How Far Should I Go on My Brakes?

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Trying to put a time or mileage limit on how long brake pads and rotors should last is harder than trying to predict what kind of gas mileage you should expect. Brake life depends on how much we drive, where we drive (think city versus highway) and how we drive (meaning lead foot versus slow and steady). Brakes pads wear out at different rates depending on these and a number of other factors, so it’s hard to determine when you will need to replace. Let’s take a closer look at how long brake pads last and how to tell when they are due for replacement. We will also discuss rotors and some of the most common signs that rotors are going bad.

How Long Do Brake Pads and Brake Rotors Last?

As a guideline, brakes will wear out much faster if most of your driving is in a major urban area where stop-and-go is the rule, as opposed to those who spend most of the time in their vehicle on the open road, where they might not touch the brake pedal for an hour or more. This applies to both brake pads and brake rotors.

If you drive in Boston, New York City or Chicago and spend more time stopping than going, you could need new brake pads every 15,000 miles. If you live in western Iowa and commute from Moville to Holstein, your pads could last three or four times that. Rotors typically last significantly longer than pads, and it is often possible to have them resurfaced rather than replacing them.

But if you’re a driver who frequently applies the brakes when it isn’t necessary — or even drives with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake — it might not matter where you live. Your brake pads and brake rotors are going to wear out sooner than later.

If you own a hybrid or electric vehicle, your brakes should last longer because the regenerative brake systems they use provide much of the stopping power, reducing wear on the pads and rotors. In addition, applying the brakes early for a slow, gradual stop doesn’t increase brake wear, and it helps recharge the batteries for powering the electric motor. Some hybrid owners say their pads and rotors have lasted more than 80,000 miles

 

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Here’s Why Confusing Diesel With Gas at the Pump Is a Problem

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It can happen to anyone. Maybe you were distracted by a text message or phone call or someone else pulling up at the pump. You grabbed the wrong handle, and now your gas tank is loaded with diesel fuel—a simple mistake that can cost you big-time.

The issue is combustion. Gasoline-powered cars have engines which run on a combination of liquid fuel and ordinary air, which are mixed together inside the vehicle and make their way to a cylinder block, where the fuel-air mix is compressed by pistons. A spark is used to ignite the substance in a small, contained explosion, and the gas produced as a result pushes back against the pistons, forcing them down and generating the power necessary to keep the car running as it goes from place to place. But these engines can’t combust diesel, for one key reason.

Unlike gasoline, diesel doesn’t readily mix with air unless certain conditions are met. While gasoline can evaporate at room temperature, diesel must be exposed to intense heat in order to follow suit. Diesel engines work by spraying the fuel into a cylinder that’s already filled with high-temperature compressed air, which makes the diesel itself combust spontaneously—no spark required. Gasoline engines can’t provide diesel with the temperatures it needs to combust, and, unable to evaporate sufficiently, diesel won’t ignite when the spark is released.

To those who drive gas-powered vehicles, diesel is useless. Ideally, you realized your mistake at the gas station before the car was even started—but if not, as soon as the last drops of gasoline in the car, truck, or motorcycle’s system are gone, the vehicle will shut down, leaving you stranded. And because gas-powered rides aren’t able to process the fuel, the diesel has to be removed manually—a process that isn’t cheap.

First, you’ll need to call a tow truck; then it’s time to enlist a skilled car mechanic. Depending on how much of the liquid you’ve poured into the tank, there’s a good to fair chance that some of it made its way into the car’s fuel line. Your mechanic will probably have no choice but to drain the entire fuel system, which can set you back $500 to $1000.

Thankfully, gas stations try to stop their customers from making this mistake in the first place. Often, the nozzles on diesel pumps are designed to be too wide to slot into most gas tanks. Also, at many locales, these pumps are colored bright green, yellow, or orange, which makes them more conspicuous and serves as a visual reminder that they are not, in fact, gasoline dispensers. However, there isn’t a universal chromatic system. A few companies—like BP—use green-tipped pumps on their gas dispensers. So before you use any pump at any gas station, do yourself a favor and read the label.

Symptoms of a Sick Cooling System

 

With the hot summer temperatures on the rise, knowing the symptoms of a sick cooling system are critical to your summer driving plans, since cooling system failure is a leading cause of vehicle breakdowns. The most noticeable symptoms are overheatingleaks, a sweet smell of antifreeze and repeatedly needing to add coolant, according to the Car Care Council.

“Neglecting your cooling system can result in serious damage and even complete engine failure, which would put a sudden end to your summer road trip,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “If the
cooling system doesn’t receive regular maintenance, it’s not a question of whether it will fail, but rather when it will fail. Performing regular checkups of belts, hoses, the water pump and fluids will ensure your car remains properly cooled and healthy for many miles down the road.”

The primary job of the engine’s cooling system is to remove the heat that is generated during the combustion process. The coolant temperature can be well over 200 degrees and that heat has to go somewhere, otherwise engine components are going to start failing. The key parts of the cooling system remove the heat from the engine and automatic transmission and dispel it to the air outside. The water pump circulates coolant through the engine. The coolant absorbs heat and returns it to the radiator where heat is dissipated. The thermostat regulates the coolant temperature to keep it consistent for efficient engine operation.

A major factor that affects the replacement of cooling system parts is the frequency of regular maintenance, such as coolant changes. Motorists should consult their owner’s manual for specific recommendations about how often to change antifreeze and flush the coolant system. A coolant flush and fill is basic to cooling system maintenance as new antifreeze helps the engine run cooler and a flush removes dirt or sediment that could damage other cooling system parts.

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Feeling the Summer Heat? Your Car Battery is Too

If the heat of summer is wearing you down, it is likely taking its toll on your car battery too. Contrary to popular belief, summer highs rather than winter lows pose the greater threat to battery life, according to the non-profit Car Care Council.

Sooner or later all batteries have to be replaced. Excessive heat and overcharging are the two main reasons for shortened battery life. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high a charging rate, leading to slow death for a battery.

“When most motorists think of dead batteries that cause starting failure, they think of severe winter weather, but summer heat is the real culprit,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Many battery problems start long before the temperatures drop. Heat, more than cold, shortens battery life.”

Colder temperatures increase the thickness of the engine oil, making the engine harder to turn over, causing the battery to have to work more.

September is National Preparedness Month: Make Sure Your Car is Ready if Disaster Hits

Tire Tread: Tire tread helps your car grip the road. Having low tire tread is especially dangerous when driving in wet, flood-like, snowy or icy conditions. Check your tread easily with a penny.

Tire pressure: Pressure that is too low or too high can affect gas mileage, tread wear and vehicle performance. Check your tires once a month when they are still cold, using the PSI (pounds per square inch) number located on the driver door or in the owner’s manual.

Fluids Check: Check your car’s fluids once a month or take a peek when you fill the gas tank. Top off fluids, such as your oil and coolant, and visit a technician if you suspect a leak.

Belts: A broken engine belt can literally stop you in your tracks. Look for signs of excessive wear or looseness.

Brakes: Your vehicle’s brakes are very important for safety; make sure they are ready in any condition. Have your brakes inspected by a technician once a year, and be aware of any signs of brake trouble, including noise, pulling and vibration while braking.

Battery: Even in a non-emergency, it is stressful when your car does not start. Extreme temperatures, such as summer and winter, can wear the battery. A technician can test that the battery is charging at the correct rate. If your battery is three years or older, it may need to be replaced.

Emergency Kit: A vehicle emergency kit should include jumper cables, a road atlas, first-aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, water, non-perishable food and blankets. Keep a copy of the Car Care Council’s new Car Care Guide in your glove box for information on vehicle systems and maintenance. Order your free copy online at www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

Time to Change Your Vehicle’s Cabin Air Filter

 

Before winter sets in is a good time to check your cabin air filter, after it’s been working hard all spring, summer and fall. Cabin air filters clean the incoming air and remove allergens, and according to the Car Care Council, should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or per the owner’s manual.

The cabin air filter helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust and exhaust gases that may find their way into a vehicle’s air conditioning and heating and ventilation systems. The filter also prevents leaves, bugs and other debris from entering the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

A dirty or clogged cabin air filter can cause musty odors in the vehicle and cause contaminants to become so concentrated in the cabin that passengers actually breathe in more fumes and particles when riding in the car compared to walking down the street. A restricted cabin air filter can also impair airflow in the HVAC system, possibly causing interior heating and cooling problems, important for staying comfortable this winter. Over time, the heater and air conditioner may also become damaged by corrosion.

Most filters are accessible through an access panel in the HVAC housing, which may be under the hood or in the interior of the car. An automotive service technician can help locate the cabin filter and replace it according to the vehicle’s owner manual. Some filters require basic hand tools to remove and install the replacement filter; others just require your hands. Filters should not be cleaned and reinstalled; instead, they should be replaced.

“Many people don’t even know they have a cabin air filter in their vehicle and most others aren’t aware of the health benefits of changing it,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Checking the cabin air filter is a simple preventive maintenance step that goes a long way toward protecting passengers, as well as the vehicle’s HVAC system.”

How to Protect Your Car’s Interior

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Try to add up the hours you spend in your car. It’s a lot, isn’t it? Commutes, errand runs and road trips can have you sitting in those bucket seats for hours on end, and during that time, you and your passengers are actually living in the interior. That means smudges on the windows, scratches on the dash and food in the seat crevices accumulate and leave you wondering what happened to the spotless interior you swear it had when you first bought the car.
A Quick Clean
Luckily, it’s not that difficult to keep a car’s cabin from looking a little too, well, lived in. First things first, get something to stuff your trash into. Just use a plastic bag or a container you don’t use around the house and throw it in the backseat. You can even affix a temporary hook to the door or seat to keep things even neater. Every once and awhile, take it out and relish in the fact that you haven’t spent an hour cleaning up. Keeping trash off the floor also preserves your carpets, which can get stained from any number of items.
The idea of taking a rag to your dash and leather seats is made easier if you have them on-hand. The key here is to just use a little bit of soapy water to wipe the surfaces of your car – some cleaning products contain alcohols that prematurely dry and age the materials by reducing the flexibility in the vinyl. Store a small spray bottle of your homemade cleaning fluid and a rag under your seat or in a storage bin for access when you’re waiting for your kids to get out of school or sitting in that crazy-long drive-through line. This will also come in handy when an emergency spill happens. Lastly, keep your car smelling like roses (or at least a laundromat) by adding dryer sheets under the seats.
Weather Resistant 
You can’t discount the impact weather has on your vehicle either. In summer, sandy feet can quickly make a mess of an interior, and dare we mention the destruction caused by mud and snow? If you spend a lot of time ducking in and out of the elements, you might want to grab some all-weather floor mats. They’re easy to clean and do a great job of keeping the muck in one place.
The sun’s rays can also wreak havoc on your car’s surfaces, causing vinyl to crack over time and materials to fade. A simple solution is to regularly put a sunshade on the windshield. They’re inexpensive and help to keep your interior looking new.
Saving money on repair work and cleaning comes more easily when you take the time to make preventative care a priority. Not only will these tricks make your car a nicer place to be, keeping grime out of your ride will cut down on large maintenance costs in the future and will help to retain its value over time.