Your alternator plays a critical role in keeping your car’s battery charged and electronic systems running. To avoid an unexpected breakdown, here are four warning signs that your alternator may be failing.
1. Your battery warning light is on. When the battery-shaped warning light appears on your dashboard, it’s often an indicator that your alternator is no longer working properly and has dropped below its de¬signated voltage capacity.
2. Your electronic accessories are slow. If you find that your power windows are operating slowly or your windshield wipers and heated seats aren’t working properly, your alternator is likely on its last legs and needs to be serviced.
3. You hear unusual sounds. Growling and high-pitched squeaking or whining noises coming from under the hood of your car are often signs that the alternator belt has come loose or is misaligned. In ad¬dition, grinding sounds could indicate that your alternator has a worn-out or broken bearing that needs to be replaced.
4. Your lights are dimmer than usual. Your alternator may be failing if your headlights seem dim or you notice that your dashboard lights flicker when you turn on the radio.
If you notice any of these signs or are having trouble starting your car, you should make an appointment to have your alternator inspected by a mechanic.
Why you should rotate and balance your tires
Your vehicle’s tires are expensive. Therefore, you must do everything possible to make them last as long as possible. Rotating and balancing your tires are two effective methods of prolonging their lifespan. Here’s why.
• More even wear. Your car’s front tires wear out more quickly than your rear ones because turning increases friction with the road. A tire rotation exchanges your tires from front to back and from right to left, so your tires wear more evenly, prolonging the useful life of each tire.
• Increased safety. Your vehicle will handle better because rotating your tires leads to less wear and extends the life of the tire treads, giving you better traction for longer.
• Opportunity for inspection. Rotating your tires is an excellent time to inspect them for damage visually. You can also check the tread depth and air pressure and get them balanced if you’ve noticed vibrations. Unbalanced tires wear out unevenly, decreasing performance when turning or braking.
• Increased fuel efficiency. Worn-out tires have uneven contact with the road and increased friction, making your engine work harder and decreasing fuel efficiency.
• Fewer trips to the garage. If you don’t regularly rotate your tires, you must replace your front tires more often than your rear ones. When you keep them rotated, you can replace all four tires simultaneously, reducing the number of trips to the tire shop.
Most manufacturers recommend rotating and balancing your tires every 5,000 miles. However, the recommended frequency can vary on the type of tires, the size of your vehicle, and the road conditions where you usually drive.
How to inspect your vehicle’s oil in 7 easy steps
Checking your vehicle’s oil is a simple process that’ll help ensure your car runs smoothly for years. Here’s how to do it in seven easy steps.
1. Read up. Read your car’s owner’s manual before popping the hood.
2. Warm up the car. Drive around the block or make a quick jaunt to the grocery store. Then, turn the ignition off before checking the oil.
3. Open the hood and find the dipstick. The dipstick has a yellow or orange circular handle. When you pull the dipstick out, it should contain a long, thin metal strip.
4. Clean the dipstick. The end of the dipstick will have oil on it. Clean it off using a lint-free rag and reinsert the metal strip back in the hole.
5. Inspect the dipstick. Pull the dipstick back out and check the oil level. The dipstick will indicate maximum and minimum levels. You’re good to go if the level is between those two marks.
6. Inspect the oil. The oil should be clear amber, and smooth when you rub it between your fingers. If it’s black and gritty, it’s time to have your oil changed.
7. Top up if needed. If your oil is low, add some to the fill port on top of your engine. Low oil is also an indication a mechanic should inspect your car.
Visit an automotive shop near you to change your car’s oil every three months or 3,000 miles. Newer vehicles can go six months or 7,500 miles before needing an oil change.
5 car noises you should never ignore
Visual checks are an essential part of vehicle care and maintenance. However, you should also use your ears. Strange noises are clues about potential issues with your car. Here are five noises you shouldn’t ignore.
1. Squeaking or grinding. If you hear a grinding or squeaking noise every time you stop, your car’s brake pads, shoes, or rotors may be worn out. If left unchecked, these issues can be hazardous.
2. Hissing. Your engine could be over¬heating if you hear a hissing sound coming from under the hood. This sound could also mean the exhaust system is plugged.
3. Chirping. A high-pitched chirping sound could indicate that you need to adjust or replace the engine’s timing or serpentine belt.
4. Rattling. If your steering wheel is rattling or your tires are shaking, it’s time to act. It may mean you’ve lost a lug nut, or your power steering fluid is low.
5. Rumbling. A loud rumbling noise while accelerating often indicates a hole in your muffler or exhaust system. This is dangerous because toxic fumes can leak into the cabin.
See a professional automotive technician if you hear strange noises coming from your car. Failing to act quickly could result in more costly repairs down the road.
Today’s economy dictates a new way of driving
It wasn’t so long ago that performance and speed were the main characteristics of many vehicles. Today, most motorists look for better fuel economy, safety, and reliability. For most cars, there is only one way to reach these new goals: by changing driving habits.
Slowing down is the first factor in fuel economy. In fact, more careful, slower driving will contribute highly to all three aforementioned goals. Slower acceleration will ask for less fuel from your engine while coasting to a stop instead of braking hard at the last minute will help you save fuel and your brakes. Anticipate traffic lights and slow down before reaching corners. Driving at slower speeds on highways will also save you a lot of fuel. Indeed, it has been proven that lowering your average speed from 70 mph to around 60 mph can save you significant amounts of gasoline.
Modifying your driving habits might also mean choosing to travel during off-peak hours and avoiding high-density traffic. For highway driving, aerodynamics plays an important role; heading into the wind and cutting through the air asks for more power at higher speeds. Some people try to follow big trucks in order to “cheat” the air and get the best fuel consumption possible. Some succeed, but it is not advised to follow trucks closely; to do so can be very dangerous. Last but not least, remember that keeping your vehicle well maintained will greatly help save fuel and be safer on the road.
Today’s new economy dictates different driving habits.
One flaw made Tesla’s autos easy to steal
Physical keys are so 20th century.
Many carmakers are doing away with keys, instead opting for digital systems that allow you to start a vehicle with a push of a button, a voice command, a key card, or even an app on your smartphone.
But with new technology comes new problems. And that is what happened with a Tesla NFC card. An NFC card (Near Field Communication card), a key fob, or a phone app all unlock a Tesla.
Last year, Tesla rolled out an update for its NFC card entry system. The new card allowed the user to unlock the car, and the vehicle would automatically start within 130 seconds, allowing the user could drive without using the card a second time. The problem: It also put the car into a state to accept entirely new digital keys — a thief’s dream. If a hacker could enroll a new key, they’d be able to access and start up the vehicle at any time.
The security weaknesses were uncovered by Martin Herfurt, a researcher based in Austria. Martin found that once a Tesla was unlocked with an NFC card, anyone with the correct Bluetooth Low Energy device could enroll an unconnected key simply by communicating directly with the car. The Tesla’s owner would receive no alerts or warnings. It’s unknown if hackers had previously exploited this flaw. But if so, stealing Tesla vehicles would have been relatively easy.
If the owner used the Tesla phone app rather than the keycard, they were still protected. The app only allows keys connected to the owner’s account to enroll.
Tesla is far from the only automaker doing away with traditional keys, and automakers have favored physical keys with embedded chips.
Drivers who indulge in high speeds are endangering the lives of pedestrians, especially those of children playing on the street in residential areas. Even if they know this already, speeding is a hard habit to break for a lot of drivers.
If you are a chronic speeder, here are some statistics that might give you a different perspective on your habit: roughly half of the injuries caused by road accidents happen in towns and on residential streets. Speeding is the cause of 12 percent of accidents and 30 percent of fatal accidents. The correlation between speed and injury is clear: only 5 percent of pedestrians hit by a car traveling at less than 18 mph die due to the accident, but 85 percent of those hit by vehicles over 40 mph die.
The principle is simple: the faster a vehicle is going, the less time the driver has to react to an unexpected obstacle or dangerous situation. Conversely, pedestrians and children in the path of a speeding vehicle have less time to get out of the way. Moreover, a vehicle traveling at high speed requires a much greater distance to come to a complete stop.
Posted speed limits are nothing to shrug off for convenience’s sake. They take into account the type of road and its surroundings. Respecting speed limits is the first step in making roads and sidewalks safe for all people. So, the next time your drive around your neighborhood, please slow down.