Category Archives: Automotive

How to Maintain Steering Systems and Suspension Systems

The steering and suspension systems of a car are not only important for safety reasons but also to enhance the comfort of your car’s ride. The two systems are directly related to each other, which is why they are often referred to together.

Improvements in steering and suspension systems, increased strength and durability of components, and advances in tire design and construction have made large contributions to riding comfort and to safe driving in recent years.

Steering Systems
Back in the earliest days of automobile development, when most of the car’s weight (including the engine) was on the rear axle, steering was a simple matter of turning a tiller that pivoted the entire front axle. When the engine was moved to the front of the car, complex steering systems had to evolve.

Today, there are two basic types of steering systems: 1) standard mechanical (reciprocating ball) steering and 2) rack and pinion steering. The standard mechanical steering can be either power-assisted or non-power. Rack and pinion is almost always power-assisted, although there are rare cases where it is not.

Standard mechanical (reciprocating ball) steering: Standard mechanical steering uses a series of links and arms to ensure both wheels turn in the same direction at the same time. It hasn’t changed much over the years and its principles are really quite simple. Basically this is how it works:

The steering wheel is connected to the steering box through the steering column. The steering box turns the rotation of the steering wheel 90° and, in the case of power steering, uses high-pressure fluid to help actuate the steering.

The steering box has an arm attached to the output shaft called the pitman arm. This connects the steering box to the steering gear. The pitman arm is connected to one end of the center link (or drag link). On the other end of the center link is an idler arm. Between the idler and pitman arms, the center link is supported in the proper position to keep the left and right wheels working together.

The inner tie rod ends are attached to each end of the center link and provide pivot points for the steering gear. From there it goes to the outer tie rod ends through an adjustment sleeve. This sleeve joins the inner and outer tie rod ends together and allows for adjustment when the front wheels are aligned.

The outer tie rod ends are connected to the steering knuckle that actually turns the front wheels. The steering knuckle has an upper and lower ball joint on which it pivots and creates the geometry of the steering axis.

As you can see, the standard mechanical steering system is just a simple mechanical connection from the steering wheel to the front wheels. The weaknesses of the system are at the pivot points. The pivots are ball and socket joints that wear out over time and require replacement. Loose steering parts will make a car difficult to handle and will cause the front tires to wear out prematurely. That’s why it’s important to have the steering checked at least once a year.

Rack and pinion steering: Rack and pinion steering, on the other hand, basically combines the steering box and center link into one unit. The steering wheel, through the steering column, is directly connected to the rack. Inside the steering rack is a pinion assembly that moves a toothed piston, which in turn moves the steering gear.

One end of the inner tie rod ends is connected to each end of this piston and the other end is connected directly to the outer tie rod end. The inner tie rod end is actually threaded into the outer tie rod end and can be rotated to make adjustments during a wheel alignment.

Rack and pinion steering is almost always used with a strut suspension system. The bottom of the steering knuckle still pivots on a lower ball joint, but the top of the knuckle is connected to the strut assembly. In this system, the outer tie rod end is connected to an arm on the strut housing itself.

The advantage of rack and pinion steering is that it’s more precise than the mechanical system. By reducing the number of parts and pivot points, it can more accurately control wheel direction, making the steering more responsive. The disadvantage of a rack and pinion steering system is that it’s prone to leakage, requiring replacement of the steering rack assembly.

Suspension Systems
Suspension is the term given to the system of shock absorbers and linkages that connect a car to its wheels. The suspension system has two basic functions: 1) to keep the car’s wheels in firm contact with the road to provide traction and 2) to provide a comfortable ride for the passengers and isolate them from road noise, bumps and vibrations.

These goals are generally at odds, so the tuning of modern suspensions is often finding the right compromise. A lot of the system’s work is done by the springs. Under normal conditions, the springs support the body of the car evenly by compressing and rebounding with every up-and-down movement. This up-and-down movement, however, causes bouncing and swaying after each bump and is very uncomfortable to the passenger. These undesirable effects are reduced by the shock absorbers.

Springs: The springs used on today’s cars and trucks are constructed in a variety of types, shapes, sizes, rates and capacities. The most common types include coil springs, leaf springs and torsion bars. These are used in sets of four for each vehicle, or they may be paired off in various combinations and are attached by several different mounting techniques.

Coil springs and torsion bars are generally used in the front whereas leaf springs are generally used in the rear. Coil springs are generally installed between the upper and lower control arms with the shock absorber mounted inside the spring. In some cases, the coil spring is mounted on top of the upper control arm and a spring tower formed in the front-end sheet metal. Coil springs come in many rates and can be used to change the handling and ride characteristics of a vehicle.

Leaf springs are made from layers of spring steel bolted together through the center of the leafs. This center bolt locates the spring to the axle housing and is attached to the housing with large U-bolts. The ends of the leaf spring are attached to the frame or body through a shackle that allows the spring to flex without tearing out. The leaf springs also act as control arms to keep the axle housing in proper position.

Although a torsion bar is not technically a spring, from a practical standpoint it is. The torsion bar provides its spring action by the twisting of a flexible steel bar. This twisting of a steel bar provides the resistance to the up-and-down movement of the front end. There are two torsion bars, one for each front wheel. The rear of the torsion bar is mounted on the frame of the car and the front is bolted to the lower control arms. The big advantage of a torsion bar is that it’s easily adjustable. By turning the tensioning bolts, you can adjust the ride height very easily.

Shock Absorbers and Strut Assemblies: In the past, a wide variety of direct and indirect shock absorbing devices were used to control spring action of passenger cars. Today, hydraulic or gas shock absorbers and struts are the norm.

There seems to be much confusion over the differences between struts and shocks and which type is on any particular car. A shock absorber is independent of the steering and simply controls up and down movement of the suspension. There is no upper bearing mount to allow for turning of the unit. In the simplest terms, a front strut has a shock absorber mounted inside a housing and the entire unit can pivot with the steering system because of an upper bearing mount. Struts are mounted to the front steering knuckle and shocks mount to the lower control arm (wishbone, A-arm, etc.). The use of strut assemblies as an integral part of suspension systems on import cars has long been used for its compact design and weight savings over traditional double wish-bone suspensions.

Independent rear suspensions gave birth to rear wheel (actually, 4-wheel) alignment and this, in turn, gave birth to the use of strut assemblies in the rear of some cars. Although rare, it is possible to have struts on all four corners of the car, especially from Japanese car manufacturers and their US partners. Most cars today still use shock absorbers in the rear but some may be much more sophisticated than others to allow for self-levelling, load control and “smart” suspensions.

The operating principle of hydraulic shock absorbers is in forcing fluid through restricting openings in the valves. This restricted flow serves to slow down and control rapid movement in the car springs as they react to road irregularities. Usually, fluid flow through the pistons is controlled by spring-loaded valves. Hydraulic shock absorbers automatically adapt to the severity of the shock. If the axle moves slowly, resistance to the flow of fluid will be light. If the axle movement is rapid or violent, the resistance is stronger, since more time is required to force fluid through the openings.

By these actions and reactions, the shock absorbers permit a soft ride over small bumps and provide firm control over spring action for cushioning large bumps. The double-acting units must be effective in both directions because spring rebound can be almost as violent as the original action that compressed the shock absorber.

The strut assembly replaces the upper control arm, front shock absorber and ball joint, increasing handling and responsiveness. It controls ride much the same way as a standard hydraulic shock absorber. It also keeps the front end aligned and eliminates, in some cases, the need for caster and camber adjustments. In most cases, it also contains the front coil springs so care must be taken when you are replacing them.

The disadvantage of struts is that they will eventually start to leak and will require replacement. However, they generally last longer than a conventional shock absorber and that may offset the greater cost of the strut assembly. Moreover, some struts have an internal shock assembly (i.e., strut insert) that can be replaced separate from the rest of the housing, which provides a more economical solution than replacing the entire strut assembly.

Sway Bars: Another component of the suspension system is the sway bar. Some cars require stabilizers to steady the chassis against front-end roll and sway on turns. Stabilizers are designed to control this centrifugal tendency that forces a rising action on the side toward the inside of the turn. When the car turns and begins to lean over, the sway bar uses the upward force on the outer wheel to lift on the inner wheel, thus keeping the car more level.

Control Arms: The primary job of the control arms is to mount the suspension to the frame or body of the vehicle and to allow the suspension to move and keep it in its proper place. They come in all shapes and sizes and are specifically designed to maintain the geometry of the suspension in a wide range of movement. The most common problem is that the bushings at the body mounting points wear out causing unwanted movement and/or a terrible squeaking noise.

Automotive suspension systems are a critical part of your car’s driving characteristics, affecting not only comfort but also safety, stability and braking behavior. Each vehicle has a unique set of characteristics with specific shock requirements. That’s why it’s critical you use the OE brand (or one designed to OE specs) when replacing shocks or struts on your car.

Original equipment struts and shocks are designed and manufactured to the car manufacturer’s specifications for many critical requirements. The use of aftermarket struts or shocks may seriously affect the way your car responds to road conditions and your steering and braking input. The cost savings on a cheap brand is easily wasted in gas mileage, tire wear and suspension wear over the first year.

Sachs-Boge Shocks & Struts – Performance Under Pressure
AutohausAZ stocks only the original replacement struts and shocks from the original manufacturers – Sachs-Boge being the leader in this field for most European cars. Boge is an OE supplier for Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Saab, Volkswagen and Volvo. It’s chosen by the world’s leading car manufacturers as original equipment for consistent, superior ride control.

As a top supplier to the global automotive industry, Boge’s goal is to improve the comfort, reliability and safety specific to every new generation of cars. Their experience and commitment to quality assures the best products available to its customers on every level.

Today, you can find Sachs-Boge on every continent in the world, with an expanding production and distribution network dedicated to excellence. Throughout its long history, Sachs-Boge has carried its commitment to better service from the factory to the field. All Sachs factories worldwide meet or exceed the prestigious QS9000 Quality Standard!

Boge engineers have developed new materials and intelligent manufacturing processes, making important contributions in the areas of lightweight design and reduced fuel consumption. The result is the production of inexpensive, yet durable suspension components and systems.

All Sachs-Boge shocks are individually calibrated and tested before they leave the factory. Here are just a few of the design features Boge incorporates that demonstrate the company’s commitment to your safety:

Precision Piston Rod: Induction-hardened, chrome-plated piston rod, machined and super-polished to exact roundness for reduced friction.

Superior Oil Seal: All shocks feature a double-lip, low-friction seal for long life and consistent performance.

Calibrated Piston and Foot Valves: Valves are flow-rated and calibrated at the factory to ensure each unit specifies to within 1% of engineering tolerance.

Seamless Cylinder Tube: All piston tubes are specified to match the highest-quality Swiss seamless steel tubing technology.

Sachs-Boge shocks and struts are engineered with your needs in mind, providing you with superior ride control, comfort, safety, durability, consistent performance and, best of all, a limited lifetime warranty.

Maintenance of Steering & Suspension Systems
There is a lot of math going into the steering and suspension of your car. There are many forces and angles that have to be acted upon and maintained. If you notice any problems in the way your car steers or rides or you feel any body or steering wheel vibrations, you should have it checked out as soon as possible.

Replacing your car’s struts and shocks when required is vitally important to your safety and reduces the cost of operating your car through reduced tire wear, better gas mileage and lower maintenance costs on other suspension and steering components.

Routine inspection and maintenance of your car’s suspension system includes:

– Inspect shocks regularly for leaks, cracks and other damage.
– Look for vehicle bounce, sway when cornering and “nose dives” when braking.
– Check for uneven tire wear, which may indicate worn shocks and struts.

Worn struts and shocks should be replaced in pairs (left and right) and should be done as soon as problems are noted. You may be able to live with a little bouncing under normal driving but that same little bounce may cost you 30 or 40 feet in braking distance during an emergency stop. Those 2 car lengths may be the difference between avoiding an accident and being the cause of one.

Steering and suspension systems are fairly robust and generally not too much goes wrong with them. With the advent of rack and pinion steering and the use of strut suspensions, a lot of moving parts have been eliminated. But, things can still go wrong and cause a car to become hard to control. When something is wrong the very least that will happen is your tires will wear out very quickly; at most, it can lead to an accident.

As with any car problem, the causes can range from a mere inconvenience to major repair. Here are some things to look for when you have a car that doesn’t handle or respond properly, bearing in mind that these are only a sampling of the more likely causes:

Car seems to bounce too much: When you are driving down the road and hit a bump, your car keeps bouncing for a while. This will gradually get worse as time goes by.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– The shock absorbers are worn or leaking.
– The shock mounts for the shock absorbers are broken or bent.

Steering wheel is hard to turn: You find that it’s getting more difficult to turn the steering wheel. It feels like something is binding or dragging. This may or may not happen suddenly or get worse over time.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– Low tire pressure.
– The wheels are out of alignment.
– The power steering box or rack or power steering pump is bad.
– The fluid level in the power steering reservoir is low.
– The power steering drive belt is damaged or broken.
– The steering gear needs to be lubricated or repaired.

Hard steering: You notice it takes much more strength to turn the steering wheel. This is especially noticed when you are trying to park. The problem seems to be getting worse.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– Low tire pressure.
– The steering gear needs to be lubricated.
– The wheels are out of alignment.
– A part of the steering linkage is damaged and doesn’t move freely.
– Your steering box needs to be adjusted.
– You have a problem with the power steering pump.

Loose steering: You notice that the steering wheel is very easy to move and feels sloppy. It creates an uneasy feeling on the highway because it seems you have no control of your car. The problem seems to be getting worse.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– Steering linkage is worn and parts need to be replaced.
– Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened.
– Your steering box needs to be adjusted.

Power steering doesn’t seem to be working: It takes a lot of effort to turn the steering wheel. In fact, at low speeds you can hardly turn it. The problem is less obvious at high speeds simply because you need to move the steering wheel less at those speeds. The problem may have occurred suddenly.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– No fluid in the power steering reservoir.
– You have a bad power steering pump.
– The power steering drive belt is broken.
– The fluid in the system is contaminated and needs to be flushed and refilled with fresh fluid.
– You have a steering linkage problem.
– There is a leak in the power steering lines.
– Low tire pressure.

Car pulls to one side while moving: As you drive, the car tends to pull to one side or the other. You need to constantly hold the wheel firmly to keep the car going straight. This will have happened over time and is usually only noticed once the pulling has become severe.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– Tire pressures are not equal.
– The wheels are out of alignment.
– One brake is dragging or isn’t releasing.
– Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened.
– Your car’s tires are not worn evenly.

The car seems to wander down the road: As you are driving, you notice that you must constantly correct the direction of the car by turning the steering wheel. The problem seems to increase at higher speeds. This problem may occur gradually and get worse over time or it may appear suddenly.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– The car is overloaded or the weight is unevenly distributed.
– The wheels are out of alignment.
– The car’s springs are weak.
– Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened.
– The front wheel bearings are out of adjustment or are severely worn.

Steering wheel jerks: When you are driving slowly or idling, the steering wheel jumps or jerks. You don’t see any other problems as far as steering and handling go. It seems to be getting worse over time.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– The power steering drive belt is damaged or loose.
– The fluid level in the power steering reservoir is low.
– The engine is idling too low.
– You have a problem with the power steering pump.
– The steering linkage is rubbing against something.

Steering wheel vibrates: At 45 to 60 miles per hour the steering wheel begins to vibrate. You also notice that the car is vibrating or twitching. This can be very dangerous. If you notice the problem only occurs when you step on the brakes, it will make diagnosis simpler.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– Warped or damaged brake rotors and/or drums.
– Loose wheel lug nuts.
– Out-of-balance wheel and tire assemblies.
– Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened.
– Bent or damaged wheels.
– Severely worn or damaged tires.

Steering wheel shimmies: You notice a side-to-side wobble in the steering wheel when traveling at steady speeds. The vibration gets worse when you are on an uneven road surface or after going over a pot hole.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– Tire pressures are not equal.
– Out-of-balance wheel and tire assemblies.
– Worn or damaged tires.
– Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened.
– You have worn suspension parts.

Noises while turning a corner: You notice a knocking, clunking and/or squeaking noise when you turn a corner. Everything else seems to be fine except for the noise. The problem seems to be getting worse over time.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– The steering gear needs to be lubricated or repaired.
– Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened.
– Your tires are hitting or rubbing against something.
– You have worn suspension parts.
– Something is rubbing against or hitting the steering column.

Noises from the power steering unit: You notice a whining or moaning from the steering when you turn the steering wheel all the way in one direction. Everything else seems to be fine except for the noise. The problem seems to be getting worse over time.

POSSIBLE CAUSES:

– The power steering drive belt is damaged or loose.
– The fluid in the power steering system has air in it that needs to be bled out.
– The fluid level in the power steering reservoir is low.
– The mount for the power steering pump is loose or damaged.

A Few Important Things to Remember
Heed the following repair tips when maintaining your car’s steering and suspension systems to avoid problems:

Tip #1: Do not attempt repairs that are beyond your tools and expertise level, these systems are critical and life-threatening if repaired incorrectly.

Tip #2: Purchase or borrow a torque wrench BEFORE starting. ALL mounting bolts and nuts MUST be torqued to factory specs to maintain the integrity of the entire system. Factory torque specs can be found in most competent service manuals, from a friendly dealership parts department, or through online repair sites and bulletin boards.

Tip #3: BEFORE replacing tie rods or tie rod ends, measure and mark the relative position of the old parts so that the new units will be the same overall length. In that way, the wheel alignment will be relatively the same as before the repair and the car can be safely driven to an alignment shop.

Tip #4: After replacing any steering or front suspension components (except shock absorbers), the front wheel alignment MUST be checked and reset to correct orientation. This cannot be done to any degree of accuracy without using an alignment machine – “eyeballing it” may seem okay but may cause premature wear or damage to the parts you just replaced and to your tires. It can also be dangerous to drive a car that is out of alignment by as little as 5 degrees!

Know More About Gas Pump Tricks To Save Money On Fuel

With today’s high gas prices, we’re all looking for any way we can to save money at the gas station. We’re driving less. We’re driving slower. We’re buying cars based on fuel efficiency ratings. We’re even buying hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. Gas has become one of the bigger items in all of our monthly budgets.

If you want to reduce the portion of your disposable income allocated to gasoline, we suggest you read Auto Repair #14: Top Tips to Improve Fuel Efficiency (How to Improve Your Car’s Gas Mileage)

. In addition to those timely tips, below are some tricks you can use to give you your money’s worth for every gallon of gasoline. These gas pump tricks were provided by someone who’s been in the petroleum industry for more than 30 years.
Gas Pump Tip #1: Fill up your car or truck with gas in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Gas stations have their storage tanks buried below ground, and the colder the ground, the denser the gasoline. As it gets warmer, the gasoline expands, so if you buy gas in the afternoon or in the evening, the gallon you pay for is not exactly a gallon. This is because gas stations don’t have temperature compensation at the gas pumps to adjust for the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel or ethanol. Every one degree change in temperature can make a big difference in your overall fuel costs.

Gas Pump Tip #2: When you’re filling up your fuel tank, don’t squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to the fastest mode. The trigger has three settings – low, medium, and high. Use the low (slow) mode to minimize the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fastest mode, some of the liquid fuel going into your fuel tank becomes vapor. This vapor is then sucked up and back into the underground storage tank via the vapor return. You’re getting less value for your money since the pump registers the dispensing of the fuel but not the vaporized fuel that comes back out of your fuel tank and returns to the underground tank.

Gas Pump Tip #3: One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is half full (or half empty depending on your orientation). The more gas you have in your tank, the less air occupying the empty space in your tank. Because gasoline evaporates (turns into vapor) very quickly, you want as little empty space available as possible to minimize evaporation. (See Tip #2 for the reason for this.)

Gas Pump Tip #4: If there’s a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks at the gas station where you’re thinking of stopping to pump gas, do not stop and fill up at that service station. When fuel is being pumped into the storage tanks, the gasoline in the tank is being stirred up as the new fuel is flowing into the tank. You may end up picking up some of the dirt and sediment that normally settles to the bottom of the tank.

Improve Fuel Efficiency

In today’s world, fuel efficiency is becoming a higher and higher priority. With average gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon in the U.S., more and more consumers are trying to find ways to decrease the amount of gas they use. We have compiled a list of some of the best ways to reduce the amount of gas consumption for your household.

One of the most obvious ways to limit your gasoline consumption is to drive less. For years, everyone has touted the benefit of car pooling. Most cities have even created car pool lanes on their freeways and highways. Instead of 5 people taking 5 cars, 5 people can fit in one car. Using those numbers, 5 employees can reduce their to and from work travel gas cost by 80 percent each. If you live and work inside a city, also consider public transportation. Even though there may be a stigma attached to riding the bus, it can greatly reduce your community costs.

Besides car pooling and public transportation, combining trips and errands can greatly reduce your consumption. A vehicle will operate most efficiently after it has properly warmed up. Short trips usually do not let the car warm up to peak efficiency. When you combine your errands, you reduce the amount of inefficient trips and create a trip that lets the car get to peak efficiency. Many people tend to run errands throughout the week when it is most convenient. Try and combine all your errands for one trip. This will limit the amount of times you actually drive your car and reduces your overall gas cost. Errand combination especially helps when you find yourself going to the same area multiple times a week. A good example of this is the local strip mall. If you find yourself needing to pick up a prescription at the local drugstore, try and do the grocery shopping you had planned for later in the week since the supermarket is right next door to the pharmacy.

You can also adjust your driving habits. Most cars are designed to operate at peak fuel efficiency between 35 mph and 60 mph. Most highways have in city speed limits of 55 mph. This means not speeding will actually help conserve gasoline. Statistics show for every 5 mph over 60 mph you drive, you lose almost 10 percent of your fuel efficiency. Driving more sensibly also helps to conserve gas. Avoid hard acceleration, excessive braking and speeding. You can lower fuel efficiency by almost a third by hard driving. Cruise control is also a helpful tool in conserving gas. If you find yourself driving long flat stretches of road, try and use the cruise control. This helps the car maintain a constant speed which will lower your gas consumption. Most cars also have overdrive gears. This is usually the top gear in manual transmission and is the OD gear for automatics. Try and use these gears as much as possible. It will reduce the rpms of your engine and reduce gasoline usage. Idling is also a problem. When you idle your vehicle, you are using gas but not moving. This wastes almost 100 percent of the gas used.

Time of day can play a huge part in how much you use gas as well. If possible, try and reduce the amount of time you spend in rush hour traffic. More and more business are allowing employees to change their start and end time at work. If you can come manage to miss rush hour traffic, you can increase your fuel efficiency tremendously. During rush hour traffic, your vehicle will most likely not get the chance to get to a peak fuel efficiency speed.

Another item we overlook often is heavy items within your vehicle. Many people leave items in their car. For about every 100 lbs you carry in your car, you reduce your miles per gallon by about 2 percent. A mistake many truck owners make is to lower the tailgate to increase mpg. This is a fallacy. Trucks beds are most aerodynamic when the tailgate is in the up and closed position. When the tailgate is up, the bed of the truck will actually pressurize and the wind blowing over the truck will see the bed as an extension of the cab.

Other options include finding more fuel efficient transportation. Many consumers have been buying SUVs for their ability to haul the whole family with room left to spare for a lot of cargo. This makes sense when you are trying to carry a lot, but what about all the trips where your SUV is mostly empty. These vehicles usually get very poor mileage. If you plan on getting a new vehicle soon, plan on looking at some of the more fuel efficient vehicles. Many SUVs now come in hybrid versions as well. If you drive a lot by yourself with no need for cargo space, consider adding a motorcycle to your stable. Most motorcycles will see gas mileage in the 30 to 50 mpg range. This is considerably more than a lot of vehicles on the road. The purchase of a motorcycle can sometimes pay for itself in about a year with gas savings.

Now let’s look at how maintenance plays a large role in your fuel consumption. A vehicle sees its best mpg when it is in peak running condition. Keeping your engine properly tuned can improve your actual mpg by up to 4%. Replacing your air filter on a regular basis can save you another 10%. Inflating your tires to the manufacturers specifications can save another 3%. On their own these are not very big, but added together they can save you a lot of money. One of the most important and overlooked parts of your vehicle are the oxygen sensors. These sensors are what helps the car’s computer decided how much gasoline your engine needs at any given time. A faulty sensor can hurt your mpg by up to 40%. With gas at its current price, this is a huge dent in the wallet. Keeping the fuel system in your vehicle in tip top shape is also important. Check and replace if needed any component of the system. Filters, pumps, injectors and seals are all parts of the fuel system that should be checked on a regular basis and replaced if faulty.

Using the recommended octane of gas is important too. Even though the cheap stuff is considerably less than the premium, use the premium if your auto requires it. Many vehicles these days will actually suffer a considerable loss in fuel efficiency with the lower octane. People do not realize using the lower grade gas will actually increase their fuel cost by lower fuel efficiency. Using the correct motor oil should also be a consideration. Always use the oil your manufacturer specifies. In addition, look for motor oil that says energy conserving. These oils have additives to help reduce friction within the engine. The lower the friction, the better the engine operates. This also means follow recommended oil change intervals. As oil is used in the engine, it breaks down causing reduced friction protection for your engine.

Tips To Make Your Car Ready for Winter

Taking care of your car is important all year long, but there are certain auto maintenance checks specific to falling temperatures and winter driving. No time is convenient for your car to break down, but that’s especially true in a blizzard and freezing cold temperatures.

Here are a few tips to keep your car running efficiently through the winter:

Top Off Your Car’s Fluids
First a word of caution on fluids – particularly for import cars. Car manufacturer’s are required to specify in their owner’s manuals all the fluids to be used in your car and the manufacturer’s OE specifications for each. Make sure to check here first – BEFORE adding any fluids to your car.

Check your antifreeze (radiator fluid). This should be checked periodically throughout the year but is especially critical to protecting your car in winter. Your car should be a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. Make sure the level is full and the mixture is 50/50. Remember never to remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled. Flushing the system prior to refilling is also recommended about every 24 months.

For more information on antifreeze, visit Cooling System Repairs: It’s Easy to Prevent Breakdowns BEFORE They Happen .

Check and maintain the engine oil level as well, making sure to use the proper viscosity oil for the winter temperatures in your area. Many newer models use synthetic or synthetic blend oils year round but older models can benefit from using a lower viscosity winter oil such as 0W30 or 5W30. The lower viscosity will allow the engine to turn over and start a bit easier and will protect the cold engine better at startup.

You may want to read Engine Knock? Low Oil Pressure? Engine How To Diagnose Needed Repairs for further information on this topic.

Check the automatic transmission fluid level to prevent transmission slippage. This is important year round but more noticeable in the winter because the fluid viscosity increases due to the cold.

For more specific information on checking your car’s fluids, see Perform Monthly Car Maintenance & Keep Auto Repair Costs Way Down.

Replace Your Wiper Blades
Inspect your wiper blades. Are they dried out and cracked or falling apart? Wiper blades should be checked periodically and replaced every 6 months. Remember that just because you’re not using them all the time doesn’t mean they’re going to work when you need them. Wiper blades wear out from exposure to the elements. Winter, with its snow, ice and salt, is very harsh on your wiper blades. Consider keeping an extra set of wiper blades in your car just in case. Wiper blades are a big part of keeping your windshield clean and helping you to see the road better and drive safer.

Make sure to also stock up on windshield washer solvent – you’ll be surprised at how much you use. Most quality washer solvents will contain some alcohol to prevent them from freezing in the winter and leaving you without a way to clean your windshield.

For more information on wiper blades, visit Replacing Wiper Blades Regularly Saves Lives & Windshields.

Inspect Your Tires
Check the air pressure in your tires on a regular basis, at least once a month since that’s all it takes for the air pressure to change within the tire, especially in winter. Cold weather deflates tires because cold air is denser and it exerts less pressure against the tire. Always check your tires cold before driving as that’s the most accurate reading and the one recommended by the manufacturer. And, make sure you know the proper air pressure for your tires – check your owner’s manual or the sticker on the driver’s door post.

It’s never a good idea to drive on under-inflated or over-inflated tires. Under-inflated tires cause the tread to wear on the outside edges of your tires, increase heat to the tire and cause an increase in the resistance of the tire’s movement; whereas, over-inflated tires increase tread wear on the center of your tires and are less safe because this reduces the size of the contact patch with the road. Uneven tread wear will also reduce the life of your tires and require replacement earlier than normal.

Most importantly, check the depth of your tire’s tread. Worn out tread or bald tires cause safety issues since traction is reduced, decreasing your ability to control and stop your car. It’s recommended that the tread depth of your tires be at least 2/32″, but most experts recommend having no less than 4/32″ and even at this depth, you should consider replacing your tires. An easy way to test your tire’s tread depth is by simply using a penny inserted in the tread Lincoln’s head side down, if you can see the top of his head then your tread depth is below the 2/32″ minimum. You should also have your tires inspected and rotated every 6,000 miles or twice a year.

Finally, make sure that you check your spare tire and you have all the tools needed to change a tire and they’re in working order. Also, check your brakes. For more information on brakes, check out Brake Repairs Needed? Don’t Take Chances with Your Brakes – Repair Them Now.

Make Sure All Your Lights Are Working
Check your headlights, brake lights and turn signals to make sure they’re working properly. Having your lights in working order helps you see the road better and helps other drivers see you. Make sure to keep the lenses clean. Snow, ice, salt and sand can build up quickly, causing you to lose visibility and other drivers to lose the ability to see you. Increased braking distance in the snow and ice means you want to be sure other drivers can see you as early as possible.

Examine Your Battery
Does your car not want to start in the morning? Check your battery. Cold weather will reduce a battery’s amperage capacity. Conduct a thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals and fluid to make sure your battery is ready for winter.

Check your battery cables for cracks and breaks and check that your terminals fit snugly with no loose connections. The battery’s fluid can be checked by uncovering the refill hole(s), if so equipped. If the level is below the bottom of the cap, refill with distilled water.

Also, check for any corrosion (buildup formed by acid condensation). You should be able to see your battery clearly; if not, your battery needs to be cleaned. An inexpensive battery cleaner is baking soda and water – the baking soda neutralizes the acid which corrodes the metal terminals and cable connectors. Rinse very thoroughly with water and reapply baking soda mixture until no further bubbling occurs.

Checking the charge level of your battery is also an important preventive maintenance step. To read the level of charge, you’ll need to turn the engine off. Some batteries have a built-in hydrometer eye that tells you the amount of voltage remaining in the battery. If you prefer, a handheld battery hydrometer can be used to collect the same information (if you have a battery with inspection/refill holes) or you can use a digital DC voltmeter. If you have any doubts about the condition of the battery, it should be professionally tested along with the charging system. Many auto part chain stores offer this as a free service.

Once you know the level of energy your battery has, compare its voltage with these figures:

12.6V to 12.8V: full charge
12.2V to 12.4V: half charge
11.8V to 12.0V: discharged

If you’re shopping for a new battery, never buy one with a six-month or older manufacture date. In the United States, the manufacturing date is printed on a sticker. The date can be written in plain text or using an alphanumerical code. The first character is a letter that specifies the month (A for January, B for February and so on). The letter “I” is skipped due to its potential to be mistaken for the number 1. The second character is a single digit that indicates the year of manufacturing (for example, 8 for 2008).

Inspect Your Belts
Cold weather can cause your belts to slip, causing a squealing noise when you start the engine. As they warm up from friction, the squealing noise will normally go away but if it lasts more than a few seconds. you may need to adjust or replace your belts. Most newer cars use serpentine belts that are tensioned automatically but older V-belt engines do require occasional checking and adjusting.

Also, the additional road grime caused by winter driving can build up on the belts causing them to slip and squeal, so cleaning the engine once or twice during the winter is a good idea.

Wax/Polish Your Car’s Finish
The last thing you may want to do when it’s getting cold outside is to wax the car. A good quality wax or polish can protect the finish from winter road grime. Be sure to use one suitable for your vehicle – in particular, there are specific waxes made for later models with base/clear coat paint systems.

Prepare an Emergency Kit for the Trunk
The best way to prepare for winter is to expect the worst before it happens. Assemble a good trunk emergency kit ahead of time and you’ll be prepared for anything. In addition to the items you’d normally have handy (jumper cables, tool kit, road flares, cell phone and charger, etc.), a winter kit should also include a small shovel, a good heavy blanket, extra coat and hat, gloves and possibly even a bag of sand or rock salt. These extra winter supplies will either help you get out if you’re stuck or keep you warm while you wait for help.

Car Safety Checklist

Many of us take for granted that our cars will start for us in the morning and get us to where we need to go. Without regular car maintenance, however, this reliability won’t last long. The potential effects of not regularly maintaining your car include reductions in vehicle performance, highway safety and air quality, in addition to added repair costs.

To encourage awareness of the need for regular car maintenance, the Car Care Council annually promotes car care months in April and October. Volunteers from across the country conduct inspection events and return the inspection forms to the Car Care Council for analysis. Not surprisingly, results from 722 cars tested in 12 states showed an 80% failure rate in 2008 for at least one part or system. That’s 8 out of 10 cars failing at least one portion of the car inspection!

What Components Failed Car Inspections?
Statistics from the inspections show the need to educate consumers on the importance of car maintenance and repair. What follows is a sampling of the percentage of cars failing each part of the inspection process during the most recent Car Care Council’s testing.

Lubricants and Fluids – Based on the study, here are the failure percentages for auto lubricants and fluids:

Engine Oil – 32%
Washer Fluid – 23%
Coolant (Flush) – 21%
Transmission Fluid – 17%
Power Steering Fluid – 15%
Brake Fluid – 14%

Low fluid levels can affect the performance of your car, introduce safety issues and cause costly damage to the internal parts of your car. But, overfull and dirty fluids can also cause problems.

One way to troubleshoot leaks that you may find on your driveway or garage floor that could be causing problems with your car’s lubricants and fluid levels is to look at the color. If you find discharge, check the color against the following guidelines to determine where your car may have a problem.

Bright Green Fluid: Radiator coolant (can also be orange, purple or red on later model cars). This may be leaking from the radiator, from the expansion/overflow tank or from one of the many coolant hoses on your car. Coolant normally has a sickeningly sweet smell, especially when hot, and will leave a crusty trail as it dries, helping you to find the original leak point.

Light or Dark Brown Fluid: Engine oil (light brown if you change your oil often; dark if you don’t). This could be leaking from an improperly sealed or tightened oil filter, the oil pan, the valve cover or any number of oil seals on the engine. Oil will have a burnt smell.

Bright Blue Fluid: Windshield washer fluid. This could be coming from the washer fluid reservoir or from the hoses leading to/from it. There is usually little or no odor since it is mainly water.

Light Brown Fluid: If there is also a strong odor of rotten eggs, this is gear lube or what is referred to as 90 weight oil due to its thickness. It may be leaking from the rear axle center section, differential or the manual transmission front or rear seals.

Red Fluid: Automatic transmission or power steering fluid. Normally, this has very little odor unless burned but check for drips from the power steering pump, steering gear or rack, hydraulic hoses from the reservoir to the pump or rack, or from the front or rear seals on an automatic transmission.

Clear Fluid: Power steering fluid or water from the evaporator drain on the A/C unit. Check the feel of the fluid. Power steering or brake fluid will be oily with a slight oil smell. A/C drain water will have little or no smell and will evaporate quickly. For power steering fluid leaks, see “Red Fluid” above; for brake fluid, see “Light Yellow Fluid” below.

Light Yellow or Dark Muddy Brown Fluid: It’s very important to change your brake fluid annually. It’s clear to light yellow when new but as it absorbs water, the fluid becomes a dark, muddy brown. Brake fluid leaks can be from the reservoir, ABS control valves, or any of the metal or rubber lines between master cylinder and the wheel cylinders or calipers. Brake fluid is extremely corrosive and must be cleaned off paint or rubber immediately to avoid damage.

Amber Fluid: Gasoline. There will be a distinct odor. Fuel leaks can be difficult to find because fuel evaporates quickly. Leaks can occur at any of the hose or metal line connections between the gas tank and the engine compartment. In particular, check the fuel filter lines and fuel lines connecting to the fuel injectors or carburetor as fuel leaks in the engine compartment can caues a fire due to the heat of the exhaust system. Over time, moisture in the gas tank can cause rust and the tank may develop a pinhole. Fuel leaks at the tank will normally require removal of the tank for repair.

For more information on checking fluids and other monthly maintenance tips, see Perform Monthly Car Maintenance & Keep Auto Repair Costs Way Down

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Windshield Wipers – Based on the study, 15% of front windshield wipers and 10% of rear wipers failed.

Windshield wipers are a key safety feature for road visibility, but are often overlooked until you go to use them and they don’t work. Wiper blades should be checked periodically and replaced every six months. You should consider keeping an extra set of wiper blades in your car just in case – particularly during the rainy season and winter months.

For more information on your car’s windshield wipers, see Replacing Wiper Blades Regularly Saves Lives & Windshields and Bosch Icon Wiper Blades Provide Cleanest Windshields Ever.

Lighting – Lights of various kinds affect your ability to see what’s in front of you and allow others to see you and determine your intentions. They also tell you what’s happening with the operation of your car (dashboard lights).

Because lighting directly affects your safety and that of the cars around you, it’s surprising to see the following failure rates in various lighting categories:

License Plate Lights – 10%
Brake Lights – 9%
Backup Lights – 3%
Side Marker Lights – 3%
Turn Signal Lights – 3%
Parking Lights/Tail Lights – 3%
Dash Indicator Lights – 2%

Automotive lighting is a way of communicating among drivers and it’s vital to any properly functioning car. Lights are also a key safety feature for road visibility – not just helping you see the road better, but for other drivers to see you too. It’s easy to see that taking a few minutes to check that all of your lights are operational is well worth the effort.

Engine & Safety-Related Parts – Falling into the failure category of parts that could cause engine reliability or safety problems are the following:

Air Filter – 18%
Belts – 18%
Check Engine Light – 9%
PCV Filter – 7%
Hoses – 7%
Radiator Cooling Fan(s) – 2%
Horn – 2%
Mirrors – 2%

A clogged or dirty air filter not only affects your car’s performance (robbing you of power), it also affects your gas mileage. Since different types of filter elements and driving conditions affect the cleanliness of your air filter, you should consider replacement around every 15,000 miles or once a year, depending on your local driving conditions.

Drive belts stretch, crack and harden over time, which can lead to slipping or breaking, leaving you stranded. The belt tensioner maintains a constant pressure on the belt but, as the belt stretches, the tensioner may only take out some of the slack or with v-belts you must move a pulley or accessory to manually tighten the belts. Loose or slipping belts will squeal, especially when cold, and cause the power steering pump, water pump, alternator, or A/C compressor to not function at full capacity.

Obviously the “Check Engine” light is a warning device to indicate a problem or condition requiring attention. Usually a flashing Check Engine light means a problem has occurred that should be investigated as soon as possible BUT a constant Check Engine light indicates a major malfunction requiring you to pull over immediately and shut off the vehicle. The Check Engine light can also mean that a specified service interval has been reached (100,000 miles for example) that requires a specific major service such as replacing the oxygen sensors. ALL Check Engine light (or any other dashboard warning lights) should be investigated immediately to avoid unsafe or damaging operating conditions.

Some cars still have a PCV filter. If you have one, it should be replaced every 15,000 miles, along with the PCV valve. The PCV valve is normally located in a breather hose from the valve cover to the air intake system, the filter being located where that hose attaches to the air intake.

Your car has numerous hoses to check within the engine compartment, from the cooling system to the air intake system as well as the fuel system. Rubber hoses will get brittle with age and heat, which can cause them to fail. You can check hoses for flexibility by squeezing them (do so when cold; do not touch hot coolant hoses) and checking them for signs of cracking or splitting.

It also a good practice to replace all the coolant hoses including heater hoses every 3 or 4 years. Cracked or loose air system hoses can cause engine hesitation or inconsistent operation resulting in poor mileage. Check these periodically for cracks, splitting, or loose hose clamps. Cars with fuel injection use prefitted high pressure fuel hose lines. These should be checked visually for cracking but if in need of replacement, they MUST be replaced with exact fitted replacements using proper tools and techniques.

Your radiator cooling fan is designed to move air through the radiator when the car is at slower speeds or stopped. The air flow removes heat created by the engine from the coolant using the radiator as a conductor. If the cooling fan fails, it causes the coolant to retain heat, forcing the engine to run hot and eventually overheat.

Checking the horn is obviously quite simple – just press on the steering wheel horn pad or buttons. Due to the location of most horns in the front fender or radiator support areas, the wire connections can become damaged or disconnected due to road debris. Most horns have a dedicated fuse because it is a “hot” system that doesn’t require the key in the ignition. If the horn doesn’t work, first check the fuse box under the dashboard or inside the engine compartment. Then check the horns for loose or damaged wiring and repair or replace as needed.

Having functional mirrors on your car is essential to your safety and being able to see the other vehicles around you in traffic. All passenger vehicles must have either an inside rearview mirror plus one on the driver’s door OR two outside mirrors one on each front door. A damaged or missing mirror is not only dangerous but alsdo it may be against local vehicle laws so it should be repaired or replaced immediately.

For more information on these items, AutohausAZ has several articles that may be of interest to you:

Tuneup & Auto Maintenance Tips to Lengthen Your Import Car’s Life
Perform Monthly Car Maintenance & Keep Auto Repair Costs Way Down
Cooling System Repairs – It’s Easy to Prevent Breakdowns BEFORE They Happen

Or feel free to browse through all of the published articles in Gasoline Alley for specific topics of interest to you.

Battery – Your car’s battery is the heart of the electrical system powering your car and all of its electrical components. Obviously, a car capable of being tested would not have a failed battery. However, testing did find that cables, clamps or terminals failed in 10% of the cars tested, while carrier or hold-down failures occurred in 7% of the cars tested.

Your car’s battery should be checked regularly for corrosion around the terminals. The clamps and cables should also be checked for corrosion and fraying. Avoiding regular checks of your battery can result in your car not starting, leaving you stranded. Corroded connections can also prevent the battery from charging which, over time, will overwork the alternator, resulting in its failure and an even larger replacement expense.

Battery hold-downs (straps) are used to prevent the battery from moving, vibrating or spilling over while your car is in motion. Vibration will cause the battery to fail prematurely. Sharp movement or excessive vibration will cause metallic material to fall off the internal plates, potentially ruining the battery. Furthermore, the battery carrier or tray underneath the battery aids in securing the battery to the vehicle. Double check these, especially when replacing your battery. A badly corroded or rusted battery tray should be replaced to prevent the battery from falling out. Minor corrosion should be cleaned/neutralized with a baking soda and water solution or any commercially available battery cleaner as corrosion will continue to destroy the metal until it is completely gone.

For more information on your car’s electrical system (including the battery), see Understanding Your Import Car’s Electrical System.

Tires – Driving on tires that are bald, badly worn or unevenly worn greatly increases your chance of getting a flat or a blowout. It’s especially dangerous when the roads are wet or slick since it decreases your ability to stop or control your car.

Yet, testing indicated that 15% of cars tested failed tire pressure checks and 12% failed checks of tire depth – both of which are conditions that could potentially pose safety risks.

It’s important that you check the air pressure in your tires on a regular basis, at least once a month, since that’s all it takes for the air pressure to change within the tire. Always check your tires cold before driving to obtain the most accurate reading. And, of course, make sure you know the proper air pressure for your tires – check your owner’s manual or the sticker on the driver’s door post.

Even more importantly, check the depth of your tire’s tread. Worn out tread or bald tires cause safety issues since traction is reduced, decreasing your ability to control and stop your car. It’s recommended that the tread depth of your tires be at least 2/32″, but most experts recommend having no less than 4/32″. Even at this depth, you should consider replacing your tires.

Let’s Learn About Car Repair Guide

You can find them at any automotive repair and car accessory store, on the Internet, and just about anywhere else involving vehicles: the car repair guide. They come in versions for young drivers and everywhere in-between, but they’re all basically the same in that a car repair guide teaches the car owner, step by step, how to repair a car.

A car repair guide covers every kind of vehicle, from its year to its make and model, starting as far back as 1950. Say you own a 1989 Chevrolet Camaro or a 2000 Pontiac Sunfire – all you have to do is have the year, make, and model of your vehicle, and you’ll find a car repair guide that covers the body and trim, brakes, chassis, drive train, engine, fuel system, suspension and steering, and general information and maintenance. For example, let’s say you want to change the brakes on your 1995 Honda Accord. An auto repair guide is going to start by showing you three pictures and giving you five steps in which to complete the repair. First, it will tell you to loosen the locknut on the brake light switch and back off the switch until it doesn’t touch the pedal shaft. Following that will be more instructions, illustrated by pictures of the brakes which show you the precise location of the pushrod locknut, brake light switch, and brake light switch locknut. A second diagram will illustrate how to adjust the height and loosen the locknut on the pushrod.

Whether you’re online or flipping through a car repair guide you picked up somewhere, car repair guides are an essential part of a do-it-yourself lifestyle. Each guide is specific to a vehicle and includes detailed information and diagrams on how to get your truck, car, or SUV on the road again. Normally, car repair guides will have step-by-step instructions along with wiring diagrams, detailed drawings and photographs, repair tips, and specification charts.

A car repair guide will show you how to change your spark plugs every 30,000 miles to keep your car from stalling, misfiring, and using too much fuel; how to change your spark plug wires to keep your car from hesitating or starting too hard; and how to replace your air filter every 12,000 miles to keep your car’s best horsepower up and fuel usage down. A car repair guide will also walk you through changing other filters that are often neglected, like the fuel filter, PCV valve, and breather element. These forgotten filters should be changed every 12,000 miles and are often left out during routine tune-ups, which can cause a variety of problems while driving.

The ten most common car repairs that people do themselves are changing the oil; replacing the air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs, battery, disc brake pads, drum brakes, ignition coils, electric fuel pump; and jump-starting the battery. All of these repairs can be found in a car repair guide, and doing it yourself will help you save money in the long run. A car repair guide will also include maintenance and troubleshooting tips, so you’ll be able to take care of your car and keep it running like new as well as figure out the problem – or close to it – when something goes wrong.

All About Car Windshield Repair

If your car window has been cracked by a rock, you don’t have to replace your entire window. You can just repair it at a fraction of the price that you’d pay if you were to report it to your insurance company or if your insurance agent was to send you to an inexpensive repairman.

The easiest types of cracks to fix are small bulls-eye holes or cracks caused by pebbles or stones. Depending on the size of the crack in your windshield, about $60 is the average amount you will spend on repairing it, compared to about $300 to replace an entire windshield. Or, you can find a car windshield repair kit, which runs around $12.95, through the Internet, a local auto parts store, or a local windshield repair company. Prices may vary at different locations. There are several on the market for under $10 that claim to fix most types of glass damage, from windshields to headlights. It is nearly invisible and uses a professional resin injector system and UV cure epoxy to allow repairs to be done in 20 minutes. Other car windshield repair kits use special vacuum and pressure settings in an individual spring-loaded injector with just one seal to exchange.

If your crack is substantial, searching the yellow pages in the phone book or doing an online search can help you find car windshield repair companies. You can have one of these windshield repair companies fix your vehicle in the parking lot while you’re at work or in your own driveway at home. The mobile car windshield wizards have a process to their magic: starting by drilling tiny holes in the glass, a special glazing technique is used to fill the cracks with a substance that stops cracks from dispersing when it hardens. Like a liquid resin that a dentist would use to repair your teeth, it is hardened with ultraviolet light. The only sign that your windshield has been repaired is a small blur where the crack was, but sometimes even that can’t be seen.

Besides the money you save, there are a number of reasons to consider repairing your cracked windshield by yourself. If you have a rare vehicle with a unique windshield, it could be difficult to find the exact size and shape windshield that you need, and sometimes it is difficult to find someone who will work well with you.

You should consider fixing your cracked windshield if you have even a small spot, because little cracks start to spread and turn into large cracks. A vehicle’s windshield is also an important safety factor in that it supports the roof of the vehicle, keeping it from caving in on itself in the case of an accident. Not only that, but if the crack is in the view of the driver, it could obstruct or distract from the other cars and passengers on the road. The bonus side to knowing how to perform your own car windshield repair is that not many people take the time to learn the skill, and many people utilize car windshield repair kits to start a business repairing car windshields for other people.

Information About Car Scratch Repair Tips

You accidentally scratched your car door with your keys while you had your hands full and now you have an awful mark staring back at you every time you get into your car. Do you have to go to a professional who will charge you for labor? Or can you do it yourself for a fairly cheap price? Well, the answer is, an undersized scuff is something you can most likely fix at home by yourself. However, if you’re small scratch looks more like a tree branch than a stick; it’s time to consult the professionals.

Car scratch repair requires a couple of research steps before you can proceed on the actual scratch repairing. First you have to determine if your car has an enameled based paint, because some of the paint jobs on newer model vehicles won’t blend well with lacquer-based primer paint. Before you get started on the actual work, you can consult your local auto parts store to help you determine the exact color of your car. Take your VIN number so that you can match up the cover-up paint with the car’s original coat. You may be able to find the paint color code listed on the edging of the doorframe or in the glove compartment. A dealership would also be able to tell you the exact color paint you’ll need to repair the car scratch.

Next, buy primer paint labeled for automobile use in a lighter color and body compound that will go on easily in one coat. Then, wash the scuffed area with a laundry detergent to remove any wax or grit that might affect your recover paint. After that, take some fine-grained sandpaper and sand along the scratch, polishing away any rust you find. When sanding the scratched area, you may find that it is easier to buff out enamel with 1500-grit or 2000-grit sandpaper to avoid sanding marks. Be sure to blow or brush away any dust that accumulates and then use masking tape and newspaper to separate the scrape. Leave half an inch of room around the car scratch to work.

As you continue, you’ll need to use a plastic putty knife to apply body compound to any deep scratches; a metal one will cause more damage. Make sure to read the instructions on the label and follow them closely. After the body compound hardens, you can sand the spot flat and blow away all the dust again. Then, spray the primer onto the scratch and let it dry overnight. In the morning, use the brush from the touchup paint to paint the area, and then let it dry overnight. You may find that a finish polish is less abrasive than a regular compound.

It’s time to consult the professionals if the scratch on your car is stretched across a door or the hood, because you’ll find a better finished-product by having a body repair shop repaint the entire panel. If a scratch or scrape is left alone for a long time without repair, the area could start to rust, which is nearly impossible to stop once it has started. A small scratch, though, should be easy to tackle with the car scratch repair instructions given here.

Should You Know About Car Repairs and Preventative Maintenance

Did you know that every year in the US there are more than 10,000 car accidents and some 400 Americans die in them. The usual reason is failure to have routine maintenance done on cars.

The car is the most popular and usual means of transportation in the United States, and about 90% if adult Americans own one now or used to own one. By keeping your car in good condition you can reduce the risk of easy to fix problems causing an accident that could kill you, your passengers or people in other cars.

Before hitting the road, you should check the following items regularly.

1. Your Tires – Lots of American cars have all season tires on them. What ever the kind of tire you use it is important to regularly check them. Check for air levels, flats, leaks, worn spots, over use, low treads. Just inspect your tires weekly.
2. Your Wipers –You should change your windshield wipers at least twice a year. So that means just about every six months.

3. Your Brakes – You need your brakes to slow your car down when you press on them. If you press on your brake pedal and it goes all the way to the floor, you need to have them checked. They are way too low.

Newer cars may have a brake warning system in to automatically let you know when there is a problem with your cars brakes. It is usually found on your dashboard, and will light up if it finds a problem with the brakes.

This signal will let you know it is time to have a mechanic check out the brake system unless you are handy enough to fix it yourself. Check your owners manual to see what your specific problem may be.
4. Your Headlights – Can you believe that in the year 2005 more than 2300 pedestrians died because some drivers had problems with either their headlights or their vision. You should replace your headlights every year.

Here is my top 10 List for visits to the mechanic

1. Electronic/Ignition control
2. Electrical problem
3. Suspension/steering
4. Brake system
5. Oil change/filters/lube
6. Radiator problem
7. Exhaust system
8. Fuel system/carburetor
9. Clutch/transmission
10. Air conditioning system

Keeping up with routine check ups and car maintenance can be expensive. That is the most common reason that lots of people don’t keep up with the maintenance as suggested in their car owners manual. You can find ways to save money on auto repairs.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confirmed that $20 billion was spent on auto repairs that were not necessary due to fraud and incompetence. Here are some simple tips for you to show you how you can afford repairs when you need to have them done.

1. Preventive Maintenance – This can save you a lot of money during the life of your car. It will prevent serious damage that can be done to your car by letting little problems become big ones. Read your owners manual and follow the recommended servicing’s that will keep your car in good shape and keep it running longer.

2. Get An Estimate – Before you let the mechanic do the work your car needs get a written estimate. It is always good to know what you are being charged and what work will be done to your vehicle. If the price he gives you sounds to high, check other mechanics in your area. It is always smart to get at least three estimates before having any work done.

3. Car Pooling – You should give your car a rest once and awhile. You can try car pooling with co-workers to save your car some wear and tear, and you can save yourself money by sharing the cost of gas, tolls and parking.

4. Do The Repairs Yourself – If you read your car manual you will increase your understanding of the basic workings of the car, and how to fix them. There are some things you can do yourself without too much technical knowledge. You can change your own oil, and give your car a tune up.

Don’t try to undertake tasks which you have no knowledge of whatsoever, but routine maintenance should be easy for you to handle. You can take a beginner mechanic course at a local high school adult center to learn exactly how to do simple repairs.

You can often find the answer to your repair question in your owners manual, and it will let you see if it is something you can do yourself or if your car needs to go to the shop.

Learn More About Jump Starting

It’s inevitable. You’re leaving work, more excited than usual because you have big plans for the night and your car betrays you. Turn the key and …nothing. The engine doesn’t turn over, the interior lights don’t come on, and absolutely nothing happens. It may be stating the obvious, but your battery is dead and is in serious need of a charge. Not to worry, a few necessary items will have the battery doing its thing in no time.

The process of jump starting a car is relatively simple and only requires a few tools. The first thing you will want to find is a friendly volunteer. This kind person is an absolute must. Without their permission to use their car’s battery, yours will remain dead in the water so to speak. The next tool you will is a good set of jumper cables. A quality set will be made with multiple strands of copper wire and the alligator clips should be copper as well. Jumper cables should be a part of every car’s emergency kit. You never know when you or someone else may need them. The last thing you may want to consider having on hand is a pair or two of protective glasses. At the very least, protect your eyes with sunglasses or prescription glasses just in case.

Now that the necessary tools are in place, park your car and the volunteer’s car as close together as possible. Front end to front end is the best bet if you can arrange it. Open the hoods of both cars and find the respective batteries. The next things to locate are the batteries’ terminals. Luckily it is fairly standard in the automotive industry for positive charges to be marked with a + and negative with a -.

All of the necessary parts have been located and it’s time to hook it up. The two car’s batteries need to be attached with the jumper cables with positive to positive and negative to negative, but most prefer negative (on car running to metal engine piece in car not running). This is all pretty self-explanatory so far right? Red jumper cable attaches to the positive charge on both batteries and the black goes with the negative. Once the cars are connected, the car with the operating battery should be started. Double check to be sure the cables aren’t interfering with any of the engine’s belts or pulleys. Leave the good battery car running for a few minutes to charge the dead battery. After a decent interval of time try to start the other car. If it doesn’t start right away, check the jumper cables for any corrosion or dirt that may be interfering with the charge. Also be sure the claps are attached tightly to the battery post. These steps should correct the problem and you are on your way to a fully charged battery.

To complete the charge let the recently charged battery idle for a few minutes to fully charge. Turn off both engines and remove the battery jumper cables. The newly charged battery should have no problem starting the car.

You’re off and running and your evening plans aren’t ruined after all. Jump-starting a car is usually a quick process and knowing how will make any driver’s life easier.

Also make sure to note your car batteries lifetime, because when 60-months comes around, be sure that your battery will start to fail in the near future, and this is one repair worth the $40-$80 battery upgrade before it fails a second time. A tow can cost BIG BUCKS and if you feel that $3 per gallon is expensive try paying $2.50 per MILE for the tow.

Note: If your battery fails before the life on the battery, it may be from the cars belts loosening up or your alternator may be on the Fritz.. So it does pay to get it tested.