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.

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, and that you know how to jump start a car 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.

 

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.

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!

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.

Best Way to Clean Your Car Interior and Kill Coronavirus

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

clean your car interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay clean and be safe!

3 Cold Weather Car Problems You Can Prevent

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

Winter Driving

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

Problem: Lost Tire Pressure

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

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

Problem: Weak or Dead Batteries

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

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

Problem: Thickened Fluids

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

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

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

Stay warm, stay safe, and be prepared!

Auto Safety – Teen Develops Promising Solution to the Blind Spot

Auto safety is always a great topic to discuss and recently there has been much buzz about a fourteen-year-old Pennsylvania student who invented a new vehicle safety feature that earned her a $25,000 prize. 

Teen Develops Blind Spot Solution

Over the decades, automobile design and engineering have made tremendous strides in terms of safety features, including strengthening of the vehicle frame to prevent vehicle collapse in the event of a rollover. Unfortunately, this strong A-frame design leads to serious visibility problems for drivers, as the A-frame pillars create “blind spots” in the driver’s viewable area. According to NHTSA data, nearly 840,000 accidents per year are related to blind spot issues.

Fourteen-year-old Alaina Gassler of West Grove, PA seems to have hit upon a viable solution to this issue with her blind spot reduction system, which makes the A-frame pillars in a vehicle effectively disappear! Alaina’s system employees the use of a webcam, a projector, a 3D printed adapter and retro-reflective fabric. It is demonstrated in the video below:

The invention, which she completed while in eighth grade, earned Alaina a grand prize of $25,000 from the Society for Science and the Public’s Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) science and engineering competition.

Congratulations to this incredible young woman on her achievement!

STOP! Pay Attention to Signs of Brake Problems

Stop for Brake ProblemsYour car’s brake system is highly complex, involving multiple integrated components, all of which are prone to wear and eventual failure. Brake problems can have serious and deadly consequences, so drivers need to pay attention to any indications of brake trouble. People often ignore the signs, thinking they do not have the time or money to deal with it. But when you think of all that is at stake if your brakes fail, you cannot afford to ignore any warning signs.

Today’s vehicles have many ways of letting you know that brake problems may be starting. Pay attention to brake problem warning signs and you can have brake problems fixed before they put the safety of you and your passengers in jeopardy.

Common Warning Signs of Brake Problems:

Strange Noises

If you hear a high, screeching sound when you apply your brakes, it might mean that your brake pads are excessively worn and need to be replaced.

When Braking Causes the Vehicle to Pull to One Side

When your car pulls to one side as you are braking, it could be an indication that the brake lining is wearing unevenly or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

Brake Pedal Feels Odd or Spongy

When you hit the brake pedal, it might feel spongy or sink to the floor. This could mean a leak in the braking system, such as an air leak in the brake hose or a brake fluid leak. A brake pedal that feels stiff or is difficult to press may indicate a blockage in the brake line or an issue in the vacuum system.

Excessive Vibration When Braking

You might notice excessive vibration in your brake pedal during breaking, similar to the vibration you feel when the anti-lock brakes feature engages. This vibration or pulsating can be an indication of warped rotors.

Jerking Sensation As Brakes are Applied

If you experience a grabbing or jerking feeling when applying the brakes, it could mean the rotor is unevenly worn or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

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. It can happen that service lights come on even when there is not a problem, if you see the brake service light up, you definitely should take your vehicle in for a brake system inspection.