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5 Things To Do During National Car Care Month

April is National Car Care Month, and it’s the perfect time to get some basic maintenance out of the way. This last winter was brutal for most of the country, and that means many vehicles were neglected during the coldest months. It’s about to get very rainy, so don’t let that little issue turn into a big problem at an inopportune time. Here’s five easy things you can do during National Car Care Month to save you some cash and give you piece of mind.

checking oilCheck Your Fluids

An engine is only as good as its fluids. The best built, high-end exotic engine will quickly wear out if you run it out of fluids. Take the time to make sure your engine oil and antifreeze/coolant are at proper levels. If your transmission has a dipstick, check that too. Take a look at longer-lasting synthetics. The higher initial costs will be paid back by longer intervals between changes, and possibly even some gains in miles per gallon.

Check Your Tires

Tires are the only thing keeping your vehicle on the road, and now is a good time to look at them. Check for any cracks or dry-rot. Look at the tread for anything stuck in the grooves, or to make sure there are no nail/screw punctures just waiting to cause a leak. Use a $2 tire gauge to check the air pressure, and make sure it is within manufacturer’s specifications. Also consider rotating the tires, as that can help prevent early wear.

car filtersCheck Your Filters

A dirty air filter will make your engine work harder, reducing MPG and increasing wear. Fortunately, air filters are cheap (around $15), and super easy to replace. Engine air filters are about the easiest maintenance item on modern vehicles, usually requiring zero tools and about a minute of work. This is also a good time to check the cabin air filter. This is also usually very affordable, and when changed on time, keeps the outside grit and funk from entering your vehicle.

Check Your Electrics

The frustrating experience of trying to start a car with a dead battery is usually the only time many owners think about their vehicle’s battery. Avoid this issue entirely by testing your battery. Auto parts stores sell volt meters for as little as $10. If your battery tests less than 12.5 volts, it is probably time to start looking at replacements. Also, most auto parts stores and service centers will test your battery for free.

Check the Outside

All that nasty ice probably chewed up the wiper blades, so replace those before monsoon season hits. Make sure your headlights, tail lights and turn signals are all working properly. You don’t want to get a fix-it ticket, or worse, cause an accident. Consider a wash and wax. The winter takes a beating on the vehicle’s finish, and a wash and coat of wax will make it look new again. Remember that a little elbow grease and investment now will go a long way towards a more reliable ride with a higher resale value.

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College Road Trip

It’s the time of year when college students head back to their campuses and classrooms and begin planning their social calendars for the next few months. For many of them this will include road trips to follow their football team to away games in other states or going away for a weekend road trip with friends before mid-terms. A few who are in long distance relationships will travel many, many miles to visit a boyfriend or girlfriend who is attending a faraway school. In all these cases students need to keep a few things in mind when planning their road trip.

While college students are usually focused on having a good time, they need to take steps to ensure their safety and to try to anticipate problems. This may be as simple as carrying a few road maps in case their GPS app fails or making sure they have a spare tire in their trunk. They should also make sure they have a tire repair kit (and know how to use it), extra water and snacks, and see if their insurance includes roadside assistance.

It is usually a good idea to do some routine maintenance before going on longer road trips. This includes making sure the oil has been changed recently and that the appropriate fluids have been topped off. Rotating or balancing their tires is another precaution that doesn’t take too much time. As the weather changes, they may want to switch out their touring tires for winter tires if they will be traveling on icy or snowy roads.

Once the safety checklists have been completed, students can plan for the truly important things: what food, music, and technology to take along. They may also want to take some time to investigate interesting attractions along the way and decide whether to take the most direct route or figure out if they have the time to meander along the scenic bypasses. One thing is for sure, they will be taking lots of pictures and videos to upload to their favorite social media sites.

Car Wheel Alignment

Most drivers know that they need to regularly check their car’s wheel alignment and, if necessary, have the wheels aligned back to the manufacturer’s specifications. This is not to be confused with having your tires balanced. Alignment problems lead to tracking and steering problems as well as faster tread wear while balancing problems result in vibrations at higher speeds. If the wheels are ready to be replaced, it’s easy enough to find replacements somewhere like this page, but often it’s just a simple alignment problem that can be easily fixed.

When doing regular car maintenance, it is important to make sure that the tires are checked for both balance and alignment. Each tire should be aligned to the specifications of the manufacturer to ensure proper car handling and increase the life of the tire. There are some occasions when drivers will ask that the wheels be aligned outside of those specifications. This is done to achieve a specific type of handling for the vehicle, for things like off-road or racing situations. Only experts should make these types of requests. The vast majority of drivers are safest having their wheels aligned to the standard angles.

The mechanic will use a specially mounted camera unit that connects to a central computer and calculates the three main measurement of wheel alignment: camber, caster, and toe. Once they know how much each measurement is off, the mechanic can using alignment equipment to reposition the tires.

Armed with a little research on wheel alignment any car owner can feel confident talking about it with their mechanic and will know how to tell if their car is properly aligned.

To learn about the basics of wheel alignment for custom cars, check out this video:

Keep Car Cool In Summer

Summer is one of the seasons that we both anticipate and dread. While it often means a break from school and hectic schedules as well as relaxing vacation, it also means long days with the kids home and high temperatures that can make going outside nearly unbearable. But we aren’t the only ones that suffer in the heat. Our vehicles, which remain either outside or in the un-air-conditioned garage, take a good deal of abuse during the summer months. Especially if you plan on doing a lot of summer driving, keeping your car cool is important if you want it to keep running.

The most important part of your vehicle is under the hood. This is where the engine and all of the most important functions occur, so it makes sense that you need to your fluid levels properly maintained. Getting the oil changed, checking the air filter, and maintaining the proper engine coolant level will keep your vehicle running smoothly without overheating. For the most part you can check these things yourself, however, it’s not a bad idea to take your vehicle in to a trusted mechanic for a pre-summer checkup. They can do a thorough check of your fluids, belts, A/C, and tires and alert you of any concerns prior to the abuse of summer.

With your vehicle ready to face the heat you can get on with your summer plans. If you want to keep your car cool while you are out and about investing in a good shade screen can help keep the temperature in your car at a more reasonable level. Also, parking in the shade can help aid this cause. Going out in the early morning or evening can help you avoid the brunt of the midday heat; which will benefit you and your vehicle.

Here’s to an enjoyable summer as we all try to stay cool and beat the heat!

Road Trip Car Maintenance

In the fast paced world we live in there are many options when it comes to travel; bus, plane, boat. But even with so many options there is nothing like the excitement of a road trip to get you where you need to go.

The most important thing that you can do before leaving on your road trip, besides having a detailed plan of your trip, is to perform a car maintenance check. Here is a complete maintenance checklist that will help make sure that you have a fun, safe trip.

Tires

A routine check should be done on your tires on a weekly or biweekly basis, but especially before a road trip. Begin by checking your tires air pressure. The recommended pressure can typically be found on the panel of the driver’s side door or on the tire itself. This is also a good time to check your tire’s tread by using the penny test as well as looking them over for signs of wear.

Fluids

To keep your vehicle running smoothly, especially for long distances, it’s important all of your fluid levels are at their recommended levels. Power steering, brake, coolant, transmission, and windshield wiper fluid all perform different functions that will keep you on the road. This is also the ideal time to check the oil level and, if necessary, perform an oil change. While you are under the hood it’s a good idea to check the belts, fan, and air filter.

Road trips are a great way to see new things and embark on a new adventure . Properly preparing your vehicle before you leave will help ensure that your trip is full of good memories rather than long periods of time on the side of the road.

Road Trip Planning

It’s hard to believe that summer is once again on its way. But even though that means rising temperatures it also means it’s time to start planning that summer road trip . Whether you are planning on driving up the coast, across the state, or across the country it’s important that you take the time to properly plan and prepare for your road trip so that it is not only fun but safe.

Before you begin your trip it’s important to map out your route . It may seem easier to simply rely on a GPS but they are by no means infallible. A good old fashioned map is a good to have on hand for double checking your route and using as a backup in case your GPS doesn’t register a particular route. Once you have your route planned out you can book accommodations along your route. This can help make finding a hotel easier and, since you can book most hotels online, can save you some money.

With your trip planned it’s important that you take your vehicle in for a check before you take off on any road trips . You can take your vehicle in to your local mechanic for an oil change and overall service check. Don’t forget to have the tires checked out as well since good tires are important for keeping your vehicle running smoothly. If you want to do it yourself it’s important that you check that all of the fluid levels are adequate, that the hoses and belts aren’t cracked, and that tires are properly inflated, have sufficient tread, and aren’t excessively worn.

The final step before you depart for your road trip is making sure that you have all of the supplies that need in case you get stuck on the side of the road. For your vehicle it’s a good idea to carry a tool kit, jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, and extra coolant. If you have a roadside assistance plan it’s also a good idea to make sure you have the phone number and any other information you need close at hand, like the glove box, so you know where it is if you need it. For you and our passengers it’s important that you have plenty of water, some snacks, and a couple of blankets (it may get cold if you get stranded at night).

Properly planning and being prepared for any possible situation will help ensure that your road trip is filled with good, fun memories and that you get to your destination without trouble along the way.

If you are going to be traveling with kids here is a great video that can give you some tips and suggestions for keeping the kids happy and surviving the family road trip.

Summer Car Tips

Rising temperatures, longer days and shorter nights are sure signs that summer is on its way. With so much to look forward to –the end of school, summer vacations, and quality time with friends and family –ow is the perfect time to get your vehicle ready for all of the adventures that you have planned.

The best place to begin is under the hood. Check all of the fluids to make sure they are at appropriate levels –coolant, radiator, power steering, oil –and belts for signs of cracks or leaks. If it’s been awhile since your last oil change now would be a good time to have that done as well as checking the air filter. Also, summer can be rough on your car battery but cleaning the heads thoroughly and making sure that they are properly attached can help prolong its life.

Most of this can be completed pretty easily yourself but it doesn’t hurt to take it in to a certified mechanic for a pre-summer inspection; especially if you are planning on spending a lot of time on the road this summer. If you do take it in don’t forget to ask about for a check on you’re A/C unit. There is nothing worse on a hot summer day than having your air conditioning die.

One of the most frequently neglected items on your vehicle is the tires. Too many people neglect to check their tire pressure or for signs of wear even though poorly maintained tires are more likely to blow out and cause an accident. The proper tire pressure can be found on the tire’s sidewall or on the inside of the driver’s door panel. Properly inflated tires not only last longer and wear more evenly but they also get better gas mileage. You can also visually inspect the tires for signs of wear, cracks, or other damage as well as perform the penny test to check the tread depth. There are lots of tire videos out there if you need assistance or take your vehicle to a local tire dealer.

Lastly, give your car a good cleaning. Not only will it make your car look good but it will remove all the buildup of salt and grim from winter that can damage you vehicle, particularly the metal undercarriage.

Proper summer car care is as much about keeping your vehicle running safely as it is about car safety. Taking care of your vehicle now will ensure that it’s all set and ready to go whenever you are.

Car Maintenance Checklist

It’s hard to believe when many are still experiencing cold weather and snow that spring break is here again. Whether you are planning an awesome road trip with your friends to a far-off, warmer, destination or just plan to stay at home and relax now is a great time to go through that car maintenance checklist. We rely on our vehicles so much to get us where we need to go, the best automotive advice we can follow is to stay on top of routine maintenance. This way we can usually avoid major fixes down the road.

One of the first things that you should check is the tires. It may seem inconsequential now, but tires suffer a lot of wear and tear on the roads so it’s important to check for proper tire pressure and signs of excessive wear . By doing this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis you can dramatically extend the life of your tires and improve your fuel efficiency. If you begin to notice your vehicle pulling to one side or the other you can also look into aligning your tires and/or getting them rotated.

Next you can move under the hood . There are many important components under the hood but don’t feel overwhelmed. Checking the levels for the power steering fluid, engine coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and windshield wiper fluid will keep your vehicle running smoothly and help prevent bigger problems down the road. It is also important to check oil level and every 3 months or 3000 miles take your vehicle in for an oil change. If you take your vehicle in to a mechanic for an oil change it’s also a good idea to have them check the belts and fans for signs of wear. Also, this is a good time to check your windshield wiper blades. Especially if you live in an area that is sunny and doesn’t receive much rain, they can become rotted and quite ineffective when you need them. The video below shows you how to do an oil change yourself.

Your vehicle’s owner’s manual is a great guide for routine maintenance. In it you can usually find a list of recommended items for your specific item and can help you identify potential problem areas before they become big problems.

Vehicle ownership can at times be expensive and time consuming but maintaining a routine maintenance schedule and doing what you can to take care of your vehicle now can save you a lot of money and hassle down the road.