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.
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Four Easy Ways to Go Green with Your Car

Looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly with your car? Motorists can help protect the environment by following four simple steps from the non-profit Car Care Council.

  1. Follow a vehicle service schedule including steps like checking engine performance, keeping tires properly inflated, replacing air filters regularly, changing oil regularly and checking your gas cap. Routine maintenance helps reduce emissions and fuel consumption, saving money at the pump.
  1. Keep your current vehicle longer and limit the number of new cars you buy over the course of a lifetime. Extending vehicle life is as simple as taking care of your vehicle properly. You’ll gain years of reliable service without monthly car payments and higher insurance rates.Recycle oil MM
  1. Recycle or properly dispose motor oil, tires, batteries, fluids and other vehicle components to help protect the planet when performing vehicle maintenance or repairs.
  1. Repower your engine when faced with serious engine trouble. A remanufactured/rebuilt engine can give your vehicle new life and make it more fuel efficient for about the cost of an average down payment on a new car.

“Being car care aware and performing basic vehicle maintenance go a long way toward protecting the environment and improving fuel economy,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “The Car Care Council’s free customized service schedule and email reminder service makes it easy to stay on schedule and keep your car running efficiently.”

To help motorists “go green,” the Car Care Council’s newly redesigned Car Care Guide features fuel economy and environmental awareness tips to help motorists “go green.” Available in English and Spanish, the 80-page Car Care Guide uses easy-to-understand language rather than technical automotive jargon, fits easily in a glove box and can be ordered free-of-charge at www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

Lights Out? Check Vehicle Lighting

Winter-Check_Vehicle-Lights

Fall is here and its arrival means fewer hours of daylight and upcoming holiday travel. Before hitting the road, it is a wise idea to make sure your vehicle’s lights are in proper working order, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

“Lights play a critical role in safe driving, as the chance of an accident increases if you can’t see or be seen,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “From the driver’s seat you may not notice a light that isn’t working, so inspect all of your car’s lights and replace those that are out.”

Lights are normal wear items that require periodic inspection and replacement. The vehicle lighting system provides nighttime visibility; signals and alerts other drivers; and supplies light for viewing instruments and the vehicle’s interior. In addition to replacing dimming, rapidly blinking and non-functioning lights, the following tips can help keep you safe:

  • Keep headlights, tail lights and signal lights clean. External dirt and debris can dim operational lights from being seen by others.
  • Make sure that your headlights are properly aimed. Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.
  • If there is any doubt on whether or not your headlights should be on, turn them on. Lights not only help you see better in early twilight, they also make it easier for other drivers to see you.
  • Don’t overdrive your headlights; you should be able to stop inside the illuminated area, otherwise you are creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle.

“Some states have laws that require the headlights to be on with the wipers,” said White. “Keeping your vehicle’s lights properly cared for and replacing wiper blades periodically will help ensure a safer ride, keeping the road ahead well-lit and giving you a clear view.”

For more information on vehicle lighting, service interval schedules, questions to ask a technician and tips to drive smart and save money, view the Car Care Council’s free digital Car Care Guide online at www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

Easy Steps to Better Gas Mileage

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With the average price of gas dipping below two dollars per gallon for the first time since 2009, many motorists have been seeing a real savings at the pump. Putting some of that savings toward basic auto care can lead to more miles per gallon and, in turn, more savings, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council encourages motorists to be car care aware and perform these five simple steps to improve fuel economy and save money.

  1. Check Tire Pressure: Keep tires properly inflated and improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.
  2. Use the Right Motor Oil: Improve gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent by using the grade of motor oil recommended by the manufacturer.
  3. Replace Clogged Air Filters: Replacing clogged air filters on older vehicles can improve fuel economy and will improve performance and acceleration on all vehicles.
  4. Check Engine Performance: Keep your engine running efficiently and improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
  5. Fix It: Addressing a serious maintenance problem, like a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.

Save Gas Beyond the Pump“Proactive vehicle maintenance is a motorist’s best money saving tip,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Routine auto care not only helps save on fuel costs, but it helps identify small issues so they can be serviced before they become bigger and more costly to repair.”

To help motorists increase fuel economy and take better care of their vehicles, the Car Care Council offers valuable tools on its website, including a free personalized schedule and email reminder service.

Proper Car Washing

Washing your own car doesn’t just make you feel great because your ride looks great. Keeping the exterior clean maintains the new-car finish that could translate into a higher resale value. That extra value can’t be realized if you only pull out the bucket and sponge when mud and grime accumulate. Weekly car washes will remove the dust, dirt, pollen, pollutants, bird droppings and other contaminants that chip away at your car’s finish.

Man washing his car with proper technique

Five do’s and don’ts of car washing

Washing a car isn’t too complicated, but there are definitely a few best practices to take into consideration. Some traditional ways of cleaning cars – perhaps even what mom and dad taught you (No, it’s not ok to use dish soap! Ever!) – can actually damage your car’s exterior. Follow this list to clean your car and help boost its value:

  1. Don’t wait until your car is visibly dirty.
    Bugs, bird droppings, acid rain and pollutants can dull your car’s finish and, in extreme cases, strip the paint. Don’t think of the weekly car wash advice as all or nothing. Monthly washes are likely sufficient to maintain your car’s appearance. The exception is in areas where there is acid rain. Always rinse your car after acid rain or the paint could be permanently scarred.
  2. Don’t wash a hot car.
    High temperatures can make cleaning more difficult and cause deposits that eventually damage paint. Park your car in the shade or wait until the heat of the day passes before getting started.
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How to Clean Car Wheels

Car wheels, often made up of an aluminum or magnesium alloy, are what serve to hold the tire. On some cars, a plastic wheel cover or hubcap is affixed to the wheel itself. Both require cleaning to keep up appearances. And your car’s wheels take some of the heaviest abuse on your car, generally needing much more care than is provided. That’s one reason many relatively new cars have dull, dusty wheels. If you spend a little time and money maintaining your car’s wheels, then they’ll have that new-car look.

Person washing car wheel hubcap with a sponge

From an expert: Why you should clean your car wheels

Corrosive brake dust builds up on the wheels, starts to etch into the finish and causes staining, peeling and discoloration, said Todd Cooperider, President, Esoteric – Fine Auto Finishing. Even if you don’t need to replace the wheels, discolored wheels and pitting will surely lower any trade-in value. Cooperider noted that professional detailers – not local car washes – know the best cleaners to use on individual wheel types and finishes.

Detailing costs more than DIY cleaning, of course, but remember that replacing a wheel that was pitted or damaged by improper cleaning can cost about $150 per wheel. If the wrong cleaner is used, it can also be “catastrophic and expensive” to the brakes, said Cooperider. Owners of high-end cars may opt for professional detailers to coat their wheels with the latest quartz/ceramic wheel coating technologies, making cleaning much easier. Those coatings, which can cost between $300 and $600, are generally used on high-end cars with wheels that cost thousands, but that treatment is available for all wheels.

The good news is that most drivers can safely clean their wheels and rims at home as long as they use care and the correct products. That will certainly cost less than detailing, but Cooperider cautioned not to buy the cheapest cleaners. He recommended a relatively new segment of wheel cleaners that are pH neutral and neutralize the iron deposits from brake dust that attach to the rims. These wheel cleaners are far more effective than what is typically available at your local auto parts store, and they are much safer as well.

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Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Problems?

Guide to understanding, troubleshooting and diagnosing your ABS

Evolution of ABS

Anti-lock braking technology has been around for nearly a century. Since World War II, aircraft have had anti-skid braking systems, and the earliest anti-lock braking systems on automobiles date back to the 1920s. Anti-skid or anti-lock braking first became more commonplace on cars and trucks in the 1990s as a positive step toward improved safety and vehicle control during hard braking in slippery conditions.

Although ABS seems complicated, it’s actually quite simple in function. If you encounter a skid while braking, the ABS control module senses a slowdown or pause in wheel rotation, modulating brake application to help you steer out of trouble. In a conventional skid, steering control is lost and the vehicle continues to travel in the direction of the skid. Then, anti-lock braking pulses the brakes, which results in an improved measure of control out of the skid.

A typical ABS consists of four wheel sensors (sometimes two or three), an anti-lock electronic control module and a hydraulic control unit. Under normal conditions, this system applies master cylinder hydraulic pressure to all four brakes, and pulsing pressure to each brake when a skid is detected.

ABS function

Early anti-lock braking systems were non-electrical, hydromechanical models. They were mechanically controlled to modulate brake application. Contemporary anti-lock braking systems are computer-controlled, electrohydromechanical brake hydraulic systems. The ABS electronic module or controller can be integral with the hydromechanical braking controller or it can be separate. There can also be electrical relays that fire when the system is called to duty.

Anti-lock brake sensors are typically magnetically triggered. As the reluctor’s teeth pass the sensor, the normal pulsing rhythm of wheel motion indicates normal operation. It is when the reluctor speed across the sensor changes dramatically (wheels slow down or stop) that the ABS will pulse brake application. When the ABS pulses, it pumps hydraulic pressure to the brakes in rapid-fire succession, sometimes as rapidly as 15 times a second depending on the system. This function produces intermittent braking and some level of steering control.

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