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.

Back to School Road Safety

In most areas, kids are now back in school and you are seeing more school-related traffic on the roadways. This includes those dreaded school buses, which always seem to magically appear in front of you when you are running late. While sharing the road with school buses can be somewhat of a pain, try to keep in mind that buses play an essential role in the safe transportation of children. It is important to support them by knowing and obeying school bus traffic laws.

School Bus

According to the National Safety Council, school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation for students. They warn, 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.

The council offers the following points to remind drivers of school traffic safety laws and procedures:

  • In all 50 states 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.
  • Drivers should never block crosswalks when waiting to turn or stopped 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.

To learn more about the laws in your area, see AAA’s summary of school bus traffic laws state by state

If your morning commute takes you through an area with school bus stops, just leave a little early so you won’t have to stress about delays. Remember, we are all sharing the same roadways, and it is up to each of us to keep the drive safe!

More Travelers Than Ever Expected for Independence Day

Next week a record number of people will be travelling on America’s roadways for Independence Day vacations. According to AAA, a new record will be set with 41.4 million Americans traveling by automobile this Independence Day.

Independence Day Travel

Travel  numbers are up this year for several  reasons. Lower gas prices have more people making road trip plans and a robust economy has greater numbers of Americans planning vacations across the United States.

When making your plans for your Independence Day holiday or other summer travel, make sure your vehicle is safe and ready for the road.  Start with this check list:

  • Test your battery
  • Check your lights to make sure all are working
  • Make sure wiper blades are in good shape
  • Check fluid levels
  • Check the pressure on all tires including your spare
  • Pack roadside emergency items like jumper cables and travel compressor

Other ideas for planning a smoother trip include:

  • Make sure your maps are up-to-date – whether paper or GPS
  • Download an app like GasBuddyto make sure you find the best gas prices
  • Check out the Waze app for real-time traffic info
  • Pack snacks and drinks for the car to save time and money
  • Plan your route and stops before you leave
  • Bring along a cell phone charger with a car adapter

Where ever you are planning to go, have fun and have a safe trip!

Slow Down and Look Out for Potholes

potholeNow is the time of year when legions potholes bring appearing everywhere. Not only do these annoying, and often cavernous craters jar you with a panic-inducing thud when you hit them, they can inflict some significant damage on your car.

While it may seem as though an army of gremlins equipped with pickaxes and jackhammers has launched a full scale assault on your neighborhood roadways, there is actually a more reasonable explanation for potholes.  The pothole problem begins in the winter, when freezing and thawing cycles cause cracks in road surfaces to get larger and further degrade. The application of road salt can accelerate the damage because it creates more freezing and thawing stress while melting ice on the roadway. In the spring, heavy rains infiltrate the cracks and cause more deterioration.

Potholes are more than an annoyance. Hitting potholes can lead to serious vehicle component damage, typically to the shocks and struts, which control ride and handling. Shocks and struts dampen the bouncing action of the vehicle springs by regulating spring and suspension movement. They keep the car’s tires in contact with the road to facilitate proper steering, stability, and braking. Compromised shocks and struts can create a dangerous situation, so it is important to be aware of the signs that your shocks or struts may need to be replaced:

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

Hitting potholes can also result in tire and wheel damage, engine and  exhaust system issues, as well as suspension problems. Have your vehicle inspected if you experience any of the these types of issues. Addressing pothole damage issues early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.

Remember, it is really important to slow down and look out for potholes, especially at this time of year. When you see ones that are particularly bad, look up your local DOT or government website to see if you can report them. Crews are out repairing potholes, but they can only fix the ones they know about.

Teaching Younger Drivers Vehicle and Tire Maintenance

teensEach year a new batch of younger drivers pulls onto America’s roadways. During their intensive training, they learn the rules of the road, how to maneuver a vehicle, and the importance of safe driving. Especially poignant for this new tech-savvy generation, they are warned about the dangers of distracted driving. With all of this preparation, there is one important area that seems to have been overlooked with younger drivers. That area is the importance of vehicle and tire maintenance.

A recent Tire Review article illustrates this problem by highlighting a recent study commissioned by Goodyear Auto Service and Just Tires. According to the study, “Younger drivers (millennial/Gen Z) are more than 1.5 times more likely to identify popular emojis correctly than the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning symbol.”

As the article points out, failure to identify the TPMS light likely means that the necessary services indicated by vehicle warning lights are being ignored. The study also found that most of the surveyed younger drivers were not taking adequate measures to prepare their vehicles for winter:

“Among drivers who live in areas with usually cold winters, less than half (42%) get their tires checked in advance of the winter season. And almost two in five winter drivers (37%) do not take any action at all to prepare their cars for winter unless they have an issue. As a general rule of thumb, drivers should check their tires monthly, especially during temperature shifts of 10 degrees or more.”

One of the best ways to combat the problem of poorly prepared younger drivers is for seasoned drivers to seek out the young people in their lives and offer them guidance. Educate new drivers on the importance of preventative car care and how proper maintenance directly effects driver safety.

CarCare.org offers free online resources for new drivers. Among the available resources are:

Take time to prepare the younger drivers in your life. They will benefit from increased confidence and you will enjoy the peace of mind in knowing they are fully ready for the road!