No matter where you live this could be the El Nino winter for the history books. North south east and west the weather people are calling for more snow, more rain and colder temperatures. Of course not all conditions for everyone but probably something not nice and possibly dangerous for just about every part of the country. So now would be the time to prepare for what lies ahead. Even though it may not materialize for some or all of us in my world it is far better to be prepared and not need it than not be prepared and need it.
So let’s start with one of the most important parts of cars when the weather turns; tires! What you need for tires will depend on the type of weather you get where you live. If you get snow or even a lot of days where the temperature is at freezing or below you probably need winter tires. Yes the temperature is as important as snow and ice because temperature causes huge changes in the way tires grip the pavement. So if you call winter tires “snow tires”, don’t. They aren’t snow tires, they are winter tires and they are designed to do a lot more than help you get moving in snow. The other thing with winter tires is they may be highly beneficial even where there is zero snowfall. The rubber in tires is a complex concoction of rubber and other chemicals blended to make the tire grip, wear well, shed water, ride smooth, etc. But no one tire can do everything the best so most tires are designed to do all things in a middling manner. Not great at anything and usually not terrible at anything except cold weather traction. Read More
The days are getting grayer, the hours of sunlight are waning and that means it’s getting closer to time to give our toys a rest. A long winter’s nap as it were. If you have a car you don’t drive in the winter it will soon be time to prep it for its nap.
There are two types of winter storage: first is where you still drive the car on nice days and second where you don’t drive it at all until spring. If you simply don’t drive the car as much things are much simpler. Begin by keeping the fuel tank full and treating the fuel with a stabilizer like Sta Bil, Stor and Start or similar products. We like BG Products Ethanol Defender kit. Good places to find many of your storage products are marine and farm supply stores as both are involved with seasonal equipment. Read More
One of the most important parts of any vehicle is its battery. Take away the battery and the car is useless. You can’t even listen to the radio without a battery. But even though batteries are fundamental to the operation of all vehicles most drivers ignore them until they’re stranded or the car is damaged.
Personally I absolutely despise an unreliable vehicle so I check my battery at least monthly. I check the water level (it’s actually electrolyte, which is a mixture of sulfuric acid and water) by looking through the see-thru case. Sometimes holding a flashlight behind the battery makes it easier to see the level. If your battery doesn’t have a see-thru case or removable caps you’re out of luck. You may also be out of luck if the liquid level becomes noticeably low, as most batteries have no provision for adding water. Therefore when the liquid level in a sealed battery drops significantly, the battery will soon fail. That always means it’s time to start shopping!
On the plus side, some batteries are designed with removable caps. If this is the case with yours keep it topped off with distilled water for longest life. Tap water is not acceptable as it normally contains minerals detrimental to batteries
But don’t confine your battery exam to liquid level; it’s equally important to check battery cable connections for corrosion. Corrosion: nasty looking, fuzzy, gray- green, mess that grows on battery cables. If left alone corrosion will ultimately cause a no-start situation or damage your car’s electrical system. Even if battery cables look okay they should be cleaned, properly tightened, and have corrosion inhibitor applied yearly.
For you non-professionals who have been cleaning batteries for years, I wouldn’t recommend it on your late model car unless you have a service manual and a memory protector. Many newer cars will lose a portion of their computer memory when battery cables are disconnected. Some will even require a repair-shop procedure to re-establish proper computer function.
What are the warning signs of a failing battery? Today usually none, the majority of batteries are working fine one minute and dead as yesterday’s herring the next, absolutely no warning signs. So maintaining reliability requires being proactive with a simple five minute battery test using an electronic battery tester. Modern battery testers are highly accurate and also have the ability to check the alternator and voltage regulator. It’s always best to have the full test performed since a bad charging system can destroy a battery and a bad battery can destroy a charging system and electronics.
But suppose the battery test confirms yours is a goner and you need to buy a replacement, what next? Knowing the standard battery rating system is crucial to making a smart purchase. Batteries are rated in Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and don’t be fooled by Cranking Amps (CA) which is not the same. Compared to Cold Cranking Amps, Cranking Amps gives an inflated number, which implies a battery, is stronger than it actually is.
The rule for putting this information to work is easy. Always buy the largest battery, in Cold Cranking Amps, that will physically fit your vehicle. Also, there is no such thing as a battery with too many Cold Cranking Amps. By using this rule you’ll purchase a longer-lasting battery, more reliability, plus added protection and life for every electrical component on your vehicle. Even the bulbs will last longer. Finally it’s a good idea to have your battery tested early in the spring and late in the summer (now) because most batteries fail when there is a significant change in average temperature.
© Copyright 10/21/2015 Pat Goss all rights reserved
When is enough, enough, or when should I give up on my old car and buy a shiny new one? That’s a tough question but perhaps these general rules will help you make a financially realistic decision.
Let’s begin with how the vehicle is used which has an enormous impact on how long you should keep it. Here’s a shocker! If the vehicle has been used mainly for short trip driving it will probably be ready for its trip to the bone-yard in fewer miles than the car that has primarily been highway driven. Short trips and low speeds are very hard on a car and are very misleading as to actual wear on its components.
Those of you who drive mostly at slower speeds may have a lot more hours on your car than you realize. Amazingly, automobiles and pickup trucks are essentially the only machines on earth that measure use by the number of miles covered by their wheels. Nearly everything else measures use in hours of operation.
Hours-of-use is a far better indicator than miles driven. The math: if you drive at thirty miles per hour you’ll cover thirty miles every hour and at sixty you’ll cover sixty miles every hour. Rocket Science 303 not necessary for that! Okay, but that begs the obvious question, why doesn’t anyone pay attention to the obvious?
Drive your car 50,000 miles at thirty miles per hour and you’ll have twice as many hours on your car as the person who drives 50,000 miles at sixty miles per hour. That’s one reason why preventive maintenance recommendations are given in both time and mileage not just mileage. Those who drive short distances at slow speed accumulate hours while those driving longer distances at higher speed accumulate miles. In either case the number of hours of use will be similar.
But, when should you dispose of the old bus? There is no-one-answer-fits-all but a short-trip, slowly driven vehicle may be ready for retirement just as soon as a vehicle with significantly more miles but routinely driven at higher speed. Now doesn’t that just fly right in the face of what everyone accepts as car-gospel?
Analyzing your driving habits is step one of this momentous decision. If you’re a slow lane type person, the low miles on your odometer may present a flawed impression about overall condition, likewise for the high mileage vehicle. Typically, you’ll assume your low mileage car is in much better condition than it really is or your high mileage car is a lot worse than it is.
Do not assume! Have a bumper-to-bumper evaluation before, not after spending a lot of money for a major repair. Check all the normal things plus all the not so normal bits as well. A skilled technician can provide you with a good read on “what’s wrong now” and “what’s borderline or soon to fall off.” The physical should include checking the battery and electrical system, cooling system, brake system, steering and suspension systems, exhaust system, and engine and transmission condition plus an exam for structural rust. Also important is a search for recalls and technical service bulletins. Finally there’s your Internet appraisal which you’ll use with your test results to determine whether to fix or not to fix based on facts, not emotions.
Speaking of emotions, a car is metal, plastic and rubber and there are thousands made every day so forget emotional attachments and make your decision based on the numbers. You may love your old refugee from a junk yard but I guarantee it will never love you back.
© Copyright 05/07/2015 Pat Goss all rights reserved.
Modern engines produce more power, provide greatly improved fuel economy, and last longer than any engines in automotive history. If that sounds too good to be true, to some extent it is.
Maintaining high levels of performance and economy requires that drivers approach their vehicles in a proactive manner. Simply put, most preventive maintenance services must now be done before there are obvious symptoms. Often, waiting until symptoms are evident escalates costs far beyond what they would have been if the component or system had been routinely, proactively serviced. Read More
Why not make a New Year’s resolution that’s beneficial and painless to keep? Relax with a good book, a best seller, your owner’s manual! Too many drivers buy vehicles then fail to “read and follow label directions”. Both you and your vehicle will be better off if you understand what constitutes proper usage and maintenance. Read More
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