Shock absorbers ensure that your car rolls along smoothly and the wheels adhere to the road. Here’s what you need to know about this essential component of your car’s suspension system.
How shock absorbers work
Shock absorbers are pump-like devices that work in conjunction with your car’s springs. When you hit a bump on the road, the springs bounce to absorb the impact. The job of the shock absorbers is to diminish the strings’ vibrations. They do this through a process called dampening, in which they dissipate the kinetic energy of the springs as heat.
Why they’re important
Without shock absorbers, your car would continue to bounce along after hitting a bump. This isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s also dangerous as it can cause your tires to lose traction, especially during turns.
By diminishing the springs’ vibrations, shock absorbers keep your wheels firmly on the road and improve the handling of your vehicle.
When to change them
Most manufacturers recommend that you replace your shock absorbers every 50,000 miles. Signs that your shock absorbers need to be replaced include pronounced bouncing and vibrations when driving and a longer stopping distance.
If your shock absorbers are past their prime, be sure to get them replaced by a qualified mechanic.
Buying or leasing a new car: what’s best?
When shopping for a new car, you must decide whether to lease or buy it. The choice can be difficult, as each option has pros and cons. Here’s what to consider.
The best thing about leasing is that you can use the car during its best, trouble-free years. You can also afford a higher-priced ride with the most up-to-date safety features, all covered under a warranty.
However, continuously leasing means making monthly car payments without owning the asset. Moreover, contracts typically have mileage limits with fees for exceeding them. Plus, you’ll be penalized if you cancel your agreement early or fail to keep your car in excellent condition.
The biggest advantage of buying is that you own the car, which means you can drive it as far as you want and sell it or trade it at any time. However, the car’s value will depreciate, and the monthly payments are usually higher than leasing rates.
Visit your local car dealership to discuss their leasing and buying terms.
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.