Fall Car Care

Basic auto care goes a long way and fall is a great time to check your vehicle before winter sets in. Here is a list of basic needs that you can go through to ensure your car is ready to go!

Check all fluids including power steering, brake, transmission, and engine oil. This is a great time to check antifreeze and coolant levels as well as windshield cleaner.

Check the battery. Ensure that the connection is corrosion-free, clean, and tight. Replace if necessary.

Check all hoses and belts. You want to make sure they are not cracked, frayed, brittle, or loose. Also, check to see if they are showing signs of excessive wear.

Check all tires including pressure, tread, bald spots, and bulges. Wheel alignment might be needed if there is uneven wear.

Check the brake system including brake linings, rotors, and drums. These should also be inspected at every oil change.

Check engine performance to ensure it is producing the lowest emissions and distributing the best balance of power.

Check the exhaust system. Make sure there are no leaks, damage, or broken supports. Exhaust leaks can be very dangerous and must be corrected immediately.

Check the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system. You want your HVAC to be working properly for comfort and things like defrosting.

Check the steering and suspension system. This includes struts, shock absorbers, and chassis parts.

Check wipers and lights. You want to ensure that you can see and be seen! Lighting includes exterior and interior. Replace worn out blades and clean headlights.

This is a basic checklist, but if you know something else is going on with your vehicle be sure and mention it to your service provider.

How to Properly Clean Tires

Photo courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker/flickr

Most people take care to clean the outside of their vehicles but they do not consider the tires to be as important. Detailing your wheels is more than just a vanity issue. Brake dust is made up of tiny metal shavings and carbon fibers. When it is mixed by the friction created by tires on your vehicle it becomes highly corrosive. Brake dust can eat into the coating of the tires if left untouched. Cleaning your tires periodically will help keep you safe on the road. Here is how to properly clean and detail your wheels.

First gather the right supplies. If you want to stay simple with soap, water, and a brush you can. If you decide you want to use a tire cleaner, be sure and choose the right one for your tire type. Some cleaners can be used on all types, but others will be more specific. Coated, painted, or anodized wheels will need diluted cleaners while wheels that are aluminum and chrome can withstand stronger chemicals. Check the label to see what cleaner is best for your vehicle and if you are unsure buy an all-purpose tire cleaner. For tougher jobs, you may need to purchase a tire gel or degreaser. Wax and wheel protectant will be needed for the end of your detailing. Lastly you will need a tire brush, two buckets, and microfiber towels.

Always clean your tires first when washing your vehicle. This will ensure that no grime will spray on clean panels. Once all your supplies are gathered, begin by wetting the tires with a hose. Check your cleaner for dilution instructions and then spray your tire for a pre-soak. While the cleaner sits, start to fill your buckets with water. If the temperature is high outside, do not let the cleaner sit for too long as it will dry on your tires and cause damage. Add some cleaner to one bucket, take the brush, and agitate the sidewall of the tire. Rinse the brush every so often and then wash the tire with the soapy water from the bucket. Spray with a strong hose to rinse off any remaining bubbles. Use the microfiber cloths to dry your wheels but do not reuse the same cloth for the rest of your vehicle. You can finish your tires with a coat of wax to seal the surface. Apply with applicator pad and buff the wheel. Tire wax works just like car wax.

Complete one tire at a time so that it can dry while you clean the others.

Labor Day Driving Tips

Photo courtesy of sboneham/flickr

Labor Day weekend, next to Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest times on the road. If you are planning a long weekend trip, you want to be well prepared. Here is how you can make the most of your Labor Day vacation and avoid being stuck with car issues.

Before hitting the road, you want to make sure your car is ready for a long trip. Take your vehicle for a routine check and have the mechanics look at the engine, radiator, and fluids. Summertime’s hot weather is harsh on vehicles and this is another good reason to have your car checked out as Labor Day marks the end of one season and the beginning of another. Your tires should be well inflated and the tread high or up to state standards. If you took a lot of road trips over the summer, you may find you need new tires. Check that the steering wheel works well and that your brakes work properly. There will be lots of stop and go traffic along the way and you want to avoid an accident. Check your emergency kit and re-stock items that have expired or are empty. Your kit should contain jumper cables, a flashlight, bottled water, a tool kit, first aid kit, and tire gauge at minimum. Other things you can add are a wind-up radio, a blanket, and duct tape. It is always recommended to have these things in your vehicle in case you are stranded.

Once you are ready, leave early. Try to beat rush hour on Friday or leave early in the morning on Saturday to avoid traffic. If you cannot work around these times, look for alternate routes that will be less congested. Use online maps to plan ahead for construction and program your GPS in the car. WAZE is a great up to the minute app that you can download. It will post things like accidents or construction that may not show up on other applications.

Monitor how you are feeling before you get behind the wheel. One of the major reasons for accidents on the highway is when people fall asleep or lose their concentration. If you are driving and start to feel drowsy, pull over and ask someone else to drive or take a break and leave at another time. The other reason for accidents is ignoring the risk of big trucks. These vehicles have lots of blind spots and cannot adjust their driving if you cut in front of them quickly. The general rule is, if you cannot see the truck’s mirrors, they cannot see you.

Be safe, and have a great Labor Day!

Car Shopping Tips

Photo courtesy of Michel Curl/flickr

 

Buying a car is number two to buying a home in most expensive purchases a person can make. Most people do not enjoy the process and it can be tedious and difficult to sift through lots of research. Here are some tips to ease the process.

Know when the deals are. If you are in no hurry, shopping at the end of the year is a great time to buy. End of the year models can be found cheaper and if a dealership has too many models from two years before, they mark them down drastically. The last week of the year is also great as manufacturers provide incentives and specials.

When you go to the dealership, bring some people with you that will be riding in the car with you a lot. This will help when you test drive the car. They can try out all the features in the back and all of the seats and you will know if you have enough room for that particularly tall friend. If you want a longer test drive, just ask. If there is a particular part of the car you need to test like an SUV’s four-cylinder and need to travel a little more to do that, a good salesperson will let you. Never buy a car you haven’t driven. Online research is important but it does not replace actually taking the car out on the road.

Try to go car shopping during the week, especially during the afternoon. The dealership will not be as busy and you will get more personal attention. Don’t be afraid to take advice from the salesman. You may have your eye on a sticker price, but they may know about special incentives or specials going on that would land you in a nicer vehicle at the same price. Negotiating can be a useful tool but be sure you have good sway for why you need a lower price.  Will you be referring friends to the dealership? Using their service department? You hold more power if you give them a good reason.

If you have found the car you want online and worked out a price, do as much paperwork over the phone as you can. Doing as much of the deal-making process without having to go to the dealership saves you time out of the showroom.

How to Clean Foggy Headlights

 

Photo courtesy of Nick Ares/flickr

Hazy headlights can be an eye sore after washing your car. In addition to that, they can cause visual problems while driving at night. Just like cleaning your windshield, your headlights should be a part of car detailing.

Polycarbonate or plastic replaced glass headlights in the 1980s and since then hazy or foggy headlights have become a problem. One reason your headlights may have become cloudy is that they are just dirty. Grime can build up and darken the surface of the plastic. Wash your vehicle thoroughly to see if this the case. Another reason your headlights have become cloudy is by naturally occurring oxidation. UV light, dirt, and atmospheric chemicals cause this and can build up over time. You can clean oxidized headlights by using toothpaste. Toothpaste works on headlights like it does removing stains from your teeth. It contains a mild abrasive and will buff out the surface for a smooth feel and look that will give you clearer headlights.

To clean your headlights using toothpaste, you will need the following items: car wax, masking tape, plastic or vinyl gloves, a soft cloth, water, soap, and toothpaste of any kind. First, wash the headlight with soap and water, and rinse. After allowing some time to dry, inspect the headlight again. Take the masking tape and outline the light to protect the surrounding area from accidental scuffing. You don’t want to create another problem while solving this one.  After putting on the gloves, dampen a clean soft cloth in water and add a dab of toothpaste. In small circles, firmly rub the headlight with the toothpaste. Add water and toothpaste as needed. After you see the results you want, rinse with water and allow to dry. Apply the car wax to help protect your headlights from future damage. Do this with a clean cloth and rinse one last time with water.

If you are uncomfortable using toothpaste, you may also clean your vehicle’s headlights with glass cleaner and automotive polish or a polishing compound.

If you notice any drops of water on the inside of your headlights, you will need to remove them. Oxidation can occur on the inside as well as the outside and will need to be repaired either way.

Troubleshooting Air Conditioning Issues

The Texas summer heat can drive anyone crazy but if your vehicle’s air conditioning starts to falter you want to know what the problem is as soon as possible. There are many reasons your frosty cool air may be wavering and you want to make sure it’s nothing major. Here are the most common issues and how to diagnose them. If you are experiencing any issues and are unsure, always take your vehicle to your local mechanic.

If you turn on your A/C and start to smell something funky, you may have some bacteria or fungi growing. This can happen during the winter when the air conditioning is not in use. Dark and damp interiors are perfect breeding grounds for micro-organisms. These little creatures will often make themselves known by strong odors. To get rid of this pesky problem, inspect and clean the drainage tubes of the evaporator as well as spray the appropriate chemicals straight into the blower ducts or air intake.

Weak airflow is usually because of an obstruction. Mold or mildew may have accumulated in the evaporator core. A hose could have come loose or the ventilation fan is fried.

If the air is not as cold as it usually is this could be caused by several things. Make sure the cooling fans on the condenser or radiator are running. Look for any blockages on the condenser and/or cabin air filter such as dirt or bugs. Your refrigerant or vacuum could also be leaking.

Leaks are never to be ignored. Refrigerant is a dangerous chemical that can not only harm your engine but also the environment. You can test your vehicle by using black light enabled dyes or “sniffers”. Most refrigerants are pre-mixed with a special U.V. dye that shows up under a black light. A sniffer is a device that hones in on the refrigerant’s chemical components and will “sniff” out a leak. Age and moisture are what cause leaks in vehicle air conditioning. Seals and hoses lose their elasticity over time allowing refrigerant to escape. Moisture then enters in to the system and creates a corrosive acid.

How to Make Sense of Car Seats – Part II

Photo courtesy of Henry Burrows/flickr

Always read your car owner and car seat manual before installing any car or booster seat. The harness should fit snugly. After your child has reached the age of 2 or outgrown their rear facing seat by height and weight, it is time to move them to a forward-facing car seat. Children should be buckled into a harness for as long as possible when riding in a car and at least up to age 4. The types of forward facing seats are convertible, forward-facing only, combination with harness, built-in, and travel vests.

Convertible seats are like 3-in-1. See Part I entry for more information. Forward-facing only seats are for children weighing 40 to 80 pounds. Combination seats with a harness are the combination of forward-facing and booster. The harness is what buckles the child in and the difference is their weight. Some vehicles come with built-in seats and you must check the owner’s manual to confirm height and weight limits. Do not use these seats however until your child is at least 2 years old. If your vehicle has lap-only seat belts or if your child has special needs, travel vests can be another option. Children weighing 20-168 pounds can wear them.

After your child’s height and weight has exceeded the forward-facing seat, they will transition to a booster seat until the seat belt fits properly. This is typically when they reach a height of 4 ft. 9in. or between the ages of 8-12.

When shopping for car seats, be cautious of used seats. You want to make sure the seat is no more than 5 years old, has all of its parts, is not missing any labels or model numbers from the manufacturer, and has the instruction manual. If you have any doubts at all or if it does not seem sound, do not buy it. If you do purchase a used seat, contact the manufacturer for any recalls or if there have been any replacement parts.

If your child is taken to school or picked up by someone else be sure they are using the correct seat and that it fits properly in their vehicle. Child care facilities and programs should have written guidelines for transporting children including staff to child ratios, emergency planning, and other safety requirements.

You can always find updated information at www.cdc.gov.

How to Make Sense of Car Seats Part I

Even though crash deaths have declined in the past decade by 43%, they still remain the leading cause of death for children. Most of these deaths can be prevented by simply buckling up. Unfortunately, only two states (Tennessee and Wyoming) have child passenger restraint laws. These require a car seat or booster for children 8 years and under. Numbers have shown that if there is a law that requires a car seat or booster seat up to age 7 or 8, usage tripled and deaths declined by 17%. In Texas, the law covers children in car or booster seats up to ages 6-7. Since car riding begins at birth, here is how you can keep your child safe.

 

All children under the age of 12 need to sit in the back seat and in the middle if possible. Always, always read the vehicle’s owner and car seat manual before installing a car seat. Some car seats must be installed using your vehicle’s LATCH system. LATCH stands for lower anchors and tethers for children. This can be used instead of the seat belt and in some cars, it is easier to use. Below is a diagram for the LATCH system. The top tether is important for forward facing seats. The lower anchor is located in the back seat and all car seats have attachments that fasten to these anchors.

 

Not all car seats are created equal. Parents and caregivers need to know how to use car seats, booster seats, and seat belts correctly. Infants and toddlers need to be buckled into a rear facing car seat. This starts with their first ride home from the hospital all the way until they are 2 years old or meet the weight and height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. There are three types of rear facing car seats: rear-facing only, convertible, and 3-in-1. Rear facing only should be used for infants weighing up to 22 to 40 lbs., are small with carrying handles, and usually come with a base that the seat clicks in and out of. Convertible seats can be used longer by your child because they can be converted from rear facing to forward facing. These seats do not come with carrying handles and are bulkier. Convertible seats are ideal for bigger babies and toddlers as their weight and height limits are higher. 3-in-1 seats are just what they sound like, three seats in one. They can be used as rear or forward facing as well as a belt positioning booster. This seat is meant to grow with your child and is often big in size. It is important to make sure that it fits in your car before purchasing.
Part II will be about ages 2 and older.

Summer Car Maintenance

 

Summer is travel time and for most people that means in the car for hours on end. Before packing up the kids, there are ways to ensure that your trip will not be ruined by a busted A/C. Here is a summer checklist of how to care for your car in the summer heat.

When temperatures rise, tire pressure changes. For every 10 degree increase in the air the pressure in your tires will change approximately 1-2 PSI (pounds per square inch). Most people disregard tire pressure but an under-inflated, over-inflated, or even worn down tire can be very dangerous, especially in hot weather. You can check the pressure yourself by consulting the owner’s manual of your vehicle and using a hand pressure gauge. If you are not comfortable checking yourself, any mechanic can do it for you.

Summertime is when your engine is likely to overheat. Maintaining your oil changes will ensure that this does not happen. The oil in your car is what lubricates the engine and reduces friction. The suggested mileage for changing your oil and filter is 3,000-5,000 miles but if you are planning a long road trip, it is best to have it checked before you leave. Another thing to remember about all fluids in your vehicle is that as temperatures rise, liquids evaporate. It is easy to check what needs to be topped off in your vehicle but if you are unsure, just ask your mechanic.

Cooling systems are vital in the Texas heat of summer. Vehicles are designed to run hot but there is a limit. If you sit in traffic most of the day, your car doesn’t get the airflow it needs to keep it cool. If an engine is allowed to get too hot, moving metal parts can start to melt and fuse together. Make sure your vehicle’s cooling system is up to date. Check antifreeze levels, cracked hoses, radiator leaks, or broken belts. If you notice a puddle under your car after being parked for a while, this may be a sign that you have a coolant leak.

Batteries are another component affected by the heat. High temperatures can speed up chemical reactions in a battery and overcharge it, shortening the battery’s lifespan. The internal battery fluid can also evaporate in the heat and this can cause corrosion. One way to ensure your battery’s health is to keep it clean. Detach the battery cables and wipe off the terminals. After cleaning, make sure the battery is secured tightly. You can also take your battery to your mechanic to have it inspected.

Checking the A/C is easy to remember but it goes beyond just turning it on and topping off the refrigerant. The belt that powers your A/C may also be powering other parts of the engine. If you suspect that something is wrong with the A/C in your car, take it by your mechanic and have them check it out. They can also tell you if you need to have a specialist recycle the Freon in your car as it is now illegal in some states to refill.

June Car Shows In DFW

Photo courtesy of Darij & Ana/flickr

Summer is upon us! Grab the kids or grandkids and head out to the many events. Here is what is happening in June.

Saturday, June 3

Monthly Muscle Car Show, Gazeebo Burgers, 6009 Parker Rd., Plano, TX

4:30pm-8:30pm

Every first Saturday of the month you will find burgers, fries, and cars! Event is free for spectators and only $10 to enter your vehicle. This entry fee will enter you into drawing for cash and door prizes as well. Cars are judged electronically and there are over 15 classes you can show.

 

Cars and Coffee, Classic BMW, 6800 Dallas PKWY, Plano, TX

7:00am-11:00am

Gather your friends for this monthly event featuring hot rods, military vehicles, classics, and more! Event is free to the public.

 

Saturday, June 17

 

Calvary Car Show, 401 W. Church St., Grand Prairie, TX
3:00-8:00pm

Join the Calvary Baptist Church for its 7th annual fundraiser and car show. There will be 20 divisions and over 30 awards given. Categories include most original (unrestored), foreign class, and ugly duckling. All entries are eligible for over 50 prize drawings including a raffle for a new Honda lawn mower. There will also be concessions, crafts, and a kiddy carnival. You can register on site and entry fee is $20. All proceeds will help send kids to summer camp. The event for spectators is free.

 

Dads, Dogs, and Cars, The Oxford Grand, 2851 Orchid Dr., Mckinney, TX

10:00am-2:00pm

Kick off Father’s Day weekend with music, food, and cars! The Oxford Grand will be hosting the Morning Maniac’s Car Show, Grisham Farms Petting Zoo, and pet adoptions from the Collin County shelter and SPCA of North Texas. The event is free but you must RSVP by June 14 here.

 

Sunday, June 18

 

Northwood Church Revive Ministry Car Show, 1870 Rufe Snow Dr., Keller, TX

9:00am-2:00pm

Revive Ministries is a respite program for families with special needs children. Come and show your support for Northwood’s 4th annual car show. 40 awards will be given as well as door prizes and raffles. There will be BBQ, ice cream, and more. Over 200 cars are expected. Tickets are $15 if purchased before June 4, $20 after. All proceeds go to support Revive Ministries.

 

Saturday, June 24

 

Cops-n-Cruisers Car Show and Charity Event, Old Town, W Ellison, Burleson, TX

12:00-4:00pm

Vehicle and motorcycle registration begins at 11:00am and there is a $25 entry fee per vehicle. Raffles and door prizes will be given throughout the event as well as a live auction. Come and support the Blue in Burleson! Proceeds will benefit the Burleson Police Foundation.

 

Hillsboro Car Show and Hot Rod Run, Roadside American Museum, 212 E. Elm, Hillsboro, TX

7:00pm-12:00am

Come and visit the historic downtown of Hillsboro. This event is free to the public and there will be hundreds of hot rods, custom and classic cars and bikes as well as food vendors and local shopping.