Help Your Car Keep Its Cool

Dear Tracy,

As the temperatures rise, I am worried about my car overheating. This summer I have a delivery job that will require me to be on the road most of the day. What should I be doing to make sure my car does not get overheated?

Kris B.

Dear Kris,

You are smart to be thinking ahead about the possibility of your car overheating. That is a very bad situation which can leave you stranded and with a very big auto service bill. Depending on age and condition of your car, you may want to have your car’s cooling system inspected before the temperatures get too intense.

Here are the basic parts of your cooling system, which you will want to have checked out in order to avoid a meltdown:

Radiator – Make sure that your radiator is in good condition, and that the radiator core has not been damaged by salt corrosion. Another problem to check for is a plugged radiator core, which can happen when coolant flushes are neglected.

Coolant – Anti-freeze and coolant are critical to your car’s heating and cooling system. Having the coolant flushes performed per your owner’s manual recommendation is critical in assuring your engine runs cooler and cleaner.

Thermostat – If you have an older car, you may need to have the thermostat replaced when you have cooling system service performed. A failing thermostat is a common cause of engine overheating.

Cooling Fans – Overheating can result from cooling fan failure. Often problems with the air conditioning system can be a sign that you have a cooling fan issue. Have cooling fans inspected so you and your car don’t have to take the heat.

Belts and Hoses – Check the condition of the belts and hoses in your cooling system. Make sure they are tight and in good condition, and free from cracks or rubber deterioration.

Water Pump – An experienced repair technician is usually able to spot a water pump that is about to fail. A break in the water pump will often cause a coolant leak, so if you notice the coolant level dropping at a faster rate, you may have a water pump problem.

Tire Leak – Fix it or Forget it?

Dear Tracy,
I recently noticed that one of my tires is continually losing air, so I need to either repair the tire or replace it. I know that some places repair tires, but I have heard that the only safe option is to replace a damaged tire. I like the idea of repair because my tires are fairly new, however safety is my primary concern, so I am ready to buy a new tire if necessary. Is it okay to repair a leaking tire or should I just get a new one?
–Collin A.

Dear Collin,
If your tire is in good condition, with plenty of tread left, repairing the tire could be a wise option. Whether or not the tire can be repaired, however, will depend on the nature of the damage or puncture. Tire repairs are typically limited to the tread area, and can be prohibited by the diameter and angle of the puncture.

The safest and most thorough way to repair a tire is with a patch and  a plug. The plug, which is a rubber stem, is used to fill the punctured area and the patch is applied to seal the inner lining.

Tire repair is a great alternative to the expense of replacement. Just make sure you have your tire repaired by a tire expert you can trust. It is important that tire repair be done properly to make sure you are safe on the road. Also, don’t put off that repair too much longer. Tire damage that is unaddressed will only worsen, and eventually ruin the tire.

Wheel Alignment Vs. Tire Balancing

Dear Tracy,

What is the difference between wheel alignment and tire balancing? Are these separate services, and if so, should I have them both done at the same time?

-Ben S.

Dear Ben,

Wheel alignment and wheel balancing are separate services, but they are commonly confused. Both of them are important and necessary for enhancing the life and performance of your tires.  Wheel balancing should be performed more frequently, while a wheel alignment should not be needed as often.

Wheels lose balance over time, so wheel balancing service is necessary to restore proper balance. Tread wear causes the distribution of weight around the tire to change. This leads to an imbalance that causes the vehicle to shake or vibrate. During wheel balancing service, the technician will use a calibrated spin balancer, and usually will test both static (non-moving) and dynamic (moving) wheel balance. Improperly balanced wheels will be adjusted to the proper balance. Tire balancing is typically performed when tires are rotated on the vehicle, which is usually every 5-6,000 miles or 6 months.

Wheel alignment is sometimes referred to as “front end alignment” or “tire alignment.” During this service, your technician will adjust the angle of your car’s wheels to the position to the manufacturer’s recommended specification. Wheel alignment service will include a tire tread check for signs of poor alignment, as well as inspection of the toe, camber, and caster, which are the three components for measuring wheel orientation. Following the evaluation, all necessary adjustments are made and the service is complete. Most manufacturers recommend having wheel alignment checked every 10,000 miles. You should also have it checked if you notice the vehicle pulling to one side, or if the vehicle has recently been in a collision.

National Tire Safety Week

June 2-8, 2013 is National Tire Safety Week. In honor of this week, Bridgestone is sharing some helpful tips for safe tires and safe travel:

“This spring and summer, many families will take to the roads to enjoy time away from school and work,” said Gregg Trosper, Manager, Consumer Education, Bridgestone Americas. ” Our tires are the only parts of the car that touch the road, so checking tread and proper inflation is critical to help ensure safe road travel.”

Bridgestone has a helpful way to remember the essentials of good tire maintenance: Inflate, Rotate, Evaluate. In following these simple steps, drivers will be able to drive safely and confidently, on vacation and day to day.

  • Inflate: Proper tire inflation is a critical aspect of tire maintenance. Tires may lose up to one psi per month under normal conditions. Three out of four drivers wash their cars monthly, but one out of seven checks tire pressure correctly.
  • Rotate: Scheduled tire rotations also help prevent irregular and premature tire wear. An estimated 40% of drivers do not rotate tires within the recommended interval, which is at least 5,000 miles.
  • Evaluate: Make it a habit to look for signs of tread wear or damage. The “penny test” is an easy way to check tread wear. Remember, if Lincoln’s head is visible when you place the penny in the treads, the tires are too worn and need to be replaced.

If you just can’t remember to check tire pressure, Bridgestone can help. Visit to sign up for a free monthly email to remind you to check your air pressure. You will also find a wealth of information and advice, as well as an Interactive Tire Pressure Demo.