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.

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.

 

Tune Up Service & Spark Plug Replacement

Spark PlugsTune up service and spark plug replacement are important for maintaining the power and efficiency of your vehicle’s engine. The engine is made up of many components working together to ensure proper starting and functioning. These components eventually wear out or break down, which may result in lost performance and inefficient fuel economy. Tune up service performed by your auto service professional will help maintain and extend auto life.

Spark plugs are an essential component that is checked during a tune up. Spark plugs initiate the combustion and power needed to move a vehicle. This combustion drives clean gas and air to the vehicle’s cylinders. Eventually fuel injectors become clogged, fuel filters get dirty, and the spark plugs become corroded. When parts are compromised, the engine will not perform as it should, and gas mileage will suffer. During tune up service, your auto professional will inspect your car and follow the recommendation schedule for replacing components.

While your car is in for a tune up, other maintenance services can be done. This may include checking the brakes and clutch, fluid and oil levels, and any other components. Having tune up service and spark plug replacement done on a regular basis will prevent serious and costly problems down the road.

Generally speaking, you should have a tune up every two years or every 30,000 miles, whichever comes first. See your owner’s manual for your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.

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.

Understanding The Importance of Brake Maintenance

The Importance of Brake Maintenance, Part Two  

Brakes are critical to ensuring our safety on the road. Vehicle owners should have a general understanding of its brake system and the brake maintenance it requires. This is part two of our overview brake system and what services brakes require.

Brake Maintenance

Brake System Maintenance

Brake system maintenance allows your auto technician to evaluate the degree of brake pad wear and determine when replacement is necessary.

Brake Pads and Rotors

Brake pads and rotors are the point at which the braking system connects with the tires. Due to the stress of extreme friction, these components deteriorate more easily than others and need more frequent maintenance. It is important to inspect the condition and depth of the pads to make sure there is sufficient resistance.

Brake Fluid

A car’s brake system relies on a hydraulic fluid, commonly referred to as brake fluid. Flowing through the brake lines, brake fluid provides the power or force necessary to bring a vehicle to a stop. It is necessary to drain and replace brake fluid periodically because it absorbs moisture from the air and degrades over time. Changing brake fluid at recommended intervals will assure proper brake system functioning. Brake fluid changes are typically done every one or two years, however different vehicles will have different recommendations for best performance.

Since your vehicle’s brake system and brake fluid are so crucial to its safe operation, it is really important to have brake service maintenance done by a qualified professional automotive technician.

In addition having regular brake system maintenance performed, it is important to pay attention to any signs of brake problems and have them looked at right away.

Signs of trouble might include:

  • Strange Noises When Braking
  • Braking Causes the Vehicle to Pull to One Side
  • Brake Pedal Feels Odd or Spongy
  • Excessive Vibration When Braking
  • Jerking Sensation As Brakes are Applied

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. Take your vehicle in for a brake system inspection.

Understanding The Importance of Brake Maintenance

The Importance of Brake Maintenance  – Part One

We all know how important our brakes are to ensuring our safety on the road. What we might not keep in mind is the importance of brake maintenance. Drivers should have a basic understanding of their vehicle’s brake system and the brake maintenance our vehicles need. This two part post will give you a simple overview of how brakes work and what services they require.

Importance of Brake Maintenance

Types of Brake Systems and How They Work

There are three basic types of brakes: anti-lock brakes, emergency brakes, and service brakes. 

Anti-lock Brake Systems (ABS) are a safety feature included in most newer vehicles. This computer-controlled technology works with a vehicle braking system to decrease stopping distance and also increase control and stability. ABS monitors the speed of each wheel and automatically pulses the brake pressure. When hard and sudden braking occurs, ABS prevents the wheels from locking up, and keeps the tires from going into a skid. 

Emergency or Parking Brakes function apart from the service brakes and are typically non-hydraulic, using cables to mechanically apply the braking function. How emergency brakes are applied can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Some emergency brake systems are operated using a stick lever, some with a floor pedal, and some feature a button or handle near the steering column.

Service Brakes refers to the overall brake system used to decrease speed and bring the vehicle to a stop. In most cases, service brakes include a four-wheel disc or a combination of disc on front and drums on the back wheels. They are activated when the brake pedal is pressed, distributing hydraulic force to all wheels. Front brakes provide more force than the rear brakes for stopping the vehicle since braking propels the weight of the vehicle forward onto the front wheels.

Disc brakes use calipers, brake rotors, and brake pads. Each disc brake has a brake pad on both sides that push against the brake rotor when pressure is applied to the brake pedal. Drum brakes are enclosed within the wheel cylinder and have brake shoes that press out against the drum when pressure is applied to the brake pedal. 

In part two of this series, we will take a look at brake maintenance and signs of brake problems.

Do You Need Winter Tires?

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

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

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

Winter Tires

What Makes Winter Tires Different Than Regular Tires?

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

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

Now is the Time to Buy!

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

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

Things to Keep in Mind

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

 

 

Five Steps for After Road Trip Car Care

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

summer vacation car trip

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

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

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

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