Are you doing all you can to get the longest service life from your tires? If you are not getting regular wheel alignment and tire balancing services, you are not doing all you can to protect your tire investment.
Why is Wheel Alignment Important?
Also known as “front end alignment” or “tire alignment”, wheel alignment service involves the adjustment of the angle of your vehicle’s wheels to the original position recommended by the manufacturer. Wheel alignment includes inspecting tire tread for signs of poor alignment as well as checking the toe, camber, and caster to precisely measure wheel orientation. Wheel alignment checks are typically recommended every 10,000 miles. You may need wheel alignment service before your recommended interval if you notice the vehicle pulling to one side, or if the vehicle has recently been in a collision.
Why is Tire Balancing Necessary?
Tires lose balance as you drive, so periodic tire balancing service is needed to return proper balance. As the miles on your tires accumulate tread wear causes the distribution of weight around the tire to change, creating an imbalance. Unusual shaking or vibration as you drive can result from this imbalance. During tire balancing service, the technician will use a calibrated spin balancer, testing non-moving or static balance as well as moving or dynamic balance. Tires will be adjusted to the proper balance in accordance with the test results. Tire balancing is usually every 5-6,000 miles or 6 months.
Getting wheel alignment and tire balancing service is not expensive and it does not take a lot of time to get done. It is well worth the effort to protect your tire investment.
Poor engine performance can mean serious and expensive problems for your vehicle. It is essential to catch and address engine issues early, before they result in devastating consequences. Fortunately, today’s vehicles are equipped with warning lights, including a check engine light, to let you know if there is a problem. When the check engine light illuminates, you should schedule diagnostic services to identify the problem. If the light flashes, this indicates a more serious issue that should get immediate attention.
Aside from your check engine light, here are some additional signs that your engine performance might be in trouble:
1. Power loss
Internal combustion engines convert fuel into the power required to move a vehicle. The combustion engine operation involves a four stroke cycle – intake stroke, compression stroke, combustion stroke, and exhaust stroke. Failure during any one of these strokes could result in a lack of power to the engine and compromised engine performance.
2. Unusual or excessive noise
Problems in the combustion flow can result in a wide variety of strange sounds such as knocking, hissing, popping or backfiring. Any time you hear weird noises when you start up your vehicle, consider it a warning sign and schedule a service call.
3. Poor gas mileage
Having to fill your gas tank more often than usual, could mean more than a hit to your budget. It might mean there is a problem with the compression stroke of your engine. Fixing it may be as simple as having fuel injection service or getting a tune-up. Your best course of action is to have a diagnostic performed to make sure it is not a more serious issue.
4. Engine Stalling
When it comes to automatic transmission vehicles, engine stalling is highly unusual, and probably means there is a problem with the engine. Most commonly the problem is that the intake stroke is not getting the spark or air/fuel mixture it needs. Here, too, the problem may be fixed by a tune up, but it could also be more serious, and should not go unchecked.
5. Odd smells
Like sounds, anything persistent and unusual should not be ignored with odors. Problems with the exhaust stroke could lead to strange exhaust smells to be noticeable in the vehicle.
6. Engine run-on
If your car continues to run after you turn it off, you should have it checked out. This sign of troubled engine performance is most common in high-performance vehicles. Causes of the problem might include incorrect octane gas for the vehicle, a failing solenoid, or carburetor issues.
7. Engine runs rough
Clogs in the system or old spark plugs can cause a rough running engine, as can improper octane in the gasoline or a low battery. Like the other issues mentioned, a simple tune up could be all it takes to remedy a rough running engine.
As with any vehicle problems you may encounter, the important thing is to have engine performance problems or signs addressed as soon as possible to avoid more expense and complications.
Poor engine performance can mean serious problems for your vehicle. Pay attention to these signs that your engine performance might be in trouble.
While making your New Year’s Resolutions to take better care of yourself, why not also resolve to take better care of your tires? Here are some easy ideas that will help your tires perform better and last longer. Extra benefits you will get include better gas mileage and greater safety on the road.
Regularly Check Your Tire Tread
Follow these easy steps to check your tire tread depth:
Hold a penny so that “In God We Trust” appears across the top. Insert it into five different sections of the tire, taking note of the visibility of Lincoln’s head.
If you can consistently see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are excessively worn, and it is time to go shopping for a new set of tires.
If the top of Lincoln’s head (to about the forehead hairline) is covered throughout the tread grooves, the tread is in good shape and your tires probably do not need replacement.
Check Tire Pressure
Take time to check your tire pressure at least once a month. While it doesn’t take long to do, it could save you big by improving your tire life and gas mileage. Check your owner’s manual to confirm the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires. Remember that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure.
Rotating your tires on a regular basis is an essential part of tire maintenance that will significantly extend their service life. Be sure to refer to your owner’s manual for the tire rotation recommendations for your particular vehicle.
Make sure tire balancing is part of your regular maintenance routine. Again, check your owner’s manual for the recommended schedule for your car, truck, or SUV. Tire balancing promotes a smooth ride and even tire wear by correctly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle.
Improper tire alignment will not only decrease the life of your tires due to uneven tread wear, it will also compromise the safety of your vehicle. Have the alignment checked any time you notice problems with your vehicle’s handling.
Spare Tire Check
Remember to check the condition of your spare tire so you will know it is ready when you need it. Check the pressure of your spare when you check the pressure of your other tires, and remember that a spare is intended for temporary use only.
Time is running out for those of us who still have Christmas shopping to do! We all have those hard-to-shop-for people who cause us serious holiday headaches. Whether it is a girl who seems to have everything or a guy who seems to have no interests, an auto-related gift could be just the thing to please them this holiday season. Practically everyone drives, and often times items for the car are things people just don’t think to buy for themselves.
The following is a list of gift ideas to consider for the drivers on your list.
Life can get messy, and when life gets messy so does your vehicle. Custom fitted, all-season rubber floor mats are a great gift idea for pet owners, parents who chauffeur small children, and people that tend to eat and drink on the go.
Drivers who have their car parked outside all day will appreciate this all-season windshield protection. This easy-to-install protector keeps the car cool in the summer and free of ice and snow in the winter.
Even those who prefer to do their own washing will appreciate having these in the winter. Keeping a clean car is especially important in the cold weather months when the roads are covered in salty slush.
Keeping tires properly inflated is essential for assuring safe driving and preserving tire tread. A digital tire pressure monitor makes checks easy. This is especially great for drivers of older cars, which may not have TPMS.
This is not only a great emergency item to keep in your car, a portable air compressor will be useful for filling a leaking tire until it can be fixed. It is also great for other jobs like inflating a camping mattress.
Do you know how to jump start a dead car battery? With the cold winter months right around the corner, this is an important question. When the temperatures drop, the chances of a dead battery increase significantly, since low temperatures lead to sluggish batteries. The process used to jump start a dead car battery is not difficult. Knowing what to do and always having a quality set of jumper cables on hand will get you through this otherwise frustrating situation.
Jump starting your car is not complicated, but it can be dangerous if you don’t do it right. Jumper cables transmit electrical current from one car to another. Precautions must be taken to prevent dangerous electric shocks. When one end of the jumper cables is connected to a car, the metal clamps should not touch each other or anything other than the specified components on the other vehicle. Wearing rubber gloves and protective eyewear is recommended for extra safety, so keep these items with your jumper cables.
Steps to Jump Start a Dead Car Battery:
Position the running vehicle so the vehicles face each other, about one to two feet apart. Make sure that the vehicles are not in contact with each other.
Engage the parking brakes on both vehicles. Turn off both vehicles and remove the keys.
Stretch out the jumper cables on the ground, making sure the clamps do not touch each other.
Open the hood to both cars. Referring to the respective owner’s manuals, locate the batteries and battery terminals. In most cases, the two terminals on each battery will be covered in red or black, with a + or – sign on top. Make sure you are able to identify which is positive, and which is negative, as this will be crucial to the success of your jump. Dirty or corroded battery terminals should be cleaned off with a rag or wire brush.
Attach the red, positive cable clamp to the positive (+) battery terminal of the dead battery. Make sure you have a solid connection to the battery terminal.
Attach the red, positive cable clamp on the other side of the jumper cables to the working battery’s positive (+) battery terminal
Connect the black, negative cable clamp to the working battery’s negative (-) battery terminal. In the vehicle with the dead battery, attach that clamp to a metal part of the car that is unpainted, as far from the battery as the cable will reach. This will ground the circuit and help prevent sparking.
Verify that none of the cables are in contact with engine parts that will move when the engine is started.
Start the engine of the vehicle with the working battery.
Allow the car to run for several minutes. Depending on the age and condition of the battery, the time required to get the jump to work may vary.
Attempt to start the car with the dead battery. If unsuccessful, allow the working vehicle to charge the battery for a several minutes longer and try again.
Once the disabled car is running again, you can disconnect the jumper cables, starting with the black, negative cable clamps. Never allow the clamps to come in contact with each other while any part of the cables is still attached to a vehicle.
Take the charged car for a short drive to allow the battery to build up a charge and ensure your car does not die again once you turn it off.
A jump start may fail if there are other issues that need to be addressed including:
- Bad starter connection
- Fuses are bad
- Battery condition
- Faulty alternator
- Ignition switch issues
There are many factors to consider when it comes to selecting tires. While it is important to choose a quality brand and get a good value, it is equally essential that you buy the right type of tires for your vehicle. The tire type you select should be not only be recommended for your vehicle, but also suited for the kind of driving you do. A wide range of tire types are available to suit every kind of vehicle and all driving conditions.
Below is a listing of the most common tire types, as well as the corresponding speed rating. The speed rating and tire type are both identified in the tire code, found imprinted on the side of all tires.
All Season Tires
The most common speed ratings for all season tires are S and T. All season tires deliver a good all-weather grip and long mileage. They are most commonly used standard cars and SUVs. All season tires are designed to perform in a wide range of conditions from dry pavement to wet weather and light snow. A good choice for a comfortable and quiet ride, all season tires offer reliable handling and long tread life. For year-round traction in moderate climates, all season tires are an excellent choice.
Performance All Season Tires
Performance all season tires have H and V speed rating and are a popular choice for cars with enthusiast appeal or upgraded wheels. These tires feature a better cornering grip than regular all-season tires, but typically need to be replaced more often.
Winter/ Snow Tires
Winter or snow tires are identifiable by a mountain and snowflake symbol displayed on the sidewall. Winter tire tread is designed with gripping edges for better handling on snow and ice. They are made with a softer rubber compound to stay flexible in extremely cold temperatures. Winter tires do not perform as well on cleared roads, lacking the solid grip of all season tires. They also tend to wear more quickly. Winter tires should be exclusively used during extreme cold weather driving conditions.
Summer tires usually have speed ratings of ZR, W, and Y, for sports cars and performance sedans. For all-around best performing tires in mild climates and seasons, summer tires offer a performance level above all season tires. As the name implies, summer tires are not suited for driving in snow and ice, but they offer solid handling on dry and wet roads in mild temperatures. Summer tires are also made with softer compounds however, unlike those used in winter tires, they become harder in colder temperatures. Though they tend to have shorter life span and more rapid tread wear, summer tire do offer enhanced driving performance.
All Terrain Truck Tires
All terrain truck tires are available in larger sizes and designed for light duty hauling and towing. They are a great choice for light-duty pickups and SUVs. All-terrain tires usually have a more aggressive tread pattern to aid off-road traction. All-terrain tires usually have A/T or All Terrain in the model name.
As summer ends and autumn sets in, keeping your windshield clean for clear visibility becomes a bigger challenge. There always seems to be more rain as temperatures cool, and with the debris from falling leaves in the air, dust and dirt accumulate on all of your car’s exposed surfaces.
Below are five simple visibility maintenance tips to assure clear visibility while driving so you and your passengers will be as safe as possible on the road.
1. Inspect your wipers
To be most effective, wiper blades need to be in excellent condition. You should inspect your wiper blades regularly, and ask your auto service professional to check them whenever you bring in your car for other service or repair. As a rule of thumb, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
2. Clean your windshield regularly
It doesn’t take long for your windshield to get dirty and hazy. This can be especially dangerous at night, when oncoming lights hit the dirt on your windshield and impair your vision. It is easy to forget to clean your windshield, but if you make a habit of cleaning the windshield every time you fill up, you will be in good shape. Most gas stations have what you need right by the pumps.
3. Clean your headlights
Take a moment to periodically inspect your headlights. When you look closely, you may be amazed (and disgusted) by the amount of dirt and bug grime that has accumulated on them. If not cleaned, it will eventually get to the point of making your headlight beams dimmer. Regular cleaning will make them easier to maintain.
4. Fix windshield cracks or chips
All it takes is a piece of pea gravel traveling at high speed to put your windshield in serious jeopardy. That little crack may be annoying, but all too often it gets overlooked, until one day you hit a bump or pothole. Suddenly that small crack spreads all the way across your windshield. Have those cracks repaired as soon as possible to maintain safe visibility and to avoid the cost of a windshield replacement.
5. Check your washer fluid
Windshield washer fluid is essential to the proper functioning of your windshield wipers. Letting wiper blades drag across a dry surface is not only ineffective, it can lead to damaging of the blades. Top off your washer fluid at every service interval or whenever the seasons change to avoid being left high and dry. Use windshield washer antifreeze in winter months to prevent damage to your washer system.
Whether you have to park your vehicle outside at night, or in an unattended public area for extended periods, you may feel that your ride needs a little extra protection. While there is no such thing as a failsafe device, any barriers that you can place between your car and thieves will help. A highly visible device may be enough to cause a thief to not target your car. There are a wide range of vehicle theft protection options to choose from, or you can try a combination of devices.
Here are four vehicle theft protection options that are available:
Tire and Wheel Locks
Tire and wheel locks look much like the boots used by law enforcement. These high profile devices are instantly visible and make a car nearly impossible to move. These can be purchased from an automotive supply store or online. If your main concern is protecting an expensive set of custom wheels, McGard offers a variety of wheel locks. These locks are similar in appearance to a regular lug nut, but require a special key tool for installation and removal.
Steering Wheel and Column Locks
Much like the wheel lock boots , these highly visible devices offer a visual deterrent to would be thieves. Selections range from inexpensive locks that must be installed manually each time the driver leaves the car to more expensive options that are permanently installed.
VIN etching identifies your vehicle with a unique number, which is etched onto several parts of your car, including in the windows for would be thieves to see. In addition to providing a visual deterrent, VIN etching also is helpful in recovering a stolen vehicle. VIN etching kits are available for purchase, or in some areas VIN etching services are available.
A kill switch is a concealed switch that must be activated in order to start the car. The effectiveness of this approach is reliant upon how well the switch is hidden from the thieves, who tend to be adept at finding them. If you opt for a kill switch, make sure your installer is an experienced professional, and that installation will not impact your car’s warranty.
Back to school commutes mean more young drivers on the road – whether it’s a short drive each morning and afternoon, or a long trip to a college campus. Today’s drivers, face a new safety threat/temptation in the form of cell phone use while driving. Young adults and teens have proven to be especially vulnerable to this potentially fatal behavior. If you have a young driver in your family, now is a great time to remind them of what’s at risk with texting and driving.
Texting and Driving is Everyone’s Problem
Many poor choices and destructive habits only affect the person who engages in them. Texting and driving is not one of those kind of behaviors. Literally everyone around the texting driver is in danger, from passengers in that car, to nearby vehicles and pedestrians.
While drivers of all ages can be guilty of texting and driving, young and inexperienced drivers may be particularly susceptible. The invincible, risk-taking attitude teens and young adults often have, combined with a lack of driving experience tends to result in a refusal to acknowledge the danger.
According to the advocacy website, Texting and Driving Safety, the minimum amount of time a driver is distracted by a text is five seconds. In that amount of time, at highway speeds, you will travel the length of a football field. Just a few seconds can result in a huge amount of risk.
The uniform tire code is imprinted on nearly every vehicle tire manufactured. This code not only identifies the tire, it also provides useful information about the tire. The first post focused on the type of tire and section width and the second post looked at aspect ratio, tire construction and wheel diameter. With this post, we complete our look at tire code with an explanation of the last three parts of the uniform tire code: load index, speed rating, and M + S designation.
Tire Code – Performance Index, Speed Rating, and Mud and Snow Designation
The tire performance index is displayed after the wheel diameter, and represents the tire’s load and speed ratings. In this case, the 93 load index represents 1,433 pounds, and the speed rating of V represents 149 mph.
Common Speed Ratings
All-Season Tires with Mud and Snow Designation
When a tire has M+S on it, that means that it meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) guidelines for a mud and snow tire. Similar markings for this include MS, M&S, and M/S. In order for a tire to receive the Mud and Snow designation, it must meet specific RMA geometric requirements.
A tire with the correct tire load index for your vehicle means you that your tires are made to handle the weight of your vehicle. The speed rating shows the maximum speed your tires can handle, which tends to be more important in countries with roadways that are not subject to speed limitations. Whether or not the mud and snow designation is important will depend on the climate in which you live and drive.
Along with looking at the tire code, it is important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safety and best vehicle performance. Selecting a dependable, quality tire is just the beginning. Maintaining the proper tire pressure will help you extend the life of your tires .
This is post number two in our series on understanding tire code. The universal tire code is found on every vehicle tire manufactured, and provides information about the type of tire it is, what type of vehicle it is designed for, and the type of driving it is intended to do.
In our last post, we talked about tire and section width. Today, we will look a little further into the code, and take a look at aspect ratio, tire construction, and wheel diameter.
The aspect ratio of the tire is listed as a percentage and gives the height of the tire from the bead to the top of the tread. Here the number is 55, which means the tire height is 55% of the section width of 215 millimeters. The height of this tire would be 118.25 millimeters. A lower number indicates a lower tire profile.
The construction of the tire is identified by the letter following the aspect ratio. The most common designation is R, which stands for radial construction. Other, less common construction types for modern passenger cars may include D for bias ply construction and B for belted tires.
The number following the construction code indicates the size of the wheel that the tire will fit in inches. The example tire would be designed to fit a 17-inch wheel. Tire sizes on most vehicles begin at 13-inches and go up to 18-inches. Custom package wheels can be 22-inches or even larger.
An important sizing calculation in tire fitting, aspect ratio should be considered with wheel diameter for the best tire and wheel combinations. Lower aspect ratio typically indicates a high performance tire, with better lateral stability. Most of the new tires will be marked R for radial construction, however if you are replacing old tires, you may see the D or B designations.
When considering aspect ratio, tire construction, and wheel diameter, you should always select your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safe and optimal tire performance. Just as choosing a dependable, quality tire is important, it also necessary to choose one that is developed for the best performance given the weight and design of your vehicle.
Next time, we will look at the remaining portion of the tire code, which includes Load Index, Speed Rating, and Use Designation.
Anyone who has shopped for tires understands that the wide array of choices can leave you feeling overwhelmed and wondering how you will ever figure out which tires are the right choice for your vehicle.
While some may go into the tire buying experience thinking all tires are basically the same, they soon discover there are actually many distinct characteristics and features to consider when selecting tires.It may seem impossible to tell one tire from the next at a glance, but if you look more closely, each tire tells you a lot through its tire code. Imprinted into the side of the tire, you may have noticed the tire code on your tires from time to time, while washing your car or checking your tire pressure.
Each part of the tire code alpha-numeric sequence tells you something about the tire. Being able to read the tire code on your current tires will help you determine the type of replacements you need.
Type of Tire and Section Width
Type of Tire
The type of tire and it’s intended use are indicated by the first letter in the code. Letter designations include P for passenger vehicles, T for temporary spare, LT for light truck metric, C for commercial, and ST for special trailer service.
Following the tire type letter is the section width of the tire, which is listed in millimeters. This is the widest point from sidewall-to-sidewall, so a larger number indicates a wider tire. In this case, the tire has a width of 215 millimeters.
The proper size and tire type are important to assure safety and the best tire performance. Buying a quality tire will not guarantee the best performance if the tire is not made to accommodate the weight and design of your vehicle. Also, since tire size is a factor in the calculations of the computerized functions of today’s vehicles, it is essential to install the recommended tire size.
Next time, we will continue looking at tire code with understanding the Aspect Ratio, Tire Construction, and Wheel Diameter.
Internal combustion engines convert fuel into mechanical energy. With that process comes a lot of heat. Your vehicle’s cooling system manages the heat, making sure that the engine stays cool enough to operate properly. When engine overheating occurs, it can quickly lead to a very dangerous and destructive situation. Once engine exceeds 230 degrees Fahrenheit, the engine overheats. At temperatures above 245 degrees Fahrenheit, engine damage may occur. As heat continues to increase, the different rates of thermal expansion cause metal to distort.
There are the six basic parts of your cooling system. It is important to have these components checked on a regular basis to avoid a hot engine mess.
Coolant – Anti-freeze and coolant are critical to your car’s heating and cooling system. Having the coolant flushes performed per your owner’s manual recommendation is extremely important in assuring your engine runs clean and cool.
Radiator – Have your radiator inspected to be sure it is in good condition, and that the radiator core has not been damaged by salt corrosion. Another issue to watch for is a plugged radiator core. This problem can happen when coolant flushes are not performed.
Cooling Fans – A cooling fan failure can lead to engine overheating problems. In some cases, trouble with the air conditioning system can be a sign that you have a cooling fan problem. Cooling fans should be regularly inspected to avoid engine problems.
Thermostat – There is no set mileage that predicts when it will fail, but when it does, it’s important to replace it as soon as possible. A bad thermostat is a common cause of engine overheating. A failing thermostat can also be indicated by the check engine light illuminating or the car heater not working.
Water Pump – A compromised water pump will often cause a coolant leak, so if you notice the coolant level dropping at a faster rate, you should have it checked as soon as possible. An experienced auto technician will be able to spot a water pump that is about to fail.
Belts and Hoses – The belts and hoses in your cooling system should be inspected to make sure they are tight and in good condition. Cracks or deterioration of the rubber are signs of trouble.
Tire balancing is one of the recommended services listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Often confused with wheel alignment, tire balancing is important for assuring the best performance from a vehicle, and for gaining the longest service life from tires.
Tire balancing provides a smooth ride and assures even tire wear by properly adjusting the tire weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire balancing is different from wheel alignment, which involves the angle of the wheels and their relation to the ground.
As you drive, your tires lose balance, so periodic tire balancing service is needed to return proper balance. Over time, tread wear causes the distribution of weight around the tire to change, which leads to the imbalance. This may be felt in unusual shaking or vibration as you drive.
When you have tire balancing service done, the technician will use a calibrated spin balancer, testing non-moving/static balance and the moving/dynamic balance. Tires will be restored to the proper balance in accordance with the test results. Tire balancing is usually done in combination with tire rotation, and is typically performed every 5-6,000 miles or 6 months.
Taking your car in for regular tire balancing service is especially critical in today’s vehicles, which are designed to be lighter weight. The heavier weight of older model cars actually helped smooth out the ride by suppressing vibrations before they were felt. Modern tire design is more responsive, with lower profiles for style and performance. Tire imbalance can cause problems for both the vehicle and tires.
Your brakes are one of the most vital safety features on your car. Just stop (pun intended) and think about it. You instinctively hit that pedal, mile after mile, and you know your vehicle will come to a halt. But what if one day those brakes failed. Now that is something you don’t want to think about.
Fortunately your car has several ways of letting you know that your brakes may need attention. By learning to spot the signs that you may have brake system issues, you can have problems taken care of before they put the safety of you and your passengers at risk.
Sign #1: Strange Noises
A high, screeching sound when you apply your brakes could mean that your brake pads need to be replaced.
Sign #2: Vehicle Pulls to One Side
If your car pulls to one side when you are braking, it might be because the brake lining is wearing unevenly or that the brake fluid is contaminated.
Sign #3: Strange Brake Pedal Feel
A brake pedal that feels spongy or sinks to the floor could be due to a leak in the braking system. A leak affecting the brake system could be an air leak in the brake hose, or a brake fluid leak. If the brake pedal is hard or very difficult to press, your vehicle might have a blockage in the brake line or have an issue in the vacuum system.
Sign #4: Vibration When Braking
A vibration in your brake pedal during breaking or pulsating brake pedal can be a symptom of warped rotors.
Sign #5: Grabbing When Braking
If you experience a grabbing or jerking feeling when you apply the brakes, it could be an indication that the rotor is unevenly worn or that the brake fluid is contaminated and needs to be changed.
Sign #6: Brake Warning Light
This may seem like an obvious one, but people may be inclined to ignore dashboard service lights if there are no other signs of trouble. It is not a good idea to ignore those warning lights, especially when your brakes are involved.
If you have any suspicion that you may have brake trouble, take your vehicle in for an inspection by a qualified auto technician as soon as possible.
“Oh no, potholes!” is probably a more accurate description of how we feel when we see these road menaces. Potholes not only make driving less comfortable, they can inflict some serious damage on your vehicle. While we do our best to avoid them, sometimes it’s just not possible. It is important to be aware of any problems your vehicle might have after hitting one.
Why are potholes so bad this time of year? The pothole problem actually begins in the winter, when freezing and thawing cycles cause cracks in road surfaces to get larger and further degrade. The application of road salt can accelerate the damage because it creates more freezing and thawing stress, while melting ice on the roadway. In the spring, heavy rains infiltrate the cracks and cause more deterioration.
We have all felt the jolting impact of hitting a deep pothole. Our vehicles feel the impact, too, but to a much greater extent. Hitting potholes often leads to serious vehicle component damage, usually with the shocks and struts, which control ride and handling, and serve as a cushion to dampen the bouncing action of the vehicle’s springs. Shocks and struts also regulate spring and suspension movement, keeping the car’s tires in contact with the road to facilitate proper steering, stability, and braking. Compromised shocks and struts can create a dangerous situation, so it is important to be aware of the signs that your shocks or struts may need to be replaced:
Swaying or rolling on turns
Bottoming out or thumping on bumps
Bouncing or sliding sideways on rough or winding roads
Front-end dives when braking or rear end dips when accelerating
Loss of directional control during abrupt stops
Noticeable puddles under the car or leaking fluids
Hitting potholes can also result in tire and wheel damage, engine and exhaust system issues, as well as suspension problems. It’s important to have your vehicle inspected if you experience any of the these types of issues. Addressing pothole damage issues early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.
Most everyone understands that driving on compromised tires is dangerous. It is important to inspect tires and measure tread depth on a regular basis to assure that tires are safe. There is another tire problem, though, that many drivers may not even realize is a safety issue. Old tires can be dangerous, even if the tread appears to be okay.
In many cases, old tires show no visible sign of deterioration and appear to be safe, usable tires. Because they are rubber products, tires have a limited service life, since tire rubber compounds deteriorate over time. Regardless of wear and mileage, cracks develop in the rubber as they age. These cracks can occur on both on the inside and outside of the tire. Eventually this cracking leads to the separation of the steel belts in the tread from the rest of the tire.
According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, it is not easy to put a specific expiration date on a tire since factors such as heat, driving, and storage conditions can greatly impact a tire’s usable life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends following the guidelines established by the specific tire manufacturer when it comes to tire aging.
In situations where the origin and age of a tire are in question, you can learn something from the tire itself. Since 2000, tires are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation to have a DOT code. This code provides details about the tire, including its age. The code can be deciphered by downloading a free app offered by the Tire Safety Group. The app, available for Android and iPhone, enables you to get to get a free Tire Facts Report by entering the DOT code from your tire. The report lets you know if a tire is old, defective, or has been recalled. The app shows you where the code is located on the tire and even includes a flashlight function so you can see what you are doing!
Remember – never take any chances with your tires. Too much is riding on them!
The only thing worse than hearing that a damaged tire cannot be repaired is hearing that you should replace all four tires, instead of just the bad tire. This has to be a tire sales pitch, right? Why should you replace three tires that still seem to have good tread, just because the fourth hit a nail at a bad angle? There are actually several good reasons why you should replace all four tires, instead of just the one that has been compromised.
Most of today’s all-wheel drive vehicles recommend that you the replace all four tires at a time because all four wheels need to have the same rolling circumference. If the wheels are not uniform, abnormal drivetrain wear can occur, resulting in costly problems down the road. All-wheel-drive systems are designed so that the differential and the computer work together to send the right amount of torque to each wheel to minimize slippage and maximize control. When one of the tires is a different size than the others because three tires are worn and one is brand new, the computer will take an inaccurate reading and the differential will have to work excessively hard. This can eventually result in damage to the drivetrain.
Additional benefits in going with a full set of tires for replacement include a more comfortable ride and better safety. Uneven tires can result in road noise and a vehicle that handles improperly, affecting maneuverability, traction, and smoothness of the ride. Four equal tires will provide the best performance for your vehicle.
Understanding the importance of uniformity in your tires also serves as a good reminder of why tire maintenance is so important. Keeping your tires properly inflated and keeping up with recommended tire rotation will make sure they wear evenly, and give you the best performance and service life.
Tire rotation is important for even tread wear and long tire life.
Regularly scheduled tire rotation is an important service that is among those recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. Rotating tires is a critical maintenance step because it extends the life of your tires and greatly increases your safety on the road. Additionally, many tire mileage warranties require rotation to keep the warranty valid.
Tire rotation service should be scheduled per the recommendations specified in your owner’s manual. Rotation involves the periodic repositioning of tires to promote more even tread wear. Performed at the scheduled times, tire rotation will preserve balanced handling and traction, and promote even tread wear. Tire rotation can also result in performance advantages.
Tire Rotation Pattern is Also Important
Rotation pattern is important because in most cases, the tires on the front axle need to accomplish very different things than the tires on the rear axle. Conditions encountered on a front-wheel drive vehicle are considerably different than those of a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Tire wear effects on a performance vehicle are typically more severe than what you would see on a family sedan. Each individual wheel position can create different wear rates and different types of tire wear.
According to TireIndustry.org, the typical rule for tire rotation is to cross the free rolling axle. This means that on a front-wheel drive vehicle, the front tires should be rotated straight back to the rear and the rear tires should be crossed to the front. In the case of a rear-wheel drive vehicle the opposite applies. Front tires are crossed to the back while the rear tires are rotated straight to the front. A “double x” pattern is used with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles, so the right front and left rear tires switch positions, as do the left front and right rear.
Tires are a substantial investment. It pays to take care of them. Properly inflated tires that are serviced on a regular basis with proper tire rotation can be expected to deliver optimal tread life, as well as excellent performance and value.
Winter road salt is critical for preventing accidents and keeping roadways safe. Salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water, making it a fast and inexpensive way to melt slippery snow and ice on the road. Unfortunately, salt is also a highly corrosive element, and its affects can be extremely damaging, leaving your car with the road salt blues.
Road salt exposure throughout the winter can wreak havoc on the metal components of your car. Most vehicles have an exposed underbody, so most salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your vehicle can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. While your rubber tires will suffer little or no damage from salt, your wheels are highly vulnerable, since the metal areas of your car are most at risk for salt damage.
Fortunately, the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. And since the process of salt leading to corrosion and rust takes awhile, you have time to undo salt damage potential.
The best way to protect your car from road salt corrosion is to take it in for regular washings during the winter months . Base the frequency of your car washings on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out it the winter months, since salt is particularly hard on chrome.
For further protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing in the fall will help make your winter washes more effective.
It is always alarming to see one of the gazillion warning lights on your dashboard illuminate. If you drive a newer vehicle that has an integrated Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) you may find you’ve been recently haunted by the light shown on the right. Seeing the TPMS light more often in winter is not uncommon, but it is also not something you should ignore.
First, it is important to understand how your TPMS works. The system use sensors technology to alert drivers when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. When tire pressure in one or more of your drops, the light comes on.
Since air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, drivers tend to see the TPMS light illuminate. According to tire experts, air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. While you need not necessarily be surprised if you see the TPMS light come on during cold spells, you should be sure to manually check the air pressure of your tires.
It is very important to check the pressure of your tires when it is cold outside and to keep tires inflated to the proper levels. Reasons include:
Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not properly inflated
Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money
Check the pressure of your tires monthly. In order to obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait until tires have cooled – about 30 minutes after parking.
Every driver, especially in today’s economy, wants to improve gas mileage and save money. Courting these desires are enthusiastic advertising claims that fuel additives are the way to substantially save on fuel costs. But do fuel additives actually provide gas-savings? According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website, the touted advantages of fuel additives generally have little to back them up.
The vehicle engines of today are the product of decades of extensive research and technology. Engineers understand the demands placed on engines and have been able to design engines for optimal performance under the most challenging conditions. There are some fuel additives that may offer some modest benefits, however your engine was developed to perform without the need for enhancements like these.
If you are considering investing in fuel additives, rather than going with the recommendation of a clerk at your local auto supply chain, talk your mechanic. Your car care professional will have the experience and knowledge to advise you on the needs of your particular vehicle.
Fuel additives aside, here are some proven ways to improve your gas mileage:
Do not neglect oil changes
Stay on schedule and use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil for optimal performance.
Maintain the correct tire pressure
Regularly check your tire pressure and keep them inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
Regularly check tire tread
Keep in mind that worn out tires are not only unsafe, they cause your vehicle to operate less efficiently.
Use cruise control on the highway
Avoid getting a ticket and improve your gas mileage by maintaining a safe and consistent speed on the highway.
Always combine trips
You’ll be surprised to find out how much you can save on gas by simply planning and combining trips.
Are you the kind of driver that does not think twice about your car unless it doesn’t start? Do you only notice your tires if they are flat? Perhaps your 2016 New Year’s resolutions should include being more committed to preventative auto and tire care. Regular car and tire maintenance not only make sense for protecting and prolonging the life of your vehicle and tires, it also means that you’ll be safer on the road.
When it comes to taking care of your tires, the two main things you want to check regularly are tire pressure and tread depth.
Make a note on your calendar to check your tire pressure at least once a month. Refer to your owner’s manual to find the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Don’t forget to check the pressure of your spare tire as well.
Check the tread depth of your tires by using the penny test. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into several different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it is time for a new set of tires. If the tread is in good shape, Abe’s head will be covered to about the forehead hairline.
To keep your vehicle running properly and performing at its best, you must stay on schedule with recommended regular maintenance services. It is always far less costly in terms of time and money to catch problems before they escalate. The following is a list of the services that are typically recommended, but be sure to consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s suggested services and frequency.
Coolant Flush and Replacement
Fluid Checks – Power Steering and Brake
Check Belts & Hoses
Filters – Air and Fuel
Battery & Cables
Windshield Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades
Both your vehicle and tires will benefit from regular tire balancing and rotation service performed in accordance with your owner’s manual recommended schedule. Tire balancing promotes even tire wear and provides a smooth ride by properly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire rotation is an essential maintenance step that will greatly extend the life of your tires. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines.
Establishing a regular care routine allows you to drive with confidence knowing that you are traveling safely where ever the road takes you. You will also get to enjoy your vehicle and tire investment much longer.
Here’s wishing you a safe and fun-filled new year!
Most of us get into a vehicle every day. Automotive travel has become such an established part of our lives that we probably do not give much thought to our safety while onboard a vehicle of any kind. While safety should always be foremost on our minds as drivers and passengers, we have good reason not to be overly worried about getting into a vehicle. Through the years, automotive manufacturers have invested heavily in the development of innovative safety features, which have saved countless lives on the road.
Here is a little history on three major car safety features for which we should all be very thankful:
Safety Belts – Safety belts were first introduced as standard by the Swedish automobile manufacturer, Saab, in 1958. Earlier, in 1946, California neurologist, Dr. C. Hunter Sheiden first conceived of the idea of seat belts. His concern arose greatly from the high number of head injuries he saw in emergency rooms. His research was published in a 1955 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He proposed not only the retractable seat belt, but many other automotive safety measures. By 1968, the U. S. Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety Standard required that all vehicles, with the exception of buses, have seat belts installed in all designated seating positions.
Airbags – American Industrial Engineer, John Hetrick was issued a United States patent in 1953 for the first of his airbag designs. His approach was to apply his experiences with compressed air from torpedoes during his service in the Navy to a device that would provide protection during automobile accidents. Although Hetrick worked with the major American automobile corporations at the time, the airbag concept’s first commercial use did not occur until 1971, when it was tested in a few Ford cars. By September 1, 1998, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 went into effect, and required that all cars and light trucks sold in the United States have air bags on both sides of the front seat.
Safety Glass Windows
The concept of shatter-resistant glass was discovered inadvertently in 1903 by the French chemist Edouard Benedictus. When he dropped a glass flask filled with a dried collodion film, he observed that the glass coated with the film cracked, but retained its shape. A few decades later this laminated glass began to be installed in automobiles. In 1970, the U.S. government formed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since that time, four Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for automotive glass have been enacted, greatly improving driver and passenger safety during collisions.
Whether you are traveling near or far, I wish you safe travels and a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Meet Tracy Treadmore
It all began when Tracy converted her Barbie Dream House into a service garage, and had Barbie performing wheel alignment and adjusting the toe, camber and caster settings on her pink Corvette. While her friends played on the swing set and traversed the monkey bars, she could be found identifying the make and model of the playground tire shavings. Tracy’s passion for tires began early, and never relented. Today, Tracy continually scours the latest word on wheels, reports on rubber, and test track results, never tiring of the subject.