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Articles:

Thoughtful Gifts for the Winter Driver

You may be one of those romantics who don't like giving (or getting) practical gifts for special occasions.  Just wait until one of those gifts helps you out of a big predicament in cold weather, and you realize that practical gifts can be life savers. Here are a few things you may give the cold-weather driver in your life—or suggest to someone else to give you! A portable air compressor.  If you've ever had a flat and you can't imagine trying to change a tire on a snowy, winter day, this may just get your tire pumped up enough to drive over to the repair facility.  Some are fancy and pricey, some are only a few bucks.  They plug into the cigarette lighter/12v outlet and will take a few minutes to pump up your tire. But it could save you a tow. Portable jump starter. These are relatively small power units (they easily fit in a car trunk) that can jump start your vehicle that has a dead battery.  Some even have an air compressor built in.  If you've ... read more

A Non-Starter (Alternator Problems in Cold Weather)

As the temperatures dip, we all know there could be problems starting our vehicles. After all, batteries can grow old and not hold a charge as well as when they were newer. Or starters can go bad.  But there's one more component to keep an especially sharp eye on during winter: your alternator. The alternator is sort of like a small generator. It sends power out to various parts in your vehicle that need electricity.  That includes the battery, which needs charging to keep its power topped off.  The alternator creates electricity by taking mechanical energy from the engine and turning it into electricity.  It is connected to the engine by belts and pulleys.  In cold weather, the material the belt is made from is less flexible than it is in warm weather.  That means it may not be turning the pulleys as effectively since it doesn't have the same grip. Also, when it's colder, lubricants, including the engine oil, are a little stiffer and parts just don't move ... read more

Categories:

Alternator

Time for a Brake (Brake Pad Replacement)

Stop! It's one of those things your vehicle has to do consistently and reliably.  That's why brake maintenance is vitally important, worthwhile for you to make sure stays up to date. A brake system has many components. If your vehicle has disc brakes, they have pads that make contact with the rotors (the metal discs).  Those pads usually have a metal back, and the part that presses against the discs is made of a material which provides friction to stop the vehicle. Because of that friction, the pads are expected to wear down and eventually the rotors will, too.  But the pads usually are the part that will need to be replaced more often. But how do you know when it's time? There are several signs, one of which is when your brakes squeak or make a high-pitched sound when you step on the brake pedal.  Many newer vehicles also have sensors on the brake pads.  When the pads get worn down to a certain point, the sensor will tell the vehicle's computer to turn on a li ... read more

Categories:

Brakes

Light's Out! Trouble Ahead (Exterior Light Bulb Service)

Whether or not your exterior light bulbs are all working probably is not at the top of your list when you think about your vehicle.  But those exterior lights are more important than you think, and they're vital to your safety and that of other drivers near you. Headlights are important.  Not only do they help you see safely down the road at night, they also help oncoming drivers know that the vehicle they're approaching is not a motorcycle.  Both headlights should be working properly and aimed so that they don't blind other drivers. Taillights are also important for a few reasons.  They tell drivers what your intentions are (changing lanes, turning, stopping).  So, the bulbs back there must be all in working order for maximum safety. Ditto for the front turn signal lights.  They alert oncoming drivers to your lane changes or turns (if you use your turn signals!).  Some side mirrors also have turn signal bulbs in them. There are a few other important ... read more

Categories:

Safe Driving

Clean Slate (Protecting Vehicle's Finish)

Winter is one of the hardest times to keep your vehicle clean. But did you know neglecting to wash your vehicle in winter could cost you a significant amount of money in the long run? Here's why. Many areas deal with snow and ice in the winter, and the salt and sand that are used to keep the road surfaces from being slick are also super corrosive to a vehicle's metal body and undercarriage.  That includes all the parts underneath that can be splashed with brine, saltwater and other road debris.  Winter is also tough on vehicles where there isn’t snow, sometimes from ocean salt or winter's extra humidity and rain.  If you have any breaks in your vehicle's paint, whether it be from a little fender bender or a stone chip, that corrosive winter moisture can get through those cracks and start eating away at the metal underneath.  If you can, you should get any dents or damage fixed as soon as possible so your vehicle has a protective layer of paint between road che ... read more

The Need for Speed (Wheel Speed Sensor Maintenance)

Today's vehicles have some pretty amazing technology in them, including a computerized braking system we all pretty much take for granted these days.  Antilock brake systems (ABS) have been around for years but they help drivers stop in much shorter distances reliably than ever before.  When you see your ABS warning light come on, it's important to find out what's causing the problem. It's a safety issue. Often the problem when the ABS light comes on is a faulty wheel speed sensor.  (In some cases the traction control light will also come on, perhaps because of a non-working wheel speed sensor.) Your vehicle uses the speed sensors to measure the rotational speed at each wheel. That sensor sends the speed data to a computer that can then adjust braking power and prevent your wheels from locking up.  If any of the wheel speed sensors isn't working right, the ABS warning light will go on and the vehicle's computer will turn off the antilock brake system.  You'll s ... read more

Categories:

Brakes

Why Alignment Matters (Vehicle Alignment Maintenance)

It's one of those things that can happen on a multi-day road adventure or a quick trip to the grocery store.  You hit a pothole, go too fast over a speed bump, nail a curb.  When it happens, you think, "I wonder if that was hard enough to do any damage?"  But things seem ok and you continue on your way.  Keep in mind that any blow to your vehicle's suspension can throw it out of alignment.  It can be a hard knock from the road or from another vehicle, such as being involved in a minor accident.  When your suspension is out of alignment, it means that the wheels aren't all pointing where they should.  And after a while, it can make your tires wear unevenly and cause problems with steering and handling. Let's go back to that pothole or curb you hit hard.  Even though you think there was no damage done, if you wait until you see tire wear, you may need to replace all four tires, not an inexpensive proposition. That's why it's a good idea to make sur ... read more

Categories:

Alignment

3 Winter Windshield Tips (Care of Windshield)

Cold weather can present some real challenges when it comes to your vehicle's windshield.  Think of it.  Your windshield is your window to the world when you're driving, and clear visibility is extraordinarily important for safe travels. So here are 3 tips to ensure that your windshield can do its job during the cold weather. Don't ever pour hot water on a frozen windshield.  Let's say you head outside and see your vehicle covered with ice. You think, hey, maybe I can heat up a pot of water on the stove and melt that off fast.  Don't do it!  You run the risk of shattering the glass the second that hot water hits the frigid glass.  Ditto for using a propane torch.  Glass does not do well with sudden temperature changes.  Instead, turn on your engine and start the defroster, which heats the windshield up gradually.  Use a plastic scraper designed for windshields (don't EVER use metal to scrape) and be patient.  Don't hammer on the ice to ... read more

Visibility Disaster! (Windshield Washer Pump Replacement)

Let's say you live in a cold climate where the snowy, icy weather challenges you to clear the salt and debris tossed up on your windshield.  You push your windshield washer switch expecting a good stream of fluid so the blades can wipe the glass clean. Yet nothing comes out.  Nada, zip.  What's going on? You know you filled up the windshield washer reservoir within the last week or so.  Well, there could be a few things causing your windshield washing system to fail.  One culprit? The hoses that are supposed to carry that fluid from the washer pump to the spray nozzles may be frozen, or maybe they're cracked and leaking. It could be the nozzles themselves are stopped up, either iced up or jammed full of debris.  Your windshield wiper/washer switch could be worn out or the electrical system may not be conducting power to the washer pump.  It's important that this system work properly, especially on days when the sun may be in front of you and your wind ... read more

H20 No! (Driving Through Standing Water)

In a year marked by unusually heavy flooding in North America, drivers are very aware of the possibility they may find themselves driving where water has come over the road.  It can be a daunting and frightening situation.  Flooding waters can move quickly and unpredictably, so you have to keep your wits about you when you encounter that situation. Here a sample of one vehicle manufacturer's guidelines on what to do.  First, the vehicle is designed to go through some water, but you must be careful.  Never attempt to drive through water deeper than the bottom of your tires. You can get out of your vehicle to check the depth of the water, but you can never be sure that you aren't going to drive into a spot where the road has washed away.  You can't see below the surface of the water, and suddenly you could find yourself in a place where the road drops off unexpectedly.  In swift moving storm runoff, your vehicle could literally be floating away with the curr ... read more

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