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.

 

The Winter Driving Hazard Most Drivers Don’t Think About

Driving during the winter months can be downright stressful. In our last post, we looked at preventable problems associated with cold weather driving, but, no matter how prepared you may be, slick roads are potentially dangerous for everyone. While road salt provides an effective way to deal with ice on the roads, it also creates an additional winter driving hazard that most people do not even think about.

icy-roads

Road salt exposure throughout the winter season has a punishing effect on the metal components of your vehicle. Most auto designs have an exposed underbody, which means the majority of salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your car can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. Rubber tires are mostly resistant to salt damage, however, your metal wheels are highly vulnerable to salt damage.

Vehicle manufacturers understand this winter driving issue, so the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. Also working to our advantage is the fact that corrosion and rust do not happen quickly. This means that you have time to undo salt damage potential with regular car washes.

Car Wash

It does not take long for salt and dirty snow to make your car virtually unrecognizable. But washing your vehicle when it’s just going to get dirty again the second you hit the road probably seems like a waste of time and money. On the contrary, regular washes are definitely worth the investment because they are the best way to remove the road salt that is a serious corrosion hazard. 

How frequently should you wash your vehicle? That depends 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 during the winter season, since salt is particularly hard on chrome. For extra protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing in the fall will help make your winter washes more effective.

Three Ways to Lower the Cost of Driving

In the past century, owning a car has gone from being a luxury to a necessity, with the average number of cars per household in the U.S. at 1.88 in 2017. While car ownership is more prevalent these days, it still is an expensive proposition. From the initial cost of the car and insurance, to the price of gas and maintenance, when you add it all up, the cost of driving is considerable.

cost of driving

There are definitely things you can do to get the most value from your investment, beginning with buying the right car. Make sure the car you select is dependable. It is also a good idea to choose one that delivers good fuel economy. Most importantly, during the car buying process, be honest and realistic about your budget so you aren’t weighed down with monthly payments you cannot afford.

Once you have purchased your vehicle and insurance, the opportunities to save don’t end. There are additional ways you can lower the cost of driving that will provide you with a little extra financial breathing room.

  1. Make sure you stick with a regular car maintenance schedule.

Following the regular schedule of recommended maintenance will not only keep your car running more dependably, it will decrease the cost of repairs and replacements for preventable issues. While you do have to pay for things like tire rotation, oil changes, and wheel alignment, these costs are far less than the major problems that will result from neglecting maintenance. 

Regular maintenance typically includes services like brake checks and service, wheel alignment, tire rotation, oil filter changes, fluid checks, air filter changes and brake checks. Always read check your owner’s manual for your car’s specific requirements. 

  1. Make changes to your driving habits.

It is actually surprising how much money you can save by making some changes to your driving habits. Ride sharing will save you gas and mileage on your car. Planning shopping trips and errands can also help you consolidate trips for additional savings. If you are not familiar with the route options when driving somewhere, use an app to help you determine the most efficient way to reach your destination. 

  1. Optimize your fuel efficiency.

Aside from buying a car with good gas mileage, there are other things you can do to improve your fuel efficiency. Avoid jackrabbit starts – make it a habit to accelerate gently. Do not use your car as a storage facility. The extra weight of a loaded trunk will have an impact on your fuel economy. Lastly, keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure. This will improve fuel efficiency and extend the life of your tires.

5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Tires Last Longer

tire on roadDriving on tires that are in good condition is critical to your safety and that of your passengers. If that was not reason enough to take good care of your tires, consider how much you spent on them. Wouldn’t you like to have them last as long as possible?

Like any other essential component of your vehicle, tires require proper care and maintenance to keep them performing safely, and to assure they provide optimal driving performance.

Did you know there are five easy things you can do to make sure your tires last as long as possible? Check out this list of simple ways to get the most out of your tire investment.

  1. Check tire inflation 

As underinflated tires meet the road, an additional load is placed on the shoulder of the tire, causing that area to wear prematurely. Underinflated tires also build up internal heat, which increases rolling resistance and in turn reduces fuel  economy. Tire air pressure should be checked monthly and it is best to consistently use the same tire gauge. Remember to check pressure when the car has been parked for at least a few hours so the tires are cool. Keep them inflated to the level recommended in your owner’s manual.

  1. Keep an eye on your tread wear

Most drivers don’t think to check tread wear unless they have driven through unavoidable debris. It is important, however, to inspect your tire tread regularly in order to catch wear trends before they cause major wear issues. Problems can be spotted by visual inspection or by running your hand over the tread and feeling it. Distortion in the tread, feathering, or cupping are all abnormalities you should watch for. If caught early, bad wear patterns can often be countered to extend the tire service life.

  1. Keep up on vehicle alignment service.

When unusual tread wear is spotted, poor vehicle alignment is often the culprit. Accelerated tread wear occurs on certain areas of the tire when they are unable to move in straight ahead position. Regular alignment keeps the vehicle from experiencing a variety of problems, including uneven and premature tread wear.

  1. Keep up on tire rotation service

Like alignment service, tire rotation should be performed on a consistent basis. Keeping up with scheduled tire rotation will promote even tread wear and extend tire service life.

  1. Inspect and replace wheel and suspension components  as necessary

While not something you may consider when you think of tires, wheel and suspension components can have a considerable impact on tire service life. An improperly torqued wheel bearing can cause improper tire wear, and worn shock absorbers can create depression wear on treads. Don’t wait until problems occur – replace shock absorbers and other suspension components on a regular schedule.

 

Tire Rotation & Tread Inspection

Tire Rotation and Tread Inspection – Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance

Tire Rotation and Tread Wear InspectionTires are the focus of this post in our series on Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance. As one of the most important safety and performance features on your vehicle, tires need the same attention to maintenance that essential mechanical components require. Tire rotation and tread inspection are two recommended maintenance items that need to be done regularly.

What tire rotation and tread inspection do for vehicle performance

Tire rotation and tread inspection are about extending the usable life of your tires and making sure they are safe. By rotating the tires, you can balance out the wear to get the most even wear on all four tires. Since tires in different positions do not wear the same, this will also help to assure there is a safe and sufficient amount of tread on every tire.

What happens during tire rotation and tread inspection service?

Rotation service consists of rotating or repositioning tires by moving them from one side of the vehicle to the other. Depending on the vehicle manufacturer recommendation, this may include moving them from front to back. Tires tend to wear differently depending on their position, the condition of your suspension, and the way you drive. When your auto service professional rotates your vehicle’s tires, the front tires are usually swapped with the rear tires. Typically the driver side tires stay on the driver side and the passenger side tires stay on the passenger side. This can vary with different types of vehicles or tires.

Why tire rotation and tread inspection are necessary

Regular rotation and tread inspection are important because tires are subjected to a tremendous amount of wear. Without proper rotation, your tires will wear prematurely, preventing you from getting the most from your tire investment. Tire rotation protects your investment by extending the quality and service life of your tires. Tire rotation is also important because it promotes safe and even tread wear. Front and rear tires wear differently. Front tires are subjected to much more pressure than rear tires, so the tread wears more rapidly on the front tires. Regular rotation also improves driving performance and gas mileage.

Quality tires are expensive! It only makes sense to get the most for your money. Tire rotation and tread inspection service will keep your vehicle safe and to keep your tires properly maintained to get the most from them.

How often tire rotation and tread inspection are needed

Generally speaking tire rotation is recommended every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. Your service manual will provide you with the best maintenance schedule for your particular make and model vehicle.

The Cold Facts About Tire Pressure

It is always alarming to see one of the gazillion warning lights on your dashboard illuminate. If you drive a newer vehicle that has an integrated Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) you may find you’ve been recently haunted by the light shown on the right. Seeing the TPMS light more often in winter is not uncommon, but it is also not something you should ignore.

First, it is important to understand how your TPMS works. The system use sensors technology to alert drivers when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. When tire pressure in one or more of your drops, the light comes on.

Since air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, drivers tend to see the TPMS light illuminate. According to tire experts, air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. While you need not necessarily be surprised if  you see the TPMS light come on during cold spells, you should be sure to manually check the air pressure of your tires.

It is very important to check the pressure of your tires when it is cold outside and to keep tires inflated to the proper levels. Reasons include:

  • Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
  • Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not  properly inflated
  • Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
  • Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money

Check the pressure of your tires monthly. In order to obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait until tires have cooled – about 30 minutes after parking.

Buying a Tire Pressure Gauge

Tire GaugesDear Tracy,

I would like to purchase a quality tire gauge to make sure my tire pressure is always at the right level. Can you provide me with any advice for selecting the right type of tire pressure gauge?

-Robyn M.

Dear Robyn,

A quality tire gauge is a great investment! Improperly inflated tires can lead to a host of issues including handling and traction problems, premature tread wear and poor gas mileage. Many folks believe that if their tires look fine, they are fine. That’s not always the case. By the time a tire looks underinflated, tire pressure is extremely low. It is important to do something  before it gets to that point, so monitoring pressure with your own quality gauge is a great way to do that.

There are three types of pressure gauges that are available:

  • Stick gauges – Ball-point pen sized, these gauges are compact and affordable, but can be somewhat difficult to read
  • Digital gauges – These gauges usually have an easy-to read display, but they require batteries and are a bit bulkier
  • Dial gauges – The clock-type faces on these gauges are easy to read, but some models are harder to use and more expensive

When considering the three types of options, think about what features are important to you. If you want to save money, look for a simple stick gauge. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, but want something that is easy to read, the digital gauge is the model for you. If you want something close to what race car drivers use, go for the dial gauge. Whatever model you decide on, don’t necessarily go for the cheapest – go for quality. Ask a sales person about the brands, or if you are shopping online – read reviews. You should be able to find a quality gauge for $5 to $20.

Remember: To maintain the optimal tire condition, check the pressure of your tires at least once a month and before starting on any long trip. For the most accurate reading, check pressure in the morning, when temperatures are cool, and make sure the car has been parked for three or more hours.