Some Helpful Car Care Tips

Here are some helpful articles to help you prolong the life of your car or truck. Just click the links below to jump down the page to each article!
Don't hit the panic button, but don't ignore it either.
It's a small rectangle hidden among the gauges clustered on the instrument panel behind the steering wheel. It flashes briefly when you turn the ignition on-- along with other system checks like anti-lock brakes - to let you know the system is ready to do it's prescribed job.After briefly flashing at startup indicating all is well, it is blank and dormant as you drive happily on your way.  Then one day, inexplicably, it glows yellow and warns “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” or displays a yellow engine symbol. What do you check and why?  
The engine often shows no obvious signs of anything except running down the road in quiet contentment.When the onboard diagnostic system determines that a problem exists, the computer illuminates the yellow dashboard indicator.  This light serves to inform the driver that a problem has been detected and vehicle service is needed. Onboard diagnostics assess engine misfire situations, the most severe of which indicates the possibility of catalytic converter damage.  When this occurs, the yellow light will blink on and off repeatedly.Don't hit the panic button and stop the car when the yellow message starts flashing.  However it is important to reduce the speed of the vehicle, and take it for service as soon as possible.  The vehicle should not be driven for long distances with the light flashing.The system is also continuously checking information from the engine and transmission sensors against data stored in its memory.  When one of the hundreds of possible faults is found, the yellow indicator comes on and stays on.  This can mean many things, from a sensor fault to a fouled sparkplug.The continuous light tells the driver that something is wrong, and to bring the vehicle in for service.  This is not an emergency situation, however, don't drive for more than a few days with the light on.The glitches that activate the “Check Engine” light are often nothing a driver can readily detect, but that doesn't mean everything is working properly.  There can be a condition that wastes fuel, shortens engine life, or could lead to expensive repairs if left unaddressed.  And, since the condition is usually emission related, the level of pollutants coming from the tailpipe can soar.So if the “Check Engine” light comes on, don't hit the panic button, but don't ignore it either.  Call your friends at Motor World, (301) 899-1705.
Part of parenting is dispensing driving advice.  For example, in icy weather young drivers may be told, “Take it slow.  Don't drive any faster than the speed at which you're willing to hit a brick wall.”  Thanks Mom.  Thanks Dad.  Driving slowly and cautiously is good advice, but the Car Care Council reminds motorists of other cold weather tips.The first and most important is to be proactive.  That means making sure your car is mechanically sound before the temperature dips and the streets get icy.
Engine and Cooling System
First, if you're a Do-It-Yourselfer, get under the hood.  Otherwise, visit your friendly automotive technician.  Winter only magnifies existing problems like pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling, so make certain the engine is in peak condition.  Check the cooling system, too.  Coolant should be flushed and refilled every two years on most vehicles.
Oil Change
Have the oil changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles for most vehicles.  For less wear and tear on the engine, drivers in cold climates (sub-zero driving temperatures) should be sure the oil weight used complies with manufacturer specifications.  At Motor World, our courtesy visual inspections, done at no charge with every oil change, are the 1st step for worry free winter driving.
Four Other Musts
The battery and exhaust system are other “must check” items.  These should be examined using professional equipment.  Make certain the heater/defroster are working properly and keep the gas tank full.  In addition to staying ready for the road, a full fuel tank decreases the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.
Exterior Concerns
Now for the outside of the vehicle: tires, lighting, and wipers.  Both tire tread and tire pressure should be checked weekly.  If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads.  Lights should be inspected regularly.  Check to see that bulbs are illuminated, and headlights are properly aimed.  Finally, replace wiper blades every six months.  Consider special snow blades if the weather dictates.
Even the most meticulously maintained vehicle can develop problems on the road, especially during inclement weather.  That's when it pays to be prepared for an emergency.  The trunk- Use that big space for something more than a spare tire (which, incidentally should properly inflated, just in case).  Pack items that would be needed if you got stranded for several hours.  A cell phone (with a car charger) is a good start.  Also include the following:  ice scraper, windshield de-icer, flashlight, whisk broom, blanket, extra clothes, candle/matches, bottled water, snacks, needed medication.
Although you may want to get rid of your present vehicle in favor of a new car, taking better care of your current set of wheels may make much more sense in the long run- helping you achieve a goal of financial freedom.“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,” and Terry Mulcahy, Vice President of Investments for R.W. Baird. “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. ”The Car Care Council estimates that more than $60 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 investments.“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 safe, 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.”Figures from the Runzheimer International, a management consulting firm that measures travel and living costs, confirms the Council's claims.  Recent figures from a Ruinzheimer study show that trading a vehicle every eight years instead of every four can save more than $2481.75 a year after the payoff.  That includes repairs and maintenance, license, registration, taxes and insurance.
Fight skyrocketing gas prices by taking control of your vehicle's unnecessary fuel consumption, advises the Car Care Council.  Consumers can add miles to every gallon they pump by following a few easy and inexpensive maintenance steps with their car, SUV, minivan or pickup truck.“Most motorists don't realize that it's the little things that don't take a lot of time or cost much that can really make a difference when it comes to saving money at the pump,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council.  “Loose or missing gas caps, under-inflated tires, worn spark plugs and dirty air filters all contribute to poor fuel economy.”The Car Care Council offers gas saving maintenance and driving tips that really work:
  • Vehicle gas caps – about 17 percent of the vehicles on the roads have gas caps that are either damaged, loose or are missing altogether causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year.Under-inflated tires – When tires aren't inflated properly it's like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon. Worn spark plugs – A vehicle can have either four, six, or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical erosion.  A worn sparkplug causes misfiring, which wastes fuel.  Spark plugs need to be replaced regularly. Dirty air filters – an air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a “rich” mixture – too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power.  Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving about 15 cents a gallon.
  • “Service Engine” light on – a yellow light illuminated on your dash, sometimes “Check Engine” or an engine symbol, means that the vehicle computer system has detected a fault that is related to emissions and possibly fuel economy.  Professional diagnostics will reveal the causes of this concern.
Fuel-saving driving tips include:
  • Don't be an aggressive driver – Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets, which results in 7 to 49 cents per gallon.
  • Avoid excessive idling – Idling gets zero miles per gallon.  Letting the vehicle warm up for one to two minutes is sufficient.
  • Observe the speed limit – Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.  Each mph driven over 60 will result in an additional 10 cents per gallon.  To maintain a constant speed on the highway, cruise control is recommended.
  • Combining errands into one trip saves gas and time.  Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance.
  • Avoid carrying unneeded heavy items in the truck.  An extra 100 pounds can cut fuel efficiency by a percent or two.

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