keep in mind that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure.

Get Tire Alignment Service

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 regularly, and also any time you notice problems with your vehicle’s handling.

Have Your Tires Rotated

Having tire rotation done on a regular basis is a tire maintenance service that will significantly extend tire service life. Refer to your owner’s manual to see the specific tire rotation recommendations for your make and model.

Have Tire Balancing Done 

Tire balancing should be part of your regular maintenance routine. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended schedule, but tire balancing is typically done with tire rotation. Tire balancing promotes a smooth ride and even tread wear by correctly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle.

Check on Your Spare Tire 

It is important to monitor the condition of your spare tire so you can be confident it will be ready when you need it. Check the pressure of your spare with your other tires. If you do have to use your spare, remember that it is intended for temporary use only, and replace it with a regular tire as soon as you can.

 

Three Ways to Get in Your Car and Give This Season

It has been a difficult year for everyone. 2020 has had us facing serious crises, both health and economic. Looking back through the challenges and hardships, they have also brought us opportunities to pull together and help one another.

Santa in Car

It is that spirit that inspires this post, and hopefully may inspire with some creative ways to give and serve this holiday season.

1. Help someone by taking their vehicle for maintenance.

In many cases, people are not using their cars as they normally do. This could mean that much needed maintenance is being neglected. People with health conditions that put them at high risk may be reluctant to take their care in for service. A great way to help a friend or family member this season might be to offer to take their vehicle in for them. Many auto service shops are currently offering pick up and delivery of cars for service. You might be able to assist someone with making these arrangements.

2. Help someone by giving them a ride.

In response to the health crisis, businesses and restaurants are now offering “curbside pick-up” or “drive-up” services. Unfortunately, many of the people in our community who rely on public transportation are unable to take advantage of these accommodations. It is challenging for those in this situation to do things ranging from grocery shopping, to getting a COVID test, to picking up a meal at a fast food restaurant. Providing a ride could be a wonderful way to help out.

3. Help someone by delivering a holiday surprise.

Some people are just feeling sad, lonely, and isolated from the world. Many are missing celebrations with family and friends, and not attending traditional events they normally look forward to at the holidays. Think about the people in your circle of friends, family, and acquaintances, and consider surprising them with an unexpected doorstep delivery. Festive food items, a small potted Christmas tree, or a gift bag full of holiday dvds could brighten their season more than you can imagine!

If you are not sure about how to find people in need, try contacting local churches or community organizations to see if they have a volunteer program for helping people with transportation challenges. You can also try connecting with your community by using the free NextDoor app.

Wishing you very happy and healthy holidays!

Planning a Thanksgiving Road Trip? Expect Lighter Travel

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

Thanksgiving

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

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

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

Have a safe road trip and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Why It’s Important to Choose a Certified Technician

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

What Makes a Certified Technician Different? 

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

According to ASE.com

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

How Do You Benefit From Choosing a Certified Technician?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Falling Leaves Can Make Driving More Dangerous

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

Wet Leaves On Road

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

Leaves On the Road

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

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

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

Falling Leaves In the Driveway

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

Leaves on Cars

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

A Final Fall Tip

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

Do You Need Winter Tires?

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

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

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

Winter Tires

What Makes Winter Tires Different Than Regular Tires?

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

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

Now is the Time to Buy!

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

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

Things to Keep in Mind

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

 

 

Six Clear Ways to Improve Driving Visibility

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

Windshield Wipers Driving Visibility

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

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

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

  1. Keep your windshield clean.

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

  1. Make sure your mirrors are clean.

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

  1. Check the condition of your wipers.

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

  1. Keep your washer fluid level filled.

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

  1. Keep your headlights clean.

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

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

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

Five Steps for After Road Trip Car Care

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

summer vacation car trip

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

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

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

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