What to Do About an Overheated Engine: Prevention and Solution

Perhaps one of the most terrifying scenarios when driving is seeing clouds of steam billow from the hood as the temp gauge needle slams into the red line. Chances are, it happens while you’re alone at night, and without cell phone reception. Fortunately, the cause of engine overheating is preventable as long as you are aware of what causes it.

There are a handful of parts that need to be checked in order to maintain a safe driving environment. First, make sure your coolant is in full supply and of good quality. Check the radiator core to make sure it is not blocked. Have your thermostat tested to make sure it is working properly. Examine the fan blades to see if any are cracked or broken. Check the radiator cap to be sure that it is maintaining sufficient pressure.

Sometimes it seems that engine overheating can occur despite preventative measures. In this case, it is important to pull over to a safe area and turn off your car. Here you can give your vehicle a chance to cool down. It’s important to not lift the hood or unscrew the gas or radiator caps while the car is still hot, as built pressure can cause bodily injuries. Now you can check for the level of coolant, look for holes in hoses, and whether or not the thermometer appears to be working.

If you are unable to solve the issue, drive in short increments until you have arrived to a familiar, public destination.  It’s important to not drive the vehicle over long distances.

Unfortunately, there is a myriad of causes to an overheated engine, so you may have to take your vehicle in to a mechanic. Although this is not an ideal situation, at least you will be familiar with how to prevent it from happening in the future.

 

Tune in and Tune up

To extend the life of your car, it’s important to give it a preventative maintenance check, also referred to as a “tune-up.” Depending on your vehicle’s user manual, it is recommended to have a tune-up anywhere from 30,000-60,000 miles.

What a tune-up entails is typically a replacement of certain parts, such as the air filter, spark plugs, fuel valve, oxygen sensor, distributer cap, and rotor. These parts might not seem to have a big impact on the overall condition of your vehicle, but they often affect each other’s performance, so neglecting these changes can cost much more in the long run.

During a tune-up, it is also important to check the status of major systems, like the brake, the clutch, and fluid levels.

Being able to fix or spot a problem early can reduce costs long-term. It is suggested that you refer to your car manual to find out what specific parts need to be checked, and when, because later models might contain new and improved parts.

A tune-up will provide you with a well-maintained vehicle and a priceless peace of mind. You deserve to know that your vehicle is performing at its highest potential.

 

A/C Problems? Don’t Sweat it!

 

For many people, a significant part of summer is embarking on road trips- whether to a neighboring state or (for the hardcore ones) cross-country. While there are many factors that can cause stress to a long drive (such as… the drive), one major concern is the status of your A/C system. If you’re going to be scrunched in a restricted space for more than a few hours, it’s important to be as comfortable as possible. This means having an A/C system that provides a shield from the scorching heat.

There are two main directions your A/C system can stray: reduced air pressure and warmer air temperature. Either of these requires specific attention, and soon in order to keep the cost to a minimum.

The first thing you should check is the warranty from your dealer, as your vehicle might be eligible for a free fix. Otherwise, check in to an auto shop that offers A/C repair services.

It is extremely important to explain in great detail what the problem is. Does the A/C only produce room-temperature air? Is the air failing to reach the back of your vehicle, even on full volume? Good communication can end up saving you money and time.

The solution could be as simple as recharging the A/C system; however, putting off the problem could result in a complete A/C system fail, which will cost much more to fix.

If your vehicle is currently under warranty, consider taking action if it is showing any signs of A/C problems. It is always better to handle the problem early, rather than waiting.

Once your A/C is properly tuned-up, you will be ready to conquer the roads without breaking a sweat on your summer road trip.

 

5 Tips for Better Performance

Driving isn’t just about getting from Point A to Point B; it’s also about knowing you’re safe while you get there and enjoying the drive along the way. You want to be confident that your car is performing at its peak, both to keep you safe and to make the ride pleasant.

1. Remember that tires matter.

Good tires grip the road, hug the curves, and handle slick surfaces. But even good tires, out of alignment, will make steering a chore when it should be easy. When you have to fight the steering wheel to keep your car straight, something is off; it may well be that your tires need to be rotated and aligned.

If your tires are old and worn, if you find your car slipping on turns, then it may be time to replace the tires. You’ll see immediate improved performance in steering and handling when you’re driving on good tires in proper alignment.

 

2. Keep up with basic maintenance items.

We’re talking oil changes, topping off the antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid, and having a regular inspection done so you know things are working the way they should be.

Prevent big problems from happening and you’ll not only save money in the long term, you’ll also drive with confidence knowing that your car has been taken care of by a professional.

 

3. Use the right fuel and the right oil in the right amount.

Check your car owner’s manual to be sure you know about fuel requirements; if your engine needs premium gasoline and you fill it up with regular, you can cause engine problems later and you’ll definitely affect your car’s performance negatively. If you do oil changes yourself, be sure you’re using the right type of oil for your engine and don’t overfill it, which can cause the engine to smoke.

 

4. Consider the weather.

Remember that in the winter, with cold temperatures, the engine needs time to warm up. Start your car in the driveway, or in the garage with the door open, a few minutes before you need to leave. That allows time to let the oil get warmed up and flowing where it should. You’ll also get warmer seats and nice hot air blowing out your heater.

Summer requires a different kind of care: car engines can overheat in high temperatures and will also go through fluids faster due to evaporation. Watch your engine temperature gauge, and if it’s going up over the halfway mark, pull over and let your car cool off for a while. Be sure to have your fluids refilled regularly.

 

5. Get a regular tune-up.

It’s easy to get an oil change every three months and think you’ve covered all the bases, but there is a lot more to a car than oil. Engine parts experience wear and tear all the time, and a tune-up by a professional mechanic will ensure that the worn parts are replaced and everything is tuned to peak performance.

You’ll also be preventing larger problems from occurring later by taking care of worn parts before they break completely.

 

The last – and most important – part of better car performance is driver performance. Have fun and enjoy your car, but use common sense, be safe, and follow the rules of the road while you drive.

Find an Automotive Brake Specialist in Your Area

Most brake specialists recommend biannual brake inspections. Why so often? Because brakes experience a lot of wear.

No one ever said stopping a moving vehicle was easy. The friction that is created each and every time a driver steps on the brakes will wear brakes down over time.

The good news is that brakes are relatively simple devices. There are really only a few things that can go wrong with them. A trained brake specialist is often able to diagnosis and correct most brake problems in short order. Where do they begin?

Like most automotive problems, brake costs get more expensive when they are ignored. If a driver hears a squeak, squeal, or scrape emanating from the brakes, he should see his brake specialist as soon as humanly possible.

The Rotors

The first thing a brake specialist will check is the brake discs or rotors. If these discs have rough spots or deep grooves on them, they may need to be replaced. Failure to do so could result in complete and total brake failure. New rotors are often affordable at only around a hundred dollars a pair, not including the cost of labor.

The Pads

Brake pads absorb most of the friction and force whenever the brakes are applies. As a result, they tend to wear down quite quickly. If a pad is less than 1/8th of an inch thick, your brake specialist will recommend that you replace it. This is always a good idea. Brake pads are inexpensive and failing to replace them could damage other, more expensive parts of your braking system. Why pay a higher brake cost tomorrow when you can settle it today?  New brake pads not only improve performance, they also eliminate most brake noise.

Brake Lines

If a brake problem is not mechanical, it may have something to do with the brake lines. Because modern braking systems use hydraulics, they rely on fluids to transfer force into pressure. If the fluids are low, the brakes will not work as they should. The most common explanation is a leak in one of the brake lines. If there is a leak, brake fluid and pressure will be lost. In extreme cases, the brake pedal will sink to the floor and the brakes will be more or less useless.

If you experience any of the aforementioned problems, contact Car-X as soon as possible.

What Every Driver Should Know About Car Batteries

An automotive battery is a large rechargeable battery that powers the electrical system of the modern vehicle. Often called SLI batteries by people in the know, they are responsible for starting, lighting, and ignition. Unfortunately, most car owners are not in the know. They believe that car batteries do not require regular maintenance. This is not entirely their fault.

Because of their incredible durability and endurance, some major automotive brands offer maintenance-free car batteries. But as any mechanic will tell you, there is no such thing as a maintenance-free car battery. Yes, they may last for four or five years even if you ignore them. However, if you take proper care of them, they will likely last twice as long! Best of all, they won’t leave you stranded.

When a motorist has a car battery that cannot be jump-started, it is commonly referred to as “dead.” These dead batteries are often the result of neglect. When drivers check the battery posts, cells, cables, and the alternator each year for signs of wear, it is far less likely that their batteries will go dead. More importantly, it is far less likely that they will have to pay a few hundred dollars to have their vehicles towed to the nearest garage.

The good news is that mechanics can check your car battery very quickly. Advanced equipment lets them test the charging system of nearly any vehicle in a matter of minutes. The service charge for these annual checkups is often quite affordable. And if the battery must be replaced, Car-X Auto Service will more than likely have the new battery on hand.

We do not recommend that you change your car battery on your own. Yes, you might be able to save yourself a couple of bucks, but it is not nearly as easy as you might think. It’s not like changing the batteries of the remote control. Car batteries are big and heavy and they must be screwed, snapped, and plugged into place. Not to mention the fact that all batteries must be properly disposed of. They have sulfuric acid in them, so you cannot simply put them out with yesterday’s trash.

It is best to let a trained mechanic do the job for you.  They can replace the battery while you wait and they will dispose of the old one in no time as well. More often than not, you will be back on the road in under an hour with a reasonable bill and a brand-new battery.

10 Tips for Traveling with Children

Traveling with children means balancing safety with sanity. You might want to crawl into the backseat to prove how serious you are about that “drop you on the side of the road if you do that one more time” threat. But then, you’re driving, so… maybe that’s not such a great idea.

 

 

Here are a few great ideas that will help you keep yourself calm and keep your car safely on the road.

 

1. Customize your emergency car kit with kid-friendly items.

This is a safety matter, of course; you should always have an emergency car kit in your car, especially on trips out of town. Purchase one pre-made or create your own emergency kit with supplies like jumper cables, a first aid kit, and some non-perishable food items and bottled water.

If you’re traveling with kids, add in a few extras to keep your kids happy and safe: diapers and wet wipes, an extra of a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, a change of clothes, important medications.

2. Keep a snack bag in the car.

There are two keys to a successful travel snack bag: first, choose your snacks carefully. Think car-friendly, non-messy items. As a general rule, avoid chocolate, crumbly items, and anything with filling. The second key is to dole the snacks out over time. Wait until boredom starts to set in. It’s not healthy to use food as a distraction most of the time, but when you’re all stuck in the car, it’s a tool in your sanity saver toolbox.

3. Keep a toy bag in the car.

Follow the same concept as the travel snack bag by stocking up on and doling out new toys as you hit points of boredom and fussiness. Shop the dollar store or any clearance sales, forget small stuff, nothing that requires assembly or batteries or help from Mom. Pass them out as needed, one at a time.

4. Make sure your car seats are installed properly.

Check cables, buckles, and car seat installation before you load up the kids and pull out of the driveway. This is a matter of both safety and sanity, as a toddler free to roam around the backseat is definitely a danger.

5. Plan stops along the way.

For trips over a couple of hours, take a little time to do some research online about state parks, landmarks, and towns you’ll be passing through. Plan to stop somewhere every couple of hours or so; it will do the kids good to get out and stretch their legs, and you’ll be refreshed and ready to drive again after a break.

6. Get the kids involved.

Even very small children can be on the look-out for big trucks or green cars. Give kids something to look for and let them earn a point for each item they find; reward them with a snack or a new toy when they earn 5 or 10 points.

For older kids, having a map and a guidebook handy helps them to get involved with what they’re seeing along the way.

7. Take kid-friendly music and books on cd for the ride.

When the games get old and everyone is getting a little tired, put in a cd of kid-friendly music; make it something they can enjoy singing along with, or opt for a book on cd instead. Everyone can get caught up in a good story and it makes the miles pass quickly. If you think it through ahead of time, your kids can pick out music and books on cd from the library and look forward to getting to hear their own choices.

8. Create a “travel kid kit” for each child.

A travel kid kit should have some special toys and activities, not necessarily new but something they enjoy. Kids can help put these together the day before you leave. Add in a few extras, such as a couple of books to look at, and include a sturdy surface (such as a lap desk) and some drawing supplies.

9. Be non-negotiable on car rules.

Seat belts stay buckled, no one plays with the door handles or locks, no yelling or screaming: set some rules in stone for your car trips and be non-negotiable. It’s not a matter of preference, it’s a matter of safety. Be very clear on the consequences and follow through if needed.

10. Get your car maintained & tuned up before you leave.

Don’t start off on an anticipated trip just to end up on the side of the road, or stranded in a little town halfway to your destination. Plan for travel success by taking your car in for an oil change, inspection, and tune-up a couple of weeks before you plan to leave. Be sure to have the mechanics check the tires, alignment, brakes, and battery so you won’t have any unpleasant surprises while you travel.

 

Traveling with kids is still a challenge, but it can be much better with a little preparation and a few tricks up your sleeve.