Understanding Car Maintenance: Air Filter Check

This week’s topic is a follow up to previous post on understanding car maintenance. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at simple checks you can do on your own, which will help you to better understand your vehicle and keep it running smoothly. This post will cover air filters.

The benefits of a clean air filter include enhanced engine performance, longer engine life, better gas mileage, and lower emissions. A dirty air filter prevents the necessary amount of clean air from reaching the engine, which hinders the car’s emission control system by reducing air flow. Lack of clean air may lead to ignition problems caused by dirty spark plugs, leading to engine miss, rough idle and starting problems.To check your air filter condition:

  1. Turn off the engine, pop the hood, and wait for the engine to cool
  2. Look for the filter housing, which is located near the engine
  3. Open housing by loosening bolts or clips (see your manual for specific details)
  4. Remove filter
  5. Tap it lightly on a hard surface to remove loose dirt

If it looks excessively dirty, you probably need a replacement. Your auto service provider can help you with selecting a quality air filter replacement that is right for your vehicle make and model.

Understanding Car Maintenance

Dear Tracy,

My brother recently handed down his 2005 Honda Accord to me. While he is very generous, I am afraid he was not all that committed keeping up with auto maintenance. I plan to take the car in for inspection and maintenance services, but before I do, I would like to check things out for myself. Not only do I want to be familiar with my car, I want to be an informed consumer of auto products and services. Can you tell me what things I can check out myself ahead of time?

Anna B.

Dear Anna,

Congratulations on your new car and on your decision to be an informed car owner! You are smart to take care of your car, and especially wise to want to educate yourself on car maintenance.

Your decision to take your car in for a professional  inspection is a good one. Auto safety is extremely important, and your trusted auto service provider can make sure your car is in peak condition. That said, there are some basic things you can check on your own regarding simple auto maintenance:

  • Air Filter – this simple, but important maintenance step will help keep your engine clean.
  • Oil Check – oil changes are necessary, but it is also important to regularly check your oil
  • Engine Leaks – these are a sure sign of trouble, but easy to miss – watch for them
  • Accessory Belts – worn belts can mean big problems – catch them before they break
  • Wiper Blades – blade condition means the difference between good visibility and bad
  • Exterior Lights – take the time to make sure your lights are working
  • Tire Condition – make sure the tread looks good and that the pressure is right

Being an educated vehicle owner is important! In the next few weeks, I will offer a little more in depth advice on some of these checks, so stay tuned.

Knowing your vehicle and finding a trusted local auto service professional will keep you driving safely,  reliably, and efficiently.

Getting a Grip on Hydroplaning

Not only do April showers bring May flowers, they also mean more water on the road and greater risk of hydroplaning. Anyone who has experienced it knows that hydroplaning is one of the more frightening situations that can occur while driving.

What is hydroplaning and how does it occur?

Hydroplaning occurs when water pressure causes a vehicle to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water. It is like skidding, but potentially much more hazardous. The reason hydroplaning is so dangerous is because your vehicle loses contact with the road, leaving you with little way to control it.

The tread on tires is designed to help prevent hydroplaning. The treads function to channel and disperse water and slush, away from the face of the tire. If the tread is unable to do this, the vehicle will hydroplane, and the driver will lose braking and steering control. This can happen for a number of reasons including worn tread, improper inflation, and driving at speeds that are too high for the conditions. Traveling at high speed does not give the tire enough time to push the water out of the way, as it is designed to do.

Prevention is the best defense.

The best way to avoid hydroplaning is by keeping your tires properly inflated and making sure you have adequate tire tread. Your driving habits will also help or hurt you when it comes to wet conditions. Slow down when driving in rain, snow, or slush, especially when turning or on curves. Do your best to avoid puddles or standing water in the roadway. In the case of snow,  drive in the tire tracks left by the vehicles in front of you.

If hydroplaning does ever occur, resist the urge to brake or turn suddenly. This is likely to throw your vehicle into a skid or spin. Ease your foot off the gas until the vehicle slows and you can feel the road again. If it is necessary to brake, do so with a light pumping action. Vehicles with anti-lock braking systems will automatically pump as you brake, safely and effectively.

Remember, the best way to manage hydroplaning it to do all you can to prevent it from occurring.

Free “SaferCar” App for iPhone

A new free mobile app released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now available for iPhone and iPod Touch users. The app provides real-time information to help consumers “Buy Safe, Drive Safe, and Stay Safe.”

The SaferCar app  gives consumers on demand access to important safety information to help them make informed decisions. Features include:

  • 5-Star Safety Ratings: Car shoppers can look up crash test ratings and compare them across different makes and models.
  • Recalls and Complaints: Drivers can stay on top of safety issues for vehicles they own by registering their vehicles to be notified by NHTSA if a safety issue is discovered. The app also provides an easy way to submit complaints to NHTSA regarding potential safety issues with a particular vehicle.
  • Child Seat Installation Assistance: The app helps users to readily access driving directions to the nearest child seat inspection station and get knowledgeable assistance in properly installing car seats and booster seats.
  • Safety Headlines and Alerts: Users can receive essential news and information from NHTSA, as well as recall notices and push notices on their recorded vehicles.

For now, the SaferCar app is only available for iPhone and iPod Touch devices, and can be downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Store. Development is currently underway for an Android version of the SaferCar app.