6 Quick Car Care Tips to Keep Your Vehicle in Top Shape

car care tipsJust like your home, body, etc., needs continual care and attention, so too does your vehicle. It’s always painful to have to dig into savings to pay for car repairs, but with the proper care and maintenance, these expenses can be minimized.  So to make sure we keep the value of our cars (possibly your most important asset) and minimize repair costs, here are a few simple, easy-to-remember tips.

1. Fluids
Just as we keep hydrated throughout the day, our car needs to have the right type, and quantity of fluids. We simply need to check our car’s oil, coolant, and transmission levels. Your owner’s manual is a perfect place to learn about your car and get guidance on the layout of your engine. Here’s a helpful image which shows how to identify the oil dipstick in your car’s engine—you’ll need to make sure you have enough oil (make sure it’s full) and ensure the oil isn’t filthy. If so, it’s time for an oil change.

2. A Good Expert
Similar to having a great doctor we see for our annual exam, it’s important to find an honest, trustworthy expert auto technician. A fabulous mechanic will help make sure your car is kept in good working shape. To find a good mechanic, take a look at resources such as RepairPal’s comprehensive auto shop directory or an online directory such as Yelp. The old-fashioned referral from a friend works well too.

3. Be Safe
Driving efficiently (driving slower) will naturally save money at the gas pump. Check out Drive55.org, which talks about the benefits of keeping speeds down—from saving gas to reducing fatalities.

4. Heed Warning Signs
If your car’s dashboard lights illuminate, give your trusted mechanic a ring. (You can also check your handy owner’s manual too—learning the basics about your car and the repairs you need will help establish a rapport and show your mechanic you know what you’re talking about.). Delaying a repair could trigger irreparable damage (yikes!) to the car and result in a painfully more expensive fix.

5. Manage Pressure
Keeping your tires pressure in check is an easy way to improve gas mileage. By keeping a check on your tires you’ll also be able to sniff out a potential tire leak, a much less expensive repair vs. buying an entire new tire.

6. Body
Simple things such as keeping your car washed, regularly waxed, and ensuring dents and dings are taken care of, you’ll better preserve the value of your car as well as prevent long term issues such as rust and fading.

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How to safely store your car for winter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom washing and waxing to detailing the interior, people baby their cars in all sorts of ways. But it’s equally important to take care of your car before you put it into storage. Here are a few tips to make sure your car is ready to go when you are.

The Final Detail

Thoroughly clean your car, inside and out, before storage. The last thing you want to do is put a car cover on a dirty car. Give your ride a good hand wash, polish up that chrome and apply a coat of wax to the paint. Make sure to get rid of any tree-sap drops, too.

If there are unpainted metal places under your car that are prone to rust, buy a can of rubberized undercoating and spray on a protective coat, keeping in mind that it needs to be reapplied yearly. Be careful not to spray this coating near any exhaust components that can get hot because products like this can be very flammable. For collectors, if you’re worried about keeping your car in original condition, a coat of WD-40 will also work. You can also stuff a sock in the exhaust pipe so that small animals won’t find a new place to set up camp, but be sure to remove it before you start the car again.

Throw out food wrappers, soda cans and any other trash that may have accumulated in the cabin. If you plan on steam-cleaning the carpet, do that far enough in advance (or after) storing the car to avoid moisture buildup and mold. For added interior protection, you can buy a set of seat covers. To soak up cabin moisture, purchase a few packs of desiccant from your local dollar store or convenience store to place on the floor.

Mice and other small animals can create trouble if they get inside your car. Even though there isn’t a surefire way to protect your car from mice, there are steps you can take to make your car less appealing to them. “I usually go to the dollar store and buy the cheapest drier sheets I can find, and put those inside my vehicles,” said Davin Reckow, claims parts specialist for Hagerty Collector Car Insurance. You can also place mothballs in socks and set them both inside and around the car, but you’ll probably need to air out the cabin to get rid of that distinctive smell. Mousetraps work well outside the car, but never put them in your car. The last thing you want to find is a dead mouse on your passenger seat, especially months later. If you are storing your car in your own garage at home, remember that pest poison traps can be hazardous to your pets.

Tires

It’s worthwhile to inflate your tires to a higher air pressure before storing your car because tires can slowly lose pressure over time and with temperature changes. However, don’t exceed the tire’s maximum air pressure, which is listed on the side of the tire, and be sure to fill all four tires to the correct air pressure when you take your car out of storage. If you already know one of your tires has a leak, replace it because it will deflate completely over time, and your car could end up kneeling on its rim.

Don’t engage the parking brake for storage as it can become “frozen” and difficult to disengage. If you’re worried about your car rolling, get some wheel chocks or blocks of wood to wedge against the tires.

For the more mechanically inclined and for owners of collectible cars, you can put your car on jack stands to take the weight off the tires and suspension. By doing this, you can avoid getting flat areas on your older tires and wheels. Procedures for doing this vary greatly from car to car, so if you’re unfamiliar with the proper and safe way to raise your car, consult with someone who knows. In all instances, be sure the floor of your storage site is completely flat and made of concrete before undertaking this.

Fluids and Power

It’s a good idea to use fuel stabilizer. Why? Reckow said most ethanol-blended fuels have a shelf life of only about three months. If you’re storing a car for six months, fuel stabilizer should help prevent corrosion in the fuel lines and engine. Add fuel stabilizer to a nearly full gas tank.

It’s also a good idea to change your car’s oil and oil filter and check and top-up all other fluid levels before storing your car. If you live in a colder climate, make sure your car has enough antifreeze. Once you’ve topped off the fluids and added fuel stabilizer, take your car out for one last ride to circulate the new fluids.

Your car battery should be either removed and stored, or connected to a trickle charger or battery tender. You can get one for less than $50. Make sure your battery tender or charger has a float mode or automatic shutoff feature so the battery doesn’t get overcharged. You can run the battery tender’s cables up through the underside of the engine bay so that you can keep the hood closed and your car cover in place.

If you want to remove the battery but still have it on a battery tender, set it on a piece of wood in your garage and attach it to the tender. Make sure not to lose track of the two battery bolts. Keeping your car’s battery charged prolongs the life of the battery, and you don’t have to wonder whether your car will start.

You can also remove the battery and store it in a warm room in your home. Keep in mind that cold batteries can freeze and may crack.

Car Cover

Invest in a quality car cover. If you store your car outside, make sure that cover is waterproof and is securely attached to your car so that high winds don’t blow it off. Universal and custom-fit car covers are available at online retailers and at auto parts stores. There is a big difference between a $25 universal-fit car cover and a $300 high-quality model-specific cover. Your best bet is to get one that’s breathable and keeps out moisture. Never cover your car with a plastic tarp as it will severely scratch the paint.

A basic car cover is worthwhile if you store your car inside because it can protect your car’s freshly waxed exterior from accumulating dust and dirt. In addition, Reckow said, a thicker car cover provides a layer of protective padding for your car’s exterior in case you bump it while you move items around in your garage.

It’s easier to have another set of hands available when putting a cover on your car; it also eliminates the risk of having the cover touch the ground, picking up grit. However, before you put the cover on, make sure all the windows and doors are fully closed and that valuables and necessities are out of the passenger compartment. You don’t want to open a covered, storage-ready car just to get your cell phone’s car charger. If you have a fixed antenna, you’ll also want to remove it before covering up. You can put the antenna in your trunk or on the floor by the passenger seat so it’s readily available for reinstallation.

In addition to a car cover, consider a car jacket. Just drive your car onto the jacket, put a soft car cover on it (this is a must) and zip up the outer plastic jacket. This solution provides protection from moisture, rust, rodents and dust. “I once stored a ’66 Chevelle convertible, stripped of paint, right on a lakefront in Michigan,” Reckow said. “After one winter, there was not a lick of surface rust.” Make sure your car is completely dry and cool before putting any kind of cover on it.

Starting It Up

A common discussion among people who store cars is whether or not to start it every so often. “If you do a proper job storing a car, you don’t need to start it,” Reckow said. “But if you want to start it up, just remember what you have to remove and put back on.” In other words, don’t start your car with those socks still stuffed in the exhaust or the battery tender’s cables in the engine bay. Completely remove the car cover, too; don’t just peel it back enough to get in the driver’s door. Never let a car run with its car cover on — or with the garage door closed.

Once your car is started, let it warm up to its operating temperature to remove any condensation and cycle the fresh oil through the engine to lubricate the parts a bit. Then, don’t forget to redo the steps needed to return your car to its storage state.

via the Chicago Tribune

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Easy Car Maintenance Tips to Keep you Safe this Winter

winter-drivingMake a Car Maintenance Checklist

Navigating sheets of ice and hills of snow requires top performance from your car. Give your car the attention it needs so it will come through for you when the mercury begins to drop. Here are a few car maintenance must-dos to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape:

  1. Check the battery, lights, antifreeze, heater/defroster, belts, hoses, filters, oil, wipers and brakes.
  2. Carry the basics-an ice scraper, a snowbrush, a small shovel, tow chains and jumper cables-in your car.
  3. Also add a breakdown-kit that includes a blanket, gloves, boots, warm clothes, a flashlight, food, water, a first aid kit, extra batteries, road flares and emergency cash to your supplies.
  4. Add chains to your tires if necessary.

Keep Your Eyes On The Road

It’s also important to know what’s true and what’s false when it comes to safe driving in bad weather. For example, did you know that using cruise control during rainy or icy conditions does more harm than good?

Here are a few additional winter safe driving tips that will help you stay in control on the darkest and dreariest days and nights:

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid a gas line freeze-up.
  • Press the gas pedal slowly when accelerating to regain traction and avoid skids.
  • Take your time breaking for a stoplight-it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Don’t apply extra gas on snow-covered roads-for instance when going up a hill-it will just make your wheels spin.

via Allstate

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Fall Season Driving Safety Tips

elkWith hours of daylight decreasing and inclement weather a frequent occurrence, the fall season is a time when drivers need to pay a little more attention to road and traffic conditions and use extra caution while driving.

Here are some safety driving tips that can make the fall season more enjoyable and trouble-free.

Slow down. The faster you drive, especially on wet, slippery roads, the longer it takes to stop your vehicle. Doubling the speed of your car can nearly quadruple the amount of time required to stop safely.

Buckle up. Most drivers do this automatically, but there are times when this safe driving practice is forgotten in the haste to accomplish errands, get home or to a destination. The fact is that a seatbelt is your best primary protection against injury in a sudden stop, emergency maneuver or vehicle crash. Always buckle up and make sure your passengers do likewise.

Put the phone down. Driving down a deserted road or the highway with little traffic might seem boring and there’s that call or text you want to make. Don’t. In most states texting is against the law, and studies have shown that talking on a cell phone, even hands-free, is a driver distraction. Your mind isn’t on driving when you’re discussing sports, what to eat for dinner, the kids’ latest escapades or just chatting in general. If you have to make or take a call or text, pull over to a safe location, park and then proceed to talk/text.

Give a hoot–watch out for wildlife. According to the AAA, collisions with animals resulted in 2,083 fatal crashes and 2,194 fatalities between 2001-2011 nationwide. To avoid a collision with deer and other wildlife, says the AAA, follow these precautions: scan the road and shoulders ahead of you; use high beam headlights if there’s no oncoming traffic; if a collision can’t be avoided, apply brakes firmly and remain in your lane; be extra cautious at dawn/dusk; slow down and be extra cautious when traveling areas with high and active wildlife population, always wear a seat belt and stay awake, sober and alert.

Use your headlights. If your vehicle doesn’t have daytime running lights, turn on your headlights at dawn and dusk. Other drivers need to be able to see you and vice-versa. Using your headlights when the light is dim or fading also helps you identify hazards in the road, pedestrians, animals and other conditions you might not otherwise see until it’s too late.

Make adjustments for fewer hours of daylight. Be on the lookout for children playing, at bus stops in the morning and afternoon, people walking dogs, pedestrians, runners, power walkers, joggers and bicyclists.

Pay attention to weather forecasts. If a storm is expected, be prepared for quickly changing road conditions. Heavy winds mean leaves blowing across the road surfaces, which makes it more difficult to see potholes and other road hazards. As temperatures drop, frost often forms on roadways, causing hazardous driving. Drive slowly and break gently on overpasses and bridges, which tend to frost over quicker than other road surfaces. Watch out for areas where black ice forms.

Bottom line: Fall is a beautiful time of the year, but it can present challenging driving conditions. Use common sense and extra caution to ensure everyone’s safety.

via The Car Connection

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The RIGHT way to wash your car

11Yep, there is indeed a right way to wash your car.  It’s more than about looks, it’s critical to maintaining your car’s paint job.

Did you know that most vehicles today undergo a multi-layer paint process? The procedure starts with a pretreatment that protects against corrosion and ends with a clearcoat that aids in reducing chips and scratches. So, you’ll want to protect and maintain its long-term durability by washing your vehicle the right way.

EXTERIOR

  • Before you get to the washing part, ensure that the vehicle is fully wet – and kept that way. You want to be able to float the dirt off the surface
  • Use soap specially formulated for cars. In other words, not dishwashing soap, no matter how mild, as it can strip the wax protection and potentially cause waterspotting
  • A sponge or wool mitt kept wet and sudsy will mean you won’t have to rub or scrub the surface •Start the wash at the top, then move to the sides, finishing up at the bottom (all the grit accumulates there)
  • To dry the vehicle, use a water blade or soft towel
  • Wax will help keep the surface protected
  • Clean wiper blades with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol

INTERIOR

  • car-interior-cleaning1It’s tempting to use your sleeve to wipe off the instrument panel, but a clean, damp white cotton cloth is more effective on the panel as well as the interior trim areas and cluster lens. Use another clean but dry white cotton cloth for drying. Glass or household cleaners? Don’t do it
  • For dust and loose dirt on the fabric, carpets, cloth seats and safety belts, use a vacuum. For light stains, use an auto-specific carpet and upholstery cleaner. For tar or grease, spot-clean first with an auto-specific spot and stain remover
  • Do you have leather seats? For routine cleaning, wipe the surface with a soft, damp cloth. When it’s deep cleaning we’re talking about, wipe the surface with a mild soap-and-water solution, and dry with a soft cloth. You can also use products designed for cleaning leather auto interiors

ALUMINUM WHEELS & WHEEL COVERS

  • Brake dust is a real nuisance in this department. You can use wheel and tire cleaner, although the brake dust and heavy dirt might require a little elbow grease with a sponge. Rinse thoroughly with a strong stream of water
  • Never apply any cleaning chemical to hot or warm wheel rims or covers

ENGINE

  • We know of someone who used a power washer under their hood; $700 later, things were running right again. Morale of the story? Be careful; high-pressure fluid could penetrate sealed parts and cause damage
  • Don’t spray a hot engine with cold water, as it could crack the engine block or other engine components
  • When cleaning, use a specially formulated engine shampoo and de-greaser
  • Make sure you cover the battery and filters when cleaning (refer to the owner’s manual)
  • Never wash or rinse the engine while it’s hot or running; water in a running engine could cause internal damage
  • Another never: Never wash or rinse the ignition coil, spark plug wires, spark plug well or the areas in and around those locations

SUMMER CLEANING

  • Don’t wash your vehicle if it’s hot to the touch or exposed to strong, direct sunlight •If you’re dealing with bird droppings, bugs, suntan lotion or insect repellent, use car-wash soap and water as soon as you can
  • Tree sap and tar can be cleaned off with a bug or tar remover (use a high-equality one). Wax afterward
  • If you wipe down your windshield with a tumble dryer sheet, bugs won’t stick to the glass as easily, and you can use cooking spray on the bumpers for the same purpose. To remove a sticker from the window, saturate it in cooking oil before you start scrubbing
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Police across the U.S. are putting the brakes on speeding

6a00d83451b3c669e2019104664949970c-800wiThinking about taking a late summer road trip across the country?  Well, motorists on Interstate 80, you’ve been warned: Law enforcement agencies across the country are ramping up efforts to curb speeding on the highway that spans from California to New Jersey.

USA Today is reporting that police in 11 states are joining forces for the “I-80 Challenge.” Implemented by the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the “More Cops, More Stops” strategy is aimed at curbing dangerous speeding before accidents happen. The safety agency reports that summer is traditionally the deadliest season along the 2,900-mile stretch of highway. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2009 to 2011, 350 people died in crashes on the country’s second-longest interstate.

Police and troopers along the highway are escalating speed-limit enforcement from now until July 31 with the goal of zero fatalities through the month’s end. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the speed limit across I-80 ranges from 65 to 75 mph.

Motorists should be on their best behavior across the board; police are also heightening focus on impaired driving and seat-belt use. State police in California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are participating, as is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a truck safety regulatory agency.

via Cars.com

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When Do You Need a Wheel Alignment?

8663158_origvia Cars.com

If your car drifts to one side and you have to turn the steering wheel away from the center position to drive straight, that is a good indication that your wheels are out of alignment. Perhaps it is the result of hitting a deep pothole or scoring a direct hit on a curb while parking.

Before you head off to a repair shop to have your wheels aligned, a job that typically costs about $60 to $100 for most vehicles, it would be a good idea to check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires can also cause a vehicle to pull to one side, so eliminate that possibility first.

You might also want to inspect your tires to see if there is uneven wear, such as the tread being worn off along one edge, another sign of an alignment issue. However, it can be hard to separate normal from excessive wear, so unless you’re well trained in “tireology” you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Vibrations in your wheels are different from alignment problems. Vibrations are probably caused by wheels being out of balance or bent (potholes can do that) or because suspension parts are worn, and getting your wheels aligned won’t solve those problems.

Some vehicles require only that the front wheels be aligned, but many car-based models require four-wheel alignment. Alignment specifications differ by vehicle, and it isn’t as simple as just making sure all four wheels are pointed straight ahead.

Depending on the vehicle, proper alignment involves setting the camber (inward or outward tilt of the wheels when looking head on), caster (wheel tilt front or back looking from the side) and toe-in or toe-out (looking down at the wheels from above). The adjustments are measured in fractions of an inch and require specialized alignment equipment.

Wheel alignment isn’t usually listed by vehicle manufacturers on the recommended maintenance schedule, so how often it should be done is open-ended. If your vehicle tracks as straight as an arrow, you’re wheels likely are properly aligned. Even so, it’s a good idea to have your alignment checked annually, such as when you have your tires rotated. You certainly should have it done when you buy new tires so they don’t immediately start to wear unevenly. Many shops guarantee alignment work for up to one year, so bring your vehicle back before the guarantee ends to have the alignment checked again (assuming that service is free).

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