Monthly Archives: April 2017

Driving on Halloween

Driving on Halloween can be frightening for motorists, especially when little “ghouls” and “goblins” – out after dark and full of excitement – forget road safety rules or wear costumes or masks that limit their vision. To help ensure safety on a night reserved for fun, the Car Care Council reminds motorists to drive slowly, be extra careful when entering or exiting driveways or alleyways, and make sure the vehicle’s brake system works properly.

The vehicle’s brake system is its most critical safety item but brakes wear out and eventually need replacement. The factors that affect wear are driving habits, operating conditions, vehicle type and the quality of the brake lining material. Symptoms of brake problems include the following:

  • The car pulls to one side during braking;
  • The brake pedal pulsates when the brakes are applied;
  • The brake pedal feels “mushy;”
  • There is a noise when stepping on the brake pedal; and
  • There is a repeated need to add brake fluid to the master cylinder.

Drivers should also check the windshield wipers and windshield fluid, as well as the vehicle’s lights for maximum performance and visibility on Halloween.

Parents and adults should remind their trick-or-treaters to get out of cars on the curb side and not the traffic side, to stop at all corners and to use crosswalks. Children should look left, right and left again before crossing, stay on sidewalks, avoid crossing through yards and wear bright, reflective and flame retardant clothing.

“We can help keep young pedestrians safe on Halloween by checking the vehicle’s safety items, reminding children of basic safety rules and taking extra precautions when driving through neighborhoods,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

Maintain vehicle in the dead of winter

It’s foolhardy to head out in a poorly maintained vehicle in the dead of winter, of course, but even vehicle owners in temperate zones need a car care check as the days grow shorter, note the pros with the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians.

Regular, routine maintenance can help improve your gasoline mileage, reduce pollution, and catch minor problems before they become big headaches.

ASE offers these car care tips to give you peace of mind during winter driving:

  • Before you do anything else, read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules.
  • Get engine performance and driveability problems — hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. — corrected at a reputable repair shop that employs ASE-certified repair professionals. Cold weather makes existing problems worse.
  • Replace dirty filters, such as air, fuel, and PCV. A poorly running engine is less efficient and burns more gasoline.
  • As the temperature drops below freezing, add a bottle of fuel deicer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Keeping the gas tank filled also helps prevent moisture from forming.
  • Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual — more often if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips. A poll of ASE Master Auto Technicians revealed that regular oil and filter changes is one of the most frequently neglected services, yet one that is essential to protect your engine.
  • The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. Do-It-Yourselfers: Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses also should be checked regularly by a professional technician.
  • The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
  • Replace old blades regularly. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent — you’ll be surprised how much you use during the winter months. And don’t forget to always carry an ice scraper.
  • Have your battery checked. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. However, most motorists can perform routine care: Wear eye protection and protective rubber gloves. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; retighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. A word of caution:  Removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data/codes on some newer vehicles, so always check your owner’s manual first. Be sure to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid.
  • Inspect all lights and bulbs. Replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag. Clouded lenses can be refinished by many service outlets or by using a DIY kit found in major auto parts outlets.
  • Exhaust fumes inside your vehicle’s cabin can be deadly. Have the exhaust system examined for leaks and problems while the vehicle is on a lift. The trunk and floorboards should also be inspected for small holes.

Celebrate All Year with Green Auto Tips

By changing a few habits, motorists can do their part in helping the environment, say the experts at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE recommends regular vehicle maintenance and better driving habits as two easy-to-implement strategies. What’s more, improved automotive habits will help your vehicle last longer and command a better resale price.

The following tips from ASE can put you on the road to environmentally conscious car care:

  • Keep the engine running at peak performance. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent. Replace filters and fluids as recommended in the owner’s manual.
  • Don’t ignore that ‘Service Engine’ light. Today’s vehicles have much cleaner tailpipe emissions that they did 30 years ago, but a poorly running engine or faulty exhaust system will cause your vehicle to pollute much more than it would otherwise.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Not only will you reduce the engine’s effort and, thus, gasoline consumption, your tires will last longer too, saving you money and easing the burden at recycling centers.
  • Have your vehicle’s air conditioner serviced only by a technician certified to handle and recycle refrigerants. Older air conditioners contain ozone-depleting chemicals, which could be released into the atmosphere through improper service.
  • Avoid speeding and sudden accelerations. Both of these habits guzzle gas. When waiting for friends or family, shut off the engine. Consolidate daily errands to one trip to eliminate unnecessary driving.
  • Remove excess items from the vehicle. Less weight equals better gas mileage. Remove that roof-top luggage carrier after vacations to reduce air drag, too.
  • If you do your own repairs, properly dispose of engine fluids and batteries. Some repair facilities accept these items from consumer. You can also contact local government for hazardous material drop-off/recycling stations. Remember too that improperly disposed fluids such as antifreeze can harm pets and wildlife.