Sunday, August 8, 2010

Maintain your car!

A few weeks ago I had a slow leak in one of my car tires caused by a dryrot crack in the sidewall... which has got me paying more attention to auto maintenance in general.  Have you hugged your car lately?  If not, here's another installment on car maintenance, some green and some about saving you green, from the CNN Money newsletter...
1. Check the tires
When your tires are inflated properly your tires will last longer and you'll get better gas mileage. Because of summertime's higher temperatures, the air pressure in a warm tire rises. So make sure you check the tire pressure when its cooler out.
Set the tire pressure to the manufacturer's recommendations. You can generally find this figure on a sticker on the door or inside the glove box. You should also check your owner's manual.
You'll also want to do a visual once-over to make sure your tires are in good condition. If you see a bulge or blister on the sidewall, you'll want to replace that tire immediately. These weak spots could lead to tire failure, according to Consumer Reports.  (ALM note:  sometimes trouble areas are invisible to the untrained eye!  Watch for lower-than-usual inflation:  do at least a visual check every time you put gas in the car.  My tires were relatively new, but the mechanic who replaced the problem tire told me that it could've been sitting on an autoshop shelf for a few years beforehand, which would explain how an age-related dryrot crack occurred.)
You should also take a look at the tread. Here's a simple way to test the treat. Put a penny into the tire groove -- make sure Lincoln's head is toward the tire. If you can still see the top of Abe's head, the tread is too worn.
2. Get the right price for repairs
Did you ever wonder if that $300 mechanic bill was way out of line? Check out This free website gives price ranges for common repairs, like brake shoe replacement or wheel alignment. You can search by model, year and where you live. You may also consider going to an independent shop to get your car repaired instead of going to your dealership.
3. Keep your car hydrated
Check the level of all of your vehicle's vital fluids. We're talking about your car's engine oil, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid. Your engine oil will be near the front of the engine, close to you, and sometimes has a brightly colored handle. If the engine oil is below the hash mark on the dipstick, you'll want to add more oil. If you have an older vehicle and have been running a lighter "winter" oil, now is the time to switch to an oil designed for hot weather.
4. Check the battery
A battery gives little warning before it goes dead. And it'll likely do so when you least expect it. Hot weather can put additional strain on a battery. I
lf your vehicle battery is more than three years old, have it tested and check for corrosion. If you're thinking about a road trip this summer, you may just want to replace the battery if you're not sure how old it is. It's good insurance.

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