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A Clean Car is Money in the Bank

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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.

RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS OF VEHICLE ENGINE DAMAGE

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It’s not always easy to recognize when your vehicle is suffering from engine damage as symptoms can be overlooked and seen as “normal.” While not all sounds and smells may threaten the life of your engine, there are some obvious warning signs that require a vehicle inspection right away.

Early diagnosis of engine damage can most likely be treated, but it is important to be aware of potentially damaging symptoms and have the vehicle inspected if something doesn’t seem right. By acting quickly and making necessary repairs as soon as possible, you could be saving yourself from the cost and hassle of breaking down along the road.

One of the signs of engine trouble is an illuminated check engine light. This light indicates that a vehicle system, such as the ignition, fuel injection or emission control, is not operating properly, even if the vehicle appears to be running normally. Ignoring the check engine light can negatively impact your fuel economy or cause damage resulting in more costly repairs.

Many motorists are familiar with the noises their vehicles make on a daily basis. However, any noise that is new, different or suspicious may indicate a problem, including a high-pitched squeal, grinding or thumping. Sounds under the hood, such as hissing, can also indicate that your vehicle is in need of attention.

Although all cars burn fossil fuels that create undesired emissions, these odors should remain outside of the car. Unusual smells that could signal engine damage include: burnt rubber, hot oil, gasoline, sweet smell of syrup, burning carpet and rotten eggs. When you smell any peculiar odor, you should not ignore it.

Another symptom of engine damage is excessive amounts of smoke or steam. Although some smoke is normal, excessive amounts of dark smoke in particular indicates that oil is leaking into the combustion chamber and is being burned along with the gasoline.

Things to know about speeding

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Some roadways are designated as low-speed zones. These include areas with high pedestrian traffic, such as school zones and streets lots of intersections close together. Driving over the speed limit can put you and others at risk of harm. 

  • Never pass a stopped bus displaying a stop sign to its left. That means children are crossing the street.
  • If you hear a siren coming behind you, pull to the side if you can, stop and wait until the police car or fire truck goes by. 
  • Completely stop at stop signs and look for other drivers and pedestrians before you proceed.
  • Obey the posted speed limit at all times. Speeding tickets are costly, and penalties for speeding can include fines, court appearances and loss or suspension of your driving privileges. Also, depending on your insurance policy, speeding tickets can raise your rates. 
  • When parking your vehicle, always be mindful of handicapped signs, fire hydrants, bus stop zones, parking restrictions for certain times of day, and parking spots that require permits. Just remember to heed all of the signs. Even if you have to circle the block a couple times, it sure beats getting fined or having your car towed.

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. 

 

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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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