Happily Ever After With Your Car

February 12, 2018

If you want to add more years to the relationship between you and your car, give it a little extra attention this Valentine’s Day in the form of an oil change, tune-up or other loving services to make sure it runs happily ever after. Just a little extra care can lead to a longer life for your car.

There’s no debating the value of preventive maintenance to keep your car running efficiently.By giving your vehicle a little more attention now, you’ll avoid the heartbreak and unexpected expense of car trouble down the road.

The Car Care Council recommends you treat your car to regular care this Valentine’s Day and beyond.

  • Schedule a tune-up annually to optimize your car’s performance. A well-tuned engine delivers the best balance of power and fuel economy and produces the lowest level of emissions.
  • Change the oil and filter per the owner’s manual. Periodic oil and filter changes keep your engine clean on the inside.
  • Check the tire pressure monthly, including the spare. Your car’s tires affect its ride, handling, traction and safety.
  • Have the alignment checked annually. Potholes and other road conditions, as well as normal wear, can take their toll on your car’s steering and suspension. A wheel alignment reduces tire wear, improves fuel economy and handling, and increases driving enjoyment and safety.
  • Inspect the windshield wipers and lights on the car. Lights and wipers play a major role in safe driving, and they are normal wear items that need periodic replacement.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit http://www.carcare.org.

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8 Signs That Your Car Has Pothole Damage

January 26, 2018

A pothole can be your car’s worst enemy. These holes or pits on a road’s surface can seriously damage a vehicle’s ride control system.

If you do drive over a pothole, have your car’s shocks or struts checked to make sure they aren’t damaged.

Shocks and struts control how vehicles ride and handle. The shock absorbers or struts act as a cushion to dampen the bouncing action of a car’s springs. The springs absorb the road bumps; without them, the vehicle would continually bounce and bound down the road, making driving extremely difficult.

Shocks and struts also control spring and suspension movement to keep the tires in contact with the road. This affects steering, stability and braking. A broken shock or strut could alter the steering and handling of a vehicle and create driving dangers. It’s important to be aware of the warning signs that your vehicle’s shocks or struts may need to be replaced.

  1. The vehicle rolls or sways on turns.
  2. The vehicle’s front-end dives when braking.
  3. The vehicle’s rear end squats when accelerating.
  4. The vehicle bounces or slides sideways on a winding, rough road.
  5. The vehicle “bottoms out” or thumps on bumps.
  6. The vehicle sits lower in the front or rear.
  7. The vehicle is leaking or has signs of physical damage, such as rusting or dents.
  8. There’s a loss of directional control during sudden stops of the vehicle.

Many components affect a vehicle’s handling. Having your car inspected, if you experience any of the above signs, is good preventive maintenance and can help its parts wear less and last longer.

“If you think you may have a worn out or broken shock or strut, don’t wait,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “Whether you replace it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, this situation should be taken care of right away.” The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” campaign, educating consumers about the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. To see the Car Care Council’s free service interval schedule, visit http://www.carcare.org.

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How to Shop For a Battery

January 17, 2018

If your car battery is dead or even weak, you’re not going anywhere. It is the leading cause of starting trouble, whether because of lights left on, a charging system problem or other cause.

Sometimes it is just that the battery has outlived its usefulness. But even at best, a healthy battery in 80-degree weather has only half of its output when the thermometer dips to zero.

When shopping, remember that a battery is rated by cold cranking amps (CCA), indicating its power and the reserve capacity rating (RC), which indicates how long your car’s accessories can run and still have enough power to start the engine.

Since starting a car in cold weather can take up to twice as much current to turn over a cold engine, cars in colder climates would benefit from a higher CCA rating. Check your owner’s manual for the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) minimum requirements needed for your car and select the battery adequate for you needs. Buying one with an excessive CCA rating may be a waste of money.

In every situation, more RC (reserve) is better, like a little extra in the checking account. The size and number of plates in a battery determine how many amps it can deliver. By having more and/or large plates, you can increase the normal life of the battery. This is what distinguishes a three-year from a five-year warranty battery.

Battery manufacturers build their products to an internationally adopted Battery Council International (BCI) group number based on the physical size, terminal placement (where you connect the cables to the battery) and terminal polarity. BCI and the battery manufacturers offer application guidelines that contain the OEM cranking amperage requirements and group number replacement recommendations by make, model and year of car and battery size, CCA and RC specifications.

Five Tips For Staying Cool on the Road

May 31, 2017

Temperatures over 90 degrees and high humidity can challenge your vehicle’s air conditioning system. Here are some easy tips to keep you and your passengers cool on the road.

1.If possible, leave the windows down slightly on hot days to reduce heat build-up. An A/C system works by removing heat, so the cooler the interior is to start with, the easier and faster the A/C will do its job.

2.When you get in the car, open all the windows completely, or even open the doors, for a moment to vent the hot interior air quickly.

3.When you first turn the A/C on, set the controls to MAX or REC and use highest blower speed. This moves the greatest volume of air and re-circulates it for even faster cool-down. As soon as you are comfortable, switch the system to NORM or OUTSIDE or FRESH, and select a lower fan speed. The lower blower speed produces colder the air from the system.

4.Does your cool air have a bad odor, perhaps like “dirty socks” or a gym locker? Remember to set the system to the OUTSIDE air mode (not REC) frequently to help prevent or lessen this problem.

5.Automatic Temperature Control systems operate differently than manual systems. Read your owner’s manual to gain understanding of exactly how your system works. With most automatic systems, the quickest cool-down comes by setting the temperature as low as it will go at first, then adjusting it later to occupant comfort.

The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide wants everyone to get the most comfort from their vehicle’s air conditioning system and be able to recognize problems when they occur.

Air conditioning problems should diagnosed by a professional service facility with the proper tools, training, and certified technicians.

To learn more about your vehicle’s air conditioning system, visit the Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide website at http://www.macsw.org and http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/609

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A Clean Mass Air Flow Sensor Tells No Lies

May 15, 2017

Every sensor on or in a computer-controlled car or truck talks to the “on-board PC” in a kind of language you’ve never heard or seen. All of the inputs are in a voltage-speak and are all numbers. All of these signals to and from the PC travel in and out at up to 300 times per second. That is some party line!

Your PC knows the amount of air going into or being inhaled by the engine. It knows the temperature of the air, the barometric pressure, the outside temperature, if it’s raining and if the engine is pinging. It knows if the engine has too much fuel or too little fuel being delivered to it. It knows the temperature of the coolant and the catalytic converter, and it knows how cold it is inside the car and how that compares to the temperature you are requesting.

Most of the voltages start at zero and have a high end of 5, 8 or 12 volts. For instance, 1.0v means low and 5.0v means high. Or 1.0 means cold and 5.0 means hot, hot, hot.

But most scanners convert these numbers to a range we can understand, like 20 grams or 212F or 45% throttle.

The mass air flow sensor (MAF) tells the PC how much air is flowing into the engine; we read that data in grams. So a little air means no foot on the throttle and lots of air means foot to the floor. Think of the mass air flow sensor as a goal post with a filament across the top arms. It actually looks like the filament inside a clear light bulb.

The PC sends voltage to the filament and then monitors the electricity needed to keep it warm or hot. The MAF starts lying when this filament gets covered with trash, bugs and dirt. Pretend you are in a tunnel and naked. You could easily tell how much air is flowing thru this tunnel and what the temperature is. How good of a job could you do if I covered you with 5 layers of clothing, gloves, hats and full face coverings? That is exactly what happens to your MAF: it gets covered up and starts lying about its environment.

We want to see about 5-10 grams depending on the size of the engine. This gram number determines fuel trim. A dirty MAF won’t see all the air, so it tells the PC to trim the fuel down. 1 gram at idle is a problem.

So if you want to save yourself from $45 to over $100, go to the auto parts store. Ask them to point out where the MAF is located on your car, and ask them to show you what it looks like. You may need special tools. Then buy some CRC Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner. The CRC product was developed specifically for cleaning this very delicate sensor.

Pull the negative battery cable. Remove the MAF sensor. DO NOT touch the filament. DO NOT get your wife’s toothbrush out and scrub it. If you damage it, you just cost yourself hundreds of dollars. Just spray it off like you would spray a small painted wire with carburetor cleaner when you only want to remove the paint. Do it maybe 3-4 times and once every 30-40,000 miles.

Let it dry, reinstall, connect the battery and drive away. It will take the PC just a few hours to reset those parameters that just changed because the MAF is now cleaner and working more precisely.

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An Automotive Gift for Mother’s Day? You Bet!

May 1, 2017

It’s time to be seriously thinking about Mother’s Day. A great place to look for useful ideas is her driver’s seat, especially if Mom spends a lot of time behind the wheel.

Her vehicle is her home away from home and gifts that enhance her enjoyment of that second home are likely to be appreciated, suggests Rich White, spokesperson for the Car Care Council. “We tend to gravitate toward gifts like jewelry, a framed photo or flowers,” he says. “But why not break from the traditional and dress up her car? Maybe she’s always wanted a sunroof or a cool sound system. Her wish could come true, with the help of your local auto specialty shop or service dealer.”

White suggests that, beyond the obvious gifts such as seat covers or floor mats, Mom might appreciate having her damaged steering wheel replaced with one that’s stylish, possibly even leather covered. A sun-damaged and faded dash could be repaired, replaced, or recovered to upgrade the interior. How about a GPS navigation system, remote starter, or satellite radio?

“Security devices such as a remote keyless entry or alarm systems are also popular add-ons,” says White, “as are custom wheels or wheel covers. Most women are interested in the safety and appearance accessories as opposed to those, which are performance related. Gifts can be inexpensive. Net shopping bags, that hook on back of the driver’s seat, are great gift items too. Just look around”

Right on the heels of Mother’s Day, of course, is Father’s Day, with additional categories of gifts to consider: special tools, custom rims, window tinting, or sound system enhancements, to mention a few. “Gifts for vehicles are always well received and the variety of innovative products never stops growing” adds White.

For more ideas and prices visit your auto supply store, service dealer, or specialty shop.

April is National Car Care Month. Focus on Your Vehicle Investment.

March 16, 2017

National Car Care Month, in April, is the perfect time for motorists to learn more about the very real economic benefits of performing regular vehicle maintenance, according to the Car Care Council.

Each year, community car care events routinely identify that consumers are not taking proper care of their vehicles. Neglected vehicle care almost always means much higher costs down the line, either in the form of more extensive repairs or lost resale value.

Results of free community car care inspection events throughout the US last year showed that consumers are neglecting their cars. 8 out of 10 vehicles failed at least one component of the vehicle inspection process. Even with an estimated 20% more vehicles inspected last year, the overall failure rate remained unchanged.

Of the vehicles checked, 27% were found to have low, overfull, or dirty engine oil, which affects vehicle performance and damages internal parts. Low, leaky, or dirty coolant in the radiator or surge tank was identified in 26% of the inspected vehicles. Cooling system protects against damage by keeping the engine operating within the correct temperature range.

51% of all belts, in the vehicles inspected, were reported as unsatisfactory. 10% of the vehicles required at least one new hose. Roadside breakdowns can be avoided by checking belts and hoses and replacing them when worn.

These results show that the majority of vehicle owners could save money by being proactive in the maintenance of their second largest investment. Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, National Car Care Month in April is the perfect time to focus on your vehicle’s maintenance needs to make sure it is ready for the upcoming spring and summer travel season.

Beware of Potholes

March 1, 2017

They’re back and they’re bad. Potholes have returned and hitting one with your car can do a number on tires, wheels, steering and suspension, and alignment. To help determine if hitting a pothole has damaged your vehicle, watch for the following warning signs provided by the Car Care Council.

•Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming-out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These are indicators that the steering and suspension may have been damaged. The steering and suspension are key safety-related systems. Together, they largely determine your car’s ride and handling. Key components are shocks and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack/box, bearings, seals and hub units and tie rod ends.

•Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear. These symptoms mean there’s an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for the lifespan of tires and helps ensure safe handling.

•Low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. These problems will be visible and should be checked out as soon as possible as tires are the critical connection between your car and the road in all sorts of driving conditions.

“Every driver knows what it feels like to hit a pothole. What they don’t know is if their vehicle has been damaged in the process. If you’ve hit a pothole, it’s worth having a professional technician check out the car and make the necessary repairs to ensure safety and reliability,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

Potholes occur when water permeates the pavement – usually through a crack from wear and tear of traffic – and softens the soil beneath it, creating a depression in the surface of the street. Many potholes appear during winter and spring months because of freeze-thaw cycles, which accelerate the process. Potholes can also be prevalent in areas with excessive rainfall and flooding.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit http://www.carcare.org.

TIRES – NASCAR vs. PASSENGER Tips on How to Better Take Care of Yours

February 21, 2017

Watching NASCAR pit crews change tires is one of the activities that most race fans take for granted. After all, they change their own tires after 25,000 miles or so, not after 25 laps, right?

Well, the attention to detail that pit crews pay to the tires on their cars is something that most motorists should pick up on, according to a professional NASCAR Tire Specialist.

“The most important thing that consumers can do to keep their tires happy is to pay attention to the air pressure” he said.

“Passenger tires have an air pressure rating, but most of the time it’s a maximum,” he explained. “That rating is for a full load. For our racing tires, we adjust them to make the car handle. Drivers can do that on their car’s tires as well for better handling, but consumers should mainly be concerned about load.”

“If it says to inflate to at least 32 pounds, you want to run it a couple of pounds under that so when the pressure builds up, it will be right on the rating. If you run it at full inflation, it will wear out the center of your tire.”

Tire pressure is key to maintaining the contact patch, or the amount of rubber that’s actually on the road. Proper tire inflation plays a significant role in fuel mileage as well, and that’s important in these days of uncertain gas prices.

“If you run it low, it’s more of a drag on the tire,” The NASCAR Tire Specialist cautioned. “If you keep it at 30 pounds, say, for a tire that’s rated at 32 or 34 pounds maximum load, you’ll be better off. The more you keep the tire up off the road, the less drag you have on it and the better your mileage will be.”

Improper inflation causes the tires to wear out quicker. You see it on the race track, too. Lower inflation means better handling, but it also increases the chances that the tires will be the victim of abuse and fail to perform.

Motorists need to “read their tires” to keep them working well over their useful lives.

“The biggest thing to take care of is the air pressure. If you let your tire get too low, you’re going to wear out the outside of the tire. If you put too much in it, you’ll wear out the center. Watch how your tires are wearing, too. It might be air-pressure-related, but it might also be suspension related. Keep all four tires at the same pressure, unless you have a sports car where the front and back ratings are different.”

By reading the tire—inside, center and outside—you can tell if your air pressure is where it needs to be or if you have a suspension or alignment problem.

“If a tire is wearing on the inside, closest to the hub, it’s an alignment problem 90 percent of the time,” according to the NASCAR seasoned veteran. “It can also be a tie-rod or other suspension component, which changes the degree of camber and produces tire wear. If it’s air pressure, most of the time it’s worn on the inside and the outside. If you’re at max inflation, it’s the center.”

Finally, consumers need to watch the depth of the tread on the tires. Goodyear Racing Eagles have about 4/32nds of an inch of tread on them when they’re new.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it gets the job done,” he emphasized.

Passenger car tires come equipped with wear bars all the way across the tire, and learning to read those is useful. If you’d rather do a quick measurement, all you need is a cent… a penny that is.

Take the penny and put it in one of the tread grooves, with Abe Lincoln’s head facing down.

“If the tread comes up past the head, you’re still good; if it’s above the head of the penny, definitely get new tires,” he stressed.

Spend Your Tax Refund on One of Your Biggest Investments

February 6, 2017

Maintaining Present Vehicle May Be Key to Long-Term Financial Happiness. How will you spend your tax refund? Big-Screen TV? Cell Phone? Clothes? The Car Care Council has a better idea for your money: spend it on your second biggest investment, your car.

“Whether it’s an oil change, replacing brakes or new belts and hoses, that periodic repair bill is a drop in the bucket compared to monthly payments on a new car,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “The bottom line is that a properly maintained vehicle is safer, more dependable, more fuel efficient, less polluting and more valuable. The smartest way to get a solid return on investment is to keep your car through what we call the ‘Cinderella Era’. It’s that period of time after the payoff when your car is still in great shape and needs only modest repairs.”

The Car Care Council estimates that more than $68 billion in vehicle maintenance and repair is not performed every year, evidence that there is considerably more that consumers should be doing to protect their automotive investment.

“We advise our clients that if they want a 10-percent increase on their investments every year they need to cut down on their expenses,” said Terry Mulcahy, vice president of investments for R.W. Baird in Mequon, Wis. “A new automobile is for most people their second biggest investment next to a home, so a great way to save money and increase financial assets is to hang onto their current vehicle rather than buy a new one every few years. Budgeting for and doing preventative maintenance on your car is one of the best ways to cut your costs and keep your car.”

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