Do You Know How to Jump Start a Car?

Be ready for a dead car battery by reviewing these simple steps.

 As winter approaches, keep in mind that low temperatures can lead to sluggish batteries, so your chances of experiencing a dead car battery will be increased. Now is the time to make sure you are equipped with a reliable set of jumper cables in your car, you will also need to know how to use them safely.

Jump Starting Car Battery

Prepare for a jump start emergency.

Once you have purchased your jumper cables and have them stowed in your vehicle, take some time to review these steps so you will be prepared to use them. Though it is not difficult to jump start a car, it can be dangerous if not done correctly. Since jumper cables transmit electrical current from one car to another, it can be dangerous if not done correctly. It is necessary to take precautions to prevent dangerous electric shocks.

Prepare for the Jump Start:

  • Park the running car so the cars face each other, about one to two feet apart. Make sure that the cars are not in contact with each other.
  • Set the parking brakes on both cars. Turn off both cars and take out the keys.
  • Lay out the jumper cables on the ground, making sure the clamps do not touch each other.
  • Open both car hoods and locate the batteries and battery terminals. (See your owner’s manual for details). The two terminals on each battery are usually covered in red or black, with a + or – sign on top. Identify which is positive, and which is negative, as this will be crucial to the success of your jump. 
  • Dirty or corroded battery terminals should be cleaned off with a rag or wire brush.

Attach the Jumper Cables to the Car:

  • Attach the red, positive cable clamp to the positive (+) battery terminal of the dead battery. Make sure you have a solid connection to the battery terminal.
  • Attach the red, positive cable clamp on the other side of the jumper cables to the working battery’s positive (+) battery terminal
  • Connect the black, negative cable clamp to the working battery’s negative (-) battery terminal. In the vehicle with the dead battery, attach that clamp to a metal part of the car that is unpainted, as far from the battery as the cable will reach. This will ground the circuit and help prevent sparking.
  • Once you have one end of the jumper cables connected to a car, it is critical that the other end of the cables do not touch the metal clamps to anything other than the specified components on the other car. Make sure that none of the cables are in contact with moving engine parts before starting the engine.

Perform the Jump Start:

  • Start the engine of the car with the working battery.
  • Allow the engine to run for several minutes. The time required for a successful jump may vary depending on the age and condition of the battery.
  • Attempt to start the car with the dead battery. If unsuccessful, allow the working car to charge the battery a little longer and try again.
  • As soon as the disabled car is running again, you can disconnect the jumper cables, starting with the black, negative cable clamps. Never allow the clamps to come in contact with each other while any part of the cables is still attached to a vehicle.
  • Taking the charged car for a short drive lets the battery build up a charge so the battery doesn’t die again once you turn off the car.

10 Ways to Celebrate Fall Car Care Month

If you are a regular Tracy Treadmore reader, you probably already know that October is Fall Car Care Month. The non-profit Car Car Council has designated both April and October as national car care months. It is no coincidence that these months happen to be in the spring and fall. That is because both of these seasons provide the perfect time to give your car the much needed attention before the more extreme weather conditions of summer and winter arrive.

Leaves on a Car Representing Fall Car Care

Now that October is here, it’s the time to take care of your vehicle to avoid potential headaches once the big chill of winter sets in. Here are ten things you can do to celebrate Fall Car Care Month and make sure your vehicle is being properly maintained for optimal performance and safety.

  1. Inspect your battery. Ensure the connection is tight, clean, and free of corrosion. It is also smart to have it tested and replace it if it is not up to snuff.
  2. Have brakes professionally inspected. Annual brake checks should be performed, including inspection of the rotors, drums and brake linings.
  3. Get an exhaust system inspection. Periodic inspection for leaks, damage, or broken components is important. Especially if you’ve noticed unusual behaviors or loud noises.
  4. Have your engine checked. Make sure your engine has the best balance of power and fuel economy for optimal performance.
  5. Check your wipers and lights. It is critical to see and be seen during winter driving. Make sure your wipers are in good condition and lights are in good working order.
  6. Check your car’s fluids. Window washer solvent, antifreeze/coolant, engine oil, power steering, brake & transmission fluids are all essential to your car’s performance.
  7. Have your heating/HVAC system checked. Make sure your heating system is working properly to stay safe and comfortable this winter.
  8. Have your steering and suspension inspected. Annual inspection is essential, including a review of components such as shock absorbers, struts, ball joints and tie rod ends.
  9. Inspect your tires. Look for signs of uneven wear and tears, since these things can greatly affect your safety. Always keep your tires properly inflated.
  10. Take a look at the hoses & belts. It is important that nothing is loose, cracked, brittle, or showing signs of excessive wear.

Basic auto service and repairs go a long way in assuring the safety and dependability of your ride. Keep in mind that vehicle manufacturers have specific recommendations, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual guidelines, and contact your trusted auto care professional  if you have specific questions.

Is Premium Gas Better for Your Car?

When looking at the different grade options at the gas pump, you may have wondered if you should be filling up with premium gas. Premium has got to be better, right? Not necessarily.

car-refill-transportation-transport

Whether or not you should choose premium gas actually depends on the car you drive. Unless your car manufacturer specifies the use of premium gas, you can stick with the lower priced option.

What’s the difference between regular and premium?

The difference between regular and premium gas is in the octane rating. In most states, regular gas has an octane rating of 87, while premium has a rating of 91 or 93. The high octane in premium gas provides greater resistance to engine knock, which happens when the fuel-air mixture in an engine combusts too early. In cars with high compression engines, the elevated knock threshold can allow for more aggressive timing and higher boost pressures to improve engine performance.

Can premium gas improve the performance of a regular engine?

Car engines that have high compression ratios or turbochargers typically benefit from high octane fuel for optimal fuel efficiency and performance. But most cars do not fit into this category. According to TrueCar, “the majority of cars on the road today are optimized to run on regular gas.“ 

In a recent report, AAA explains that most cars built after 1996 have “a knock sensor, which, under most circumstances, removes the need for premium gas.” 

Can premium gas keep your engine cleaner?

In the mid-90’s, Exxon made advertising claims that its premium gas could clean engines and reduce auto maintenance. The FTC issued a complaint charging that the claims were unsubstantiated, and Exxon was forced to run ads informing the public that “most cars run properly on regular octane.”

Today’s gas formulas contain detergent additives, which are far more essential than octane for helping to clean your engine and optimize performance. A variety of different blends of additives across all grades are available. Many drivers optimize engine performance using Top Tier gas, an EPA approved designation for gasoline that meets a minimum standard for engine cleanliness and performance.

It’s okay to be frugal at the pump.

Sometimes you need to splurge on quality to protect your investments, but not in this case. AAA sums it up this way:

“If your car doesn’t specifically call for premium gas, don’t waste your money. Despite advertising to the contrary, that extra 15 to 30 cents a gallon won’t get you any better performance or mileage nor will it make your car run any cleaner.”

If you have additional questions about the best fuel for your car, talk to your trusted auto technician.

How To Tell If Your Engine Might Be Failing

 

 

Engine Might Be FailingIt is important to be aware of signs your engine might be failing. Although most vehicles today are equipped with a check engine light to warn of potential problems, you should also understand the warning signs your vehicle may give you. Engine failure can mean expensive problems as well as the risk of being stranded. 

When you see that check engine light it might be tempting to ignore it, but you really should schedule diagnostic services to identify the problem. Aside from your check engine light, here are some additional indications that your engine performance might be lagging or your engine might be failing:

Is Your Engine Losing Power?

The function of an internal combustion engine is to convert fuel into the power needed to move a vehicle. Combustion engine operation involves a four stroke cycle – intake stroke, compression stroke, combustion stroke, and exhaust stroke. Failure during any one of these strokes could result in a lack of power to the engine and poor engine performance.

Are You Hearing Strange or Excessive Noise?

Interference in the combustion flow can result in unusual sounds such as knocking, hissing, popping or backfiring. Whenever you hear odd noises when you start up your vehicle, consider it a warning sign.

Have You Noticed a Drop In Fuel Efficiency?

If you’re not getting the miles per gallon you used to, it could be a sign that there is a problem with the compression stroke of your engine. Fixing this issue could be as simple as having the fuel system cleaned or getting a tune-up.  

Has Your Engine Been Stalling? 

Engine stalling in automatic transmission vehicles is highly unusual and likely a sign of trouble. The intake stroke might not be getting the spark or air/fuel mixture it needs. The problem could be serious and should be checked. The solution could be as simple as a tune up.

Are You Noticing Engine Run-On or Running Rough?

Does your car continue to run after it’s turned off? Does the engine seem to be running rough?

Engine run-on could be caused by incorrect octane gas for the vehicle, a failing solenoid, or carburetor issues. A failing battery, clogs in the system or old spark plugs can cause a rough running engine. So can incorrect octane in the gasoline in the tank. Once again, a simple tune up could be all it takes to remedy these problems.

Pay Attention to Signs That Your Engine Might Be Failing

Just like the check engine warning light, you should not ignore these signs when they occur. Addressing engine issues early can help you avoid serious consequences.

Spark Plug Replacement – Why It’s Important

An essential part of regular vehicle maintenance is spark plug replacement. These small components may not be something you think about often, but they play a key role in the proper functioning of your vehicle. Spark plug replacement is one of the services your auto technician will perform during a tune up. Tune up service is necessary for keeping your vehicle running reliably and performing its best.

Spark Plugs

What Does a Spark Plug Do?

As far as we’re concerned, turning a key or pushing a button to start the ignition is what gets our cars moving. A closer look reveals that the small and humble spark plug emits the spark of electricity that is needed to start your combustion engine vehicle. The power and combustion provided by the spark plug drives clean gas and air to the vehicle’s cylinders. This sets the pistons in motion so that your car moves safely and smoothly.

Spark Plug Replacement and Tune Ups

Knowing the role of the spark plug in your vehicle’s performance, it is easy to see why a poor or failed spark plug can mean big trouble on the road. That’s why regular vehicle maintenance, or tune up service is so important. In addition to providing necessary spark plug replacement, during tune up service, your auto tech will inspect your fuel injectors and fuel pump, replace worn wires, dirty filters, and check for other compromised parts. In the case of older vehicles, adjustment of the ignition timing may also be done during a tune up.

How Often Are Spark Plugs Replaced?

Spark plugs operate in a very harsh and punishing environment. Over time they wear out and are vulnerable to corrosion. While spark plugs cannot last forever, they are pretty tough and do not require frequent replacement. Typically they will need to be replaced every 30,000 miles or every two years.

How Do I Know If I Need a Spark Plug Change?

As with all auto maintenance, the best way to plan service is to follow the guidelines listed in your vehicle owner’s manual. Additionally, you can watch for signs that your car needs spark plug replacement or a general tune up. These include:

  • Difficulty starting or frequent stalling
  • Strange sounds, such as knocking
  • Rough acceleration or idling
  • Poor gas mileage

Stay safe and fuel efficient with regular tune ups and spark plug replacement!

One Easy Way to Prevent Tire Failure

Tire failure is not only a dangerous problem to experience, it is also an expensive one. Did you know that there is one really easy way to reduce the risk of trouble and prevent tire failure?

Check tire pressure

Tire Maintenance Can Protect Your Car from Tire Failure

One of the best things you can do to protect your tires is to make sure they are properly inflated. Under inflation causes a number of problems in tires including increased stress, friction, and overheating. When tires do not have the proper amount of air, sidewall flexing can occur and eventually lead to a rupture. Overheating can cause the rubber to degrade, which makes tires weaker and more prone to failure.

Properly Inflated Tires Help Prevent Tire Failure

According to the NHTSA, “On average, there are nearly 11,000 tire-related motor vehicle crashes each year and more than 600 people will die in those crashes.” The good news to follow this frightening statistic is that properly maintained tires can prevent many of these incidents. Tire failure is far less likely to occur when tires are not neglected, and this starts with properly inflated tires.

Correct tire pressure varies from vehicle to vehicle. The right pressure for your specific vehicle is listed in your owner’s manual. There is a tire pressure number stamped on the tire, but be aware that this number is the tire’s maximum pressure, not the recommended pressure.

The Correct Way to Check Tire Pressure

To check your tire pressure, you will need a working tire gauge. Either a manual or a digital model is fine. Measure the pressure when the tires are cold, or after the vehicle has not run for at least three hours. Remove the valve cap and press the tire gauge on the valve stem. There is a hissing sound when you first press down – this stops once you press the gauge all the way down. After a few seconds you should have an accurate reading. If air is needed, you can fill tires with either a portable compressor, or you can use the air pump at your local gas station. The process of filling tires is similar to checking the pressure. Instead of pressing the gauge to the valve stem you will press the fitting on the air hose to the stem. Check the pressure as you inflate until you reach the right pressure number. If your tires are over inflated, you can remove air from the tires using your gauge. Replace the valve caps on each tire when you are finished.

Stay safer on the road by greatly reducing your chance of tire failure – take care of your tires! 

When You Should Get An Oil Change & Why Is It Important?

When you should get an oil change depends mostly on what type of vehicle you have. The old rule of thumb used to be 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. Thanks to new, more sophisticated technology, many of today’s cars are equipped with oil-life monitoring systems that let drivers know when an oil change is needed. While some systems are based on mileage and time, more advanced systems detect and analyze the condition of the vehicle’s oil. As with most car maintenance, you should check your owner’s manual to know when you should get an oil change. 

Oil Change

Why are oil changes important? 

As miles accumulate on your car, oil decreases in effectiveness and becomes saturated with dust, water, and combustion residues that cause engine corrosion. The high operating temperatures of your car also cause the thermal breakdown of oil. This makes it less effective as a lubricant. Lubricant is essential in the prevention of engine part wear due to excessive friction. Acid neutralizing additives in oil also decrease in effectiveness over time. 

Even though your car’s oil filter traps much of the dirt, eventually the filter will clog and the contaminated oil will bypass the filter through a relief valve. When oil becomes dirty and thick it also becomes abrasive and causes more wear. 

Consistent oil changes will improve engine performance because clean oil performs much more efficiently than dirty oil. Regular oil changes are essential to a vehicle’s performance and safety and will also help prevent costly repairs throughout the life of your vehicle.

When you get an oil change, your service technician will replace your car’s oil with a full synthetic oil, synthetic blend, or high mileage motor oil, depending on what’s recommended for your particular vehicle. The old oil and oil filter will be removed, replaced, and recycled. Many shops also perform courtesy services such as:

  • Topping off fluids
  • Checking vehicle lights
  • Lubricating chassis as necessary
  • Inspecting belts, hoses, steering, suspension, skid plates and undercarriage
  • Checking windshield wipers
  • Checking car battery

Regarding oil changes, AAA cautions

“Less frequent oil changes on newer engines make it essential that you check the oil level monthly and top it up as needed. While many engines will use less than a quart of oil between changes, others can consume as much as a quart every 600 to 700 miles. Maintaining proper oil levels can help you avoid costly car repairs; engine wear or damage resulting from low oil levels will not be covered by your new-car warranty.”

 

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.