New winter tires begin with deeper tread depths and more open tread designs than the tires used during the rest of the year. While the extra tread depth allows new snow tires to provide more traction in deep snow, it also contributes to more tread squirm and drivers may notice a reduction in handling responsiveness.
Winterization time is also a great time to improve your vehicle’s reliability, convenience, and safety. Whether you’re a gear-head or neophyte you surely realize there are numerous parts on a car that could suffer from harsh winter weather and chemicals. Most repair shops are well versed in conventional winterization procedures but not necessarily with protecting obscure parts.
Door locks are a good example of forgotten services at most shops. What could be more frustrating than a door that won’t open with the unlock fob and when you try to use the key the lock is frozen solid. Not only is being frozen out of your car a problem so is worn-out locks and wear they will unless they’re lubricated. To prevent both problems use a graphite lock lubricant in all the locks on your car twice a year. That’s especially true of the lock that gets the most use, the ignition lock. Ignition locks get lots of wear and tear plus they are expensive to replace. Locks are mechanical devices and like all mechanical devices proper lubrication is their key to long life.
White lithium grease is an elemental product that adds years of life to door hinges and latches so lubing them at every oil change is recommended. This keeps moisture out of door latches, which prevents rust, wear, and freezing. Latches only freeze when it’s bitter cold and when they do the door can’t be opened.
Another frozen-out, can’t-open-the-door challenge results from frozen weather-strip. Weather-strip is the rubber surrounding car doors and windows. This usually happens when snow or ice on the car’s roof melts from warm daytime temperatures or heat from the heater followed by night-time freezing. Melt-water runs down over the doors and collects between the doors and the body, then proceeds to, you guessed it, freeze solid! Frozen doors won’t open; you’re cold, you’re miserable, and you’re locked out.
Either waiting for spring thaw or pouring hot water over the car is not realistic. Hot water makes matters worse and may cause damage to parts inside the door or cause glass to shatter from thermal shock. I don’t know about you but settling in and waiting for spring just isn’t an option so what to do?
This is one where you have to be proactive because waiting until it happens doesn’t work. During winterization and at each oil change, have your weather-strip sprayed with silicone. Silicone prevents moisture from collecting on weather-stripping and keeps the rubber soft and pliable for longer life. Even if water collects and freezes silicone is so slippery that ice can’t stick to it and the doors can’t freeze shut. For most of us winter driving is no fun but a couple shots of white lithium grease, graphite and silicone spray goes a long way toward making winter driving safer and more tolerable.
“My car died” isn’t the most helpful explanation you can provide.
While auto technicians are always happy to diagnose your car’s problems, giving them as many details as possible is the key to an efficient repair. “The more details a car owner can provide about a particular problem, the less they’ll pay in diagnostic time,” says Tony Molla, a technician who is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). He encourages car owners to have answers to the following questions when they drop off their car: When does the problem occur? Are any dashboard lights illuminated? Can you describe what the car is doing or not doing when the problem occurs? Is the problem intermittent? Are there any unusual noises, odors or vibrations when the problem occurs?
Leave the diagnosing to us.
Doing your research and coming to the repair shop with all the details about your car is great. But don’t be so informed that you distrust your mechanic. “Sometimes a little knowledge is dangerous,” says Gus De Ipola, owner of APA Automotive Center in Woodland Hills, California. “It’s especially frustrating when a customer comes in having incorrectly diagnosed a problem and orders a specific repair. He may be wrong, but he doesn’t want us to argue with him.”
If you don’t have an appointment, be prepared to wait.
Minor repairs or safety checks can be performed while you wait, but according to Molla, it’s best to have a scheduled appointment. “It allows the shop to prepare in advance and allows enough time to do the job properly. If you drop by unannounced, you’re probably going to have to either leave the vehicle or wait while they work your repair into the day’s schedule.” Can’t wait to make an appointment? Molla recommends avoiding repair shops’ two busiest times: first thing in the morning, when everyone drops their car off, and around 5 p.m., when they pick it back up.
Pay attention to your warning lights.
“They’re called warning lights for a reason,” says Michael Anderson, proprietor of Wagonwork Collision Center & Consultants in Alexandria, Virginia, and member of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), an organization for auto business owners. Letting your car deteriorate because you don’t want to take the time to handle the problem when it first appears will only make things more difficult down the road. If you get your car serviced regularly (consult your owner’s manual for a recommended service timeline) and bring it in right away if you see a light come on, you can prevent larger repairs later on.
You may actually be the one to blame for certain car problems.
Worn-out brakes? Troubled transmission? You may actually be the one at fault when it comes to some automotive issues. Thanks to the way we drive, we often unknowingly inflict damage upon our vehicles. De Ipola notes that hill driving can wear down brakes, stop-and-go traffic can cause overheating and flooring it as soon as the light turns green can wreck a transmission. To prevent future problems, pay attention to road conditions, slow down for speed bumps and keep clear of the curb when parking—knocking into it can really mess up your car’s alignment, says Molla.
We wish you knew more about your warranty.
“It would be helpful if the customer would read their warranty to understand the limits of what is covered and who must do the service,” says Howard Fleischman, owner of Community Tire and Auto Services in Arizona and member of the Neighborhood Auto Repair Professionals Network (NARPRO), an organization for family-owned auto repair shops. He adds that many people leave the dealership believing they can only go there for services covered by the warranty, but often “that’s simply not true.” According to Fleischman, a qualified repair facility can perform all manufacturer maintenance to support warranty requirements. One thing to note: Most warranties cover breakage, not wear, so if your brakes are worn out from overuse, you might not be covered.
We like coming in under our estimate!
Think all auto technicians are out to swindle you? An honest repair shop aims to give you the best deal possible. “We shop the competition to be sure we’re in the right ballpark for maintenance costs,” says Fleischman. “For repair estimates we make an educated guess, but if we miss the mark and cut ourselves short, we just live with it. If it’s the other way around, we love the expression on our clients’ faces when we come in under estimate!” And don’t expect a very accurate estimate online or over the phone. “Oftentimes the vehicle owner just doesn’t have enough information, so an accurate estimate can’t usually be given on the Internet or over the phone,” says David Kusa, owner of Autotrend Diagnostic in Campbell, California, and an ASA member. The bottom line: Feel free to use the Web or call your shop to get a ballpark estimate for your repairs, but don’t expect to nail down an exact figure until you bring in your car.
Do your homework—it will pay off.
To be sure you’re seeing a trusted auto technician, look for credentials, such as Better Business Bureau ratings, ASE certification and AskPatty.com or NARPRO approval, says Fleischman. He also recommends checking out the shop you’re considering on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Look for positive comments, but also note how the shop responds to negative ones. “If they don’t reply to social media, they may not respond to customer concerns at their counter,” he says.
It’s best to have an exclusive relationship with your mechanic.
Once you’ve found a mechanic you trust, stick with him. “Auto repair is very much a relationship business,” says Molla. “Having a vehicle history with one repair shop will allow them to keep track of what work is done, and as mileage builds, they can recommend various periodic maintenance services that will keep your car running efficiently.” Plus, the more familiar your mechanic is with your car, the more likely he or she will notice when something seems off—which could prevent a major headache down the line.
Not every shop can accommodate your problem.
Don’t get frustrated if you bring your vehicle to get serviced only to be told the facility can’t help you. “Some repair shops only offer a limited menu of services. Some specialize in certain types of service, while others only service certain makes and models,” says Molla. “Full-service shops do exist, but it’s not unusual for them to refer a specific problem to a specialist, just like doctors do.” When considering a new repair shop, be sure to ask the service desk what types of repairs they typically handle so you don’t show up only to be turned away.
Now news and views. This week a survey from car insurance dot com found that in crowded holiday parking lots men are more likely to keep others waiting and hit cars — people and poles. Sorry guys! Michelle megna managing editor of car insurance dot com says when someone is waiting to take a spot being vacated forty percent of women hurry up but only twenty five percent of men pick up the pace. More men than women hit objects — touch another driver and give a hand gesture. But both sexes are choosy about who they park near said megna. A quarter of drivers avoid parking next to cars with body damage while sixteen percent avoid suvs and eleven percent avoid cars with toys and safety seats. While holiday shoppers may know exactly what gifts they need — their knowledge of the role car insurance plays in parking lot incidents is seriously lacking. According to the survey only thirty nine percent correctly chose liability insurance as the coverage that pays for damage to the other driver’s car in an at-fault accident. Only thirty eight percent knew that collision coverage pays when you damage your own car. And when it comes to having gifts stolen from a parked car, only twenty percent knew that homeowners or renters insurance not car insurance pays. So watch out for male drivers in the parking lots as you hit the malls for your holiday shopping. Read more at car insurance dot com. We’ll be right back.
Next Thursday November 13th our Chat will not take place.
Clean Engine Bay
A clean engine bay can save you a lot of money! Because today’s cars are loaded with complex –expensive electronics and computers it’s more important than ever to keep your engine compartment clean. Often seemingly impossible to diagnose electronics problems occur simply because oil and grease build up under the car’s hood and over time works its way into wire connectors and computer sensors. Because a car’s electronics work on incredibly tiny amounts of electricity it doesn’t take much dirt in a connector to cause a major problem. Also grease and oil cause rubber in expensive belts — hoses and other rubber-based parts under the hood to swell up — become soft and fall apart. A lot of premature belt and hose failures can be traced directly to a dirty — greasy or oily engine compartment. Last but definitely not least — when it comes time to sell or trade — a clean car always brings more money. Learn how to properly clean your engine compartment — keep it clean and you’ll avoid many costly and aggravating problems.
© Copyright 03/28/13 Pat Goss all rights reserved.
Proactive, preventing car problems. Reactive, waiting until you’re stranded. You do know the old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” never was a genius idea — don’t you? Waiting until things fail is dangerous and expensive. Complicating things is high-tech engineering and computer controls now hide many problems until they’re critical. Read More