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No Fountain of Youth (Aging Tires)

Can you think of anyone who enjoys aging?  Wrinkles where you don't want them, gray hair, eyes that won't focus any more, no stamina.  Believe it or not, your tires age, too, and they don't get better the older they get.  And here's the important thing to know, even if they can still pass a tread depth test, they may simply be too old to be safe  Here's the best way to understand this.  Have you ever found an old deck of playing cards with a rubber band wrapped around them?  Try stretching the rubber band.  SNAP! It's all cracked and brittle.  And you haven't stressed that rubber one bit since the time you put them in that drawer. Now you know what's happening to your tires.  Rubber ages.  Just like us, the day we come into the world, we start to go downhill (no pun intended).  Oh, engineers are able to make a tire last longer than ever before.  But that gas that keeps us alive—oxygen—seems to love to chemically mi ... read more

Categories:

Tires

The Daily Grind (Grinding Noise)

If your vehicle makes a grinding sound when you turn the steering wheel, it's speaking to you.  No, really, it is.  So listen to what it's saying and you could avoid a much more costly repair down the road. A grinding sound coming from the front of your vehicle when you are turning can offer some very informative clues as to what's going on.  One cause could be that there's a problem with the mechanical linkage that enables you to turn the wheels.  Another is that the hydraulic system that makes turning the steering wheel easier may have its own problems.  Think of it.  Hydraulic power steering has many components that need to work in tandem.  The power steering fluid may be too old and contaminated.  Or its level may be low. That may be caused by a leak somewhere in the system. A technician can check things over to find out exactly what's happening. Other causes of grinding while turning can be problems with the suspension in the front.  Yo ... read more

Don't Miss a Beat (Importance of Regular Maintenance)

In many places, license plates have to be renewed every year or else you can't drive your vehicle legally.  Usually, you'll get a reminder from the agency that issues the plates. That kind of regular attention needs to be paid to your vehicle as well.  Its manufacturer has determined a schedule of service items that need to be done regularly, just like renewing your plates. Some depend on time, others depend on distance.  A perfect example is oil changes.  It's the most important scheduled maintenance you can have done to give your engine its longest life possible.  The manufacturer recommends the oil filter be changed at the same time. Here are some more items.  Your engine air filter gets dirty and needs adequate air to run most efficiently.  The manufacturer recommends an interval for replacing that.  Also tires, brake pads, timing belt, oxygen sensor and other items require regular replacement.  This is one of the reasons to find a servi ... read more

Categories:

Maintenance

The Cable Guy (Battery Cables and Maintenance)

If you've ever noticed your vehicle's lights are dim or not working at all, the problem could be many things.  But one possibility is your battery cables aren't doing their job.  A power outage in your vehicle is similar to one in your house and needs to be repaired to get things back to normal. Battery cables connect your vehicle's battery to the vehicle itself.  There is a positive cable when provides the power and a negative cable that connects to the vehicle chassis and provides a ground for electrical components.  A failing battery cable may cause your vehicle not to start.  Your starter may turn over very slowly.  Or you may just hear a series of clicks.  One other clue is on your dash—the battery warning light.  There are many things that can cause power issues in a vehicle, but it's important to keep battery cables clean and maintained.  Salt and corrosion are enemies to any power system.  A technician can keep things in t ... read more

Categories:

Battery

Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)

If someone asked you what gas made up the largest portion of the atmosphere, what would you guess? Well, it's not oxygen; it only makes up 20.9 percent.  But since we're talking about oxygen, you should know that your vehicle uses oxygen sensors to make sure your engine is running the way it should. The oxygen sensors measure how much oxygen is in your exhaust.  If there's too much, it means there's a problem with the mixture of fuel and air.  The sensor sends signals to computers in your engine and adjusts the mixture so it maximizes performance and efficiency.  It does this constantly.  Many vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors.  Some have one close to the engine, another close to the muffler.  Two measurements are better than one since they allow readings to be more accurate.  You may have a vehicle with a dual exhaust, so you'd have twice as many oxygen sensors. Your oxygen sensors can fail.  One thing that can damage them is contaminat ... read more

Don't Be Shocked (Shock Absorbers)

If you've ever ridden down a rough road on your bicycle, you know how hard a ride it can be.  Yet drive down the same road in your car, truck or SUV and it miraculously will smooth out the ride.  That's because it is equipped with shock absorbers.  They are built to dampen impacts from road irregularities.  But after taking hundreds of hits from potholes, railroad tracks and curbs, your shock absorbers can wear out.  Besides the rough ride that can cause, there are other ways your vehicle's performance can be affected. When it comes to braking for example, you may take a longer distance to stop.  That's because shocks help keep your tires in contact with the surface of the road.  If the shocks aren't working properly, the tires won't make contact like they should.  So when you slam on the brakes, your vehicle will take longer to stop. Consider what worn out shocks are doing to your tires.  Since the bumps aren't being dampened as much, your ... read more

Categories:

Shocks & Struts

No Strain, No Gain (The Basics of Oil Filters)

Ever wonder what one of the best things is to ever happen to your vehicle's engine?  It's the little thing that usually looks like a can, the oil filter. Just like your kitchen sink strainer filters out errant particles of food from clogging your drain, the oil filter cleans out small particles that could cause your engine harm. Your engine operates in a dirty, hot environment and gathers a lot of tiny contaminants like dirt, dust, little metal shards and unlucky bugs that get sucked in.  Get those things circulating in your engine and those little particles can cause friction, which starts wearing out those finely machined metal parts.  You know how important it is to change your oil regularly.  It's vital that you change your oil filter at the same time to keep the oil as close to brand new as possible. Most oil filters look like a metal can with some holes in the bottom.  Inside there are carefully chosen materials that can screen out the contaminants while ... read more

What's in a Number? (What Tire Numbers Mean)

You've probably never paid much attention to the writing on the sides of your tires, but they contain a wealth of information.  There's a long combination of letters and numbers that can tell you a whole lot about what tires your vehicle was designed to be riding on.  Let's check out this example found on an SUV: P245/70R17 108T. The first letter, P, means it's intended for passenger vehicles.  If there's no letter, it means it's a metric tire.  If there's an LT at the beginning or end that means a tire designed for light trucks. Moving on to our example, the 245 shows how wide the tire is in millimeters from sidewall to sidewall.  The number that follows in our example, 70, means the height of the tire is 70% of its width.  The letter after that in our example, R, describes the type of tire (on this vehicle, radial).  Following that is the diameter in inches, in our SUV example, 17 inches.  How much load the tires' sidewalls are designed to take ... read more

Categories:

Tires

The Part You've Never Seen (Flat Tires and Solutions)

They say your vehicle has one, but you've never seen it.  And you might not even know it if you stumbled on it accidentally. We're talking about the jack, that tool that allows you to lift one corner of the vehicle up so someone can change a flat tire. So you say you'd never try to change a flat anyway, so you don't care where it is.  But one day, you may find yourself in a spot where you're stranded with no cell service and you'll need to at least know the basics of what to do. Well, here's the ironic part.  Many of today's vehicles don't even have jacks and spares!  Recently, manufacturers have been saving weight by supplying another solution for a flat tire, such as an inflator kit that has a tire sealant in it, or a small compressor.  If your vehicle has one of those, it's a good idea to get to know how to use it before you need to use it.  Hopefully you'll be able to call roadside assistance and they can take care of things, but circumstances may prev ... read more

Your Vehicle is Talking to YOU (Service Warning Signs)

Your vehicle may be like that famous battery bunny, the one that just keeps going and going.  But while it may seem sometimes like you never need to take your vehicle in to be worked on, there are some things you should keep your eyes, ears and nose out for. They are warning you about something that needs attention at your vehicle service facility. If a warning light is on, don't ignore it; do something about it.  There are warning lights for battery, oil, engine heat, tire pressure… you name it.  And the manufacturer put them there for a reason.  They're telling you something isn't normal. So when one goes on, have it checked out soon, especially the blinking Check Engine light.  The earlier you have any warning light issue diagnosed, the more likely you are to avoid a more serious problem. If your vehicle is vibrating or shaking, it's not only annoying, it could signal trouble.  You can bet your vehicle didn't do that when it came out of the fact ... read more

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