Bad Habits

When it comes to your car’s “health”, you may be have some bad habits that seem perfectly safe (and smart), but can actually hurt your car in the long run.

Most vehicles are designed to have long lifespans when properly taken care of. But sometimes you may not even be aware that what you’re doing may actually be hurting your car, reducing its lifespan and decreasing its value.

Carrying too much weight.

Just like carrying extra weight around the midsection is bad for your health, hauling too much weight in your car is bad for its suspension, braking and exhaust systems. Having too much weight in your car can put unnecessary stress on some of its critical systems, leading to premature wear. Too much weight makes your engine work harder than it should.

What you can do: Take a look at what’s in your car. Can you remove some of it? Does that cargo carrier really need to stay on your car on a day-to-day basis, or can it be removed until needed? If there are items that can be removed to decrease the weight (and stress) on your car, do it now.

Ignoring a tiny chip in the windshield. 

You notice a tiny, speck-like chip in the corner of your windshield. It’s not in your line of sight, so it’s no big deal to ignore it. Right? Wrong. That tiny speck can easily turn into a giant crack – and the need for a full windshield replacement – if it’s ignored. Not to mention the cost of repairing a small windshield chip is usually much lower than the cost to replace an entire windshield.

What you can do: Get the chip repaired immediately.

Never replacing your tires. 

Keeping an eye on your tires is critical to the health of your car. But don’t just look at your tire tread – also pay attention to your car’s tire pressure. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that underinflated tires are up to 25 percent more likely to overheat, fail and cause an accident. Tire tread is also important, since not having enough tread can cause skidding, shaky steering and vibrations. Even if your tires look fine to the naked eye, it doesn’t mean they are.

What you can do: Check your tire pressure and tread depth every so often. You can use a penny to check depth by inserting the ‘heads’ side down into the tread. If the entire head is visible, you don’t have enough tread. A good rule of thumb is keeping your tires at 2/32” tread depth minimum.

Keeping your car in a heated garage. 

You’d think that keeping your vehicle toasty warm during the cold winters is a good thing – and it is for your car’s engine. But not so much for your vehicle’s exterior. When you park your snow or ice-covered car in a warm garage, the heat melts the fluids, which mix with salt from the roads. This combination then sits in puddles on or near your car, and this increases risk of oxidation (rusting).

What you can do: Instead of keeping your car in a heated garage, opt for a non-temperature controlled garage or covered space. Your vehicle will still be protected from harsh winter winds and snow, but it won’t succumb to melting salt, ice and rust.

Not doing research before an auto repair. 

Your car’s maintenance is so much like the maintenance of your own health – it’s always smart to be informed. If you have no idea what’s going on with your car, how do you know how serious the repair will be? You also won’t know how long the repair will take or how much the bill will be. Being proactive with your car’s “health” is the best way to take care of it.

What you can do: Do your own research about symptoms of problems before you visit an auto mechanic. This way you’re somewhat prepared for the diagnosis and repair plan, you’re not caught off guard and most importantly, you’re not taken advantage of. Studies have shown that some auto mechanics take advantage of ignorance by charging more than they would for a more educated customer.

Your car’s health is similar to your own – so much so that you might be committing a few bad habits that you think are fine. The first step is to become educated, and the next is to scratch those old bad habits by forming new, better ones. Your car’s lifespan will surely benefit from the changes.

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Keep Calm and Drive On

If the summer heat drives you to distraction, the last thing you need is a malfunctioning air conditioning (A/C) system when you’re on the road. Checking your vehicle’s A/C annually will help you keep your cool when temperatures soar, says the Car Care Council.

“Getting stuck in traffic is stressful enough, but getting stuck in traffic during the heat of summer without a functioning A/C is the pits,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “It is important to always have the A/C system properly maintained to keep it in tip-top shape and avoid costly repairs down the road.”

A vehicle’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC) keeps the interior cabin comfortable in any season by providing the right temperature and humidity level. A thorough inspection should be performed annually and a typical A/C service consists of the following steps:

  •  A service technician checks pressures to test operation, refrigerant charge and outlet temperatures.
  • If the system is found to be low on refrigerant, a leak test is performed to find the source of the leak. Keep in mind that if your vehicle is leaking refrigerant, it is damaging the ozone layer.
  • Refrigerant may be added if necessary to “top off” the system, although some states do not allow “topping off.”
  • A technician may also check for evidence of refrigerant cross-contamination, which is the mixing of refrigerants.
  • A/C service should also include a check of the compressor’s drive belt and tension.

“Checking the A/C once a year is key to making sure your cooling system is running efficiently all year long,” White said. “A properly running HVAC system will help improve your gas mileage, is more environmentally-friendly and will keep you calm as you drive on.”

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Can You Repair That Tire Puncture?

Nail in your tire? It”s important to know if a puncture can be repaired if the tire needs to be replaced.

This video gives a simple explanation to understanding when a repair is possible.

Tire punctures can only be repaired in the tread area and should not be over 1/4″ in diameter.

Note: Quick DIY repairs do exist, but long-term repairs can only be completed by removing the tire from the wheel. A patch must be applied to seal the inner liner and  the tire should be inspected for further damage.

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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.