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Things to Do When Your Engine Overheats

your-engine-overheats

Many modern automobiles are so refined that you can hardly hear their engines anymore, but don’t be lulled into complacency—there’s still a combustion cycle taking place under the hood, and catastrophic overheating remains a remote possibility. That’s why you should periodically check your vehicle’s temperature gauge while driving. Every gauge has a normal stopping point once the engine is warmed up; it’s usually a bit below the midpoint line between cold and hot. It’s probably not a doomsday scenario for your engine if your gauge ever reads anywhere above normal, but it could easily become one if you don’t take prompt action. Here are the steps you’ll need to know.

# Check for steam

The one surefire indication that you’ve really got an overheating engine is that old B-movie standby: plumes of steam pouring out before your eyes. Except it likely won’t be that dramatic, so take a closer look. If you see any steam at all, proceed to Step 3 posthaste lest you meet the same fiery demise as many a B-movie villain. Steam is bad. Take it seriously.

# Turn off your A/C, Turn on your heater

If you’re the cautious type, skip directly to Step 3—but bear in mind that older engines in particular are prone to mild overheating on hot days, especially when the air conditioner has been running. There’s nothing out of the ordinary in this case; you just need to give your engine a breather. So if you don’t see any steam, you can turn off the A/C and see if that calms things down. If it doesn’t, put your heater on full-blast, which will transfer heat away from the engine. Of course, it will also transfer heat toward you, but your comfort is a lesser priority than the engine’s at this point. If these measures don’t work in short order, then you’ve definitely got a problem, and you need to stop driving and figure it out.

# Pull over and turn off your engine

When you find a safe place to stop, get there and kill the engine immediately. Do not idle the engine while you’re collecting your thoughts. Engines have to work harder to keep cool at idle than at cruising speed, and the last thing you want to do is add stress to a potentially overheating engine. So turn it off, and then take that breath. NOTE: If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, and you believe your engine is suffering from more than just temporary overload, now is the time to call for roadside assistance. The remaining steps will require you to get your hands dirty.

# Pop the hood

Very likely it’s hotter than usual under there. You’ll get a feel for this once you’ve pulled the hood release and the hood is slightly ajar. If the heat strikes you as potentially dangerous—as it may well be—then let the engine cool down before proceeding. Only open the hood fully when you are confident that it’s safe to do so.

# Check coolant levels

Your engine should have a coolant reservoir in the vicinity of the radiator (see your owner’s manual for the exact location). This is usually made of plastic and thus unlikely to be dangerously hot. Check the coolant level in this reservoir. If it’s normal, you’re in luck—chances are you’ve just got a malfunctioning temperature gauge. As long as there are no other signs of overheating, you can restart the engine and proceed with caution. If it’s low or empty, however, there’s probably a coolant leak somewhere. Calling for roadside assistance is strongly advised here, though the more mechanically inclined might first inspect the radiator hoses for loose clamps and such.
Things can get out of control quickly if you don’t know what to do when your vehicle’s temperature rises.

# If you need to keep driving…

Wait until you’re certain that the engine is cool, protect your hand with a thick glove or rag, and twist off the radiator cap. Coolant is normally visible just below where the cap sits (your owner’s manual will have the details), but if your engine’s overheating, the coolant in your radiator should be visibly depleted. Be sure to refill both the radiator and the reservoir, using coolant or—if necessary—water. This should bring the temperature down once you’re underway, but remember, you’ve got a serious leak somewhere, so be vigilant. If the temperature starts rising again, you’ll have to pull over and repeat the process. Incidentally, by no means should you view this as a long-term solution—your engine needs professional help, so get your mechanic on the job as soon as you can.

Pick The Proper Tires for Your Vehicle

tiresTires are a vital component of car safety, and their importance is often overlooked. “Tires are the only four things touching the ground on your vehicle, and they impact everything – whether it’s braking, turning, accelerating or wet driving,” explains Duane Sampson, Brand Manager for Yokohama Tires.

Because they complete that essential link between your car’s suspension and the road, tires are responsible for translating the driver’s intentions directly towards vehicle performance. A quality set of tires will offer the responsiveness necessary for obstacle avoidance, short stopping distances that aid panic braking situations, and road-holding grip under both dry and wet conditions. “There’s not a single component on a vehicle that contributes more to safety than tires,” says Kurt Berger, Manager for Consumer Products Engineering at Bridgestone.
Considering that quality tires can make the difference between stopping safely and hitting a car in front of you at 30 mph, let’s take a look at a few key questions that typically surround tire purchases and maintenance.

What kind of tire should I look for?

Tire shopping can be a daunting task, especially considering recent technological advances and the proliferation of sub-specialized tire genres. “Tires are asked to do a lot more today than several years ago due to the evolution in vehicle designs,” says Lori Simonelli, Senior Director of Technical Services at Toyo Tires.
But before you get bogged down by tire types, be sure to find the right fitment for your vehicle. “You’ll want to confirm size, speed rating and load carrying capacity,” explains Kurt Berger, Manager for Consumer Products Engineering at Bridgestone. “We strongly recommend that replacement tires meet all of the specifications of the original tires.”
Once you’ve got the specs down, you’ll be able to consider more nuanced variables. “Before making your purchase, have a list of priorities—whether it’s wear, longevity, performance or price,” adds Sampson.
You’ll then want to ask yourself some questions regarding your tastes and driving style. Do you need winter tires? How important is comfort for you? A tire professional will be able to help narrow down your choices based on what you want. There are three overarching categories of tire: summer, all-season and winter. Within those, you’ll find various performance levels to suit driving conditions. And of course, SUV and light trucks can be clad with off-road, all terrain, highway, or highway all-season tread patterns.

# Should I spend extra for premium tires?

Simonelli says that “premium tire products are generally manufactured using higher standards, whether through design and testing, casing construction, effectiveness of their design for a specific application, ability to balance (consistency), stability and wear resistance. Going with a lesser tire is not the wisest choice.”
As if that isn’t enough to sway you, Simonelli notes that, “Ultimately, premium products are often a better value, due to their performance, expected mileage, customer support and warranties.”

# What technology comes with top dollar rubber?

So you’ve decided to invest in quality tires? Great! You’ve opened the door to countless cutting edge, high-tech features.
Having the right rubber hoops wrapped around your car’s wheels is more important than you think.

For instance, Yokohama’s so-called Advanced Inner Liner not only enhances performance and fuel efficiency by reducing rotating mass, the feature also minimizes air loss which, in the long run, can enhance tire longevity. Toyo’s Silent Wall system significantly reduces road noise, while Continental’s Extreme Contact DWS tires feature novel indicators with lettering that disappears when it’s no longer safe to drive under certain conditions. When tire wear makes it unsafe to drive in the rain, the letter “W” disappears from the tread. Similarly, “S” indicates snow worthiness and “D” reflects when there’s sufficient rubber for dry traction.
Run-flat tires also cost a premium, but save the weight of a spare tire and reduce the risks associated with changing a flat by the roadside.

# What about green tires?

Eco-consciousness means more than fuel economy improvements, and Yokohama has made their tires ecologically friendly by using citrus-based orange oil—a renewable resource which enables petroleum to be replaced with natural rubber. The compound has been used in the Yokohama-only IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge race series, as well as on the ENV R-2 line of street tires.

# Protecting your investment… and your safety

So you’ve installed your new set of tires—what next? You’ll want to protect your investment with a proper four-wheel alignment, and read your owners manual to check for rotation intervals. Your tire pressure (which can also be found in the owners manual, in the door jam or inside the fuel filler cap) should be checked regularly, and you should keep an eye open for uneven wear, which can reflect an alignment or shock issue.

Tips to Pick Motor Oil for Your Car

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As the lubricant for the moving parts of your engine, oil is extremely important; it prevents excessive engine wear and tear and is vital for the continued functioning of your vehicle. And it’s all wrapped up in a one quart plastic bottle.

If you’ve ever stepped foot into your nearest auto parts store, you’ll have noticed the vast number of motor oil containers that line the shelves. Clearly, we don’t need to tell you that there are many oil types to choose from, but how do you know which one is best for your car?

# The Different Grades


Each type of oil is graded by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The higher the grade number – up to 70 – the higher the viscosity. These numbers are often referred to as the weight of the oil. In addition to numbering, motor oil that meets low temperature requirements gets a “W” after the viscosity grade. Simple enough, right?
Oil types can vary a great deal between cars and the environment in which they operate, but some common weights include 5W-30, 10W-20 and 10W-30. 

If you look in your owner’s manual, the manufacturer will confirm the type of oil you should use for your car.

# Oil Viscosity


As your car ages, it will need slightly thicker oil for added lubrication. The parts of your car’s engine will have worn over time, increasing friction; thicker oil will help condition seals in older cars. 

An oil’s thickness changes with the outside temperature as well. It will become thinner with warmer temperatures and thicken when it’s cold.
Viscosity of oil is an important factor in determining which type is right for your car. Too thin, and it won’t lubricate the engine parts well enough when it heats up. The climate you normally drive in is important to consider.
Thankfully, most of us can use multi-viscosity oil in our cars. This oil has passed SAE specifications for thin oils at low temperatures, as well as for thicker oils at higher temperatures. They’re like the all-purpose flour for the automotive engine, and they actually flow easier at cold temperatures.
 
# Which Type Is Best?


There are three overarching types of oil – conventional, synthetic and synthetic blend. Conventional oil is organic and limited in its capabilities when compared to the synthetic oils, which have fewer imperfections in their chemical buildup. Conventional oil is highly reactive to temperatures, which isn’t true for synthetics; also, synthetics give you better engine performance, as they are more slippery.
This doesn’t come cheap though, as synthetic oil can cost up to three times as much as the regular stuff; but on the bright side, you don’t have to change your oil as often.
Synthetic blends – a combination of conventional and synthetic oils – are a nice compromise between the two; they’re less expensive, but provide some of the performance enhancement you get from a synthetic.
When buying oil for your car, the best thing to do is follow your manufacturer’s recommendations. However if you’re driving an older car, you can always try thicker oil. Consult your mechanic or dealership for the final say if you’re still unsure – they’ll know what’s right for your vehicle.

Saving Money on Brakes

It’s no secret your vehicle’s brakes are an essential safety system. With complex hydraulic mechanisms and plenty of parts that need replacing on a regular basis, it’s always tempting to put off your brake service as long as possible to save a few pennies. The truth is, failing to keep up with routine maintenance is a sure-fire way to cause yourself extra headaches in the future. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to reduce the cost of this necessity.

# Keep Up With Maintenance

Make sure you do all of your brake maintenance on time. Failing to do so can cause damage to expensive parts, sticking you with a hefty bill. For example, it’s easy to overlook replacing you vehicle’s brake fluid, but if you skip the job for a long time, you could cause damage to your brake lines, calipers and your proportioning valve. Replacing all of those parts could cost well over $1,000, whereas bleeding your brake system shouldn’t cost more than $50.

# Use Quality Parts

It may be tempting to go for the cheapest parts possible when picking up new bits for your car, but the truth is lackluster replacement parts fail quicker than their name-brand counterparts. Rotors from Mexico may cost as little as $30, whereas a quality example may be closer to $60, but if you have to replace the $30 rotor three times as often, you’ve lost any money you gained in the first place. Do yourself a favor and pick up OEM or mechanic-recommended equipment.

# Change Your Driving Habits

More than anything else you can do, changing how you drive will save you tons on your vehicle’s brake costs. Slowing down earlier, not coming to abrupt stops and not riding the brakes will go a long way toward making your car’s equipment last longer than it otherwise would.

# Ask if Your Calipers Can Be Rebuilt

If you haven’t taken the best care of your brake system and your mechanic tells you the vehicle will need a new caliper, ask if it can simply be rebuilt instead. In most cases, rebuild kits cost around $30 and the job doesn’t take very long. Compare that to over $100 for a caliper on most cars, and you can see the savings.

Check Tire Wear in Fast Way

The replacement of old tires is a common maintenance item, one that also happens to be vital to your safety on the road. Knowing when they’re ready to be switched out isn’t difficult, but it does require a bit of knowledge about tire tread wear and one simple trick.

Since tires are your only direct connection to the road, it’s important that they have a good amount of rubber on them to help the car handle corners, slick surfaces and any other imperfect road conditions. It would be easy to tell you to change your tires at a certain mileage to maintain proper tire tread, but the fact is that the rate at which the tread wears depends on a number of factors, including driving style, vehicle weight and type of tire.

So how do you tell whether your tires are ready for a swap? The penny test is the easiest way to determine that. Simply stick an upside down penny, with Lincoln’s face toward you, into the tread on both the inside and outside of the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln”s head anywhere, the rubber has worn down far enough to warrant a new set.

To be safe, we’d recommend performing this test monthly – even with new tires – because the penny can also tell you if your tires are wearing unevenly. Uneven wear can occur because of over- or under-inflated tires, unbalanced tires or simply from a car’s natural weight dispersion and suspension geometry. If there is a noticeable difference in the tread wear between the front and back tires or on an individual tire, it’s best to take the vehicle to the mechanic and have it checked out.

Tips to Reduce Vehicle Maintenance Costs

If you want to avoid nasty and unexpected surprise maintenance costs, sticking to a regimented schedule of preventative maintenance is something you are going to want to get used to. The reason being is simple – frequent maintenance will keep your car in good health, ensuring you get the most out of all those expensive-to-replace parts. While it might sound counterintuitive, the best way to reduce maintenance costs is to stick to a prescribed maintenance schedule.

Keeping your vehicle’s fluids new and clean is priority number one when it comes to minimizing future costs. Frequent oil changes can prevent the buildup of harmful deposits that rob your car of fuel economy and power, as well as make internal components work harder. A harder working engine is one with a shorter life span.

Unless you plan on doing engine surgery on your own, engine work is going to cost you a huge pile of money. For example, using DriverSide’s What to Pay for Service feature, we can see that a new oil pump for a 2006 BMW 3-Series (a part that commonly fails as a result of infrequent oil changes) will cost a hefty $815. This is easily avoided simply by changing your oil every 3,000 miles, which at a local lube shop will typically cost less than $40 per visit.

Even if your vehicle is brand new, it is a good idea to check the oil every few hundred miles. If the level slowly gets lower between oil changes, you might have an issue with your engine. The same applies for your vehicle’s brake fluid, clutch fluid (if it’s a manual transmission) or your automatic transmission fluid.
While keeping an eye on your vehicle’s fluid levels is a good first step toward improving your investment’s longevity, sticking to the recommended service intervals in your owner’s manual is equally important.

A good example of this is a timing belt replacement. Timing belts and chains keep the different parts of a car’s engine in sync with each other and on average should be replaced every 60,000 miles. Because of the infrequency of a timing belt change, it can be easy to overlook this vital service – especially considering it often requires over $800 in labor alone. However, waiting another 5-10k miles is not advised, as the results could result in a catastrophic engine head failure, a repair that could cost you over double the amount of a timing belt service.
Different manufacturers allow for different time periods between required maintenance. While it may look expensive to go about replacing your air filter, changing your oil and rotating your tires every few thousand miles, the preventative care saves you money in the long run. For a general idea, you can check out our guide to car maintenance.

That said, there are a few ways to trim dollars from your regular maintenance schedule. By and large, private, independent shops charge less than licensed dealers because they have access to less expensive aftermarket parts as opposed to typically pricier Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. If your vehicle is out of warranty there’s little reason to use the dealer over a local shop, and if the local guys are charging less money, then by all means use them. You can use DriverSide to find and rate local mechanics for your specific vehicle.
Don’t forget to save all your service receipts. Not only are they good to have for reminders, but having them available for potential buyers will also increase the residual value of your car.

Know the Facts before You Tow with Your Vehicle

Unless you use your vehicle to tow everyday for work, odds are you haven’t paid much attention to your truck, SUV or crossover’s towing capacity. Maybe you’re looking to buy a boat for some summer fun or just need to rent a trailer to get your belongings from one dwelling to the next. Whatever the reason for pulling something behind your vehicle, it’s important to get a firm grasp on what exactly your towing capacity means. Understanding how each of the components in your vehicle contributes to your overall tow rating can keep you from putting undue stress on your rig and keep you and your family safe.

Simply put, your towing capacity is the amount of weight your vehicle can pull. Keep in mind that doesn’t just mean what’s attached to the hitch out back. What most manufacturers neglect to tell you is that your towing capacity is really a combination of everything inside of your vehicle, including occupants, cargo and fuel, as well as the combined weight of your trailer and whatever is in/on it. In some cases, it may be more helpful to take a look at your tow rig’s gross combined weight rating, or GCWR. It accounts for all of the factors listed above in one easy-to-read figure.
So how exactly is your towing capacity calculated? Engineers take into account five main areas of a vehicle when discerning towing capacity.

# Engine

Your vehicle’s beating heart can only do so much work. To that end, how much horsepower and torque your engine produces is one of the biggest factors in how much you can tow. Generally, big V-8s produce plenty of torque. The trade-off is that those motors also tend to get worse gas mileage than their smaller counterparts. If you’re looking to buy a vehicle for towing, be realistic with yourself. If you only plan on pulling a 1,500-lb pop-up camper, there’s no need for a 10,000-lb towing capacity and an engine that drinks more than necessary.

# Transmission

As important as your engine is to your towing capacity, what kind of transmission you have plays a pivotal role, too. While manual transmissions are often thought of as the best choice for hauling big loads, modern automatics can be just as capable as their cousins. The type of gearing inside as well as how stout the internal gears are will play the biggest role in what you’ll be able to tow with your vehicle. If you are planning on doing any serious pulling for long periods of times or up steep inclines, a transmission cooler and temperature gauge are great investments.

# Axles

No matter what you are towing, each part of your drivetrain is under added stress, including your axles. In rear-wheel drive vehicles, your rear differential will decide your vehicle’s final gear ratio, further enhancing or inhibiting your towing capacity depending on the figure. The tougher your rear differential and the stouter your axles, the more you’ll be able to tow in the end.

# Brakes

Getting your vehicle moving is only half of the equation. At some point, you’re going to need to slow down, and if your vehicle’s brakes are too small, you may not be able to handle the additional burden of a big trailer and extra weight. While it is theoretically possible to upgrade your vehicle’s brake system, doing so is cost-prohibitive. If this is the weak spot in your towing formula, you may simply need to look into getting a tougher vehicle.

# Frame

The last major ingredient in the towing capacity recipe is your vehicle’s frame. It handles all of the stresses of pulling and stopping the trailer behind you, so tough, body-on-frame-designed vehicles are typically better at handling towing abuse than unibody examples. The length of your SUV or crossover’s wheelbase will also play a factor in how much you’re able to pull behind you, as short wheelbase cars and trucks are harder to control with a trailer behind them than their long-wheelbase cousins.

# But that’s not all

Even if you have the strongest tow rig on the planet, your vehicle’s hitch can still be a stumbling point when it comes time to hook up the trailer. Hitches are broken down into four classes based on the trailer’s gross trailer weight rating, or GTWR, and are rated as follows:
Class I: 2,000 lbs, maximum
Class II: 3,500 lbs, maximum
Class III: 5,000 lbs, maximum
Class IV: 10,000 lbs, maximum
Now that you have a good idea of what makes up your vehicle’s towing capacity, don’t push your luck and exceed it. Doing so will only shorten your vehicle’s life span and put you and those around you on the road in danger. Respect your vehicle’s limits and your towing experience can be easy and drama-free.

Towing a Car?, Here Its Tips

At some point in your life, odds are you may need to tow a car. Whether you’re moving to a new state or simply looking to pull something smaller behind the motor home, moving two vehicles with one driver can ease logistical headaches. That is, so long as you have the right equipment and knowledge necessary to get everything where it’s going safely. Some towing methods are better for some vehicles than others, and if you’re not careful you may end up causing thousands of dollars of damage to either the tow rig or the car on the hitch behind you. With just a little preparation and research, you can get where you’re going without a hint of trouble.

Before you decide to hook another car behind you, make sure you’re comfortable towing. Pulling any sort of trailer or vehicle requires a different mindset while driving, and you’ll need more time to accelerate, more distance to stop and more space to perform otherwise easy maneuvers like U-Turns. If you can, take some time to practice backing an empty trailer or tow dolly in a parking lot. It may seem confusing at first, but remember that if you place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, the trailer will go the direction your hand moves as you turn the wheel – left if you turn the wheel to the right and vice versa. In the end, nothing beats a little bit of seat time.

# Types of Trailers

If you think you’re ready to hit the open road with another vehicle behind you, go ahead and select which type of towing method is best for you. The two most common types of towing setups are a trailer, which keeps all four wheels of the vehicle being towed off the ground, or a tow dolly. Dollies only keep the front wheels off of the road, leaving the rear wheels to roll freely on the pavement behind you. Which method you choose will depend on what kind of vehicle you plan to tow.
Trailers tend to be heavy – adding even more strain to your tow vehicle’s work out. But keeping all four of your follow vehicle’s wheels off the ground can greatly reduce the likelihood of mechanical damage. In general, trailers are best for all-wheel drive of rear-wheel drive vehicles. Simply load the car, secure it to the trailer and roll on.
Tow dollies are much lighter than full-blown trailers, though since the follow vehicle’s rear wheels roll along at the same speed as the tow vehicle, pulling an all-wheel or rear-wheel drive car or truck means you will have to disengage the prop shaft to the rear wheels or risk severe damage to the transmission or differential. Front-wheel drive cars don’t have this worry because the rear-wheels simply follow along under normal circumstances anyway.

# Vehicle and Hitch Towing Capacities

Make sure the truck or van and the hitch can handle the task of pulling another vehicle. Hitches carry various ratings based on what sort of load they can handle, so be sure to check that yours is within its capabilities before setting off. Tally up the total weight of the car you plan on towing and the weight of the trailer or tow dolly and add them together. If the final figure is within 50 pounds of your towing capacity, it might be in your best interest to get another rig that can handle the weight. Keep in mind that any extra cargo or passengers will add even more strain to a vehicle that’s already working harder than it should be.

# Hook it up

Once you’ve decided what sort of tow setup will best suit your needs, you can load your vehicle. This is one of the more dangerous aspects of towing, so it will help to have an assistant to keep an eye on everything.
First, connect either your trailer or tow dolly to your tow vehicle, including lights. You may need a wiring harness adapter, but they’re fairly cheap and readily available from parts stores. With everything connected, lower the tow device’s ramps and line them up with your follow vehicle’s front tires. This is where your spotter comes in handy. Have them watch for any chance you may miss a ramp or any clearance issues. If everything’s clear, gently proceed up the ramp with a steady foot on the throttle. If you have to back off and try again, do so smoothly, but try not to stop and start while you’re on the ramps. Be careful not to use too much throttle as you may overshoot the trailer and cause damage to just about every piece of equipment involved.
Once on the trailer, position your car so that the weight is evenly distributed over the trailer’s axles. If your car is too far forward on the trailer, you could be putting undue stress on your tow vehicle’s suspension and drivetrain, as well as causing there to be less weight on the front tires. Less weight on the front tires means steering is less effective – definitely not something you want when towing. Similarly, if the car’s weight is positioned too far back on the trailer, it could cause the tongue of the trailer to lift the rear of your tow vehicle, causing a loss of traction during sudden maneuvers.
Once the vehicle is safely onboard, things get a little different depending on whether you’re using a trailer or a dolly. With a trailer, you can put your car in gear and set the emergency brake. If the trailer is a rental, there are likely tie downs that fit over the vehicle’s tires. Make sure these are secure without any kinks and you should be ready to hit the road. If the trailer is generic, you’ll need to secure the vehicle by means of additional tie downs. Make sure to secure the car from both the front and rear, with your ties pulling in opposite directions. This keeps the vehicle from rolling forward and backward on the trailer. If both ties are pulling in the same direction, you’ve got a problem and will need to reevaluate your system. Make sure to connect to good, solid mounting points on both the car and the trailer, and stop to check everything once you’ve gone 10-15 miles.
If you’re using a tow dolly, you can put the car in gear once it’s onboard, but do not set the parking brake. If you do, you’ll lock the rear tires of your car and have a real problem within minutes. Securing the car to the dolly is similar to a trailer, with most rental units having over-tire type tie downs. Make sure everything is secure and you’re set.
While you’re towing, be sure to check your mirrors often to look for loose tie-downs or other problems. Keep an eye on your vehicle’s gauges and stop if your vehicle’s temperature rises suddenly or oil pressure drops quickly – it could mean serious mechanical failure. Check everything over each time you stop for fuel or food, and you and your car should get where you’re going without a problem.

Tips to Extend The Life Of Your Car

DriverSide provides not just information on buying and selling cars, but helps you live with your car every day. In today”s economy, we”re constantly asked how people can keep their current cars on the road for longer periods of time. While it is expensive to buy a new car every few years, it is also expensive to repair a car that may be on its last legs. We at DriverSide, always being on the side of, you, the driver, have compiled a list of some of our helpful tips to help extend the life of your vehicle and save you money in the long run.
Discover a strange sound coming from your engine? DriverSide can help you find a mechanic. We can also help you get a quote for the repair prices and labor with our Pre-Service Report. Also, if any of these tips spur you to stock up on some parts and accessories, we have an abundance of listings. DriverSide is here to help you with your ownership needs from all angles.

# Preventative Care and Maintenance

Augie Barone, Service Manager at Pat’s Garage in San Francisco credits regular maintenance as one of the most important ways to add years to your car’s life. “The customers who have the most miles on their car are the ones who are consistent with their service schedule,” he says. “They get a hold of issues before they get out of hand. It helps a lot to maintain the car’s longevity. You can’t just wait for the service light to come on.”
Keeping your vehicle”s fluids new and clean is priority number one when it comes to making sure your car hangs around for a long while. Frequent oil changes can prevent the buildup of harmful deposits that rob fuel economy and power, as well as make internal components work harder. A harder working engine is one with a shorter life span.
Even if your vehicle is brand new, it is a good idea to check the oil every few hundred miles. If the level slowly gets lower between oil changes, you might have an issue with your engine. The same applies for your vehicles’ brake fluid, clutch fluid, if it’s a manual transmission, or your automatic transmission fluid.
While keeping an eye on your vehicle”s fluid levels is a good first step toward improving your investment”s longevity, sticking to the recommended service intervals in your owner”s manual is equally important. Different manufacturers allow for different time periods between required maintenance. While it may look expensive to go about replacing your air filter, changing your oil, rotating your tires every few thousand miles, the preventative care saves you money in the long run. For a general idea, you can check out our guide to car maintenance.
Don’t forget to save all your service receipts. Not only are they good to have for reminders, but having them available for potential buyers will also increase the residual value of your car.
Besides your fluids, here are a few more parts to check on a semi-regular basis:
Shocks, bushings and alignment: A car that has worn shocks, bushings and poor alignment will not only drive badly but it will also cause the tires, wheel bearings, and other driveline components to wear our faster, not to mention make all kinds of unpleasant creaking, squeaking and clunking noises. A suspension refresh can give a car a second lease on life and restore driving pleasure and safety, while minimizing the need for expensive replacement parts down the line.
Timing belt: Many, if not most, modern cars have interference engines, meaning that if a timing belt comes loose or breaks, valves collide which causes major and expensive cylinder head malfunction. Timing belts typically call for 60k replacement intervals, but people often push that number to 70-90 miles. If your timing belt hasn”t been changed in a while, your engine is a ticking time bomb. Get it checked out as the timing belt is one item not to approach casually.
Brakes: Have your brake pads checked regularly and address any excessive screeching immediately. Pads wear out faster than rotors and have a metal strip in them to warn you that they need replacement. When you hear excessive screeching under even light braking, chances are your pads have worn enough to warrant replacement. If you don”t replace your pads when it’s needed, you risk damaging your rotors and having to purchase an expensive new set. Better to pay for one part quickly, then two parts too late.

# Drive With Care

If you have a brand new car, the break-in period generally lasts for the first 1,000 miles. During its nascent hours on the road, try not to rev the engine to redline. Using light acceleration will keep the engine under 3,000 rpm and will help to break in the engine ever so gently. We”d also recommend keeping the speed to under 55mph (check your owner”s manual for their initial maximum speed).
Most of the wear and tear on a car occurs during the first few minutes of driving. If you tend to run out for multiple short errands, try consolidating some of them. You’ll prevent long-term damage on the engine this way.
Avoid heavy loads on the drivetrain, so don”t tow or weigh down the vehicle with too much weight. Lastly, and this holds true for the life of your vehicle, don”t let your car idle for too long. Low idling causes the oil pressure to drop, which means that oil won’t be sent to all parts of the engine. Remember, lack of lubrication is the death knell for any car.

# Know Your Vehicle
 
While it”s easy to think of your car as a single entity, the truth is it”s made up of thousands of interlaced mechanisms that rely on each other to get you down the road safely. It”s impossible to be aware of each component”s condition as you drive, but paying attention to changes in your vehicle”s tone, driving characteristics or feel can alert you to problems before they get out of hand. That can save you some serious money in repairs and keep you from getting stranded on the side of the road.
Once a month, drive with the radio off and listen for odd noises. If your vehicle doesn”t have the same oomph it used to, starts sluggishly, has an odd vibration or is making a strange noises, it may be time for a trip to the mechanic. Do your best to describe what you heard or felt and which part of the vehicle it emanated from. Doing so accurately can save you and your mechanic time trying to run down the problem.
No one likes to spend lots of time at a gas station, but taking a second to keep track of your vehicle”s mileage can go a long way to make you aware of how your vehicle is running. A clean, good running vehicle will return better mileage than one suffering from an ailment. Easy to replace bits like oxygen and mass air flow sensors can go bad and impact the number of miles you travel per gallon of gasoline, and replacing them early on can save you plenty of coin at the pump.
Barone also says to “be mindful of your area’s weather and terrain. Here in San Francisco, people don’t realize how much wear and tear the hills put on their vehicles. Consider how the climate affects your car as much as you consider how it affects yourself.”

# Protect Your Car”s Interior

A car”s interior is where you spend all your time, and when it”s looking shabby it affects the way you feel about your car as well as lowers the resale value. The two major culprits of a dingy cabin: the weather and you. Yes, you. All-weather rubber mats should be used in winter to keep mud and grime off the carpets – especially if you have a light-colored interior.
Got kids? Avoid stains on the upholstery by placing a towel and sheet of heavy plastic underneath the baby seat. No one likes scrubbing puréed peas off of beige leather seats.
If your car has leather surfaces, buy some leather moisturizing pads and use them every other month. This will keep your leather clean and free from cracking. In the summer, we recommend using window shades in order to avoid UV damage to the interior.
A clean interior actually means cleaning is involved, so first things first – get it detailed every few months. To maintain the detailing job, vacuum the floors regularly and use a sponge to gently wipe down the gauges, instrument panel and dashboard as these can get scratched and fade over time. A little elbow grease goes a long way to extending the life and value of your car.

# Protect Your Car”s Exterior
 
Keeping the exterior in good order saves money over time and keeps the resale value high. Face it, no one wants to buy a dumpy looking car. It is amazing what an hour or two with a mobile dent removal and detail service can do to make a car look like new again. For a few hundred bucks, you can literally add thousands of dollars back into a car in trade-in/resale value, not to mention restore one”s original love of a car and become inspired to keep it on the road longer. It is a lot harder to justify putting maintenance dollars into a smelly dinged up beater than a pristine example. Furthermore, applying a coat or two of wax at least twice a year will keep your paint looking its best. It only takes a few hours to do, but makes a huge difference.
Invest in proper racks for the roof of your vehicle. Use blankets and towels to protect your roof when tying down luggage, bicycles or other loads to the roof rack as well. When you do have cargo on the roof of your car, make sure it’s tied down properly. Otherwise it may shift during the drive, leaving you with scratches to deal with.
If you have a garage, use it. Garaged cars carry higher resale values and require fewer washes. There”s no sense in parking your car on the street where it”s exposed to the elements while boxes of junk get to enjoy the mild climate inside your garage. If you don”t have access to a garage, look into getting a car cover. These aren”t as good as garages but will protect your paint and reduce the amount of time spent at the car wash.
Fix small cracks in the windshield in a timely manner. These will only spread out over time. Bring your car to a windshield repair shop, where they can fix chips and cracks to maintain its structural integrity.

TOP 10 TIPS
# Drive gently 

While this may be the hardest thing to do for your car, it’s something that will pay huge dividends over the life of the vehicle. Adjusting your driving style to minimize wear and tear on your ride can not only give you a few more years of happy motoring, but it can also save you cash in repairs and replacement parts. It might take some of the fun out of driving, but accelerating gently from stop lights and stop signs, avoiding abrupt braking and completing smooth, non-aggressive turns all play a part in keeping your car in one piece and save you gas too.

# Keep up with fluid changes. 

Checking on your vehicle’s fluids is paramount to its longevity. While some fluids like brake fluid, clutch fluid and coolant may not require attention as often as oil or transmission fluid, they’re just as important. Mark one day on your calendar each month to make sure all of your fluids are topped off. It’s quick, easy and can save you some serious repair dollars down the line. Of course, remember to change those fluids when your service manual requires it, too.

# Know what weather does to your car. 

Do what you can to protect your car from all types of weather. While a garage is the ideal storage solution for your investment, other options exist to protect your vehicle from the sun’s UV rays, drastic temperature changes, water and salt. Look into inexpensive options like car covers. Small steps like those can go a long way to preserve the appearance and head off rust before it can get started, saving you repair costs and keeping the resale value of your car high.

# Clean the interior

Excess dirt and grime can act like sand paper, creating unnecessary abrasion that can wear down upholstery and carpeting. Purchase a good set of floor mats if your vehicle didn’t come with them and vacuum your car on a regular basis. Keeping things tidy inside can keep you aware of problem spots inside, too, allowing you to get them repaired before they grow worse.

# Maintain the paint job

Your vehicle’s paint job primary job is to protect the car’s sheet metal from corrosion. Touch up any and all nicks before rust can get started and always make sure to wax your vehicle with a high quality product at least twice a year. Doing so will protect the vehicles clear coat and save the paint from fading over time. Also, be sure to use a recommended car wash solution. Paying extra for the good stuff now will come back to you in the form of resale value later.

# Flush the engine and top it up with mileage-appropriate fluids. 

As your vehicle ages, carbon deposits and grime form inside of the engine no matter how well you maintain it. Using a product like Sea Foam engine restorer or BG44K as recommended on the packaging can keep build up in check, improve fuel economy and restore lost power. Also, be sure use the appropriate fluids for your vehicle’s age and use high-mileage oil as your car grows older.

# Check on your tires and wheels. 

If your tires have worn unevenly or your wheels are unbalanced, vibration can cause excess stress on suspension components. Excess stress means extra trips to the mechanic and a hefty bill. Taking the time to keep your wheels clean can alert you to bent or damaged wheels and uneven tread, once again helping you to correct the problem before things get out of hand.

# Schedule checkups twice a year with a mechanic you trust. 

Regardless of how well you think you know your vehicle, a well-trained, trustworthy mechanic can spot things ahead of time that you might miss. Taking the time to schedule a check up with a good mechanic twice a year may seem obsessive, but preventative maintenance at the hands of a qualified professional is cheap insurance. Also, keep all the documentation; being able to provide a potential buyer with all of your service records is a major buying incentive.

# Address minor problems early. 

It’s easy to hear a strange noise in your vehicle and hope that it will go away. Unfortunately, there aren’t any cars out there that can heal themselves, at least not yet. Don’t put off minor maintenance or easy repair work. Doing so can lead to larger problems and larger repair bills in the end. Bite the bullet, fix what’s wrong and your car will last a lot longer.

# Be aware of new sounds and vibrations. 
 
No matter how embarrassing it may be to stand in front of a perfect stranger and make funny noises, it is worth it. Effectively relaying what you’ve experienced in your vehicle to your mechanic is an essential tool to keeping it on the road. The more your service center knows about the problem, the more likely they are to fix it right the first time and for less labor costs. Be sure to tell the mechanic as much as you can about the problem, including details like speed, what direction you are turning, the temperature outside and the time of day. It may sound strange, but all of those details can help your mechanic assess the situation and set it right without expensive exploratory work.

Differences between the Gas Grades You Put in Car

With gas prices reaching for the clouds, you may be tempted to go for the lower grade when it’s time to top off the tank. For most of the motoring world, that’s not a problem, but what about the rest of the cars out there whose owner’s manuals call for mid grade or high test? While you may see an immediate savings at the pump, running your engine off of a fuel other than what the manufacturer recommends will end up hurting you in the long run.

Everyone knows that gasoline is made from crude oil. The Texas Tea is pumped out of the ground and sent through a refinery where it gets cracked into everything from natural gas to road tar. Gasoline sits somewhere in between those two extremes and, in its first state, what’s called straight-run gasoline, has an octane rating of about 70.

Gasoline is given a grade by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) based on how much it can be compressed before it explodes. Technically, this called the “anti-knock index” and is displayed on huge yellow stickers next to the pump handle. The lower the grade, the lower the pressure it has to be under before it goes pop.

The number on your gas pump is the average of two different tests. The first is laboratory-based test called the Research Octane Number (RON). The second is the results culled from actual road conditions called the Motor Octane Number (MON). If you are an observant consumer, you may have noticed the (RON+MON)/2 formula below your gas rating.

The grade, 87 for example, sits on a scale from zero to 100. Zero is the equivalent of a crude oil product called heptane, which auto-ignites under very little pressure. On the opposite end of the scale, isooctane represents 100 and takes considerably more pressure before exploding. For instance, low grade gasoline has the same octane rating as 87 percent isooctane and 13 percent heptane.

Since straight-run gasoline has such a low octane rating, petroleum engineers incorporate a number of additives and other agents raise the fuel’s anti-knock index. The fuel that you find at your local station is actually a mixture of several different chemical compounds and may include everything from gasoline to detergents and what are referred to as oxygenates to clean your engine and reduce knock.
So why should you care how much fuel you can compress into a smaller space?

Engineers discovered a long time ago that an easy way to boost a vehicle’s power is to increase the engine’s compression ratio, or how much pressure the engine’s internals place on the air and fuel inside before igniting it. Cars that require mid grade or high test gasoline put higher pressure on the air and fuel mix inside of their engines than vehicles that only require low grade.

By now, you’re probably getting an idea of what happens when you run low grade gasoline in a vehicle that calls for high test. As the engine compresses the air and fuel mix, it explodes before it’s supposed to. This is typically referred to as “ping” or “knock” and can lead to problems. Premature spark plug failure, loss of engine power, low mileage and engine damage leading to oil consumption are just a few.
Unfortunately, there is no magic number that determines what compression ratio needs what octane level. It depends on a huge number of factors figured out by engineering interns in dark cubicles for car manufacturers everywhere.

As for running high test in a vehicle that only requires 87 octane, the impacts are mostly monetary. The car will merrily chug along, bleeding your bank account dry. According to most sources, higher octane is no cleaner for your engine than the low grade stuff. That said, if your 87 sipper seems to be knocking more than usual, stepping up a grade may solve the problem.

You may have noticed a few gas stations now proclaim a portion of their fuel is made up of ethanol. Right now, most vehicles can run up to 10 percent ethanol in their fuel without voiding the warranty. That percentage usually replaces the standard anti-knock additive portion of your gasoline mix, working as a cleaning agent inside of your engine as well. As an added bonus, most ethanol is produced here in the U.S. by sweat-of-their brow farmers, so you can feel a little better about yourself when the pump reads $50.

While jumping down a few grades may save you a buck or two at the station, the loss of fuel economy and potential damage to your engine isn’t worth it. Bite the bullet, reach for what your car calls for and squeeze the trigger. If you don’t, you’ll be sentencing your ride to a slow death one tank at a time