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Get your car spring ready

Car care tips for safe driving in seasonal weather

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

(Family Features)

Spring breezes may be blowing, but before you put those windows down and settle in for a leisurely drive to soak up that fresh air, your car needs some seasonal freshening of its own.

Regular car care helps ensure that your vehicle looks and runs its best, and timing your car care to the seasons can help ensure all of your equipment is in top condition to protect your safety in seasonal weather conditions.

One of the most common threats in spring is stormy weather, which can affect your visibility and traction. Ensure you and your car are well-protected and ready for spring with this spring car care checklist.

Give your car a checkup

An all-over maintenance checkup is a good starting point to get a pulse on your car’s condition. A multi-point inspection can help alert you to signs of wear or damage on parts such as your belts, which can weaken as a result of cold winter weather, and your brakes, which are critical for safe driving.

Your engine relies on clean oil for smooth operation, so if it’s time for a change (usually every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on manufacturer recommendations) you can schedule a change to coincide with your service appointment.

CAR-WipersKeep your view safe and clear

Keeping your windshield clear is an obvious necessity for everyday visibility, but the quality of your wiper blades is even more important in inclement weather. Old or damaged blades may not be up to the task of keeping your line of sight clear during a heavy spring downpour. When it comes to choosing new blades, give careful attention to performance.

Traditional metal wiper blades, installed on many new cars, have exposed suspension components that can become damaged with exposure to extreme weather. Newer vehicles may include beam blades, with a pre-sprung steel beam designed specifically for that vehicle. However, many replacement beam blade designs are compromised to fit a large array of vehicle models and do not properly adapt to the varying curvature of windshields. This results in reduced wrap and contact pressure on the windshield, as well as poor wiping performance.

A better option is hybrid blades, such as Michelin Stealth Hybrid wiper blades, which feature an exclusive Smart Flex technology that automatically adjusts wiper blade contact pressure across the curvature of the windshield for improved wiping performance. Engineered for durable wiping in extreme weather conditions, the wiper frame and suspension system are completely covered to protect the blades from weather-related damage. The Michelin EZ-Lok Connector System allows for a quick and simple blade replacement. Learn more at MichelinWipers.com.

If your vehicle has a rear wiper, remember to replace it, too.

Check your traction

Your tires are another of your car’s essential safety features. Excess or uneven tire wear can be extremely dangerous in wet and slick road conditions. If your tires can’t get adequate traction, you may find yourself hydroplaning or losing control. What’s more, tires are an expensive investment, so before embarking on your next road trip, make sure your tires are properly inflated, balanced and rotated. This can help ensure you get the most mileage out of your tires before needing to replace them.

CAR-ShiningShow your shine 

Sound operations aside, you’ll get more enjoyment out of your car when it looks as great as it runs. A thorough cleaning of the exterior after the harsh winter months helps whisk away any damaging substances, such as the salt used to melt ice and snow.

Protect and preserve your vehicle with products, such as Barrett-Jackson Auto Care’s full line of interior and exterior products. Liquid Wax, a signature product in the line, is specially designed with Carnauba wax to achieve a long-lasting, deep shine with no powdery residue. Barrett-Jackson Wash & Wax saves time by lifting away dirt and enhancing shine in one step, while the rapid detailer is great for those in between touch ups. For an all-over shine to complete the freshly cleaned look, Tire Shine is a quick, no-hassle way to maintain sleek, wet-look tires. Make sure to select a tire shine that will not sling off on your car when driving. Find more information about these and other products designed to keep your car looking flawless at barrett-jacksonautocare.com.

Once the exterior is complete, turn your attention inside. Pick up any trash or debris, vacuum and wipe down all interior surfaces. A moisturizing treatment will help clean and condition leather, preventing it from drying out and cracking. Also give interior glass a wipe down for the clearest visibility possible and be sure to pick an interior protectant that doesn’t leave behind a greasy residue to help renew and protect all interior surfaces, including plastic, vinyl, rubber and trim.

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Auto Advice: Don’t fear the check engine light

A “check engine” light coming on doesn’t mean you have to stop driving immediately but you should get it looked at very soon.

A “check engine” light coming on doesn’t mean you have to stop driving immediately but you should get it looked at very soon.

(NAPS) — Although the check engine light may look scary lit up on the dashboard, you don’t need to panic. A glowing check engine light doesn’t mean you have to immediately pull the car to the side of the road; it does mean you should get the car checked out as soon as possible.

Motorists should not get spooked when the check engine light comes on,” says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council, the source for the “Be Car Care Aware” campaign promoting regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. “When illuminated, the check engine light usually means that a vehicle system, such as the ignition, fuel injection or emission control, is not operating properly.”

Possible Problems

Some common malfunctions that can cause the light to illuminate include a faulty oxygen sensor, mass air flow sensor, or spark plugs and wires. If the light flashes, the condition is more critical and must be checked immediately to prevent severe damage, which may include catalytic converter problems.

Even if the vehicle appears to be running normally, ignoring the warning light could result in more costly repairs,” adds White. “At the very least, the light could be alerting you to an engine problem that is negatively impacting fuel economy and costing you money.”

Service and Solutions

When scheduling service, make sure the repair shop that examines your vehicle has professional technicians who are trained and certified in OBDII diagnosis and repair. The technician will connect your vehicle’s computer system to a diagnostic scan tool, which will provide trouble codes indicating why the check engine light was activated. While the diagnostic tool is connected, the technician can analyze data streams such as the idle speed, throttle response, engine temperature, fuel system pressure, manifold vacuum, exhaust emission levels and many other key indicators. Once the problem is identified and the repair is made, the car’s computer is reset.

LearnMore

For further illuminating facts about taking the scare out of an illuminated check engine light, visit www.carcare.org, view the council’s Car Care Minute and order a free copy of the newly updated Car Care Guide at www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

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Auto Advice: Keep track of open recalls

Remember, to keep your car  safe, it pays to pay attention to auto recalls.

Remember, to keep your car safe, it pays to pay attention to auto recalls.

(NAPS)—If you’re like most people, car safety and performance are important to you. But you might be surprised to hear that over 47 million vehicles have unfixed safety recalls—vehicles you might be sharing the road with or driving yourself.

Alarmingly, family-oriented vehicles like SUVs and minivans are the least-often fixed. An auto recall usually occurs when the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that a car has a defect or fails to meet federal safety standards.

While repeated attempts are made to reach the owners, the stats suggest that people aren’t well-enough informed about recalls, and may not know where to start. To help you stay informed, you can use the free myCarfax.com service to get e-mails or text alerts about current and future recalls on your car.

Fixing recalls helps maintain the safety and value of your car, makes roads safer, and is normally free. Plus, most recall fixes are completed in less than a day.

Remember that only a manufacturer’s dealer is authorized to fix recalls. If your car is recalled, call your local dealer immediately.

Learn more and sign up at www.mycarfax.com

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Here comes the rain: Expert tips for wet weather driving

CAR-Here-comes-the-rain

(BPT) – When it comes to driving in the rain, windshield wipers, headlights and brakes will only get you so far. More than 1 million car crashes occur each year as a result of weather conditions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Most of them have to do with wet roadways, and many of them could likely be prevented by the right set of tires.

As El Niño looms in the West, and the inevitable April showers approach elsewhere, drivers across the United States should turn their attention to the rubber that meets the proverbial—and also very literal—wet road.

Nearly a quarter of all car crashes are caused by weather, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Of those, nearly three quarters can be attributed to wet pavement. When roadways are slick, dangers such as skidding and hydroplaning quickly become concerns. Tires can be the best defense against such hazards, as a healthy, reliable set of tires will give your vehicle the traction it needs to safely stop and corner on slick roadways. Before the tires can do their job, drivers will need to take a few steps of their own.

Before you hit the road, know what to look for on your tires.

Tire tread helps to channel rainwater safely between your tires and the road – but only if there’s enough tread available to do so. When new, tire tread runs 9/32 of an inch deep. Tires are legally worn out with just 2/32 of an inch of tread remaining, but this doesn’t leave enough depth in wet conditions.

Tire Rack, America’s largest independent tire tester and consumer-direct source for tires, makes an even safer recommendation. “When rain is a concern, as it will be for much of the U.S. throughout the spring, drivers should replace their tires when they reach 4/32 of an inch of remaining tread depth,” says Woody Rogers, product information specialist at Tire Rack. “By the time you reach 2/32 of an inch, your tires won’t have enough tread to avoid hydroplaning.”

To make sure that your tread is deep enough to keep your tires firmly rooted on the surface of the road, Tire Rack recommends a simple quarter test. Place a quarter upside down into the grooves on your tires. If some part of George Washington’s head is covered by tread, then you have at least 4/32 of an inch left. “The difference between 2/32 of an inch and 4/32 is admittedly very small,” Rogers says, “but the impact on safety is quite large.”

If hydroplaning occurs, coast carefully.

Hydroplaning happens when water on a roadway and vehicle speed combine to cause one or more of your tires to lift from the surface of the road. When this happens, the vehicle’s steering wheel will likely jerk, and the vehicle could pull abruptly toward the puddle.

“Slowing down in rainy conditions is always a good idea, but it may not be enough for the surprise waiting up ahead. Having the appropriate tread depth is a must for preventing hydroplaning,” Rogers says. “If you do hydroplane, grasp the steering wheel firmly and avoid slamming on the brakes. Braking could end up worsening the skid, causing you to lose even more control of the vehicle.”

Driving in the rain is never fun, but with the right tires, it can at least be safer. When the rubber meets the road, make sure it’s up for the job. Tire Rack offers more expert tips and finds the right tires for your vehicle at www.tirerack.com.

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Spring clean your car: Tips to get your car in great condition

 

For better driving all season long, make sure your spring to-do list includes cleaning and maintaining your car. (c) Rukawajung - Fotolia.com

For better driving all season long, make sure your spring to-do list includes cleaning and maintaining your car. (c) Rukawajung – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) For some, spring cleaning is a time-honored ritual, which doesn’t just apply to your house. Remember that your car is likely in desperate need of some attention after the winter months.

“A car that’s well-maintained is safer, cheaper to run, more reliable and can be worth more money at resale time,” says Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader.

To help, Autotrader editors are sharing “Simple Spring Car Care” tips to get your car in tip-top shape for the busy driving season ahead:

  • Wash and wax your car thoroughly. If you can afford it, have it professionally detailed. However, if you do it yourself, be sure to use a pressure nozzle in order to rid your car of any leftover road salt or sand from the winter. Direct sunlight can cause a car’s finish to become dull, but a thorough washing and waxing can also help keep your car’s paint and clear coat looking good.

It’s tempting to run the car through an automated car wash, but those big revolving brushes can dull the finish over time. If you’re not allowed to wash your car at home due to regional laws or neighborhood rules, seek out a good drive-thru wash and hand wax instead.

  • Check and set your car’s tire pressure to the level specified in your owner’s manual or on the driver’s door sill. As temperatures warm up, the air in your tires can expand and that might impact the way the car handles.

Be sure not to over-inflate the tires. While low tire pressure can cause the tire to heat up if it’s not rolling down the road properly, extreme over inflation can cause a blowout in high temperatures. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, take your car to a shop like Big-O Tires, Sears Auto Center or Firestone Auto Care Center. Those kinds of chains will usually do it for free.

  • Have a qualified mechanic do a visual inspection under the hood. If you’re comfortable doing this yourself, check for worn belts or hoses and make sure your coolant (sometimes called anti-freeze) isn’t too old. Coolant lasts a long time, but keeping track of when it was last changed, especially in older cars, can help you avoid overheating as the temperatures gradually climb.

For more tips for keeping your vehicle in great shape whether it’s hot, cold, or rainy can be found at www.Autotrader.com.

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Original Model T plant open for Autorama Days!

An original Model T at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit. The plant will be open for tours Feb. 26-28 Photo by Will Lawson.

An original Model T at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit. The plant will be open for tours Feb. 26-28
Photo by Will Lawson.

Do you have a love for vintage cars? How would you like to travel back in time to visit the plant where the first Model T was constructed? If that’s the case, you may want to plan a trip to Detroit next weekend.

The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, located at 461 Piquette Street, Detroit, Michigan, has announced it will be open for the 2016 Autorama. The Plant will be open to the public beginning Friday, February 26 through Sunday, February 28, 2016. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Docent-led tour times are at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m.

Admission prices are: $12/adults, $10/seniors, $5/students, and children 12 and under are free. Please dress warmly as the Piquette Plant is not heated. Our complimentary hot cocoa bar will be available!

Visiting the Piquette Avenue Plant is a unique experience—it is the oldest auto plant open to the public anywhere in the world. Walk the worn wood floors and touch the brick walls where Henry Ford and his team of automotive pioneers developed the car that led to an automotive and social revolution.

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Cold weather wake-up call

 

CAR-Cold-weather-wakeup-call(NAPSI)—The next nip in the air should be a wake-up call to motorists who have not yet gotten their vehicles set for the cold weather, say car care experts.

“Subzero temperatures can stress out a vehicle, as well as its driver,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Motorists should invest a little time to check over their vehicles so they have one less worry when arctic temperatures strike again.”

Here’s how:

  • For good visibility, make sure that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed. Also check to see that heaters, defrosters, lights and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. Wiper blades that are cracked or torn, or that chatter, streak and don’t properly clean your windshield, should be changed.
  • Very cold temperatures reduce a vehicle’s battery power so it’s important to keep the connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Batteries don’t always give warning signs before they fail completely, so if your vehicle’s battery is more than three years old, it’s wise to replace it.
  • Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in cold weather. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you’ll be driving in a cold climate. Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
  • Have the brakes inspected and check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. So snow and ice are not a problem, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly.
  • Rough weather magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling, so if you’re due for a tune-up, have it done before the temperatures drop. Also, clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system and have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.

Motorists should keep the gas tank at least half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.

  • Lastly, stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.

Learn More

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 www.carcare.org.

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Is warming your engine a winter must? 

CAR-Cold-weather-car-care

Five tips for better cold-weather car care

(BPT) – Warming up his car for a few minutes before heading to work is a winter morning routine for Steve Bailey. “I hate getting into a cold car, so letting it warm up for five minutes is as important for me as for the vehicle,” says Bailey, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“My car is parked outside and I think it runs better after idling for a while, especially on below-zero mornings,” he says.

Plenty of cold-climate folks share Bailey’s winter car-care philosophy. But advancements in engine technology is reducing the need to idle, even in colder temperatures. According to many auto industry experts, the efficiency of today’s fuel-injected engines makes winter idling nearly unnecessary for most cars. U.S. Department of Energy experts report driving a gas-powered vehicle warms it twice as fast as idling it, and most auto manufacturers recommend starting your car, then driving slowly after only about 30 seconds of idling.

Excessive idling also wastes fuel and adds harmful emissions to the atmosphere. Many states and municipalities have enacted idling restrictions to curb auto emissions and minimize human exposure to carbon monoxide and other noxious exhaust gases.

Instead of warming your car each morning this winter, you’ll be better off taking time now to winterize your vehicle. AAA recommends checking these five key areas:

1. Consider an oil change. “Motor oil is one of the most important fluids in a car, so it’s important to go into winter knowing you’ve got clean, high-quality oil to keep the engine lubricated, even in frigid temperatures,” says Andrew Hamilton, technical services manager for Cenex brand lubricants.

Deciding whether to change your car’s oil type before temperatures plunge depends on the number of miles you drive and the type of motor oil you use. “Traditional mineral-based oils tend to thicken in cold temperatures, which can cause unnecessary engine wear,” says Hamilton. “They also need to be changed more often than newer synthetic-blend or full-synthetic oils. Full synthetic oils, like Cenex Maxtron 5W-30, flow better at low temperatures, for easier cold startups, and they provide longer performance, taking most cars up to 10,000 miles between oil changes.”

Not sure which oil to buy? Hamilton recommends using the online vehicle and equipment lookup tool found at Cenex.com. “Find your vehicle’s make and model, and the tool will give you engine oil recommendations that match its maintenance needs.”

2. Check tire pressure. Properly inflated tires maximize traction on wet or icy roads and help protect against wheel damage from potholes.

3. Test your battery. Batteries usually give little notice before dying. Since cold temperatures can reduce power by up to 50 percent, batteries that have been used for three years or more should be tested. Make sure posts and connections are free of corrosion. Remove any corrosion with a solution of baking soda and water, using a small wire brush.

4. Top off antifreeze. Make sure your car’s radiator contains the proper amount of a 50/50 mix of coolant and water. You can check the composition of radiator fluid using an inexpensive tester, available at auto parts stores. Be sure to check the antifreeze label to see if the product you are buying is premixed.

5. Inspect wipers and fluid level. Shorter days and precipitation ranging from snow and ice to sleet and rain pose visibility challenges in winter. Make sure wiper blades are in good condition and replace them if they’re more than a year old. Be sure the windshield washer fluid reservoir is filled with no-freeze washer fluid.

For additional automotive maintenance tips and an opportunity to nominate someone for free fuel this winter, visit Cenex.com.

 

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5 to Drive campaign helps parents protect teen drivers

 

CAR-5-to-drive

Teen driver safety week is October 18-24, 2015

This week many states and national organizations are joining with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to promote the “5 to Drive” campaign during National Teen Driver Safety Week. The campaign aims to help parents talk to their teen drivers about the rules of the road. The “5 to Drive” campaign will give parents the tools they need to keep their teen drivers safe.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for U.S. teens 15 to 19 years old. In 2013, 2,614 teen (15-19 year old) passenger vehicle drivers were involved in fatal crashes.

The “5 to Drive” campaign addresses the five most dangerous and deadly behaviors for teen drivers. The idea behind the campaign is to give parents the words to use when they talk with their teens about the rules of the road. NHTSA’s website, www.safercar.gov/parents, has detailed information and statistics about the five rules designed to help save the lives of teen drivers.

The “5 to Drive” rules for parents to share with their teens are:

No Drinking and Driving – almost one out of five (19 percent) of the young drivers (15 to 19 years old) involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, even though they were too young to legally buy or possess alcohol.

Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. Front Seat and Back. – 64 percent of all the young (13- to 19-year-old) passengers of teen (15- to 19-year-old) drivers who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 weren’t restrained.

Put It Down. One Text or Call Could Wreck It All– The age group of 15 to 19 years old has the highest percentage of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use and involved in a fatal crash. In 2013, 318 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted teen driver.

Stop Speeding Before It Stops You – In 2013, almost one-third (29 percent) of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding.

No More Than One Passenger at a Time. – The risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional passenger.

Teen drivers need to follow these rules and any other restrictions outlined in the graduated driver licensing (GDL) law. Parents need to outline rules and explain to their teens the deadly consequences of unsafe driving practices. The “5 to Drive” campaign can help parents start that conversation.

For more information about Teen Driver Safety Week and the “5 to Drive” campaign, please visit www.safercar.gov/parents.

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Forget something? 

 

CAR-Forget-somethingDrivers forget where they park and more

(BPT) – Although our everyday routines can be simple and second nature, there’s only so much we can remember. And when it comes to cars and car maintenance, many Americans frequently forget routine tasks, according to the latest Gauge Index from Hankook Tire.

When running errands, we park our cars, walk into the store, check our lists, pay for what we need, get back in our cars and drive to the next stop. But most Americans have found themselves wandering around a parking lot because they can’t find their car, according to Hankook Tire’s Seasonal Gauge Index. In fact, the Gauge revealed that 55 percent of Americans have forgotten where they parked at least once.

Hankook also found that a significant number of drivers have gotten into trouble after parking by locking their keys in the car. Forty-one percent of Americans have had to call a locksmith or find a spare set of keys to get back on the road.

When you are in the thick of daily errands, there is likely a need for a fuel stop. The stress that can come with the overwhelming daily list of things to do can distract you from the little things you need to do, like closing the gas cap. One third of Americans have forgotten to put the gas cap back on after fueling up, according to the Gauge Index. Further, more than a quarter of Americans have a tendency to drive off with items on the top of their cars such as groceries, a cup of coffee or even a purse.

For those who forget how to get where they need to go, the Gauge Index revealed that 40 percent of drivers use a GPS device to get them headed in the right direction.

All of this is a reminder to slow down and remember the little, albeit important details of driving, and make sure that your car is in proper working condition.

Keep your tires cool and properly filled. Heat can take its toll on tires, so try to park in the shade as often as possible. Filling tires with the correct air pressure also will help keep the temperature down within the serviceable range. Remember to check tire pressure monthly.

Rotate your tires. Each tire can wear unevenly, and tires on the front axle tend to wear differently than tires on the rear axle. Regular tire rotation ensures more even wear. Tires should be rotated about every 5,000 miles.

Choose the right tire. While we can forget where we parked, we can also forget what kind of tires are on our car. Make sure your car is running on the right, season-appropriate tires.

For more info visit www.hankooktireusa.com.

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