The lights on your dashboard are your car’s way of telling you something’s wrong. Knowing what the lights mean will help you understand what’s at stake.
• Engine. The light that looks like an engine silhouette could indicate a minor problem, like a loose gas cap, but it may indicate a severe issue. If the light comes on and the car drives smoothly, don’t panic. However, it’s best to see a mechanic as soon as possible. Pull over and call a tow truck if the engine light comes on and your vehicle starts operating erratically.
• Battery. Your battery light tells you that your battery may need replacing or recharging. Moreover, it can indicate trouble with the car’s alternator, wiring, or other electronics. Consequently, your car may not start the next time you turn the key.
• Temperature. If you see a thermometer light up, your car is running too hot. You could have low coolant levels, a broken water pump, or a burst coolant hose. Driving an overheated car could cause costly damage. Therefore, visit an auto repair shop as soon as possible.
• Oil. Oil pressure troubles trigger a light that looks like an old-school oil can. The solution could be as simple as adding some oil. However, if that doesn’t work, there could be an issue with the oil pump or a blown piston ring.
• Brakes. A light that looks like an exclamation mark inside a couple of circles means brake trouble. You may have simply left the parking brake on. However, it can also mean your brake pads are worn or have low brake fluid.
No matter what light you see, your local automotive garage can run a diagnostic on your car to determine the problem and offer solutions.
Road reflex quiz
Are you an experienced driver? Here are a few questions to put your know-how to the test.
1. When driving, what should you do if you pass a vehicle on a dimly lit road at night?
A. Turn on your high beams
B. Turn on your low beams
C. Turn on your headlights
2. How can you prevent your car from skidding when driving over icy patches of the road?
A. Brake firmly
B. Pump the brakes
C. Gradually release the gas pedal
3. What should you do if your passengers are arguing or distracting you?
A. Honk the horn to get their attention
B. Turn up the radio so you can’t hear them
C. Pull over to the side of the road
when it’s safe to do so
4. When can you drive in the left lane on a highway?
A. At any time
B. When passing another vehicle
C. Only if you’re alone on the road
5. What should you never do when another vehicle passes you?
A. Slow down
B. Maintain your speed
6. What should you do if your passenger laughs at you for driving slowly?
A. Laugh it off and maintain your speed
B. Call them a fool
C. Drive faster, so they stop laughing
7. How can you avoid being blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle at night?
A. Look at the curb on the right side of the road
B. Close your eyes momentarily
C. Quickly blink several times
1-B, 2-C, 3-C, 4-B, 5-C, 6-A, 7-A
Four tips for safely driving through a tunnel
If you need to drive through a tunnel, it’s best to exercise caution. To make sure you arrive at your destination safely, follow these tips.
1. Use the correct lane
You’re not allowed to change lanes while driving in a tunnel. Therefore, make sure you’re in the correct one before entering.
2. Turn on your low beams
Your headlights will help you see inside the dark tunnel and ensure you’re visible to other motorists.
3. Reduce your speed
It can take a second for your eyes to adjust to the low light when entering the tunnel and the glaring sun when exiting. Make sure you take it slow and always respect the speed limit.
4. Know the dimensions of your vehicle
Tunnels have different levels of clearance. Consequently, you should know the height of your vehicle, especially if you’re driving a motorhome or moving truck. Don’t forget to include the height of ac¬cessories like roof boxes and bike racks.
Finally, remember never to stop inside a tunnel unless there’s an emergency.
7 winter car care tips
On top of investing in a pre-winter vehicle inspection, it’s important to make time for cold-season car care. To prolong your vehicle’s lifespan and ensure safe driving, make sure you perform the following tasks.
1. Wash your vehicle regularly
To remove calcium, prevent corrosion and avoid premature wear and tear, clean your car often.
2. Use the defrost function
If you remove ice from windshield wiper blades with an ice scraper, it can damage the rubber. Also, you should never pour hot water on your wipers because it may crack your windshield. Instead, use your car defrost function to melt ice gradually.
3. Allow the engine to warm up
Warm up the oil and other lubricants before driving to prevent wear and tear on your engine’s moving parts in winter.
4. Check the tire pressure
Cold temperatures can cause tire pressure to drop, and driving on underinflated tires is a safety hazard. To prevent accidents, keep your tires inflated.
5. Top up your fuel tank
To prevent condensation from forming on the inside of your gas tank when it’s cold out, you should keep it relatively full. If moisture makes its way into the fuel lines, you may have trouble starting your car.
6. Check the washer fluid
Using your windshield wipers without washer fluid can wear out the rubber or scratch your windshield. Always keep washer fluid levels high, and keep a spare jug of it in your trunk.
7. Keep your wipers down
Lifting your wiper blades off your windshield when your car is parked has more drawbacks than benefits. Over time, it can damage the springs in the wiper arms and make them less effective.
If you’re concerned about the condition of your vehicle, make an appointment with your local mechanic.
Apps reward drivers for low miles, safe driving
Looking to save money on car insurance? There’s an app for that. In fact, there are now several apps that you can use to reduce car insurance premiums, including ones that track your mileage and driving habits. Using these apps, you can lock in discounts. The apps can be a pain to use, and some may invade your privacy.
If you own a classic car that you occasionally take out for cruises, you’re probably not putting tons of miles on the odometer. Since the vehicle isn’t spending a lot of time on the road, the risk of a car accident and the expensive repair and medical bills it would incur are reduced.
With the right apps and plans, you can get low-mileage insurance plans. Nationwide, for example, offers Pay-Per-Mile SmartMiles insurance. You pay a $60 base rate and then .07 cents per mile driven. If you drive 500 miles or less per month, you could save $30 or more on your monthly premium (compared to an unlimited plan).
Many other insurance companies also offer apps and low-mileage plans. Some use devices installed on your car. Others use a mobile phone app. However, there are some hassles. For example, you might have to take your smartphone out to your car to check the mileage a few times a year.
Some companies also provide discounts for safe drivers, but you may have to install a device that monitors your driving habits. So, your insurance company comes along as a sort of backseat driver.
How to retain your car’s value: 4 things to avoid
A car begins to lose value when it leaves the sales lot. Therefore, you’ll probably want to do everything possible to retain your vehicle’s value. Here are four things to avoid that would otherwise accelerate the devaluation of your car.
1. Poor records. Potential buyers will ask about the car’s history if you ever sell your car. Keep all your receipts, including those from oil changes, tire rotations, tune-ups, and significant repairs. Store them all in a single folder so you can easily access everything. It will show buyers that you’re meticulous about car care.
2. A dirty car. The first thing buyers will check when considering your car is its appearance. Remember that you don’t get another chance to make a first impression. A car full of trash, old food, and cigarette butts isn’t very appealing. Vacuum the inside of your vehicle regularly, wash the car mats and wipe the dashboard and console.
3. Aftermarket modifications. You may be tempted to deck out your ride with spoilers, dazzling lights, and rims, but that could limit your potential buyers and decrease the car’s value. Not everyone shares the same tastes as you and may not appreciate your personalized touches.
4. Inadequate maintenance. Cars need care. Failing to change the oil regularly, have the tires rotated, or repair minor issues will shorten your car’s lifespan and decrease its value more quickly.
Get help from an automotive professional to keep your car clean and well-maintained.
Fix it or junk it? What to do with the old car
If your car is paid for (or almost paid for) and the repairs don’t cost much, it’s probably a good idea to keep it.
The key to keeping a car running for 200,000 miles is in the care and maintenance you give it. Change the oil regularly, rotate the tires, and don’t let small problems turn into big ones.
If your car has high mileage, its days might be limited, but at the same time, you probably won’t get much by selling it. As such, it’s smart to drive the vehicle until it dies. Paying for cheap repairs on high-mileage cars can be a good idea, especially if the car is paid off. With expensive repairs, you may be better off upgrading.
One important factor to consider is rust. If your car is rusting, it’ll get worse with time. Rust can cause extensive damage to exhaust and power train components, among other things. And with severe rust, it may only be a matter of time before components fail. It might be best to put your rust bucket out to pasture.
Another consideration: The market for used cars is better than ever. CoPilot has found that used car prices are up 43 percent above projected normal levels. Cars that should retail for $23,000 are instead retailing for $33,000. Kelly Blue Book also reports record-level prices for new cars, with vehicles costing about $48,000 on average.
If the used car you bought for $12,000 has less than 50,000 miles on it, you might be able to recover the whole cost in the current used car market. If you sell, you could put that money toward a new car. New car financing has very low interest, and with a high credit score, you might even be able to finance it for zero interest. But remember, the average price of a new car has hit record highs, according to KBB.com.