Wash winter’s grit & road salt away and enjoy the Spring weather in your clean ride!
Spring cleaning checklist
• Undercarriage flush With the onset of spring, all car owners should have their car’s undercarriage flushed.
• De-grunge To remove grunge you need to wash your car with a strong detergent; most car wash solutions do not have the strength to cut through the dirt. Try a solution of 1 ounce of dish-washing detergent to 3 gallons of cool water to wash your car.
• Clean and seal If your car’s paint feels rough, you need a cleaner. If your paint has scuffs and scratches, you need a heavier polish.
• Treat If your car has a leather or vinyl interior, it needs to be treated before the onset of summer’s heat.
• Dashboard Shine the dashboard with a clean fabric softener sheet. The antistatic elements will help repel dust from the dashboard.
• Chrome & Windows To clean chrome & glass, sprinkle Baking Soda on a damp rag, scrub, & rinse clean.
• Hubcaps To clean dirt & grime from hubcaps, spray with Scrubbing Bubbles cleaner. Let sit for 15 seconds and rinse clean.
Battery– Have your battery checked along with the charging system. Most people feel that the cold is tough on a vehicle’s battery, but it is heat that truly wears a battery out!
Tires– Have your tires checked for wear and have them rotated if needed. Teen-agers really do not enjoy changing tires while on vacation. Swimming and boating is a lot more desirable to them then this activity.
Cooling system– Ensure that your coolant can handle the extra heat you will be asking it to absorb and make sure it is still protecting all the different metals in your engine. Have the belts and hoses checked as well. The number one reason for vehicle break down while on the road is a blown heater hose.
Fluids– Make sure that all critical fluids are full and ready to make the long trip with no problems along the way! This list includes engine oil, transmission fluid, brake and power steering fluid, and also differential fluid. Change any of these fluids that are at the end of their useful life.
A/C– No time is the air conditioning system needed more then during a long road trip with the family all on board the vehicle. Cooler inside temperatures usually mean cooler tempers and a lot more enjoyable road trip. The A/C system should be checked for proper performance including compressor operation along with the cooling fans. You need to ensure that vehicle will be properly cooled when the outside heat is 90 plus degrees. Most newer vehicles are now equipped with a cabin filter and this needs checked yearly especially if anyone in the family suffers from allergies. Lastly, the A/C system should be checked for any small leaks so that the A/C does not quit half-way through your fun filled vacation trip.
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According to the 2010 Census, there are about three times more used cars than new cars sold each year. If you are among the population that currently drives a used car, you know how important maintaining you car can be. The below tips will help make your used car last longer.
• Drive carefully – This may seem like a no-brainer, but the way your vehicle is driven has a greater impact on its lifespan than nature. By making sure you drive the speed limit and making smooth start and go transitions, you can reduce unnecessary wear on your vehicle, in addition to improving gas mileage.
• Follow recommended maintenance schedule – 40% of American drivers delay regularly scheduled maintenance to save money. Unfortunately, putting off these important checkups can eventually lead to costlier transactions. Items such as filter and fluid replacements and fixing minor repairs will help extend your vehicle’s life, as well as help you avoid poor performance or expensive repairs down the road. Simple maintenance items can make a huge difference. For example, changing your vehicle’s air filter when needed helps the engine last longer.
• Keep your car clean – Remove dirt and debris from both the inside and outside of your car as often as possible. This prevents your car from aging prematurely. In addition, regularly cleaning often helps spot potential problems earlier, and gives you the opportunity to repair them before they get worse.
• Monitor your cooling system – Your car’s cooling system is very important to keeping your engine well cared for. Maintaining the system along with having the right level of coolant can potentially save you thousands of dollars in future repairs.
• Keep your tires in good shape – Your tires are your vehicle’s only contact with the road, therefore, should be properly maintained. Make sure your tires have the right amount of pressure and tread and get them rotated per your owner’s manual. Your tires impact the way your vehicle handles, which in turn impacts the condition of its parts.
• Use high mileage motor oil – Two-thirds of vehicles on the road are considered high mileage, and many of them are a quart or more low on motor oil. With older cars, burn-off (the evaporation of oil) is a common occurrence. The problem is magnified when you car has an inadequate amount of oil. When the oil breaks down, it deposits a dirty emission in your engine, which causes it to be less efficient and prone to failure. High mileage motor oil is designed to combat the burn-off, as well as maintain the proper amount of oil. It is recommended for all cars with over 75,000 miles.
• Keep accurate maintenance records – Keep a notebook in your car and document all services performed on it. Keep all receipts and documents in a safe place should you ever need to refer to them.
• Shelter – If possible, keep your car in a garage or carport of some kind. The sun’s rays can be harmful to your car, and can cause premature aging as with people.
• Pay attention to your warranty – If you have a warranty on your used car that is about to expire, there are a number of things you should do before it does. These include repairing damaged or concerning parts, checking for recalls, and getting a comprehensive checkup. You may want to consider an extended warranty, such as a vehicle service contract, which covers vehicle repairs, or a maintenance contract, which covers scheduled maintenance.
Getting ready to buy?
• If you are preparing to buy a car, do your research. Check performance and maintenance ratings on all vehicles you are considering. Sites such as Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds can help you determine the higher rated vehicles, which typically last longer. There is a tool that calculates the True Cost to Own (TCO), which helps show the maintenance and repair costs you can expect for particular vehicles.
It is likely at some point in your life you will get a flat tire. Do you know what to do without having to ask for help?
• It is important to find a flat, level surface on which to change the tire. This will prevent the car from rolling.
• Your vehicle should be in “Park” and should have the parking brake on.
• Place heavy objects in front of both sets of tires.
• Getting out the jack and spare tire, place the jack under the frame of the car, near the tire you will be changing.
• If your car has plastic along the bottom, as most cars do, make sure the jack is in the correct spot based on your owner’s manual. If it is not in the correct spot, it could crack the plastic.
• Raise the jack to a point where it is supporting, not lifting, the car, ensuring it is firmly in place under the vehicle. It should be at a 90 degree angle to the ground.
• To remove the tire, you first need to take off the hubcap and loosen the nuts with a wrench, turning them counterclockwise. They do not need to be taken off completely, just loosened.
• Depending on the jack, pump or crank the jack to lift the tire up off the ground. While doing this, make sure that the car feels stable and the jack is lifting straight up and not at an angle.
• At this point, remove the nuts entirely. Remove the tire, keeping in mind that it may be stuck because of rust buildup. Hitting the tire with any sort of object (such as the spare tire), should loosen it.
• Aligning the rim of the spare tire with the bolts of the wheel, place the new spare tire on and put the nuts on.
• Tighten the nuts first by hand and then with the wrench once they get tighter.
• Lower the jack, but do not yet put the full weight on the tire. Tighten the nuts as much as possible, then lower the car completely to the ground and remove the jack.
• Ensure the nuts are tightened all the way and replace the hubcap.
• If the tire is not destroyed, take it into a mechanic. Tires with smaller holes can typically be repaired for under $20.
• Always refer to your owner’s manual if there are any questions about where things go.
Even the most inexperienced driver knows that engines have a lot of moving parts. If not properly lubricated, these moving parts begin to wear down as friction increases. A driver that does not have his oil changed on a regular basis may damage vital engine parts. In fact, the number one reason for engine failure is wear and tear that is caused by an increase in viscosity, which means the oil becomes thick and sticky, like mud. This worn-out oil clings to moving engine parts and instead of lubricating them, it destroys them.
What happens next?
If a vital engine part breaks, the vehicle will not move. It’s really that simple. Because these parts are intricate and replacing them requires a professional, it is often cheaper to simply buy a new engine or a new car. They are cheap and they only take a few minutes.
Even the experts disagree about oil changes. Some say that you should get them every 3,000 miles, while others say every 7,000 miles is fine. Who’s right? That’s hard to say. But what we do know is that most drivers do not get their oil changed every 3,000 miles.
The average American drives about 10,000 miles each year. According to the purists, that average motorist should get his oil changed at least three times per annum. Most drivers do not follow this advice. Not because they cannot afford frequent oil changes, but because most folks don’t believe that oil is dangerous after only 3,000 miles.
The best advice we can give you is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. The manufacturer only benefits if he is honest. Since he wants the customer to buy more of his cars in the future, it is better for him if the customer is satisfied with his purchase. All manufactures thoroughly test their cars and trucks and they know exactly how long they can go between preventative maintenance appointments.
We all know how pesky the Check Engine light on your dashboard can be. It is inconvenient and troublesome to take your car in to get this checked. There are a few common triggers for the Check Engine light that all drivers should be aware of. Check Engine lights can be complicated to repair – knowing how they work and what to check for will help you take the best care of your vehicle, as well as avoid unnecessary trips to an auto mechanic.
Understanding the Check Engine light
This light serves as a warning indicator. It is a response of your vehicle’s computer to changes or hindrances in the emission control system. When the light comes on, it is a result of one of many trouble codes stored in the system. These trouble codes are what auto mechanics use to determine the cause of the light.
Every U.S.–manufactured vehicle must pass a Federal Test Procedure – an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) test, which sets allowable limits of deterioration of your emission control system. The Check Engine light was created to indicate that your emission control system is failing, causing your vehicle to pollute the air. However, many other factors can cause the light to turn on, which makes diagnosing the cause tricky.
Tips to keep in mind
• Is your gas cap closed tightly? – This is an extremely common trigger for the Check Engine light in many vehicles. If the cap is not sealed properly, the pressure is not correct, which signals the light to turn on.
• Are you carrying a heavy load? – It is possible for heavy loads combined with high speeds to effect how your car’s computer views the emission control system.
• Do you have OnStar? – If you have a 1997 or later General Motors vehicle equipped with OnStar and an active OnStar subscription, advisors can read the code and give advice on what to do.
• Is a serious problem causing it? – Check your dashboard gauges and lights to see if there are issues such as overheating and low oil pressure. Problems such as these are critical, and indicate that you should pull over and shut off your engine as soon as possible.
• Is your car performing differently? – Your vehicle should be inspected if you notice a change in how your vehicle is running.
• Do not confuse a red Check Engine light with a yellow Service Engine Soon light. This is a warning that indicates your should proceed with caution, and can be caused by anti-lock brake systems, faulty sensors, safety restraint systems, or emission components. These issues typically require an experienced technician to fix.
Most of us have experienced a curious sound coming from our vehicle. It is always a little nerve-racking, as some sounds can be indicators of serious problems, while others have simple fixes. Responding appropriately to the sounds your car makes can prevent problems from worsening, thus saving you a significant amount of money. The following explains what each sound means and what you can do to get rid of it.
The first part of diagnosing a noise-related problem is to determine where it is originating. Then establish when the noise occurs and how your car behaves when the noise starts. Finally, take your car into a professional mechanic and explain what your car is experiencing.
• Backfire loud bang– This can be caused by an uneven air-fuel mixture or incorrect engine timing (slipped timing belt).
• Chirping or squealing while accelerating– Loose, slipping belts are typically the cause of such a sound.
• Clicking or tapping in your engine– The most common reason for this sound is low oil. If your oil level is good, there could be a loss of oil pressure.
• Flapping– This may be a belt that is decaying or something is interfering with one of the fans.
• Hissing or sizzling under the hood– If you hear this right when the engine is turned off, something is probably leaking. Any fluid that leaks under the hood hisses or sizzles when it touches the hot equipment around it.
• Humming or whirring under your car– This type of sound is difficult to pinpoint because of the echoes and reverberations of the parts underneath your vehicle. A mechanic will have to diagnose it.
• Knocking in your engine– This can be caused by using an incorrect fuel or oil grade. Always be sure to follow the correct oil, gasoline, and tire air pressure guidelines in your owner’s manual.
• Noise from the front end while steering– May indicate bearing failure or steering linkage wear.
• Popping in your engine– Potential problems include a clogged fuel filter or ignition or spark plug problems, especially if the engine misfires with the pop.
• Rattling from under your car– This can be caused by loose parts such as your exhaust system.
• Squealing wheels while braking– Causes range from small, such as dirt on the brake pads or rotors, to serious, such as worn pads. Brake noises are safety issues and require immediate attention.
• Scraping or grinding while braking– If the squealing has gotten worse and now sounds like a scraping sound, this means your brake pads are completely worn down or close to it. This causes damage each time you apply the brakes.
• Thumping on hard acceleration– May be felt through the steering wheel or floor & can be caused by broken engine or transmission mounts.
• Whining– This sound usually indicates excessive transmission wear.
Each of the sounds outlined above may indicate serious problems. By identifying the what, when, and where of the sound(s), you can have the right conversation with your mechanic and prevent a small problem from growing larger and more expensive.
Does anyone else remember the old “Rattle Rattle Thunder Clatter” commercials?
During the warm summer months a typical driver will reach down and turn on the air conditioning system. Some drivers may be hesitant to do so though because they feel that it wastes more gasoline, which results in them spending more money then they would like to. Many drivers would just rather be a little hotter than have to buy more gas each week. Fortunately, a driver doesn’t necessarily have to choose between saving money and staying cool when it’s hot. A few things, such as a complete AC checkup along with any needed repairs can help reduce the amount of excess fuel used by the air conditioning system.
Proper maintenance and repairs are one of the ways to save fuel while running the air conditioner. A leaky or plugged hose will make the air warm and less effective, which will cause the AC system to work harder. The harder the compressor needs to work, the more gas the vehicle will use turning the compressor. An AC checkup can expose any necessary AC repairs that must be done. For the most part, air conditioning problems are easy to fix and won’t require a lot of money to repair them. The vehicle can normally be fixed within a couple of hours. In the end, drivers will end up with efficient and effective AC systems in their car that don’t eat up as much gas as poorly maintained systems.
In the end, the best way to conserve gas while using the air conditioner is to make sure that the system works properly. That involves getting an AC checkup and then doing any AC repairs that may be needed. Properly maintained AC systems burn much less fuel than an improperly working system. With that in mind, all of this work can be taken care of quickly and for a relatively inexpensive price.
Lastly, drivers should focus on doing some other things to reduce the amount of fuel they burn with the AC system on or not on. Drivers should focus on driving smoothly without any sudden braking moves or excessive use of the gas pedal. Also, using the cruise control can help a car use less fuel. Drivers should use the air conditioner at a low level rather than a high one to save quite a bit of money on fuel costs. Remember the AC system is designed to be used in most newer egg shaped cars, putting down the windows causes more wind resistance then if the windows are up!
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.