May 17, 2013
The last in the series on simple car maintenance, this week’s post is about checking your car’s accessory belt or belts. Most newer vehicles use a serpentine multi-accessory drive belt. It is a single ribbed belt that drives all the accessories, air conditioning system, power steering, alternator as well as other pumps and accessories. Some older cars and trucks may have separate accessory belts.
Belts wear and become damaged over time. A broken accessory belt could mean serious damage to the engine or its systems. Periodically checking the accessory belt or belts will help you catch and replace a bad belt long before it snaps.
Here is what to do:
Inspect belt for signs of wear. With the engine off and cool, inspect the belt or belts. In addition to doing a visual check, feel the condition of the belts checking for cracks, fraying, splits or brittle areas.
Look for places on the belt where the rubber is slick looking. Slick spots can cause a belt to slip and may be precursors to overheating and cracking.
Check the pulleys. Look for rubber deposit build-up spots or worn spots that could catch the belt and cause it to snap.
Note the belt tension. Check the tension on the longest length of the belt; it should be tight, with little or no give.
If you hear squealing sounds from the engine while you are driving, this could mean a worn, loose or damaged belt. If you are not sure about the sounds you are hearing, listen to how the engine sounds with the hood up. Make sure the car in park, with the parking brake on, and have someone accelerate the engine while you listen. When you do this, be sure to keep a safe distance from belts and components while the engine is running.
If you confirm there is a squealing noise, or if you are unsure about accessory belt condition, be sure to get your car in for service, before you have any serious problems.
May 10, 2013
If you have noticed any mysterious puddles under your car lately, this week’s topic is for you. Leakage under your car may indicate a number of issues from transmission problems to power steering system trouble. Before you take your car in for inspection and diagnosis, you can perform a simple inspection on your own, so you know what to expect.
If the area below your engine is exposed, without a protective shield beneath it, there is a simple way to help identify the leak source. Begin by parking the car over a large, clean piece of paper or card board and leave it there overnight. It is a good idea to mark the paper to indicate position so you will know where the leaks are relative to front, rear, right side, left side. In the morning, move the car and examine the leakage:
- A clear, watery leak located near the air conditioner is likely to be normal condensation from running the system.
- A blackish, greasy leak located under the engine area is probably oil. Depending on where you see the stain, pop the hood and look for leaks around the oil filter and the engine. The leak might also be around the oil drain plug or crankcase and oil pan.
- A thick, dark, oily leak may indicate a gear oil leak from a manual transmission, differential, an axle, or the steering gears. These leaks should be checked right away.
- Slippery, watery fluid that is green, red, blue, or yellow and coming from under the engine or radiator is likely to be coolant. Check the radiator, pressure cap, engine, and hoses for leaks.
- An oily leak that is reddish or clear and located toward the front might be power steering fluid.
- A leak that is light-colored or clear could be brake fluid. Leaky brakes need immediate professional repair.
- Battery acid leaks usually smell like rotten eggs. Avoid contact with battery acid and have the battery replaced.
- Fuel leaks are also possible and usually recognizable by the smell. Check around the fuel pump and the fuel injectors. If the leak seems to be under the center of the vehicle, it could be the fuel lines, or if it is toward the rear, it could be the fluid tank.
It is extremely important to approach all checks with great caution, and exercise appropriate precautions to avoid injury. If your leak continues, or you still aren’t sure how to tell what it is, make a service appointment as soon as possible.
May 2, 2013
This week’s topic features another simple check you can perform to better understand your car maintenance. Oil checks are a simple maintenance step you can do in your own garage in just a few easy steps.
Oil is vital to the proper functioning of your vehicle. It is important to know that your car has enough and that it is in good condition.
The function of oil is to reduce friction in your engine and keep it running smoothly. It is a good idea to check your vehicle’s oil once a month to be sure you have the proper amount and that it is not too dirty to be effective.
- Park your vehicle on a level area and wait for about 15 minutes for the engine to cool
- Pop the hood and locate the dipstick, usually located next to the engine
- Remove the dipstick and wipe it off on a clean, dust-free rag
- Insert the clean dipstick back into the pipe
- Remove the dipstick again and look at the oil on the end of the stick
- If the oil does not reach the second or “full” indication line, you need oil
- Note the condition of the oil, making sure it is not dirty; if it is dirty, you need an oil change
- Once your check is finished, simply return the dipstick to its spot in the pipe
When you do need to add oil, make sure it is a good quality oil that is right for your vehicle. Your trusted auto service professional can help you determine the best product for your engine.
April 23, 2013
This week’s topic is a follow up to previous post on understanding car maintenance. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at simple checks you can do on your own, which will help you to better understand your vehicle and keep it running smoothly. This post will cover air filters.
The benefits of a clean air filter include enhanced engine performance, longer engine life, better gas mileage, and lower emissions. A dirty air filter prevents the necessary amount of clean air from reaching the engine, which hinders the car’s emission control system by reducing air flow. Lack of clean air may lead to ignition problems caused by dirty spark plugs, leading to engine miss, rough idle and starting problems. Read more…
April 19, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
My uncle recently passed his car on to me, and while I appreciate the gift, I am concerned that he was not good about keeping up with the necessary auto maintenance. I plan to take the car in for inspection and maintenance services, but before I do, I would like to check things out for myself. Not only do I want to be familiar with my car, I want to be an informed consumer of auto products and services. Can you tell me what things I can check out myself ahead of time?
You are wise to take care of your car before you have problems, and it is always a good idea to educate yourself on car maintenance. Read more…
April 12, 2013
Not only do April showers bring May flowers, they also mean more water on the road and greater risk of hydroplaning. Anyone who has experienced it knows that hydroplaning is one of the more frightening situations that can occur while driving.
What is hydroplaning and how does it occur?
Hydroplaning occurs when water pressure causes a vehicle to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water. It is like skidding, but potentially much more hazardous. The reason hydroplaning is so dangerous is because your vehicle loses contact with the road, leaving you with little way to control it.
The tread on tires is designed to help prevent hydroplaning. The treads function to channel and disperse water and slush, away from the face of the tire. If the tread is unable to do this, the vehicle will hydroplane, and the driver will lose braking and steering control. This can happen for a number of reasons including worn tread, improper inflation, and driving at speeds that are too high for the conditions. Traveling at high speed does not give the tire enough time to push the water out of the way, as it is designed to do. Read more…
April 5, 2013
A new free mobile app released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now available for iPhone and iPod Touch users. The app provides real-time info to help consumers “Buy Safe, Drive Safe, and Stay Safe.”
The SaferCar app gives consumers on demand access to important safety information to help them make informed decisions. Features include: Read more…
March 28, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
I am planning to switch my tires this weekend and am wondering about proper tire storage. Can you tell me the best way to store tires while they are not in use?
Great question! Proper tire storage is an important part of tire maintenance, and it is too often overlooked. Storing your tires the right way will keep them looking good and performing well. Read more…
March 15, 2013
Tis the season of Erin go bragh, and even folks who aren’t Irish tend to feel a wee bit green. This year’s Food City 500 NASCAR race, held in Bristol, Tennessee, takes place this Sunday, on St. Pat’s Day and Danica Patrick has her car decked out for the occasion. For those who want to sport green on the road but cannot indulge in a custom paint job, don’t worry! There are other ways to dress up your car.
Though you may be feeling lucky in the spirit of the season, remember that it is never wise to leave your tires to chance. It is very important that you check your tires on a regular basis. At the first indication of trouble, you should have a trusted tire professional inspect and correct issues or replace your tires if necessary. Read more…
March 7, 2013
Non-Pneumatic Tires – Fox Car Report
Sometimes we like to report on interesting developments in the tire industry. This one relates to a recent post Tire Twins post on the topic run-flat tires. The run-flat is a type of “blowout-proof” tire, which is still susceptible to pressure loss limitation. There is another kind of tire on the horizon that is even more impervious to damage, and it may be one step closer to reality for consumers.
Wisconsin-based Resilient Technologies has been developing a patent-pending design for non-pneumatic (airless) tires since 2005. The tires are made from a proprietary plastic and feature a honeycomb-like structure, which allows the tire to remain rigid without the need for air-filled support. The three main elements of the tire include an inner steel rim, the honeycomb support structure, and a rubber tread band with makes contact with driving surfaces. Since pressure is never a factor, damage to the outer band from tears or punctures do not compromise the tire performance. These tires have been in use in military applications and have proven successful in withstanding damage and performing reliably in hostile situations requiring continuous mobility. Read more…
March 1, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
I am in need of a new set of tires, and am a little intimidated by the idea of tire shopping. Where should I buy to get the best price? Can you tell me what I need to know before I get started? Basically I am wondering what things are important to look for and how to know what the best choice for my car will be.
While there may be cheaper ways to buy tires online, we recommend finding reputable, trust-worthy tire retailer in your area who will really help you in the tire buying process. Especially since you are new to the process, a knowledgeable tire dealer will be able to recommend the type of tire that will best fit your vehicle, driving style and budget. Read more…
February 22, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
I know everyone is complaining about gas prices, but the expense is really killing my budget! Is there anything I can do to improve the gas mileage on my car and make that expensive gas go a little further? I have heard that you can get fuel additives that will improve gas mileage. Do these work?
It is true, for most of us it is really hard to cope with the financial strain of these rising gas prices. It is understandable that you’d like to do something to improve your gas mileage, but think twice about spending even more of your hard-earned money on fuel additives. Read more…
February 15, 2013
Image from www.vintagevalentinemuseum.com
Hope everyone had a Happy Valentine’s Day! Now don’t forget to show your tires some love this weekend by making sure the pressure is right. Not only will your tires love you for extending their service life, you will be happier because properly inflated tires mean safer driving and better gas mileage.
Be sure to check your owner’s manual to find out the manufacturer’s recommendation for proper tire pressure. Although you will see a tire pressure number on the tire, that number is the maximum pressure, so you’ll want to inflate to the pressure recommended in the manual instead.
Unscrew the valve cap and press the tire gauge on the valve stem. You will hear a hissing sound when you first press down, but it stops once you press all the way down. You only need a few seconds to get an accurate reading. Once you’ve reached the right pressure, replace the valve cap. Do the same for all four tires.
If your tires need air, you can fill them with a portable compressor, or use the air pump at your gas station. Read more…
February 8, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
Our family has inherited an RV/Camper that is older, but in excellent condition. It had belonged to my aunt and uncle who have not been able to use it much over the past several years due to health issues. They very generously decided to give it to our family so we could enjoy it. My uncle suggested that we have the tires replaced since they have not been used often, but we think the tread on them looks fine. As long as the tread is not worn, the tires should be safe, right?
Congratulations on your RV! You are going to have great times RV camping with your family.
Regarding those old tires, we’re inclined to agree with your uncle – they could be an issue. Read more…
February 1, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
I have heard that there is a new type of tire, called a run flat tire, that prevents blow outs. I recently had a blow out that scared me so badly, I almost wrecked. Can you tell me more about these tires? I really think I would like to get them!
You may have just heard about run flat tires, but they have actually been around for awhile. In fact, the idea for a self-supporting tire goes back to the 1930′s when a “bullet-proof” tire was developed for military vehicles and armored cars. Read more…
January 25, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
I recently did the “penny test” and discovered that the two front tires on my Ford Focus need to be replaced. The rear tires still have a decent amount of tread left. I asked my dad how the two sets could be so different and he explained that on front wheel drive cars, the front tires wear out faster if the tires have been not regularly rotated. (Then he lectured me about not having my tires rotated.)
So I thought I needed to have two new tires put on the front of my car, but my dad said that the new tires need to go on the rear, and the ones that were on the rear get moved to the front. This does not make sense to me! If the front tires wear faster, why wouldn’t I put the new ones on the front? That way, by the time the front ones wear out, I’ll be ready for a whole new set. Plus if it is a front wheel drive car, shouldn’t you have the better tires in the front?
Your line of thinking does seem logical, but we are going to have to agree with your dad on this one. Here is why: Read more…
January 18, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
I have been hearing about studded tires and how they are best for driving on snow and ice. Is this just another name for winter tires or are they something all together different?
While studded tires are for winter driving, not all winter tires are studded tires. Studded tires feature a series of metal studs, which are built right into the tire tread. Read more…
January 10, 2013
Dear Tire Twins,
In my area there has been some significant snow fall and ice accumulation lately and I have seen the salt trucks out in full force. While I appreciate the safer roads, I am worried about the affect the salt will have on my tires. Is there any particular maintenance or protective measures I should be taking to preserve my tires during winter driving?
Salt provides an inexpensive and fast way to deal with snow and ice problems on driveways and roadways because salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water. Read more…
January 4, 2013
It is the beginning of a brand new year and time to start or get back into some good habits for taking care of your tires. Here is our suggested list of simple tire care resolutions that will increase the life of your tires, improve your gas mileage and keep you safe on the road.
Check Tire Pressure
Make it part of your car care routine to check your tire pressure at least once a month. If you are not sure of the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires, check your owner’s manual. Remember that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure.
Take the Penny Test
Regularly check your tire tread depth with these easy steps: Read more…
December 28, 2012
Dear Tire Twins,
I received a pack of car wash coupons as a gift. An automatic car wash seems like a great idea, especially in the winter when I cannot wash the car myself at home. But it seems like I remember hearing that regularly going through an automatic car washes is not good for a car’s paint finish. Is this true? I was also wondering if when using an automatic car wash it is best to have the recommended extras performed.
Don’t be worried about taking your car through an automatic car wash. While the brushes used in the car washes of the past could be a problem, the newer “brushless” car wash systems are safe. Read more…
December 21, 2012
According to the American Automobile Association Year-End Holiday Travel Forecast, 93.3 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holidays. Of those traveling, 90% or 84.4 million of them will be on the road in an automobile. Holiday road trips can be a fun part of the season’s festivities, as long as you are safe and prepared. Before you head out over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, here are some ideas for preparing the car and the passengers.
Make sure your vehicle is ready for the journey with a service check including: battery, brakes, wipers, lights, oil, coolant, fluids, and tire pressure. If you have a smart phone, download an app like GasBuddy to help you find the best gas prices along the way. Make sure your maps are current, whether it’s updating your GPS or getting the good old paper kind from a gas station. Read more…
December 6, 2012
Dear Tire Twins,
I recently experienced a leaking tire problem after running over an unavoidable pile of road debris. My brother was able to locate the object that punctured my tire, remove it, and patch it with an inexpensive plug kit he purchased. The tire is now leaking again, and I don’t see any signs of a new puncture, so I am guessing the plug did not work. Do you think he installed the plug incorrectly, or is it always best to just replace the tire after damage?
November 28, 2012
For those of us who still have Christmas shopping to do, time is running out! With that in mind, we’re devoting this week’s post to gift ideas for the people on your list who, like us, love all things automotive!
There are options to suit every taste from team logo floor mats to Hello Kitty seat covers to Yosemite Sam mud flaps.
Car Adapter for MP3 player
For some, singing “99 Bottles of Beer” is just not an option for passing time while on the road. Read more…
November 15, 2012
Dear Tire Twins,
What, if any, maintenance should be performed on car batteries? Do batteries run out of charge more quickly in winter? With the cold weather moving in, I want to make sure I don’t get stuck in the cold with a dead battery.
Before the winter driving season arrives in full force, it is a good idea to take your car in for maintenance and inspection. Your mechanic can test your battery and if necessary, clean the battery tray and terminal posts. Read more…
November 6, 2012
Dear Tire Twins,
I recently moved from Florida to Kentucky. This will be the first winter that I will be experiencing driving in ice and snow. I am wondering if I need to get a set of snow or winter tires for the coming months. My car currently has a new set of all season tires installed – doesn’t that mean these tires are appropriate for driving in all seasons?
In moving from the sunshine state to bluegrass-country, you are undoubtedly in for a very different driving experience this winter! The mild weather you experienced in Florida probably never gave you the opportunity to navigate ice or snow covered roadways. Kentucky will most likely give you that chance on many occasions this winter. Read more…