Even if you take good care of your car, eventually its components will wear out. Thankfully, the check engine light will let you know if there’s a problem. If this light illuminates on your dashboard, it may indicate a minor issue or be a sign of a more serious problem. Here’s what you should do if the check engine light comes on.
If the light is on
If you’re cruising along and the check engine light suddenly comes on, you can keep going till you arrive at your destination. Once you park your vehicle, inspect the cap on your gas tank. A common cause of the check engine light illuminating is a loose cap.
If this doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time to make an appointment with a mechanic and get your car inspected. The check engine light illuminating sometimes indicates that one or more of your engine’s components needs to be replaced.
If the light is blinking
A blinking light indicates a problem that needs to be fixed immediately and that could damage your car if you keep driving. Stop as soon as you can find a safe spot to pull over and call a towing service to get your car to a garage. A mechanic can identify the problem and make the necessary repairs to ensure your safety and the proper functioning of the vehicle. Note that in some cars a red light versus a yellow or orange one will indicate a problem that requires immediate attention.
If the check engine light is on, be sure to bring your car to a mechanic for an inspection. Small problems can snowball into big ones when you don’t take the appropriate measures.
Winter driving: 5 things to check before you go
Roads can be dangerous in the winter, especially in extreme weather. Stay safe by checking the five following things every time you get behind the wheel.
Fill your gas tank as often as possible to prevent condensation from forming. While it’s not an issue when the temperature is warm, condensation can freeze and create blockages in the fuel lines in the winter.
2. Windshield washer fluid
Sloppy weather conditions may force you to use more washer fluid than usual to keep your windshield clear. To ensure you can always see the road ahead, check fluid levels often and keep an extra bottle in your trunk.
3. Snow removal
In some states, not removing snow from your car before getting behind the wheel puts you at risk of incurring a driving infraction. Besides, failing to do so is extremely dangerous. Snow can slide down your roof and obstruct your view, and chunks of ice may fly off your car and hit vehicles behind you, potentially causing a serious accident.
4. Weather forecast
While few of us are able to plan our comings and goings around the weather, checking the forecast before leaving will allow you to account for potential delays caused by bad weather. In difficult conditions, leave earlier to ensure you can drive at a safe speed and, if possible, stay home during severe storms.
5. Roads and traffic
Stay informed about local road conditions and try to avoid hazardous, icy and poorly plowed areas. Take a longer route if it allows you to avoid a dangerous commute.
Finally, if your car is showing signs of deterioration or is performing poorly, be sure to visit a local mechanic as soon as possible.
A history of roads in Virginia: Transit makes its mark
When funds for highway construction doubled, so did funds for public transportation services. Increasing pressures for these services were felt in all sections of Virginia.
Public transportation service includes a lot more than buses in the cities or the Metrorail subway in the Washington, D.C., area. It includes ridesharing efforts with car and van pools, park-and-ride lots, special high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on congested highways for vehicles carrying at least two and sometimes three people, special transportation for elderly and handicapped persons, and development of commuter rail service.
By the late 1980s, public transportation was making its mark. More than two-thirds of the people crossing the Potomac River between Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., during rush hours traveled either by public transit or car pool. But many more innovations beyond public transportation would be required to keep Virginia moving in the last decade of the century.
Produced by the
Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
A history of roads in Virginia: Special action in Northern Virginia
Due to the critical transportation needs in Northern Virginia, those localities took the lead in adopting alternative financing methods for highway construction and improvement projects.
Northern Virginia was first in using a “proffer” system that allowed the counties to negotiate with private developers in zoning matters so the developers paid for needed public improvements, such as new streets and schools, in return for favorable zoning decisions.
Some local governments also issued their own bonds for highway work. Proceeds from these bond sales were used either to supplement state funds or to build road projects for which state funds were not available.
In 1988, the General Assembly, with the support of Gov. Baliles, approved legislation that allowed private companies to build and operate for-profit toll roads. Companies must have their plans approved by state and local officials before building, and the toll structure must be approved by the State Corporation Commission. Private firms took the lead in other highway projects in Northern Virginia. The first 1.5-mile segment of one of Fairfax County’s most-needed roads was built by a developer in conjunction with construction of a major office park.
County, state, and federal funds were used to build other sections of the 35-mile Fairfax County Parkway. Another example of public and private sector cooperation was the financing of the improvements to Route 28 in Northern Virginia. The state sold bonds to widen and upgrade the heavily congested road near Dulles Airport, with the owners of commercial and industrial land in the area paying off the bonds through a special property tax. This first special tax district was authorized by the General Assembly in 1987. Since then, similar tax districts have been permitted
in other areas of the state.
The transportation initiatives and increased funding since 1986 meant a doubling, and in some areas a tripling, of the highway construction program. That kind of expansion in a short time frame could have led to problems if steps to address them were not taken. There were two questions in particular that had to be answered: could the road-building industry absorb the additional work, especially without a jump in prices, and could VDOT manage such an expanded program?
The answer to both questions was “yes.” The COT 21 members had looked into the first, and Gov. Baliles and the legislature had taken steps to deal with the second. The cost of highway construction remained stable, in part because of the increased competition for the road-building dollars. The number of contractors interested in working on Virginia’s roads increased, as did the number who bid on the various construction projects.
The department took several steps to discourage and detect collusion while making sure bids and prices remained competitive in the expanded construction program. Among the steps was the creation of the nation’s first full-time, multi-person, antitrust unit in a state transportation agency.
When Gov. Baliles first proposed his transportation initiatives, he brought in a management expert, Ray D. Pethtel, to head the 11,000-employee agency. Pethtel, who previously had served as head of JLARC, instituted a series of changes within the agency to make it more efficient and effective.
The time it took to complete highway projects was cut 20 percent, and the job was being done with fewer people per dollars spent. Substantial authority was decentralized to field offices around the state. Training was given new emphasis, along with increased communication with employees, the general public, elected officials, construction contractors, design and engineering consultants, minority-owned businesses, and others.
Use of computers and other technology increased in areas from surveying to drafting.
Produced by the
Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
4 things to do when buying a used vehicle
If you’re buying a used vehicle, you want to ensure that you don’t get stuck with a dud. To make an informed purchase, follow these four steps.
1. Ensure that it isn’t stolen
Thieves will sometimes try to sell stolen cars, so it’s worth taking the following precautions:
• Make sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the dashboard identification plate matches the number on the vehicle’s registration.
• Ask the seller for a piece of photo ID to ensure that the name on the ID matches the one on the registration.
• Ask to see the vehicle’s service records.
2. Thoroughly inspect it
When you examine the car, take your time. Here a are few things buyers sometimes forget to look for:
• Signs of a paint job. Recent body work may indicate an effort to cover up defects.
• Tire wear. Make sure the tires are in good shape and that the tread on them is evenly worn.
• A spare tire. Check that it’s in the trunk, along with a jack and wheel wrench.
3. Take it for a test drive
Make sure you feel safe in the vehicle and that you like the way it handles. You should also watch out for mechanical issues during the test drive. Check that the engine gages and warning lights are working and that the brakes feel firm.
4. Get a mechanic to inspect it
Hire a professional mechanic to perform an inspection before making your decision. They’ll be able to spot anything you missed and give you a detailed report.
If the seller already has an inspection report, verify that it’s from a reputable garage.
Remember, sellers won’t always divulge every known problem. By asking specific questions and conducting a thorough inspection, you can make an informed decision.
5 steps to take before storing your car for winter
With the cold weather approaching, some people are getting ready to put their summer car away for the season. Here are five steps to take when preparing your car for winter storage.
1. Decide where it’ll stay. If you don’t have a garage at home, you’ll need to rent a storage unit or an indoor parking spot for the season. Alternatively, you can store your car outdoors. However, be sure to never leave it on the grass or bare earth as the moisture from below can cause damage. No matter where you park it, always use a car cover.
2. Make sure it’s clean. Bird droppings, sap and even water marks can permanently damage the paint on your car. Wash the outside with a mild detergent and a soft microfiber cloth and follow up by applying a layer of wax. Don’t forget to clean the windows, wheels, tires and undersides of the fenders. Or better yet, get it professionally detailed.
3. Check the fluids. If it’s time for an oil change, this is the perfect opportunity to check your other engine fluids as well. Top them up or replace them as needed. Also, be sure to fill the gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer if recommended by the manufacturer.
4. Inflate your tires. Fill them to the maximum PSI rating marked on the sidewalls.
5. Attend to the battery. Connect your vehicle’s battery to a battery tender, which will keep it full without overcharging it. Some manufacturers recommend keeping it connected to the vehicle in order to preserve the car’s memory. If you’re removing the battery, store it somewhere warm.
It may be tempting to cancel your insurance while you’re not using your car, but it’s not the best idea. Some companies may charge you a higher premium when it’s time to insure again. More importantly, you won’t be covered should something happen to your car over the winter.
Winter car care: 3 things to remember
As winter approaches, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is ready to face the difficult driving conditions ahead. Here are three tasks you should complete before the first snowstorm of the season strikes.
1. Inspect your winter tires
To be safe on the road in snowy weather, your winter tires need to be in good condition. If the tread on them is worn, they won’t be able to provide an adequate amount of traction. You can get a mechanic to inspect them or do it yourself.
Some tires have tread wear indicators located inside the grooves. If the indicator is flush with the grooves, the tires need to be changed.
You can also use a quarter: insert the coin inside the tread grooves upside down. If the tire doesn’t cover at least part of Washington’s head, you need to change your tires.
2. Test your windshield wipers
Your windshield wipers are another component on your car that will help keep you safe in wintery weather. Ensure that they’re in good condition by making certain that the blades stay in contact with the glass when they’re in motion and that their movements aren’t jerky. In addition, they shouldn’t be noisy or leave streaks behind. You can also slide your finger along the blades to feel for irregularities.
3. Take care of the interior
Frost on the inside of your windows is often made worse if they’re dirty, so give them a wash before the cold weather arrives. You should also switch your floor mats for plastic ones, as carpeted liners tend to retain moisture, which will make any frost issues worse.
It’s also a good idea to check the owner’s manual to make sure you don’t forget anything. If you need help getting your car ready for winter, your local mechanic will be able to help.