Regular car maintenance: a road safety essential
October is Fall Car Care Month and a good time for drivers to think about how they can stay safe on the road. While practicing good driving habits is key, taking care of your car is just as important. Here’s what you should know.
Mechanical breakdowns cause accidents
Vehicle malfunctions are the cause of countless car accidents every year. Faulty engines, defective brakes and blown transmissions are common culprits. These types of breakdowns are often caused by hidden issues that can be identified by a mechanic during a routine maintenance check.
Degradation of parts is inevitable
All moving parts on a car degrade over time. Individual components, however, have distinct lifespans, that require servicing at various intervals. For example, brake pads last three to five years, serpentine belts about six years and timing belts about eight years.
It’s dangerous to drive your car if mechanical parts become excessively worn.
Tires and wheels require ongoing care
Wheels and tires need to be carefully maintained. Your tires grip the road and allow you to turn safely. As they start to wear down, it becomes increasingly difficult to reliably control your car.
As for the wheels, they need to be aligned. The tires of misaligned wheels drag and deter the car from rolling freely, causing problems with vehicle handling.
Wheels and tires should be inspected several times a year.
There are other benefits of regular maintenance
Safety may be the best motive for staying on top of your car’s maintenance needs, but there are other reasons. Regular car care can save you money by keeping your warranty valid, improving your gas mileage and remedying small issues before they result in costly breakdowns.
The Million Mile Club
Did you know that some motorists have racked up more than a million miles on their odometers? That’s the equivalent of driving around the world 40 times! It’s no surprise that the Million Mile Club is pretty exclusive. You can be sure that each of these drivers took exceptionally good care of their vehicle.
Spring tune-up essentials
After a long, cold winter, spring is in the air. This means giving your car a little TLC before cruising in the sunshine is time. Ensuring everything is in tip-top shape before hitting the road can help avoid costly breakdowns. Here are eight essential spring tune-up tasks.
1. Battery. Most batteries last five to seven years. However, cold winters are notoriously hard on batteries. With warm weather on the horizon, ask your mechanic to check the condition of yours.
2. Windshield wipers. Ice, snow, and freezing temperatures can take a toll on your wiper blades. Therefore, when the weather warms up, it’s a good idea to check your blades for signs of wear and replace them if necessary.
3. Tires. If you installed winter tires on your vehicle, now’s the time to have them swapped out for summer ones. The rubber treading on winter tires wears out faster in warm conditions. If your car is equipped with all-season tires, inspect them for tread wear, cracking, or other signs of damage and replace them if necessary.
4. Hoses and belts. Harsh winter weather can affect the life of your car’s hoses and belts. It’s best to have them inspected by a trusted mechanic for cracks, leaks, fraying, and stretching to ensure they’re ready to go the distance this spring.
5. Filters. Ask your mechanic to look at your vehicle’s engine and cabin filters and replace them if needed. A dirty cabin filter can cause your air conditioning system to malfunction; a dirty engine filter can put undue stress on your engine.
6. Brakes. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before getting your brakes checked. Have the pads and rotors professionally inspected to keep them in good working condition.
7. Lights. When you take your car in for a spring tune-up, have the mechanic check the turn signal bulbs, brake lights, headlights, marker lights, and daytime running lights.
8. Fluids. Several fluids must be changed when you go through your spring tune-up routine. For example, the engine oil, power steering fluid, brake, transmission fluids, coolant, and windshield washer fluid should all be checked and topped up as necessary.
When you’re ready to get a spring tune-up for your vehicle, contact a local mechanic to get the job done right and keep you safe on the road.
Why you shouldn’t drive around with a chipped windshield
A chipped windshield can happen anywhere at any time. You may think a little star-shaped chip is nothing to worry about. However, driving with a chipped wind¬shield can lead to some significant problems and safety concerns.
Chips can lead to cracks
Driving with a chipped windshield on rough roads or through potholes will cause the windshield to vibrate, and the tiny chip can turn into a large crack. Temperature fluctuations caused by air conditioners on hot days also cause the glass to expand and contract, worsening the cracks in your windshield.
Chips can limit your vision
A windshield chip may interfere with your field of vision, making it difficult to see animals, cyclists, or pedestrians. This is dangerous and could cause an accident.
It compromises the car’s structural integrity
The windshield plays a crucial role in your vehicle’s structural integrity and is designed to protect people inside from rollovers. If you roll over with a chipped or cracked windshield, the entire windshield could collapse, potentially causing passengers to be injured or ejected from the vehicle.
A chipped or cracked windshield can also prevent your airbags from working properly, as airbags are designed to inflate against the windshield.
If your windshield is chipped, visit an auto glass repair shop as soon as possible. Most chips can be quickly and cheaply repaired while you wait.
How to clean your car’s undercarriage
Your car’s undercarriage accumulates dirt, debris, and road salt. It also periodically gets wet from rain, mud, and snow, leading to rust. Spring is a great time to give the undercarriage a good cleaning. Here’s how to do it.
1. Lift the vehicle. Lifting your car with a jack makes accessing every part of the undercarriage easier. Skip this step if you have a lifted truck.
2. Remove the tires. This optional step allows you to move more freely around the vehicle and get into all the nooks and crannies.
3. Rinse the undercarriage. Wash the undercarriage section by section using a pressure washer or garden hose with a spray attachment. Start from the front, moving toward the back. Hold the spray attachment or pressure washer wand at a 45-degree angle for the best cleaning action.
4. Clean stubborn areas with a degreaser. To remove persistent dirt and debris, spray degreaser on the undercarriage and let it sit for 20 minutes. Scrub with a brush and then rinse the surface.
5. Dry the undercarriage. Rust can develop if moisture is left behind on the metal. Dry every part of the undercarriage with old towels.
6. Apply a protectant. This helps protect the metal of the undercarriage against damage. It‘ll also keep it cleaner for longer.
If you don’t feel confident washing your car’s undercarriage, look for a local car wash that offers the service.
Why you should avoid potholes on the road
It can become tiresome to steer around potholes every spring. However, driving through them can severely damage your car. Here are the areas of your vehicle most susceptible to pothole damage.
• Tires. Driving through deep potholes can lead to a blowout or flat tire. It can also cause your tire to bulge and inflict premature wear, shortening your tire’s lifespan.
• Wheels. Hitting a pothole can cause bends, dents, and cracks in the wheel where the rim meets the tire. Driving on a compromised wheel is dangerous.
• Suspension. Ramming a pothole can hurt your suspension, causing your vehicle to pull to one side. This can drastically shorten the lifespan of your suspension. If you notice your car pulling to one side, take it to an auto repair shop as soon as possible.
• Steering. A pothole can knock your steering mechanisms out of place, causing your steering wheel to vibrate. It can also make your car more difficult to control.
• Exhaust. If you hit a deep pothole and your car bottoms out, you can damage the exhaust pipes, muffler, or catalytic converter, causing your car to make dreadful noises and release harmful pollution into the air.
Avoid potholes when you can; your car will thank you. If you hit a sharp and deep pothole, visit a local auto repair shop for a check-up.
Expert tips to protect your windshield all year round
Your car’s windshield does more than let you see outside. It provides a significant amount of strength to the structural support in the vehicle’s cabin. Here are a few tips to keep it in good condition.
• Periodically wipe your windshield with a microfiber cloth. This will help keep the glass clean and prevent the wipers from spreading dirt around.
• Regularly clean your wiper blades with a soft cloth soaked in washer fluid to remove grease and dust.
• Replace your wiper blades as soon as they show signs of wear to prevent streaking.
• Maintain a safe following distance to reduce the risk of getting hit by stones.
• Warm up your car gradually. Avoid forcing hot air onto the windshield, as the temperature difference between the outside and inside of the car could weaken the glass.
• Place a cardboard or anti-icing tarp over your windshield when the forecast predicts rain or cold weather.
• Don’t use hot water to de-ice your windshield. The thermal shock can cause it to crack.
• Immediately repair chips or cracks in your windshield.
• Use a snow brush with a flexible Styrofoam edge. The bristles on traditional brushes can harbor debris that could scratch your windshield.
• Use a seasonal windshield washer fluid. For example, winter washer fluid won’t freeze and removes road salt, while summer washer fluid removes insects.
Visit a local autobody or glass repair shop to have your windshield inspected and repaired if necessary.
How to keep teen drivers safe
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), teens are notorious risk-takers and may not consider the consequences of taking risks.
Speeding, for example, may not seem dangerous to teens. Car crashes, however, are the leading cause of death among Americans 16 to 19 years old. Forty percent of these accidents are alcohol-related.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have graduated licensing. Driving privileges are phased in through three stages while teens become more experienced. These states have experienced a 32 percent decline in crash rates among new drivers, according to NHSTA.
Here are some tips for parents:
- Don’t give new drivers the right to drive alone at first. Be a passenger in the car until you are assured that he or she drives carefully and defensively.
- Don’t allow new drivers to have other teens in the car or limit them to one passenger. There will be less chance of distraction or showing off.
- Practice night driving with your teen. Limit night driving until he or she has the skill to handle it and realizes that driving at night is more dangerous.
- Have zero tolerance for smoking and driving. New drivers will be less distracted at the wheel if they don’t smoke.
- Insist on safety belt use.
- Be a good role model. Drive safely.
Finally, don’t assume that your young driver can handle a car in all situations because he or she has passed driver’s ed and now has a driver’s license. Your attention to his or her skill level and appropriate restrictions could save the life of the child you love.
Wind: 2mph SSE
UV index: 0