The ABCs of 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.
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Get More Life Out of Your Tires with Proper Care and Maintenance

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Everybody wants a little more bang for their buck, and similarly – when it comes to automobiles and driving – everybody wants to be as safe as possible.

Well there is one aspect of your vehicle that can be manipulated into achieving both of those goals at once!  Proper tire maintenance can prolong the life of the tire treads by as much as 50%, according to industry leaders, and not only does that mean that you will have to replace your tires less often, but your vehicle will operate at peak performance longer and at the highest standards for safety.

Moreover, not only will maintaining your tires lead to more money in your pocketbook, but it also helps to increase the overall life of your vehicle’s engine and is healthier for the environment!

In order to maximize the life of your tires, you need to take the time to maintain proper inflation levels and be mindful of any unusual tire tread wear and over the life of those tires, thousands and thousands of miles will be gained, not to mention countless extra trips to the gas station.

Here are a handful of tire maintenance considerations that virtually any driver can make in order to prolong their utility and safety:

Inflation

The biggest issue regarding tires on the road right now is under-inflation.  Not only do under inflated tires pose a safety risk, but underinflated tires run hotter than normal, leading to quicker and more abnormal tread wear.  Industry leaders say that underinflated tires can cost you up to a mile per gallon in fuel efficiency (think of how much $$$ that is over the course life of your vehicle) not to mention that it can cause your vehicle to handle in a dangerous fashion and could possibly lead to tire blowouts.

Over-inflation

Savvy drivers are constantly checking their tire pressure to guard against under-inflation, but sometimes if they aren’t careful, they can be causing extra harm to their vehicle.  Over-inflation just might be more dangerous than under-inflation.   Overinflated tires are more prone to blowouts, and the tread wears out in even quicker fashion than with poorly inflated tires.

Alignment issues

Sometimes you can maintain pitch-perfect tire inflation, but still witness abnormal tire wear or other issues that diminish the life of your tires.  These are most likely due to an issue with in or around your vehicle’s chassis.  For instance, cupping and feathering wear often begins to show when a vehicle’s suspension is misaligned.  Other issues that can lead to inconsistent tire performance include bad shock absorbers, struts and out-of-balance tires.  Your best bet is to make sure you keep an eye on your tires for abnormal wear patterns, and if you observe anything out-of-the ordinary, quickly get to a mechanic to get your alignment inspected.

Taking the time to check in and take care of your tires is one of the investments you can make.  It’s good for you, your bank account, and the environment.  It’s a no-brainer.  Devote a few minutes each week to tire safety diligence, and you will be repaid in a plentiful fashion over the course of your tires life!

What Owning Your First Car Teaches You

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There are lots of things in life that we can put down as learning experiences, some of them are almost rites that we have to pass through in order to reach or potential as adults. One such experience or rite is gaining ownership of our very first motor car. Getting a car marks a transition in our lives, it is the point at which we really gain our independence. No longer are we reliant on our parents to ferry us around to where we need to be, we have our own means of getting there, and more importantly getting ourselves home again.

But other than the freedom of independence owning a car also brings with it a new element of responsibility that we have never experienced before. We have to learn about the perils and pitfalls of responsible ownership and just what it costs. Something else you will come to realize pretty quickly is that your friends will never look at you in the same light again.

More Friends Than Ever

Having access to your own car quite simply means that you can take you friends where they need to go. You are more likely to be invited out to events than you ever were, and people that you only previously said hello to in passing may just want to become your new best friends. What you represent to them is opportunity. You will love the popularity that your car brings you, and your friends will love the fact that it won’t cost them more than the occasional coffee or a token gesture towards petrol money to keep them in your good books.

Of course you may end up with the sense that you are being used and they are only putting up with you because you have a car, and if you can live with that, then fine, but if you can’t you had better keep a calm head on your shoulders and put some effort into discovering which of your friends value you for your friendship and not your transport.

Money Drain

There is no denying that owning a car is a drain on your finances. You may very well have the mode of transportation that you have always wanted, you just may not be able to take it to all of the places that you wanted because you don’t have money for fuel. There is much more to the financial aspects of owning a running a car than just keeping it topped up with fuel. You will soon find out the reason why people moan about the cost of car repairs, and come to understand what is meant by the sense of dread they experience when the mechanic takes in a long intake of breath before speaking about the problems he has found with your car. There is more to running and maintaining a car than just setting aside money for fuel every month, you are also going to have to set aside some emergency repair money too.

Do Hybrid Cars Really Save Money?

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The ever climbing cost of fuel in today’s volatile marketplace has sent many of us running out to buy a hybrid car in the hopes of saving money. Initially it is easy to believe that buying a new hybrid will save you money, unfortunately you may find that it will take several years to actually save any money. In order to decide if a hybrid is right for you, a careful look at the following is essential.

How Far Do You Drive Monthly?

On average a hybrid vehicle will allow you to go three times farther on a tank of gas. For the sake of this article let’s say that you drive 300 miles a week. With your new hybrid you can travel approximately 900 miles on the same amount of fuel.  If a tank of fuel costs you $50 then you will spend $200 a month in your current car or $75 a month in a hybrid. This will amount to a savings of $125 a month on full. The average cost of a hybrid car is $15,000 dollars higher than its’ standard equivalent. That means that it will take you 10 years to make up the difference.

Do You Currently Need A New Vehicle?

If you have a vehicle that works fine; is it beneficial to buy a new hybrid? I am going to have to say no. Based upon the information above, you can see that it will take several years to offset the added expense of buying the hybrid version of a new vehicle. When you take into consideration the expense of purchasing a new vehicle only to save money on fuel, you can see it is not practical. I know that many of you may be thinking; but my current car is a gas guzzler. Purchasing a standard vehicle that gets better gas mileage is a far better choice if you are looking for a return on your investment. In addition, you could opt for something like a used Toyota Camry. This would yield a good increase in gas mileage and allow you to avoid the rapid depreciation of buying a new vehicle.

Is Carpooling an Option?

The desire to save money is very understandable in today’s economy. That being said, using a ride share program could be a great way for you to save money and see the return sooner. The majority of us commute to work 20 days a month and depending on the length of your commute, it could be quite costly. By joining a carpool or similar group you could cut your fuel consumption in half. Since you won’t have to invest in a new vehicle, the savings will be immediate.

Again, it is easy to get wrapped up in the hyped up claims of hybrid car manufacturers and believe that it is the only right choice to save money on transportation. Before you decide if a hybrid is right for you, I highly recommend that you take the time to figure out just how long it will take you to get your money back and consider some better alternatives.

Seeing is Believing When it Comes to Road Safety

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It’s no secret that properly functioning vehicle lights, wipers and mirrors allow for better visibility while driving, yet these items are often forgotten or ignored when performing basic auto care, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

“Making sure that you can see and be seen on the road is essential to avoiding motor vehicle accidents, yet many motorists overlook simple maintenance steps that can improve driving visibility,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “For example, community car care events held throughout the country reveal that nearly one in three vehicles inspected had insufficient wiper fluid. This simple auto care service can make a world of difference on the road.”

Following a few auto care visibility tips can be illuminating, helping to ensure the safety of you, your passengers and other vehicles around you.

  • Replace any exterior or interior lights that are dimming, rapidly blinking or non-functioning, and be sure headlights are correctly aimed.
  • Make sure that vehicle mirrors are clean and properly positioned.
  • Check windshield washer fluid level and when it gets low, replace it.
  • Replace wiper blades if they show cracking or if they chatter or streak when operating. Don’t forget to check the rear wiper blade.
  • When in doubt, turn your lights on to help you see and help other drivers see you. Some states have laws that require headlights to be on when windshield wipers are operating.
  • Don’t overdrive your headlights. Maintain a speed that will allow you to stop within the illuminated area, otherwise you create a blind crash zone in front of your vehicle.

Keep Your Car Breathing Well: Change the Air Filters

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You need clean air to breathe and so does your car, and a vehicle’s air filters make that possible. The non-profit Car Care Council reminds car owners to have the engine and cabin air filters inspected and changed regularly to ensure vehicle longevity and interior comfort.

“Air filters are your vehicle’s first line of defense against contaminants that reduce cabin air quality and negatively impact engine performance,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Community car care events held throughout the country reveal that nearly one out of five vehicles is in need of air filter replacement, so it’s evident that motorists often overlook this simple, yet important service.”

The vehicle’s engine air filter traps dirt particles that can cause damage to engine cylinders, cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings and bearings, leading to the engine losing power. The air filter also plays a critical role in keeping pollutants from contaminating the airflow sensor on fuel-injected cars. A normal wear item that requires regular checks and replacement, air filters should be inspected at each oil change and replaced annually or when showing other signs of contamination.

The cabin air filter is responsible for cleaning the air entering the passenger compartment. Under normal circumstances, it helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust and exhaust gases that may find their way into a vehicle’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, compromising interior air quality and damaging the system. Most cabin air filters are accessed through the panel in the HVAC housing, which may be under the hood or placed within the interior of the vehicle. A cabin air filter should not be cleaned and reinstalled. Instead, it should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or per the owner’s manual.