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Nighttime Driving Worries: Do You Want to See Better At Night?

night driving

Are you someone, or do you know someone who doesn’t enjoy driving once the sun has gone down? You’re not alone. A recent survey from SYLVANIA Automotive found that 62 percent of motorists avoid driving during evening hours. However, for many drivers avoidance is simply not realistic – you still need to get home from work, your children still need to get to and from after-school activities, and plans must go on. So, what to do? In order to increase visibility on the road and make you more comfortable when driving at night, it is essential that high-performance headlights are installed on your vehicle.

The same survey found that while 28 percent of drivers have difficulty seeing hazards and other drivers on the road at night, 34 percent of drivers have never changed out their headlights.

When asked the question:  “Do you want to see better when driving at night?” – The answer should always be yes.  This is a no brainer – we all want to see better when given the option. Improving a vehicle’s headlights can affect the lives of drivers and their overall experience on the road. Better headlights can help improve down road visibility and increase chances of seeing objects sooner in the event of an accident or hazardous road conditions. This is a simple maintenance check that drivers of all ages should prioritize when it comes to overall road safety.

While many focus on oil changes, brake pads and tire pressure checks, there’s one safety element that’s often overlooked but especially critical this time of year – vehicle headlight maintenance. Headlights are an active safety item and are the first line of defense on a vehicle; if drivers cannot see objects on the road, they cannot react.  If you can see it sooner, you can make a better reaction.

47 percent of surveyed drivers said they would be likely to change their headlights if they knew it would improve the safety of loved ones and other passengers. Changing your headlights is usually a simple DIY fix that doesn’t require a mechanic and helps to keep you and your passengers safe when driving at night.

Replacing Headlight Bulbs in Pairs

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Typically, motorists will only replace a headlight bulb that has burned out or is failing. However, replacing just one failed bulb can result in an unbalanced or unpredictable headlight beam, which presents a potential safety risk. From the driver’s perspective, the road ahead will not be properly lit, and the driver will not get the full benefit of the vehicle’s headlights as the car maker originally intended.

From the oncoming driver’s perspective, an uneven headlamp beam can create an equally risky safety issue. The oncoming car will be harder to see and difficult to position on the road. It could also be confused with a single headlight vehicle such as a motorcycle.

Replacing important auto parts in pairs is a common sense idea. Professional automotive technicians and driving safety advocates alike consistently recommend that tires, brakes, shocks, and wiper blades should be replaced in pairs to make sure the vehicle is properly balanced and functioning safely. Lighting is no different and equally as important to driver safety.

Why replace headlight bulbs when they get old?

Many drivers will only replace a bulb that has completely failed, but for maximum driving safety, an aging bulb should replaced before it burns out. The filament of any halogen headlight bulb ages with use, time, and exposure to the elements. As a result, the bulb’s light output deteriorates. At the end of their typical service life, headlight bulbs project less light, and that reduces the driver’s nighttime visibility.

For example, a new headlight bulb that can typically project a 240-foot beam will only be able to deliver a 160-foot beam after three years. That’s potentially a whopping 33% percent less light and a critical safety concern.

Changing bulbs in pairs also makes good sense from an efficiency point of view. You only have to go to the shop once and you reduce the risk of the other headlight bulb failing while you’re on the road.

 

Auto Care Steps for a Stress Free Road Trip

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Summer road trip season is here. Taking proactive steps to make sure your vehicle is operating properly will help avoid the hassle and unexpected cost of a breakdown away from home, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

This summer, AAA expects to receive calls from over seven million stranded motorists experiencing car trouble. The majority of issues the travel group anticipates will cause car problems, such as dead batteries and flat tires, can be prevented with a pre-trip vehicle inspection.

Summer heat can take a toll on a vehicle, especially if it hasn’t been properly maintained. Whether you do it yourself or visit a trusted professional technician, a pre-trip vehicle check will give you peace of mind and provide the opportunity to make any necessary repairs before you hit the highway.

Four out of 10 drivers are unprepared for vehicle breakdowns. So you and your vehicle are ready for the road, the Car Care Council recommends taking the following auto care steps before you leave home.

  • Check the battery and replace if necessary. Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage a battery as quickly as undercharging. Excessive heat and overcharging shortens the life of a battery.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system as proper cooling performance is critical for interior comfort.
  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.
  • Check the emergency kit and restock, if necessary. Be sure to fully charge cell phones before leaving home.
  • Inspect the brake system and performing a tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy.

 

How To Determine Oil Change Intervals

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Many cars now come with a system that displays a message on the instrument cluster indicating when it’s time for a change. Rants on the Internet, however, would have you believe that such indicators are the work of the devil—devilish automakers, that is, who program the oil-life monitors to extend change intervals so that engines wear out sooner, forcing motorists to buy new cars. But you can dismiss such conspiracy thinking. Oil-life monitors do their job quite well. Oil is an engine’s lifeblood, and like a blood test, an engine-oil analysis can identify potential problems before they become serious—and expensive.

Most oil-monitoring systems don’t actually measure various substances in the oil. Instead, they track driving habits, using algorithms that take into account such variables as mileage, engine speeds, and operating temperature to estimate when the oil is likely to be cruddy enough to require a change.

The monitors typically alert the driver to change the oil between 5,000 and 10,000 miles. But the interval could be shorter or longer depending upon your driving routine. If most of your driving is long-distance at relatively high speeds, the monitor may not indicate a change for 12,000 or even 15,000 miles. If tootling for a few minutes down the road to the market or mall is the only driving you usually do, the monitor may go off in as little as 2,500 or 3,000 miles.

Oil lubricates the engine’s internal moving parts, and short-distance driving is particularly hard on motor oil. Moisture from condensation and combustion gases form acids and sludge in the oil that inhibit lubrication and accelerate wear. Allowing the oil to reach its optimum operating temperature burns off contaminants—and that may take up 20 or 30 minutes of driving, especially in colder weather.

Though oil-life monitoring systems work well, you’ll still need to crack open the good book—your car’s owner’s manual. And that means reading the fine print. For instance, the manual may say not to exceed 10,000 miles between changes despite the oil-life monitor’s instructions. Or, it may specify an oil change once a year, even though the car’s oil-life monitor hasn’t called for one. An annual oil change also gives your mechanic a chance to inspect your car and alert you to problems that might have developed during the year.

Not All Gas Is Created Equal

Two-Dollar-Gasoline

The combustion process—gasoline and air burned in the cylinders to produce power—also produces byproducts, carbon being the most relevant to this discussion. Carbon deposits inside the engine disturb airflow and air/fuel ratios, adversely affecting performance, emissions, and fuel economy to the point that it might set off the check engine light—and trigger the need for potentially expensive repairs. Decades ago, it was routine procedure to partially dismantle engines to remove carbon deposits. The Brits called it decoking. There was also the “Italian tune-up,” running the engine near redline to burn off carbon deposits.

Modern engines are even more sensitive to carbon deposits on such components as intake valves and fuel injectors. These deposits cause a rough idle, hesitant acceleration, and knocking or pinging, among other symptoms. In 1996, the federal Environmental Protection Agency decreed that gasoline refiners must add detergent to every grade of gasoline—regular, midgrade, and premium—to prevent carbon buildup. But eight automakers—Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes- Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen—deemed the federally required amount of detergent additive insufficient. They formed an alliance called Top Tier to test and certify that gasoline brands have additional detergent additives to keep their engines performing as they were originally designed.

Last year, AAA hired an independent engine testing lab to see if Top Tier gasoline cleans engines any better than non–Top Tier brands. The result? Top Tier gasoline averaged a whopping 19 times fewer deposits than non–Top Tier gasoline after only 4,000 miles of simulated driving. And for motorists who’ve been using lower-quality gasoline, the AAA study had good news. There’s no need to tear down the engine and decoke. As stated in the final report, “Engine carbon deposits formed when using [non–Top Tier gasoline] can be largely removed by switching to a gasoline that meets Top Tier standards”—though it may take a few thousand miles of driving. More good news: The average price difference between Top Tier and non–Top Tier brands was just 3 cents a gallon. AAA also found non–Top Tier gasoline reduced fuel economy by 2 to 4 percent, meaning that the higher cost of Top Tier brands is mitigated by improved fuel economy. Seems to me like pretty good reasons to stick with Top Tier gas. To find brands meeting Top Tier standards, go to toptiergas.com/licensedbrands.

A note of caution: Don’t confuse gasoline quality (which refers to detergent additives) with grade (which refers to octane rating). Buying a lower octane rating than specified in your car’s owner’s manual also harms performance and could cause engine damage. Buying a higher grade than required is a waste of money.

A Clean Car is Money in the Bank

clean car

Purchasing a new car is a major financial investment. Keeping it clean is an easy and inexpensive way to protect its resale and trade-in value.

Many motorists procrastinate when it comes to cleaning their vehicles. Whether you do it yourself or have it cleaned professionally, proactively keeping your car clean on the outside, and tidy on the inside, will pay big dividends when it comes to maintaining your vehicle’s value over time.

Here are five simple steps to keep a vehicle clean, helping protect it from the elements and preserve its value.

  • Declutter – Start the cleaning process by removing excess clutter from inside the car as it can be distracting and hazardous, especially when debris finds its way near the gas and brake pedals. Don’t forget to clear out items that have accumulated in the trunk as they can add extra weight and reduce fuel efficiency.
  • Clean the Interior – The next step is to thoroughly clean the interior, wash the windows, and clean and install floor mats. Be sure to vacuum on a regular basis. A clean and orderly interior allows you spot issues in the cabin so you can get them repaired before they get worse.
  • Wash the Exterior – Give your car a good wash from top to bottom using products specifically made for automobiles. Always clean the tires and wheels before washing the body, and don’t use the same washing mitt or cloth for both.
  • Wax Twice a Year – Waxing not only protects a vehicle’s finish, but it also makes subsequent washing easier. Before proceeding, make sure there are no foreign particles on the paint. It is important to note that waxing should be done in the shade, not direct sunlight.
  • Fix Chips – If you find minor paint damage, cover the paint chips as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. For a quick fix until you can get paint touchup supplies, dab a little clear nail polish on the scratch.

Keep Your Car Breathing Well: Change the Air Filters

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You need clean air to breathe and so does your car, and a vehicle’s air filters make that possible. The non-profit Car Care Council reminds car owners to have the engine and cabin air filters inspected and changed regularly to ensure vehicle longevity and interior comfort.

Air filters are your vehicle’s first line of defense against contaminants that reduce cabin air quality and negatively impact engine performance,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Community car care events held throughout the country reveal that nearly one out of five vehicles is in need of air filter replacement, so it’s evident that motorists often overlook this simple, yet important service.”

The vehicle’s engine air filter traps dirt particles that can cause damage to engine cylinders, cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings and bearings, leading to the engine losing power. The air filter also plays a critical role in keeping pollutants from contaminating the airflow sensor on fuel-injected cars. A normal wear item that requires regular checks and replacement, air filters should be inspected at each oil change and replaced annually or when showing other signs of contamination.

The cabin air filter is responsible for cleaning the air entering the passenger compartment. Under normal circumstances, it helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust and exhaust gases that may find their way into a vehicle’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, compromising interior air quality and damaging the system. Most cabin air filters are accessed through the panel in the HVAC housing, which may be under the hood or placed within the interior of the vehicle. A cabin air filter should not be cleaned and reinstalled. Instead, it should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or per the owner’s manual.

 

Basic Tire Maintenance for Every Driver

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The tires are the only thing between the vehicle and the road. When they are properly inflated and in good condition, the handling, stability and safety of the vehicle will be maximized. Conversely, when the tires are under inflated, worn out or damaged, all of the safety systems on the vehicle cannot overcome the loss of control that comes with a blow-out or hydroplaning situation. Air pressure in a tire is like oil in an engine; when it is low, the resulting internal damage is unseen until it is too late. Tires naturally lose 1-2 psi per month, so ongoing neglect will eventually result in a tire that cannot support the weight of the vehicle and the occupants. When this happens, the resulting blow-out can result in the loss of control and an accident.

It’s also important to rotate the tires on the vehicle every 5-7,000 miles. Today’s front-wheel-drive vehicles cause the steer tires to wear at a much faster rate than the tires on the rear axle. By periodically rotating the front tires to the back and the back tires to the front, motorists can achieve even treadwear on all four tires and increase the mileage and performance. Failing to rotate the tires often results in the front tires wearing out faster while the rear tires develop irregular treadwear patterns that cause vibrations. The same can be said for alignments. When the vehicle is not properly aligned, the tires will wear out faster which leads to increased operating costs.

Finally, drivers should perform a visual inspection of their tires on a regular basis, especially after hitting a pothole, curb or any type of road debris. Bulges, cuts and other visible damage weaken the internal components of the tire, which can lead to a blow-out. Regular visual inspections will often identify any potential problems before they result in an accident. It’s also a good idea to have the tires inspected by a professional before any long road trips to ensure there are no obvious out-of-service conditions that must be addressed.

A Little Auto Care Goes a Long Way

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Performing simple preventative maintenance on your vehicle will go a long way toward protecting your vehicle investment, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

Buying a new car today comes with a hefty price tag when you add up the down payment, monthly car payments and higher insurance rates. Neglecting its care can mean even higher costs down the line in the form of more extensive repairs and lost resale value,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “By following a proactive auto care plan, the typical car should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable, efficient and enjoyable performance.”

National Car Care Month in April is the perfect time of year to give your car some extra attention. The Car Care Council recommends following a vehicle service schedule, keeping a free copy of the council’s Car Care Guide in the glovebox and performing the most common routine maintenance procedures to keep your vehicle performing at its best.

  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check the hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.
  • Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and safety reasons, such as defrosting.
  • Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.

Be sure to fully inspect your vehicle annually, including performing a tune-up and wheel alignment,” continued White. “If you ever suspect there is a problem, it’s a good idea to address it quickly before minor repairs become more complicated, expensive repairs.”

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