Some Common Sense Auto Care Tips for Women

Happy Valentines. First, I want to say this post is not meant to assume all women do not know how to maintain their automobiles. We thought these tips were interesting and wanted to pass them along. This tips are from Yahoo Voices written by Teresa Ambord in 2006.

Auto care if your car overheats…

Turn on the heater full blast.. This pulls heat off the engine. Then keep an eye on the gauge to see if it changes.    Of course, if the car overheats while the air conditioner is on, turn the A/C off immediately since it taxes the engine. Coasting can also help cool the engine if you can’t pull over right away. Remember not to ever remove the radiator cap on a hot engine or you’ll risk explosive heat. The cap maintains pressure so removing it when the car is hot is like opening a volcano.

If you’ll be sitting idle for more than 90 seconds, like at a train crossing or drive-thru, pop your automatic transmission into neutral. This takes some of the strain off the engine and lets it rest a bit.

Auto care for tires…

Practice pre-emptive auto care, by getting in the habit of glancing at your tires as you walk to your car. Soon it’ll be second nature and you’ll know before leaving home if you have a potential auto care problem. Don’t wait to check a tire that looks low. Not only will you avoid flats, but your tires will last longer when properly inflated, and your car will get better gas mileage.

While you are driving, if the car seems to be pulling right or left, it could indicate a low tire that is on its way to a blow-out. Don’t ignore the warning signal. As soon as you safely can, pull off and take a look. If it really is low, get to a service station as soon as possible or call for help (or change your tire).

More pre-emptive auto care…when tires get worn in spots, the cords can begin to pop out. You may not be able to see the cords, so once in a while, especially before a trip, run your hands all around the tires and see if you feel anything you shouldn’t, like wires.

Auto care for battery cables and connectors…

Basic auto care requires that you open the hood once in a while and look at your battery. If your battery connectors become corroded and covered with greenish, fuzzy material, you could end up going nowhere fast because corrosion inhibits current flow. You can clean the corrosion yourself by pouring some cola directly on the green fuzz. If it’s stubborn, you may have to remove the cables and scrub the corrosion with a wire brush that you can get at a hardware store. The corrosion is battery acid so you will need gloves and eye protection. If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it regularly, especially in hot weather. Use distilled water. Also, with a little advance auto care you may sidestep battery problems by keeping the top of the battery clean, since dirt acts as a conductor which drains power.

Auto care for brakes…

If you must drive through a puddle, your brakes could get wet. After leaving the puddle, accelerate slowly while applying your brake. That exposes the brakes to air, giving them a chance to dry.

If you must hit a pothole, don’t keep the brakes applied. Doing that locks up the wheel and can damage the suspension.

If you’re traveling on a windy, steep, downhill road you may be tempted to apply your brakes more than you should. If the brakes get hot, they may start to smoke and emit a strong chemical smell. If that happens, pull over in a safe spot and give the brakes time to cool down. You may be able to avoid this problem by putting your car in a lower gear before traveling downhill, causing the car to go slower without the need for constant braking.

Auto care according to smell…    Some car problems give you no warning whatsoever. But fortunately, other problems announce themselves with definite odors.

Here is a checklist of car odors that may be no big deal, or may require that you put down the keys, call a tow truck and let a professional handle your auto care needs.

Burning coolant. You could have a blown head gasket, which causes coolant to mix with your gas. If this is the case, you may notice thick, sweet-smelling, whitish smoke coming from the tailpipe. At this point, you may need professional auto care, so see your mechanic.

Exhaust. You may have a leak in your exhaust system, like a hole in your muffler, tailpipe, or exhaust manifold or exhaust pipe. Once again, it may be time for professional auto care.

Burning trash. Is your engine burning oil? If your car is older, you may have worn piston rings. These rings seal gaps between pistons and engine cylinders. If they wear down, oil can leak out of the cylinder walls. The oil burns, and exits the tailpipe in smelly, blackish puffs of smoke. Don’t take chances. See your auto care technician.

Hot oil. If oil is leaking, it may boil onto engine components and bake. Start by checking to see if your oil cap is loose.

Fresh asphalt. This could be a sign of an overheated engine. Something is melting down, like plastic parts under the hood. If that happens, a chain reaction may result, making the engine hotter and hotter.

Raw gas. Is the gas cap loose? Did you overfill the tank? If neither of these is possible, don’t risk starting the engine. You may have a severed gas line or leaky fuel-injection system. You’re going to need professional auto care, so your best bet is to have it towed to a technician you trust.

Rotten eggs. This could indicate a plugged or damaged catalytic converter or a too-rich air/fuel mixture. Call your mechanic, since this is a sign of electrical malfunction.

Burnt toast. A burnt toast smell could mean the electrical insulation is burning. Again, call your mechanic for a professional auto care opinion. You may have an electrical malfunction.

Burning plastic. This may be as simple as a plastic bag caught under the car. Use a flashlight to check. If that’s the case, you’ll probably just have to wait for the plastic to burn off.

Burning rubber. A rubber hose may be resting on the exhaust manifold, or a belt may be shredded by a jammed pulley. If a belt is loose or worn, it is usually indicated by a squeal. Turn off your engine and inspect the hoses and belts and replace as necessary. Could the smell be from your brakes? As mentioned above, after a long, steep descent, it’s not uncommon to smell your brakes. Try using a lower gear. If you smell your brakes during normal driving, get them checked immediately.

Miscellaneous auto care…

Suppose your fan belt breaks miles from anywhere. In a pinch, you can use panty hose. Just loop the pantyhose around the fan belt cogs and, if possible, cut off the loose ends. Then get yourself to a mechanic.

If you’re driving on a windy day and the wind is pushing the car around, you can counteract that somewhat by rolling the two rear windows down a few inches. That allows the wind to go through the car instead of pushing against it.

Once in a while, clean your windshield wipers with window cleaner and a paper towel to remove the road oil and grime. They’ll last longer and perform better, and cause less eye fatigue for the driver.

If your car has a problem smell, you may be able to solve it simply with dryer sheets. Even a strong smoke smell can eventually be defeated by tucking dryer sheets in every nook and cranny of the interior of the car. After a while, you should be able to remove the sheets and the smell should have vanished.

If pet hair is an issue, you know it can seem sticky when you try to vacuum or brush it. Try spraying it with Static Guard, which should loosen it.

When you do need a mechanic for auto care…

Of course you know there are times when you need professional auto care. Many women feel taken advantage of by male mechanics. Before you make an appointment, ask friends and family where they take their cars for auto care. You can also call local consumer groups to find out if a particular auto care shop has complaints registered against them. Choose a shop with ASE certified mechanics (ASE stands for Automotive Service Excellence).   When you take your vehicle in for auto care, ask for an estimate in writing. Also ask a lot of questions and write down the answers, including a list of the parts the mechanic thinks you will need. That way, if you get a call in the middle of a busy work day telling you your car needs additional repairs and parts you can repeat their own words back to them as you ask questions. Tell the mechanics up front that you’ll want to see (or take home) any parts they remove from your car. If the repair is costly, you may want to get a second opinion.

As with any area of life, there are honest, trustworthy mechanics, and those who will pump up the bill by trying to scare you. If he says something like “I wouldn’t drive two blocks in this death trap!” be wary. Don’t succomb to pressure… after all, it is still your car and you’re in charge of your auto care.

Finally, you shouldn’t go into a auto care shop acting cocky as though you know more than you do. But arm yourself with a little knowledge, describe the problem as clearly as possible or take a test drive with the auto care specialist and point out the problem, and be willing to ask questions.

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TO PLUG OR PATCH A TIRE?

TIRE PLUGGING

Tire plugs were one of the first tire repair methods to appear on the scene, and they fell out of use as tire technology developed.  A tire plug is best used when the hole you are repairing has relatively smooth edges. You simply sand or rasp the edges of the hole, place a plug into the installation tool, and insert the plug. When all is said and done, the more you drive, the more the plug works its way into the rubber of your tire and better the seal is. You should not plug the sidewall of your tire, only the section of the tire that actually hits the road.

Pros

  • Fast
  • Cheap
  • Easy to install
  • Seals the outside
  • Anyone can do it
  • Can be done on side of road

Cons

  • Cannot see the extent of damage on the inside of tire
  • May lead to an accident due to tire failure
  • Does not seal the inside
  • Anyone can do it

Tire Patching

Patches require that the tire be taken off and the patch be installed on the inside of the tire. The rubber is roughened up, then a cement or glue is applied and the patch is applied using pressure to help seal the rubber together.

Pros

  • Can repair larger holes
  • Tire Internal can be inspected
  • Repaired by professionals

Cons

  • Does not seal the outside (leads to rusting the steels belt which weakens the tire)
  • Time consuming
  • Expensive
  • Cannot be done on side of road

Well, you have seen both the pros and cons of patching versus plugging a tire and you still have questions. How about combining? So the ideal situation is a plug patch.  This is both a plug and a patch, and this goes from the inside of the tire to the outside. It’s pushed through and then you grab it with a pair of pliers and you pull it.  It has a rubber plug that is built into it, so once this is pulled through, the metal piece comes off, the inside is a patch, it seals the inside, it seals the outside, it’s considered a permanent repair.

Here is our two cents, but ultimately you have to decide. If a tire is punctured while driving and a shop is not near and spare tire isn’t available, a plug may serve as a temporary low speed solution that must be replaced with a proper repair as soon as possible upon returning to the road. Never just patch a tire or make repairs that are bigger than ¼ inch or have damage to the sidewall. To insure you will not get stranded on the side of the road make sure you have the following:

  1. Properly inflated spare tire
  2. Vehicle jack
  3. Lug not wrench
  4. Gloves
  5. Flash light
  6. Safety triangle

Tire Facts

On the sidewall of your tire or on the tire placard inside your car door, you’ll find a code that tells the tire’s size and capabilities. Here’s an example:

P205/60R16 63H M+S

  • P – Type      of tire, P for passenger
  • 205 –      Width of the tire across the tread in millimeters
  • 60 –      Aspect ratio of the sidewall compared to the width
  • R – Radial      construction
  • 16 –      Diameter of the rim in inches
  • 63 –      Tire’s load rating
  • H – Tire’s      speed rating
  • M+S – Tire      is suitable for all-season driving which the M + S stands for mud and snow

If the tire-size code starts with LT instead of P, it means the tire is a light-truck tire. Light-truck tires are designed to have higher-load carrying capacities and are usually found on pickups and SUVs. These vehicles are not required to have LT tires, and in many cases, the original-equipment specification calls for passenger-car tires.

The speed rating translates into the tire’s ability to dissipate heat, or prevent heat build-up. Heat is a tire’s enemy. The more heat, the faster the tire wears, and the faster a tire might break down. A tire with a higher speed rating can dissipate more heat on long highway trips. If a consumer were to spend little time on the highway, the speed rating might not be an important factor in choosing a replacement tire.

Tires are speed rated from 99 to 186 mph. The most common speed ratings are T (118 mph) and H (130 mph). Both of those ratings clearly exceed the nationally posted speed limits and would make excellent long-distance highway tires. If a consumer were to drive only in urban situations at low speeds, a tire with an S (112 mph) speed rating might be completely acceptable.

Another important factor in choosing a replacement tire is the load rating. The load capacity number on the tire-size code indicates the load-carrying capacity of that single tire. When selecting replacement tires, consumers have to be careful not to select a tire with a lower load-carrying capacity.

Regardless of a tire’s speed rating, load-carrying ability, size and construction, traction is the keys to safety. A common mistake is to select a tire without considering its ability to hold the road. Savvy consumers will balance a tire’s traction in dry conditions, in wet conditions and in the snow. If you desire a high-performance tire but live in northern climates, consider a “winter” tire for driving in the snowy season. If you live where the weather is warm all year, a touring tire may suit your needs just fine.

Most consumers will make the mistake of waiting until spring to get new tires. As a tire wears out, dry traction generally increases and wet and snow traction decrease. So the best time to buy new tires is not in the spring, but in the fall.

Passenger-car and light-truck tires are very different. Pickup and SUV owners will generally select passenger-car tires because they are less costly and offer a smoother ride. However, if a vehicle will consistently be loaded with cargo or will be asked to pull a heavy trailer, then perhaps the higher load-carrying capacity of a light-truck tire would be the better choice.

New vs Used tires

This is a question that has been going around a while. In some cases buying used tires may be a good deal. For example, buying used tires off a recently totaled vehicle or from someone who just recently upgraded their rims would be ideal. Used tires that are only slightly worn, like in those situations, may be a good option to save a little money. The flip side is purchasing an old or worn out tire that isn’t safe. Used tires may have defects, punctures or tread-wear you may or may not be able to see. Purchasing a used tire that has already been plugged or patched may save money, but is not a good idea. Worn tires will not stop as fast and will be more likely to skid on wet surfaces. New tires will come with some type of manufactures warranty or road hazard that a used tire will not have. If you want a little piece of mind that your tires are in the best condition possible, buy new ones. If you are in the market for new tires and you live in the Baltimore, MD region click here to get a competitive quote.

We all can understand the economy is tough and used tires may be your only option. In this case, here are some tips to help protect you…..

  1. Protect yourself by looking at the date code to determine the age of the tire. This code is part of the DOT Number and will be the last four digits. These digits determine the week and year it was manufactured. For example if your tire has DOT U2LL LMLR5107, it was manufactured the 51st week of 2007. Industry standard indicate car tires should be replaced after six years regardless of tread depth.
  2. Visually inspect tires before having them mounted on your vehicle. Bring a flash light to look for interior and exterior damage. Look for plugs, more than one patch, and cracks.
  3. You can test the depth of the tread by using a quarter. Simply flip the quarter upside down and place it inside each of the tire’s tread grooves. If the top of Washington’s head can be seen from any of the grooves then the tread is too low.