Auto Repair Advice: Learn To
Speak "Auto Tech"
may be better able to stay on the road to safety and savings the
next time you need to have your car repaired if you select a
quality facility and learn to speak a little "auto tech."
When communicating with an automotive technician, AAA
recommends motorists do the following:
• Before taking the vehicle to a repair facility, write down
the symptoms and any performance issues so important information
is not overlooked or forgotten.
- Describe the symptoms to the technician. Explain what
has been seen, smelled, heard and felt while driving the
vehicle. For example, does it vibrate or pull to the left?
Explain under what type of driving conditions the problem
takes place and how long ago it started.
- When describing symptoms, refer to the driver side and
passenger side of the vehicle rather than the right or left
- If the vehicle has been serviced recently, bring copies
of the previous repair orders rather than trying to explain
what work was done.
- Ask questions if the technician uses jargon you don't
understand or if something is not thoroughly explained.
Quality technicians will take the time to clearly explain
the problem before offering a repair solution.
- Always read the repair order before signing it and
authorizing any work. Look for specific instructions
detailing the maintenance to be done, the problem to be
corrected and the work to be performed. If the language is
vague or unclear, ask that it be rewritten.
To help motorists get good repairs, AAA, the country's
largest motoring and leisure travel organization, has more than
8,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America.
These shops must meet and maintain stringent quality
standards for customer service, training, equipment and
cleanliness. To find an approved repair facility near you, visit
For a wealth of helpful information about cars, driving, auto
repair, safety tips and much more, visit
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Seven Tips To Make Sure Your
Car Is Ready For Harsh Weather
your car can help prevent the problems caused by freezing
temperatures and difficult driving conditions.
"For most of
the country, winter is the harshest time of year for vehicles,"
says Jim MacPherson, car care expert
and automotive radio host for WTIC in Connecticut. "Simple
preparation can go a long way toward making your car safer
during the winter months. Following a winterization checklist
before the cold settles in will save you headaches and money."
Here's a quick list to be sure to check twice if you want to
give your vehicle the best chances of a smooth, safe ride
- Check the battery. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, batteries
lose a significant amount of power, and continue to get
weaker as the temperature drops. Keep the surfaces of the
battery clean and make sure all the connections are tight.
If your car is a few years old, you may want to have a
technician check the charging system to ensure it is ready
for the cold.
- Check the oil. Synthetic oils are specifically designed
to protect your engine in all operating temperatures. For
faster engine start-ups during cold weather, use a synthetic
such as Mobil 1 5W-30, which flows significantly faster than
conventional 5W-30 oils at 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Mobil 1
has the ability to provide protection and performance in
demanding conditions even at temperatures as low as negative
35 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Check the antifreeze. The level and freshness of your
vehicle's antifreeze are crucial during the winter,
protecting the engine from freezing as well as from rust and
corrosion damage. Make sure the engine and coolant system
are cool before you begin checking; opening a hot radiator
is dangerous. If the antifreeze is low, add a 50/50 mix of
approved antifreeze and distilled water.
- Check the tires. As the weather cools, air in your tires
will contract. Make sure your tires are inflated properly.
Too little pressure can increase wear and fuel consumption;
too much pressure can reduce traction, especially in icy
conditions. To maintain proper tire pressure, fill them up
to their recommended PSI rating, which can be found on the
driver's side doorjamb, inside the door that covers the gas
cap, on the inside of the glove box door or in the owner's
manual. Also, make sure you have plenty of tread left and
replace any tires that look worn.
- Check rubber belts and hoses. In low temperatures,
rubber tends to stiffen and is prone to breaking and
cracking. Check the tension on the vehicle's belts and make
sure they aren't dry-rotted or too tight. Next, feel all the
hoses once the engine has completely cooled and make sure
they aren't soft and spongy, too rigid or leaking.
- Check the wiper blades and heater settings. Most
windshield wiper blades are only good for a year. Check and
clean the wiper blades. If the wipers are worn and smudge
the windshield, they need to be replaced; frost or freezing
rain mixed with worn wipers hinders your visibility and is
extremely dangerous. Also, be sure to test out the heater
and defroster. Make sure all settings are working properly
before the harsh winter weather strikes.
- Stock the car with "winter" items. Be smart and prepare
ahead of time for unexpected problems. Be sure the following
items are stocked in your trunk, especially if you live in
an area that frequently weathers winter storms: ice scraper
to clear the windows, headlights and taillights; battery
jumper cables; first-aid kit; small shovel; blankets;
gloves; and a bag of salt or sand to add weight and improve
"In addition to following these winter survival tips, you
should always drive gently while your vehicle is warming up, and
be sure to drive more slowly when there's snow or ice on the
ground," says MacPherson. "Being
cautious and doing simple maintenance will keep yourself and
your vehicle stress-free."
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Preventive Maintenance Is
Key To Saving Down The Road
by Matthew Marquez
vehicle is one of the biggest investments you'll make, so
protecting it by keeping up with its maintenance needs is
important. While everyone is looking for ways to cut costs,
denying your vehicle regular maintenance could end up costing
you more money down the road from unexpected repairs.
Regular oil changes can help ensure that your vehicle runs
properly and stays on the road longer. However, it's important
to understand and consider the conditions in which you operate
your vehicle. According to a Harris Interactive poll, 92 percent
of drivers operate under "severe" conditions.
Cars operated under severe conditions, including inclement
weather, need maintenance more frequently--sometimes twice as
often. It's important to check your owner's manual for service
recommendations based on the conditions you drive under.
Some drivers may be inclined to perform vehicle maintenance
themselves to save money and time; however, quick lubes can
offer a solution for your vehicle's needs when you may not have
the time or expertise to do it yourself. Quick lubes offer the
speed and convenience that dealerships often lack and can
provide value beyond a simple oil change. Jiffy Lube, for
example, offers its Jiffy Lube Signature Service® Oil Change
that includes more than a dozen services such as a tire pressure
check and fluid top-offs, among others. Most drivers also don't
realize that they don't need to visit their dealership to
maintain their warranty.
Keeping your vehicle on a sound preventive maintenance
program is a good way to prevent potentially costly
repairs--keeping money in your pocket. Here are some key things
to have checked regularly:
- Engine air filter--The air filter is like the vehicle's
lungs, and a clean filter will maximize the engine's
performance. Refer to your owner's manual to see when it
should be swapped out.
- Engine oil and filter--Engine oil is the lifeblood of
your vehicle, helping it run smoothly. Check the oil level
regularly and check your owner's manual to learn when to
change the oil and which grade to use. Using the proper
grade can increase fuel economy, while regular oil changes
can increase your vehicle's longevity.
- Tire pressure--Tires, like your shoes, are where the
rubber meets the road. Under- or
overinflation can weaken your tires, reduce traction
and impact gas mileage, among other things. You can find the
proper tire pressure in the vehicle owner's manual or on a
decal in the doorjamb or glove compartment.
- Tire rotation--Rotating tires as recommended by the
manufacturer will help tires wear more evenly, helping
extend their life.
For more information, visit
- Mr. Marquez is Vice President of Operations at Bay State
Ventures, a Jiffy Lube franchise.
Editor's Note: This article was funded and reviewed by
Jiffy Lube International.
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Traction Crucial For Winter
your car safely on the road when the weather gets chilly could
depend on four things: your tires.
It's a good idea to replace
the all-season tires you may have with winter-season tires
before the mercury drops below 45 degrees. All-season tires are
not really designed for severe cold weather. Snow and ice can
collect in treads, and tires lose their flexibility in
temperatures below 45° F. All this affects traction.
Fortunately, today's winter-season tires are much more
technologically advanced and safer than "snow" tires of the
past. They are engineered with chemical compounds made to
maintain their flexibility, which keeps more rubber connected to
the road. Winter tires also have special tread designs that
"bite" into the road to deliver 25 to 50 percent more traction
than all-season tires.
The more traction and control you have, the better you're
able to brake without skidding. The braking distance of a winter
tire can be as much as 10 percent shorter--about two car
lengths--than that of all-season tires.
The experts at the largest independent tire and wheel
retailer in the U.S., Discount Tire Company, say
it's best not to mix winter and
all-season tires, especially on wet or icy roads. Different
tires can create a traction mismatch and difficult handling.
Rather, they recommend you install four winter-season tires for
optimum safety and handling.
As with all tires, winter tires perform best when properly
inflated. The level should be listed in your owner's manual. A
10-degree drop in temperature causes tires to lose a pound of
air pressure, so in addition to once-monthly checks, test your
air pressure after frosts. Check the tires prior to driving for
More steps you can take to drive down your risk of tire
- Make sure your tires are properly balanced and rotated.
This should be done every 5,000 to 8,000 miles or as
recommended by the tire manufacturer.
- Make sure the wheels are properly aligned.
- Tires should have a minimum tread depth of 1/16 of an
inch. Put a penny in the tread upside down. If you can see
Lincoln's head, it's time for new tires.
- Drive at the speed limit. High speeds
cause higher tire temperature and
extra tire wear.
- When possible, start and stop your vehicle slowly and
decelerate around corners.
More tips and facts are at
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Driving Toward Greener Autos
you're like most Americans, you have a number of objectives when
thinking about a new car-safety and fuel economy are probably at
the top of the list, not to mention price. There is, however, a
new concern growing in importance: the environmental "footprint"
of the vehicle. In response, carmakers are learning that by
making vehicles lighter--without making them smaller--they can
deliver on all of these fronts.
Enter aluminum. Automotive
aluminum is lightweight to help increase gas mileage. In fact, a
5 to 7 percent fuel savings can be realized for every 10 percent
weight reduction by substituting aluminum for heavier steel.
To curb greenhouse gas emissions, each pound of aluminum
replacing two pounds of iron or steel in a car or truck can save
20 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions over the typical life of a
For example, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid provides both
improved fuel economy and strength compared to the conventional
version of this vehicle. Its efficiency is highlighted compared
to the conventional version of this vehicle by aerodynamic
enhancements and significant use of aluminum. The vehicle weighs
400 pounds less than the standard model and consumes roughly 30
percent less gasoline on average than its conventional version.
Automotive aluminum is also highly recyclable, which
significantly saves on the emissions associated with primary
aluminum production. Nearly 90 percent of automotive aluminum is
recovered and recycled and never needs to be taken to the
Automotive aluminum helps create a vehicle that is both big
and safe. Studies confirm that size, not weight, is more
important for automotive safety; meaning automotive aluminum can
make the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid safer by making it larger, while
still boosting gas mileage.
To learn more about auto aluminum and sustainability, visit
The Aluminum Association's Aluminum Transportation Group at
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Skimping On Car Care Can Get
Americans are finding that not buying a new car makes proper
maintenance of their existing car even more important. In fact,
according to R.L. Polk & Co., Americans today are keeping their
cars for nearly 10 years--an all-time high.
regular maintenance could lead to engine failure, resulting in
thousands of dollars spent on engine parts and labor. Here are
several myths about engine maintenance that could actually
threaten the life of your car's engine:
Myth 1: I'm not hard on my car, so I can change my oil
less frequently. Frequent oil changes are suggested for all cars
driven under "severe" conditions, which include stop-and-go
traffic, driving at highway speeds in hot temperatures and
driving in very hot or cold climates.
According to a recent study by the state of California, 80
percent of U.S. drivers fit the definition of a "severe" driver,
though many don't realize it. Auto manufacturers' oil change
interval recommendations are dramatically shorter for severe
driving conditions, with the majority recommending 3,750 miles
or less. To protect the investment you have in your car, be sure
to change your oil every 3,000-4,000 miles.
Said Sam Mitchell, president, Ashland Consumer Markets, the
makers of Valvoline, "Keeping up on
Preventive auto maintenance is key
to increasing the longevity of your vehicle and making it last
for the long haul."
Myth 2: Motor oil quality doesn't matter; it's all the
same. Many drivers don't realize that bargain motor oils may not
be formulated well. According to industry studies, poorly
formulated motor oil can lead to wear, excessive oil
consumption, power loss and deposit formation in your engine.
Using a premium motor oil can help protect your engine from
premature aging and is encouraged.
Myth 3: My car is new, so I don't need to worry about
maintenance services. Regular maintenance, starting when your
car is new, will keep it running longer and save you money in
the long run. Keeping up on car care services, such as air
filters, oil changes and transmission checkups, helps you avoid
major expenses in the future.
Another way to make your vehicle last is to enroll in the
Valvoline Limited Engine Guarantee.
Drivers with fewer than 75,000 miles on their odometers can
visit any Valvoline Instant Oil
Change Center and get their engine guaranteed by
Valvoline for up to 300,000 miles,
as long as the oil is changed regularly.
For more information or to enroll in the
Valvoline Limited Engine Guarantee, please visit
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Many Support Banning Cell
Phone Use By Drivers
growing number of Americans believe that using a cell phone
while driving can be a dangerous mix.
A recent survey by Nationwide Insurance revealed that 45
percent of drivers say they have been hit or nearly hit by
another driver using a cell phone. The danger is also evident in
the number of news stories about a deadly crash caused by
someone texting behind the wheel.
The government reported that 515,000 people were injured and
5,870 were killed in 2008 in crashes where at least one form of
driver distraction was reported. Driver distraction was involved
in 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 and was prevalent
among young drivers.
The fact is, Americans are getting
fed up with people driving while distracted (DWD). Another
survey, also by Nationwide Insurance, found that 80 percent of
Americans favor a ban on texting while driving, and more than
half say they would support a ban on cell phone use while
"In recent months, the debate about the dangers of DWD has
intensified as more and more states consider taking legislative
action," said Bill Windsor, Nationwide's Safety Officer. "The
survey results confirm that there is strong public support for
banning texting while driving."
About two-thirds of respondents to a recent poll said they
feel pressure to answer calls when on the road. Instead of
waiting for the federal and state governments to make these
behaviors illegal, Nationwide is working toward technological
solutions that address the peer pressure that drivers get from
friends and family to stay connected.
These solutions involve software installed on a phone or
BlackBerry that recognize when you're driving and block incoming
calls and texts, using an autoreply
message to let your friends know you're driving. Nationwide even
plans to offer insurance discounts to drivers who use these
devices once they become available.
"Teens have this two-minute rule: Somebody sends a text
message, and if you don't get back within two minutes, the other
person feels you're mad at them, or something's wrong," Windsor
said. "We think this technology will fill that gap."
Fewer distracted-while-driving-related crashes could also
result in lower insurance costs for consumers.
"By working closely with legislators, public safety officials
and other key stakeholders, we can arrive at real-world
solutions to this problem and help make the roads a safer
place," said Windsor.
To learn more, visit the Web site at
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Charging Ahead In Tough
surprising consequence of an uncertain economy is that Americans
are now at an increased risk for being stranded with battery
failure. That's because more motorists are keeping older
vehicles longer, buying used cars and not getting regular
Battery-related service calls are the second most common
problem for motorists during peak travel periods, according to
one of the nation's largest motor clubs.
While motorists recognize that automobile batteries are
affected by cold temperatures and winter weather, few are aware
that prolonged exposure to heat also accelerates the rate of
corrosion and contributes to battery failure. Auto service
experts place the life expectancy of a typical automotive
battery at three to five years in average climates, but only two
to three years in areas with high heat or extreme cold.
"There are many factors that can cause a battery to fail,"
says Alexia Hayes, a product development engineer and mother of
two young children. "Motorists who take many short trips on a
daily basis, those who frequently forget to turn off their
lights or make commutes of less than 20 minutes are also at
risk. The combination of performing many starting cycles,
coupled with short run times, will leave a battery below the
ideal charge specification for most of its shortened life."
Hayes notes that parents with young children, new drivers and
seniors often experience these driving patterns and are
therefore especially vulnerable.
Hayes advises, "A good set of jumper cables with the latest
technology will take the fear and guesswork out of dead battery
concerns and make jump starts easy and safe.
"Ordinary jumper cables can cause sparking or shorting if
they're not properly attached, which can result in serious
injury to the user," she adds, "and traditional jumper cables
can produce a power surge that severely damages a vehicle's
expensive computers and electronics."
Fortunately, there's innovative patented technology now
available in new Smart Jumper Cables from Michelin, which offer
built-in surge protection and automatic polarity adjustment. You
can connect either clamp to either positive or negative
connections. There's no guesswork, sparking or shorting.
Other Michelin safety features include LED indicator lights
that confirm the proper connections are made, textured grips,
and heavy-duty, eight-gauge cable with insulated clamps for
flexible, tangle-free, cold-weather-resistant operation.
For more information, visit
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