Category Archives: Automotive

Car Care for New Drivers

It’s never too early to learn the ABCs of car care, says the Car Care Council.

  • A – Always follow a preventative vehicle maintenance plan.
  • B – Be sure to have your car inspected when you suspect there is a problem.
  • C – Correct the problem to help avoid the inconvenience and potential safety hazards of breaking down away from home.

“Most young people can’t wait to drive, but their car care education should begin well before their parents hand over the keys,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Understanding the basics of car care before taking the wheel will help keep new drivers safer on the road.”

The Car Care Council recommends that new drivers keep a free copy of its popular Car Care Guide in the glove box and learn about 10 car care inspection procedures that are an important part of any preventative vehicle maintenance plan:

  1. Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  2. Check the hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.
  3. Check the battery and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.
  4. Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.
  5. Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.
  6. Schedule a tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emissions.
  7. Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting.
  8. Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.
  9. Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  10. Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.

Six key systems before the temperatures start to drop

The Car Care Council strongly recommends that all vehicle owners check six key systems before the temperatures start to drop.

  • Battery -Keep the battery connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Cold weather is hard on batteries – your local mechanic can check the battery and charging system for optimum performance. Batteries don’t always give warning signs before they fail completely so it’s wise to replace batteries that are more than three years old.
  • Antifreeze – Antifreeze (coolant) should be flushed and refilled at least every two years in most vehicles. As a reminder, do not add 100 percent antifreeze as full-strength antifreeze actually has a lower freeze point than when mixed with water.
  • Brakes – Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item and is key while driving on icy or snow-covered roads.
  • Tires – Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly as tires will lose pressure when temperatures drop.
  • Oil – Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to low-viscosity oil in winter, as it will flow more easily between moving parts when cold. Drivers in sub-zero driving temperatures should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30 as thickened oil can make it hard to start the car. Have your technician check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
  • Wiper Blades – Cold weather can affect the life of windshield wipers. Freezing temperatures can make the rubber hard and brittle and increase the potential for cracks. Wiper blades that are cracked or torn, or that chatter, streak and don’t properly clean your windshield, should be changed. Some manufacturers offer special winter blades that have a rubber boot covering the arm assembly to keep snow and ice out. When changing the blades, have the windshield wiper system nozzles cleaned and adjusted if necessary, and check the windshield washer reservoir in case it needs fluid.

“Checking these six key systems in your vehicle ahead of time will give you confidence when you’re driving in brutal winter conditions,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Vehicle maintenance is always more convenient when you’re doing it on your schedule, and a few easy preventive measures can save you the headaches and cost of an emergency breakdown.”

During the winter, the Car Care Council recommends keeping your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full as that decreases the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. Finally, if you’re due for a tune-up, consider having it done before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.

Driving a vehicle with cabin air filters

Cabin air filters capture potentially harmful particulates so they are not recycled into the passenger compartment and compromise the driving comfort of the people in the vehicle.

Normally, motorists roll down their windows to get ‘fresh’ air. Instead, you may want to roll up the windows to prevent the environmental pollutants from entering your vehicle because, whether you turn on the air conditioning or open the fresh air vent, the cabin air filter will provide clean, fresh air while filtering out the environmental pollutants.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (www.aafa.org) 60 million Americans (one in every five) suffer from asthma and seasonal allergies and the numbers are increasing. To highlight the problem and related issues with children and adults, May has been declared National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.

“For people who suffer from a respiratory-related illnesses or those who are passionate about breathing clean air, cabin air filters are an extremely useful feature on vehicles,” said Kevin O’Dowd, Director of Marketing & Communications at MANN+HUMMEL Purolator Filters NA LLC.

Inventor of the first automotive oil filter in 1923, Purolator offers premium quality BreatheEASY® cabin air filters for most domestic and imported vehicles. Purolator’s BreatheEASY cabin air filters feature a non-woven, engineered media that traps even the finest particles of harmful dust, soot and pollen, adsorbs most toxic odors, and reduces the accumulation of dust inside the car.

A cabin air filter may also be called a pollen filter, air-conditioning filter, passenger compartment air filter, interior ventilation filter or dust filter.

Two kinds of cabin filters are available for modern vehicles – the particulate cabin filter and the activated charcoal cabin filter. The particulate cabin filter features a multi-layer design with pleats that provide more surface area to filter out pollutants. Other features include foam perimeter gaskets and an injection-molded frame when specified by the vehicle manufacturer. The activated charcoal cabin filter goes a step further. It adsorbs most toxic and foul-smelling gases such as ozone, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbons. The additional cover layer makes for extra protection.

Purolator offers both particulate type and activated charcoal type cabin filters for many vehicles, and you can replace a used cabin filter with either type, regardless of which was installed by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

Recent estimates show that since 2001 approximately 45 million vehicles in the U.S. have been factory-equipped with cabin air filters. Refer to your owner’s manual or check with your technician to see if your vehicle has one. The cabin air filter may be located behind the glove box, under the hood near the windshield, or under the dash.

According to O’Dowd, the time it takes to install a cabin air filter professionally or otherwise varies with the make and model of the vehicle. Each Purolator BreatheEASY cabin air filter comes with a vehicle-specific instruction sheet that shows the location of the filter as well as gives step-by-step installation instructions.

Take Better Care of Your Car

Most people make new year’s resolutions. Resolving to lose weight and exercise can be tough ones to keep, but resolving to take better care of your car has never been easier with the free online custom service schedule from the non-profit Car Care Council.

“Signing up for our free customized service schedule and e-mail reminder service is a simple way to help you take better care of your vehicle throughout the year,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “It is an easy-to-use resource designed to help you drive smart, save money and make informed decisions about preventative vehicle maintenance.”

The Car Care Council’s personalized online schedule and e-mail reminder service, powered by DriverSide.com, is free of charge and can be customized by motorists to help make vehicle ownership more enjoyable, economical and convenient.

“Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, following a preventative maintenance schedule will help keep your vehicle safe, dependable and on the road longer,” said White.

To help consumers become more comfortable with the auto service and repair process, the Car Care Council produced a video entitled “Auto Service and Repair: What to Expect,” which provides a wealth of information on such topics as finding the right auto repair facility, what to expect at the shop and what questions to ask.

Vehicle maintenance steps

“The thought of a breakdown, an engine not starting or otherwise being stranded is scary as it is, but those things happening in freezing winter weather adds another level of fear,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “An investment of an hour or so to have your vehicle checked will pay off and help make sure your winter driving is less frightful and more delightful.”

The Car Care Council recommends the following steps for winterizing your vehicle:

  • Check the battery and charging system for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries.
  • Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
  • Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. Typically, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
  • If you’re due for a tune-up, have it done before winter sets in. Winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.
  • Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly.
  • Check the brakes. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety component.
  • Inspect the exhaust system for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.
  • Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.
  • Be diligent about changing the oil at recommended intervals as dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate. Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.

Motorists should also keep the gas tank at least half full at all times to decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing. Drivers should check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk and stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, extra clothes, candles/matches, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication.

Automotive Master Technician

Every sensor on or in a computer-controlled car or truck talks to the “on-board PC” in a kind of language you’ve never heard or seen. All of the inputs are in a voltage-speak and are all numbers. All of these signals to and from the PC travel in and out at up to 300 times per second. That is some party line!

Your PC knows the amount of air going into or being inhaled by the engine. It knows the temperature of the air, the barometric pressure, the outside temperature, if it’s raining and if the engine is pinging. It knows if the engine has too much fuel or too little fuel being delivered to it. It knows the temperature of the coolant and the catalytic converter, and it knows how cold it is inside the car and how that compares to the temperature you are requesting.

Most of the voltages start at zero and have a high end of 5, 8 or 12 volts. For instance, 1.0v means low and 5.0v means high. Or 1.0 means cold and 5.0 means hot, hot, hot.

But most scanners convert these numbers to a range we can understand, like 20 grams or 212F or 45% throttle.

The mass air flow sensor (MAF) tells the PC how much air is flowing into the engine; we read that data in grams. So a little air means no foot on the throttle and lots of air means foot to the floor. Think of the mass air flow sensor as a goal post with a filament across the top arms. It actually looks like the filament inside a clear light bulb.

The PC sends voltage to the filament and then monitors the electricity needed to keep it warm or hot. The MAF starts lying when this filament gets covered with trash, bugs and dirt. Pretend you are in a tunnel and naked. You could easily tell how much air is flowing thru this tunnel and what the temperature is. How good of a job could you do if I covered you with 5 layers of clothing, gloves, hats and full face coverings? That is exactly what happens to your MAF: it gets covered up and starts lying about its environment.

We want to see about 5-10 grams depending on the size of the engine. This gram number determines fuel trim. A dirty MAF won’t see all the air, so it tells the PC to trim the fuel down. 1 gram at idle is a problem.

So if you want to save yourself from $45 to over $100, go to the auto parts store. Ask them to point out where the MAF is located on your car, and ask them to show you what it looks like. You may need special tools. Then buy some CRC Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner. The CRC product was developed specifically for cleaning this very delicate sensor.

Pull the negative battery cable. Remove the MAF sensor. DO NOT touch the filament. DO NOT get your wife’s toothbrush out and scrub it. If you damage it, you just cost yourself hundreds of dollars. Just spray it off like you would spray a small painted wire with carburetor cleaner when you only want to remove the paint. Do it maybe 3-4 times and once every 30-40,000 miles.

Let it dry, reinstall, connect the battery and drive away. It will take the PC just a few hours to reset those parameters that just changed because the MAF is now cleaner and working more precisely.

Car may not be cooling fast enough

If your car’s A/C system is not cooling you off in a reasonable time frame to make you happy, take it to your service professional for an A/C check-up. Here’s what he or she will look at: • Is the compressor weak? It may build up pressure slowly, or require high rpm to produce normal pressures, so it takes a while to produce adequate cooling. A pressure test should indicate this problem. • Outside air flap not closing. When the system is in Max A/C, the flap should be closed. Unless the flap is closed, hot outside air dilutes the effect of A/C, producing slow cool down. • Is the temperature (blend-air) door operating correctly? This doesn’t have to be an either-it-is-or-it-isn’t proposition.

 

If the temperature door isn’t in the Max Cool position, the heater core may contribute enough heat to slow down the cooling. Eventually, particularly when the system is set in Max A/C, the A/C may overcome a small heating effect. Even if there is a heater coolant control valve and it’s fully closed, a temperature door even just partly in the wrong position can slow down the cooling by redirecting some of the airflow through the heater. • Heater coolant valve failing to close completely, if at all. The temperature door may be in the right position, but on some systems hot coolant in the core still contributes enough heat to the HVAC case to slow cool down. • Is there a problem with the radiator fan? If it’s a clutch fan, it may be engaging late. If it’s an electric fan, it may be coming on late. In either case, the effect is to reduce airflow (thus affecting cooling), particularly in low speed driving and idle operation.

 

When the fan finally engages or comes on, the condensing improves and the A/C cooling improves. • Was the system retrofitted? We’re certainly not against retrofit, and we know it’s commonly done when an old compressor fails. But too often, the only parts replaced are the compressor and receiver-dryer, or the compressor, accumulator and orifice tube. On a system designed for R12, unless you do a complete retrofit, performance may be measurably lower. We all know there are many systems that just don’t do well with a basic retrofit, even if it includes a compressor replacement. • Any HVAC case air leaks? If the seals between the case and the cowl are deteriorated, hot engine compartment air gets blown into the case and the passenger compartment. It can take a really long time for the A/C to overcome that. • Slightly low on refrigerant. With some of today’s lower capacity systems, this can account for a huge difference in performance. Today, most systems have capacities of 14 to 32 ounces, so a five-ounce loss is substantial. If this sounds technical and complex, it is!

Tips Help Save Money of Car Care Council

Consumers’ pain at the pump is back with gas prices rising for 33 consecutive days according to the Washington Post and the average price of gas moving closer to $4 per gallon. No need to worry, says the Car Care Council. A few simple and inexpensive vehicle maintenance tips can help alleviate the pain.

“You can’t control the price of gas, but you can control how much gas you burn by performing proper maintenance and how you drive. Performing simple and inexpensive maintenance can save as much as $1,200 per year in gas costs,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council offers these gas-saving maintenance tips:

  • Keep your car properly tuned to improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.
  • Replace dirty or clogged air filters and improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
  • Improve gas mileage by 1-2 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil.

Driving behavior also impacts fuel efficiency. The council offers these gas saving driving tips:

  • Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 50 mph. Each 5 mph over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.25 per gallon for gas, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.
  • Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets zero miles per gallon. Warming up the vehicle for one or two minutes is sufficient.
  • Avoid quick starts and stops. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city.
  • Consolidate trips. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much gas as one longer multi-purpose trip.
  • Don’t haul unneeded items in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces fuel economy up to 2 percent.

Tips for Memorial Day Weekend Driving

Motorists traveling on Memorial Day weekend can’t do much about the high price of gas, but they can pay less at the pump by making sure their vehicles get maximum fuel economy. According to the Car Care Council, fuel economy is directly related to vehicle care and driver behavior and both can have a significant impact on how much motorists pay at the pump.

Under-inflated tires can impact the vehicle’s fuel economy. When tires aren’t inflated properly, it’s similar to driving with the parking brake on and can cost a mile or two per gallon.

Dirty air filters can also waste gas and cause the engine to lose power. An air filter that is clogged with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a “rich” mixture, which is too much gas being burned for the amount of air. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

Worn or dirty spark plugs can cause misfiring, which wastes fuel. Vehicles can have four, six or eight spark plugs that fire as many as three million times every 1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical erosion. Spark plugs that are replaced per the owner’s manual will lead to a better performing vehicle.

Vehicle gas caps that are damaged, loose or missing altogether waste gas. According to the council, about 17 percent of the vehicles on the road have gas cap problems, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize every year.

“When gas prices soar, many motorists hunker down and don’t take proper care of their vehicles,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “What they don’t realize is that they can save at the pump by simply checking the tires, air filters, spark plugs and vehicle gas caps. These items can make a significant difference in the vehicle’s fuel economy and it takes very little time and money to check them.”

When it comes to driver behavior, the council reminds motorists that aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets.

Staying within the speed limit also improves fuel economy. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour (mph) and each mph driven over 60 will result in an additional 10 cents per gallon.

Excessive idling wastes gas and is unnecessary. A vehicle needs only one or two minutes to warm up. Motorists should also avoid jackrabbit starts and hard stopping, both that make a car less fuel-efficient. Gradually stepping on the gas and gently applying the brakes will improve fuel efficiency.

Although traveling usually involves carrying luggage, motorists should try to limit any extra weight or unneeded items in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds can cut fuel efficiency by 1 or 2 percent.

Check by Driving this Holiday Season

Over-priced airline ticket – check. Excessive baggage fees – check. Long security lines and airport delays – check. Rather than embarking on an expensive, stress-filled trip by air, the Car Care Council advises that driving is the way to go to keep costs and stress in check this holiday season.

“Holiday travel by air is always hectic and expensive. Add in baggage fees, crowded airports, fewer flights and long lines, and flying does not seem so friendly,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “When you consider that a family of four traveling by car costs about the same as one person traveling by air, driving is clearly the better option.”

In addition to the obvious direct cost savings, going by car offers a number of advantages over flying including:

  • Leave when you want from where you want.
  • No airport parking.
  • No waiting in long ticket counter and security lines.
  • No weather delays.
  • Pack whatever and as much as you want.
  • Stop and stretch any time.
  • More and better meal options.
  • No rental car or taxi expenses.
  • More legroom and overall comfort.
  • No strangers sitting next to you.
  • Convenience and ease of taking your pet with you.
  • Better able to enjoy the ride.