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!

Make Regular Auto and Tire Care Your 2019 Resolution

happy-year-2019How much thought do you give to your vehicle and how it is running? Do you only notice your tires if they are flat? Perhaps your resolution for 2019 should be making a commitment to preventative auto and tire care. Consistent auto and tire care not only make sense for protecting and prolonging the life of your vehicle and tires, it also means you will be safer on the road.

When it comes to taking care of your tires, the most important things to check regularly are tire pressure and tread depth. Set a reminder on your calendar to check your tire pressure at least once a month. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. The pressure of your spare tire should also be checked to assure it is ready when you need it.

Make sure the tread depth of your tires is sufficient by using the penny test. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into several different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head.  If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it is time for a new set of tires. If the tread is in good shape, Abe’s head will be covered to about the forehead hairline.

In order to be sure your vehicle is running properly and performing at its best, you must stay on schedule with recommended regular maintenance services. While it is easy to put these services off, it is always far less costly in terms of time and money to catch problems before they become serious and expensive. The services listed below are commonly recommended, but you should consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s suggested services and frequency.

  • Coolant Flush and Replacement
  • Oil Change
  • Fluid Checks – Power Steering and Brake
  • Brake Inspection
  • Check Belts & Hoses
  • Filters – Air and Fuel
  • Battery & Cables
  • Lights
  • Exhaust System
  • Windshield Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades

Both your vehicle and tires will also benefit from consistent tire balancing and rotation service. These services should be performed in accordance with your owner’s manual recommended schedule. Tire balancing assures even tire wear and provides a smooth ride by properly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire rotation will greatly extend the life of your tires. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines.

Establishing a regular care routine allows you to drive with confidence knowing that you are traveling safely. You will also get to enjoy your vehicle and tire investment much longer.

October is Fall Car Care Month

October is Car Care MonthBasic auto service and repairs can go a long way in improving the safety and dependability of a vehicle. The non-profit Car Care Council recommends 10 Fall Car Care maintenance procedures that will help your vehicle operate at its best before the winter season arrives.

Fall Car Care Month is the perfect time to give your car the much needed attention before cooler and harsher weather sets in. Just like the Car Care Council, we suggest that now is the time to take care of your vehicle to avoid potential headaches in the future.

Check all fluids – Window washer solvent, anti-freeze/coolant as well as engine oil, power steering, brake & transmission.

Check the battery – Replace if necessary. Ensure the connection is tight, clean, and free of corrosion.

Check hoses & belts – Make sure they are not loose, cracked, brittle, or even showing signs of excessive wear.

Check your brakes – Annual brake checks are suggested. As well as taking a look at the rotors, drums & brake linings.

Inspect the exhaust system – Leaks, damage & broken elements can occur. Inspect for unusual behaviors or loud noises.

Check your engine – Your vehicle craves the best balance of power & fuel economy while producing the lowest level of emissions.

Check your wipers – It’s important to see and be seen during winter driving. Check all the interior and exterior lighting.

Check heating/HVAC system – Proper heating & cooling performance is crucial for your safety.

Inspect steering & suspension – Annual checking is recommended. We would also encourage a review of other components like shock absorbers, struts, ball joints & tie rod ends.

Check your tires – Uneven wear and tears can greatly affect your safety. As can poorly inflated tires.

Vehicle manufacturers have specific recommendations, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines if you have specific questions.

How to Extend Tire Life

extend tire lifeTires are a significant investment. Not just because of the high price, but because of how crucial they are to your safety as well as the safety of your passengers. When buying new tires, it is important to get the right tires for your particular vehicle, make sure they are quality tires, and to have them installed by an experienced and reputable tire dealer.

Proper tire care is will go a long way toward making sure your tires stay safe and keep them performing at their best.  Keeping your tires well maintained is also the best way to extend tire life and optimize the value you get from your tire investment.

What You Can Do to Extend Tire Life

Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. When tires are allowed to drop to an inflation level that is below the recommended pressure, an additional load is placed on the shoulder of the tire, causing that area to wear prematurely. Underinflated tires also build up internal heat, increasing rolling resistance and reducing fuel  economy. It is not always easy to determine if tires are properly inflated just by looking at them. It is important to use a tire gauge to check tire pressure regularly. Keep tires inflated to the level  recommended in your owner’s manual.

Keep an eye on your tread. This is something drivers don’t often think to do unless they have a noticeable leak or have been driving on unavoidable debris. Checking your tire tread regularly provides you with the opportunity catch wear trends before they have done too much damage. Problems can be spotted by visual inspection or by running your hand over the tread and feeling for problems. Potential issues include distortion in the tread, feathering or cupping. If caught early enough, bad wear patterns can be countered to extend the tire service life.

What to Have Your Mechanic Do to Extend Tire Life

Have your wheel alignment checked regularly, according to the recommendation of your owners’ manual. A very common cause of unusual tread wear is poor vehicle alignment. When tires are unable to run straight ahead, accelerated tread wear occurs on certain parts of the tire. Regular alignment service will keep your vehicle from experiencing a variety of alignment related problems, including uneven and premature tread wear.

Along with regular alignment service, tire rotation should be performed on an ongoing basis. A consistent and documented schedule of tire rotation will promote even tread wear and extend tire service life. Wheel and suspension components can also adversely impact tire service life. A wheel bearing that has been incorrectly torqued can cause irregular tire wear. Worn shock absorbers can create depression wear on treads. Rather than waiting until trouble strikes, replace shock absorbers and other suspension components on a set schedule.

Extreme Heat Means Vehicles Need Extra Attention

Open Road Sun ShiningDrivers know that winter weather and dropping temperatures mean that your vehicle will require additional care to assure it runs smoothly and dependably. What many drivers may not realize is that scorching summer temperatures can also take a serious toll on your car. To avoid the risk of being stranded, motorists should keep in mind that extreme heat means that vehicles need some extra attention.

According to a recent heat wave recap from AAA Mid-Atlantic, more than 9,000 stranded Philadelphia drivers had to be serviced within a seven day period. 40 percent of those calls for assistance were due to dead car batteries and flat tires that resulted from the heat.

In addition the dangers and inconvenience of being stranded, drivers need to be mindful of the detrimental effects extreme heat can have on the vehicle itself. Driving with an overheated engine can compromise engine components and cause serious damage requiring expensive repairs.

AAA advises all motorists living and driving in areas experiencing extreme heat to take extra precautions by following these preventative maintenance tips:

  • Batteries – Heat ruins batteries. Have your battery tested to be sure it is strong enough to endure the punishing summer temperatures.
  • Tires – Soft, under-inflated tires generate heat, which can result in a blowout. Keep your tires inflated to the pressure recommended for your vehicle.
  • Fluids – Check all fluids including the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed. The fluid level in the radiator should be checked as well, however, NEVER remove the radiator cap when the engine is HOT, as this can result in serious injury. Always perform your vehicle’s preventive fluid checks while the engine is cool.
  • Coolant – Drivers should have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer as part of scheduled maintenance. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is usually required every two to five years.

 

The Road Salt Assault

Washes are Important Now for Removing Road Salt

road saltRoad salt is a necessary evil. It is great for preventing accidents and keeping roadways safe. Salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water, making it a fast and inexpensive way to melt slippery snow and ice on the road. The problem is that salt is also a highly corrosive element, and its affects can be extremely damaging to your vehicle.

Road salt exposure throughout the winter can wreak havoc on the metal components of your car. Most vehicles have an exposed underbody, so most 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 salt damage.

Thankfully the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. And since the process of salt leading to corrosion and rust takes awhile, you have time to undo salt damage potential.

The best way to protect your car from road salt corrosion is to take it in for regular washings during the winter months . Base the frequency of your car washings on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out it the winter months, since salt is particularly hard on chrome.

For further protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing seasonally will make your washes more effective.

What Happened to My Heating System?

car heating system

Two Likely Reasons Why Your Car Heating System is Giving You the Cold Shoulder

You dust the snow off your vehicle and scrape the ice from the windshield. After letting your engine warm up for the usual amount of time, you turn up the thermostat, anticipating that warm, comforting heat. But then it hits you – a blast of cold air. You wonder, what happened to my car’s heating system?

How the Car Heating System Works

Your car heating system depends on an essential element called the heater core. The heater core acts as a heat exchanger, distributing heat into the cabin of the car. The car’s engine provides the original source for this heat, which increases as the engine operates.

Heat is conveyed from the engine to the heater core by way of a liquid called coolant. Coolant serves a dual purpose in that it first pumps through the engine to cool it and protect it from overheating, and then recycles the heat it removes by sending it into the radiator and circulating it to the heater core.

At least this is what happens if the heating system is functioning as it should.

Two Common Heating System Problems

If your car’s heater is blowing cold air, there are two issues that are often to blame:

  1. The coolant is not properly flowing through the heater core
  2. The air from the blower motor is not being directed through the heater core

In the case of coolant flow issues, the problem can often be attributed to a plugged heater core.

If the problem is air flow, it could be a malfunctioning, or stuck blend door. These doors are  flaps inside the ducts that open and close to allow heat or stop heat from coming through the vents into the passenger compartment.

If your car is not warming up to you, take it in to your auto pro to have it checked for these issues.

Resolve to Take Better Care of Your Vehicle and Tires

auto_care_resolutionsLet’s face it, we tend to take our ride for granted. For the most part it is always there, ready to take us wherever and whenever we need to go. We only think about taking care of it when there is an obvious problem, like a flat tire or a dead battery. The problem with this approach is that it is not good for your car, and it can be very risky for the safety of you and your passengers. Why not make 2018 the year you resolve to make vehicle maintenance a priority? Regular auto and tire maintenance not only make sense for protecting and prolonging the life of your vehicle and tires, it also means you’ll be safer on the road.

Check Tire Pressure & Tread Depth

Make it a point to check your tire pressure at least once a month. You can find the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires listed in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure.  Don’t forget to also check the pressure of your spare tire.

You also should check the tread depth on your tires two or three times a year. The penny test is a simple way to gauge your tread depth. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into five different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head.  If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are excessively worn, and it is time for a new set of tires. If Abe’s head is covered to about the forehead hairline, the tread is in good shape and you probably do not need new tires.

Tire Balancing & Rotation

Tire balancing and rotation should be part of your regular service. Tire balancing provides a smooth ride and assures even tire wear by properly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire rotation is an important maintenance step that will greatly extend the life of your tires. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, so it is advisable to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines to ensure proper tread wear.

Stick to a Regular Maintenance Schedule

To keep your car running properly and performing at peak levels, it is essential to stay up-to-date with recommended regular maintenance services. Like us, our vehicles need regular check-ups to maintain good health and catch potential problems before they become serious issues. The following is a list of typical services – consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s recommended services and frequency.

  • Coolant Flush and Replacement
  • Oil Change
  • Fluid Checks – Power Steering and Brake
  • Brake Inspection
  • Check Belts & Hoses
  • Filters – Air and Fuel
  • Battery & Cables
  • Lights
  • Exhaust System
  • Windshield Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades

Establishing a regular care routine allows you to drive with confidence knowing that you are traveling safely where ever the road takes you. You will also get to enjoy your vehicle and tire investment much longer.

Three Automotive Services You Should Leave to the Pros

Automotive Services You Should Leave to the ProsThere is nothing I love to hear about more than someone who is enthusiastic about taking care of their car. I am a big proponent of drivers investing time in learning about their vehicles so they can do their own service and repair work. Having said that, I will add the following caveat, some automotive services should always be left to the professionals. No matter how much of a car enthusiast you are or how much you need to save money, some auto services simply should not be done at home for the sake of vehicle safety.

What does the auto professional offer that you cannot? Unless you are a trained and certified mechanic, you more than likely do not have the education and experience needed to do the job right. Also, people do not have in their home garages the costly and complex equipment that is required to properly diagnose and repair today’s vehicles. Your local auto service professional is equipped to perform all automotive services in an affordable and timely manner.

For this post, I will be focusing on three examples of automotive services you should leave to the professionals: Engine Diagnostics, Tire Rotation, and Suspension Repairs.

Engine Diagnostics – Today’s advanced on-board automotive technology has greatly simplified the diagnosis of engine problems to a large degree, however the technology is not perfect, and it does not eliminate the need for human interpretation. Engine codes can be very general and require more sophisticated equipment to reveal the true source of the problem.

Tire Rotation – While it may seem simple to jack up your vehicle and change the tires around, not doing the job correctly could mean costly damage to your tires, or worse yet, it could result in losing a wheel at highway speeds and a life threatening auto accident. It is better to have a tire professional do the job. They have the training to not only do the job properly, but also to spot signs of uneven tread wear and tire damage.

Suspension Repairs – The suspension system of your vehicle provides stability to your vehicle’s steering system therefore it is critical to the safety of your vehicle. Any work you do or new components you install during a suspension repair could have a serious impact on suspension system performance and reliability.

While some auto services should be left to the professionals, there are many simple car maintenance services you can perform yourself. Just keep in mind this rule of thumb – when in doubt, see an automotive services professional.