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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.

 

Ask Six Simple Questions to Select the Right Auto Repair Shop

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Ask six simple questions to help identify the right auto repair shop to properly care for one of your most valuable assets, your car.

Does the business employ ASE-certified technicians? Credentials and affiliations are indicators of professionalism and the management’s commitment to training and education.

  1. Is the shop and customer waiting area clean and organized? Cleanliness and organization are signs of a well-run business.
  2. Are customers greeted and treated in a friendly and respectful manner? Many auto repair businesses excel in the area of customer service and satisfaction. A simple phone call to the shop to inquire about their services can give you a glimpse of how they treat customers.
  3. Does the business provide a written estimate? The business should complete a written estimate and request your signature prior to starting any repairs on your car.
  4. Does the business offer a warranty? Most auto repair businesses offer a warranty on parts and labor and the warranty is usually in writing or posted in the waiting area.
  5. Does the business have a list of satisfied customers or references that it is willing to give you? Satisfied customers and recommendations from family, friends and neighbors are helpful in finding a good shop. Many auto repair facilities also have company websites that are worth checking out as they often include testimonials and additional information about the business.

A vehicle is a major purchase for most people, so it makes sense to take the time to select an auto repair facility that will take the best care of that investment. Being an informed auto care consumer means not only learning about your vehicle and its service needs, but also the facility that will make the repairs.

What to do if you get pulled over

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If you notice that a police car is following you with the lights flashing, pull over to the side of the road safely and quickly. Wait inside your car for the officer to approach, and be prepared to:

  • Turn on your interior light at night and keep your hands where the officer can see them, preferably on the steering wheel.
  • Don’t reach under your seat or into your glove box. This may cause the officer to think you’re reaching for a weapon or hiding something.
  • Give your license and proof of insurance to the officer if asked. If the officer asks you to step out of your car, do so without sudden or threatening movements.
  • Stay calm − don’t become argumentative, disorderly or abusive − and never attempt to bribe the officer.
  • If a citation is issued, present your story in traffic court if you feel you’ve been unfairly treated. You may be represented by a lawyer and, if necessary, you’ll be heard by a judge or magistrate. 

 

What to do after an accident

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If you’re in an accident, first make sure no one in the car is injured. Next, check on the passengers in the other vehicle, pedestrians and anyone else nearby to make sure they’re OK. Then do these five things:

  1. Stay at the scene. Leaving can result in legal consequences, like fines or additional violations.
  2. Call 911 or the local police immediately. They’ll dispatch an officer and medical personnel to the scene of the accident. Once the cops arrive, wait for them to complete an accident report.
  3. If you’re on a busy highway, stay inside the car and wait for the police or an ambulance. It’s dangerous if passengers stand along a freeway or other road with lots of traffic.
  4. Don’t get into an argument or a fight with the other driver. Simply exchange contact and insurance information. If possible, also get the name and phone numbers of witnesses.
  5. Call your insurance provider to report the claim. Your agent will ask you for any paperwork you receive about the accident, and will give you important information on getting your car fixed.

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Why You Can’t Live Without Brake Cleaner

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There’s no denying it, your vehicle’s brakes can be a very dirty place. Between brake dust, petroleum-based brake fluid, grease, grime and road debris, it’s never long before your brakes are in need of a good cleaning. Keeping your brakes clean not only helps them last a lot longer but it can also significantly improve their ability to stop your vehicle.

It’s as easy as choosing the right product. Here’s a look at the benefits of brake cleaner.

With all the services we perform on our vehicles, cleaning the brakes is one of the easiest yet most overlooked. By simply spraying cleaner in the side of the caliper, you can safely and easily remove dust, grease and debris that could potentially impede your vehicle’s braking ability. There are no two ways about it, clean brakes function better and can stop your vehicle in a shorter distance. Brake cleaner is made up of chemical compounds that evaporate as they dry, leaving no residue behind and dissolving grease for perfectly clean brakes. Because of this property however, it’s also great for removing grease and oil from other automotive parts too. Whether you need to remove the grime from the valve cover before you pour fresh oil in or clean a bearing before you re-grease it, cleaner will remove everything. Just be careful around rubber gaskets, seals and the exterior finish of the body — cleaner can dry out or damage these parts. It’s also safe for metal, ceramic and glass so it can be used to clean and treat other things in your life like machine parts and windows. With ever increasing environmental protection requirements, many makers of brake cleaner are moving over to non-chlorinated blends. What’s the difference? All cleaners are made of toxic chemicals but chlorinated cleaners use perchloroethylene, methylene chloride and trichloroethylene, which are considered Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). They’re worse for the environment and have very strong fumes. Non-chlorinated cleaners replace these chemicals with other less toxic, low-VOC chemicals, which are better for you and the earth.

Brake cleaner is one of the most useful automotive products you can get your hands on. With cleaning properties that leave no residue, they can remove grease, oil and dirt from your brakes and help them perform at the top of their game. As more states ban the use of VOC chemicals, non-chlorinated cleaners are becoming more prevalent and are sure to do a great job.

Dirty Air Filter: How to Check and When to Change

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If your vehicle gets 36 mpg, you’ll burn one gallon of fuel on the average daily drive of an American, along with some 9,000 gallons of air, enough to fill a 12 x 20-foot pool to five feet. That air isn’t just air, however. There’s dust, pollen, insects, sand, dirt and even bits of rubber. The engine air filter keeps this stuff from damaging the engine, and a dirty air filter is a sign it’s actually doing its job.
How Much Dirt Is Too Much? With regular scheduled maintenance, most manufacturers recommend changing the engine air filter every 10,000 to 20,000 miles, mostly as a preventative step. Really, the idea is to change a dirty air filter before it’s too far gone. On carbureted engines, a dirty air filter can impact performance and fuel economy, foul spark plugs and eventually cause misfires. On fuel-injected engines, it can impact performance, but efficiency is usually unaffected. Either way, a degraded air filter may allow unfiltered air into the engine. 

How to Check for a Dirty Air Filter

Fortunately, checking the air filter on most cars is fairly easy. You’ll need is a screwdriver, and you may also have to disconnect an electrical connector or two. Check your owner’s manual for the location and removal procedure. Basically, you open the air box, remove the air filter and look at it. There is no real testing procedure, just a purely visual inspection. A new air filter may be white, off-white, yellow or another color, but you should expect to see at least mild discoloration of a used air filter.

However, you should replace your air filter if any of the following conditions exist:
There is so much dirt and dust in the filter that you can barely see the pleats.
You note oil contamination, this means there is too much blow-by in your engine. Additionally, consider a diagnosis of your engine for blow-by.
You see bits of the filter are falling off or the rubber seal is deformed or cracked.
If the previous installer didn’t install the air filter correctly, it may be doing next to nothing to protect your engine. Rodents love air filter material for nesting, so always be suspicious if you see mouse droppings or nesting materials under the hood of your car.

Pro Tip: Never use compressed-air to “clean” an air filter. This ruins the filter, allowing dirt and other contaminants to get into your engine, leading to accelerated internal wear. If you live in a particularly dusty area, consider a washable foam pre-filter, if applicable, to capture the majority of the dust, and you won’t have to replace your air filter as often.
How to Replace a Dirty Air Filter

If you know how to check an air filter, you already know how to replace it. Buy the correct filter for your vehicle year, make, model and engine size, and compare the old and new, side by side, to confirm proper fit. When closing the air box, make sure the air filter and tabs are properly seated, and that screws or latches close the box securely. Then just reconnect anything you had adjusted before starting the car, and you’ll be good to go.

 

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