9 Ways to Prepare Your Car for Winter Weather

Winterizing your vehicle is a wise idea, says the Car Care Council. An investment of an hour or two to have your vehicle checked is all it takes to have peace of mind and help avoid the cost and hassle of a breakdown during severe weather.

“The last thing any driver needs is a vehicle that breaks down in cold, harsh winter weather,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “A vehicle check before the temperatures drop is a sensible way to avoid the inconvenience of being stranded out in the cold and with the unexpected expense of emergency repairs.”

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

  1. Have the battery and charging system checked for optimum performance. Cold weather is hard on batteries.
  2. Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a general rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
  3. Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly. Consider winter wiper blades and use cold weather washer fluid. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
  4. 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.
  5. Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate. Have your technician check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
  6. 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.
  7. Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item.
  8. Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.
  9. Check to see that exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.

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.

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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.

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.