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Car Maintenance Handbook
6/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

Car Maintenance

Approximately 88% of Americans own a vehicle, according to a Pew survey. Yet, based on a study by Cooper Tires, the vast majority of car owners are not adept at maintaining their vehicles – only 39% are extremely confident they could fix a flat tire; 33% are extremely confident they could change the car’s oil. 68% of cars currently have at least one mechanical problem, yet drivers operate their vehicles anyway. Adding to the lack of mechanical ability, 54% of car owners feel intimidated and reluctant to take their car to a mechanic, often due to financial fears. But car maintenance is an important safety consideration. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 45,000 car accidents happen each year due to vehicle malfunction, often due to poor maintenance. In this month’s cover section, we hope to inform and inspire you to take good care of your car.

Six Ways You Could be Killing Your Car

Owning a car can be a dream or a nightmare depending on how well you take care of your vehicle, according to the non-profit Car Care Council. The following are six things that many motorists do that can harm their car and their wallet.

1. Ignoring the check engine light. Ignoring an illuminated check engine light can result in serious engine trouble and costly repairs. At the very least, this warning light could alert you to an engine problem that is negatively impacting fuel economy.

2. Failing to change fluids and filters. Many fluids are required for the operation and protection of vehicle systems and components. Checking fluid levels regularly, along with the filters, helps ensure that your vehicle runs dependably and extends vehicle life.

3. Neglecting your tires. Your vehicle’s tires should be checked frequently for inflation and tread depth. Underinflated tires can wear out more quickly, needing to be replaced sooner, and can negatively impact safety, gas mileage and performance.

4. Not following a service schedule. Because many car parts and components wear out or become damaged over time, vehicles need to be routinely serviced in order to perform optimally. Routine inspections and timely repairs will help keep your car running efficiently and will help you avoid more expensive repairs down the road.

5. Not washing car regularly. Allowing your car to go too long without a wash leads to buildup of damaging chemicals and dirt and interferes with proper visibility needed for safe driving.

6. Being a severe driver. Whether it’s stop-and-go traffic, extreme weather, rough roads, or heavy loads, it can sometimes be difficult to limit severe driving conditions. However, you can drive smart and improve fuel economy by observing the speed limit; avoiding aggressive driving, including quick starts and stops, not hauling unnecessary items, and keeping your vehicle properly tuned.

Because auto care isn’t always a top priority for car owners, they might not realize they are doing things that adversely affect the performance, safety, and value of their car. Routine maintenance can go a long way toward saving money, avoiding headaches and protecting your vehicle investment.

Easy Steps to Better Gas Mileage

The Car Care Council encourages motorists to be car care aware and perform these five simple steps to improve fuel economy and save money.

1. Check Tire Pressure: Keep tires properly inflated and improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.

2. Use the Right Motor Oil: Improve gas mileage by one to two percent by using the grade of motor oil recommended by the manufacturer.

3. Replace Clogged Air Filters: Replacing clogged air filters on older vehicles can improve fuel economy and will improve performance and acceleration on all vehicles.

4. Check Engine Performance: Keep your engine running efficiently and improve gas mileage by an average of four percent.

5. Fix It: Addressing a serious maintenance problem, like a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.

Proactive vehicle maintenance is a motorist’s best money saving tip. Routine auto care not only helps save on fuel costs, but it helps identify small issues so they can be serviced before they become bigger and more costly to repair.”

10 Car Maintenance Myths to Ignore

Every car owner hears about best practices for keeping his or her vehicle in good shape. Whether the advice comes from friends, family, or the car manufacturer, maintenance suggestions for fuel efficiency, engine power, and overall vehicle longevity trickle down the exhaust pipe. Some tips suggest money-saving options or performance-enhancing practices. Yet, not everything passed along to car owners is necessarily true. Read on to find out ten car maintenance myths that are actually false:

1. You need to change your oil every 3,000 miles

Once upon a time, this was the case, and many oil companies and lube shops still push this idea. But now, most cars made within the last decade or so require oil changes every 5,000 to 7,500 miles depending on the manufacturer. Check your owner’s manual recommendations.

2. Premium fuel is better for your car and will increase its performance

Unless your vehicle has a high-compression and performance engine that runs hotter than most others, regular gasoline works fine. 

3. Vehicle servicing at independent repair shops will void your warranty

Your warranty is valid until the expiration date, regardless of where you service your car. Dealerships will imply that you can only go to them, but actually requiring you to do so is illegal. Maintenance covered under your warranty can be performed by any auto repair shop — just save your receipts to prove what was done and how much it cost. 

4. Warm up your car’s engine before driving in the cold

Engine parts do need to warm up to operate fully, but modern engines warm up faster while you’re actually driving. Additionally, your wheel bearings and transmission need movement to completely warm up. Running your car before driving in colder weather has no benefit other than heating you up inside the car. Idling the car in your driveway uses gas to go nowhere — essentially wasting money and fuel.

5. You should replace all four tires at the same time

Replace individual tires as needed so long as they’re the same brand, model, and size as the rest of your tires. Just make sure to have them rotated at every other oil change to maximize their life.

6. Wash your car with dish or laundry soap

While this may sound like a nice way to save money, washing your car with dish soap or laundry detergent actually damages the car’s wax finish. Instead of contributing to paint chipping off and rust marks, pay a little more for car-wash liquid. It’s designed to not strip away the protective wax.

7. A battery will recharge following a jump start after a short period of driving

It takes hours of driving to bring a battery that had to be jumpstarted back to full charge — especially in colder temperatures. Brief drives might still leave you with a dead battery the next time you try to turn on your car. Accessories like heated seats, the radio, and lights pull a lot of power from the alternator, so turn these off when charging the battery, unless necessary.

8. Transmission fluid should be flushed every 50,000 miles

Though often recommended every 50,000 miles, most modern vehicles use a transmission fluid with a "long life.” It’s engineered to last for up to 100,000 miles or even the lifespan of the car. Check manufacturer’s recommendations.

9. Roll down the windows instead of using the air conditioner for better fuel economy

Rolling the windows down or blasting the AC makes little difference toward fuel efficiency. Turning on the air conditioning consumes fuel more quickly, true; however, rolling down the windows increases wind resistance, using more fuel to compensate for its disrupted aerodynamic design. Ultimately, neither option has a significant impact on fuel efficiency.

10. Refueling in the morning saves you money on gas

Gasoline expands with heat, so a common belief persists that pouring warmer fuel into your tank means you’re getting less fuel. Fuel pumped in the morning would, in theory, be cooler and allow you to get more into your tank for less cost. Contrary to this myth, gas is usually stored underground. It stays insulated from significant temperature changes, so the time of day you refuel does not actually make a difference toward the amount of fuel you’re receiving.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of repair.

How Routine Vehicle Maintenance Impacts Your Safety

By Taylor Trahan Henry

Besides a home, a vehicle is probably one of the single largest purchases a consumer will make in their life. Safety features, technology, towing capacity and added features are just some of things buyers look closely at when searching; but the real investment starts when you drive off the lot. 

Checking tire pressure, changing the oil and keeping up with other regular maintenance on your vehicle may seem like a pain but it’s worth the hassle. Not only does it extend the life of your vehicle but it also plays a big role in your safety and the safety of others on the roadway. No matter how well you drive, you are not as safe as you can be unless your vehicle is in good condition. If you neglect routine maintenance and other issues, your vehicle could fail you in a critical moment leading you to crash or to pose a road hazard to others. 

Some of the things you should keep in mind when it comes to routine maintenance and replacement of parts are tire pressure, tire tread, fluids like coolant and engine oil, windshield wipers, lights, and brakes.

"Something as simple as windshield wipers not being replaced when needed can cause an accident,” says Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso. "If you can’t see properly when it’s raining, you make an already difficult driving situation even worse. Clear view of the roadway means more time to react to any changes.” 

Tires are designed to grip the road and give the driver of the vehicle directional control. If your tires are excessively worn or if they are improperly inflated, your control over the vehicle is lessened. Rotating your tires – moving the front tires to the back of the vehicle and vice versa, as well as right to left – prolongs their life and even has the added benefit of improving fuel economy. The owner’s manual for your vehicle should tell you how often to rotate as well as optimal tire pressure. 

It is important to pay attention to any strange sounds you may hear when you apply your brakes, such as grinding or squeaking sounds. Any such noise should alert you to have your brakes inspected by a licensed mechanic. It’s also important to make sure brake fluid is maintained at the correct level. 

Engine oil is what lubricates the many moving pieces of your vehicle’s engine as they work together to get you from point A to point B. Without sufficient amounts of clean oil, your engine could overheat causing your vehicle to stall. What’s worse than being stuck in peak traffic with a line of cars behind you and a vehicle that won’t go? 

"As law enforcement officers, obviously part of our job to respond to any incidents on the road. But, a little prevention can go a long way in protecting you and your loved ones from needing to call us in the first place,” says Sheriff Mancuso. "Prevention is cheaper than the alternative. That’s why we’ll be sharing these tips and many more with local teens in our upcoming Reality Check life skills academy.”

If you do find yourself on the road with car troubles, there are several things to keep in mind. First, if you’ve been involved in an accident with injury, call 911. After help has been deployed, then you can focus on safely removing your car from the flow of traffic. Of course, if there are serious injuries or your car is unable to be moved, the priority is to move yourself to a safe area. If you experience a tire blow-out or engine failure, you should safely maneuver to the shoulder of the road and turn on your flashers before calling for assistance. This is where keeping a roadside toolkit of basic items would come in handy. Most items can be repaired well enough roadside for you to travel to your mechanic. If you need to be towed, call the local towing company of your choice. Check with your insurance company to see if roadside assistance is included in your policy. 

"Vehicle maintenance and roadside safety are especially important for new drivers,” says Sheriff Mancuso. "Our hope is that Reality Check will equip teens with the knowledge and skills to make them confident drivers who keep safety top of mind.”  

For more information on Sheriff Tony Mancuso’s Reality Check training program, contact the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. Registration for summer sessions is going on now. No fee for teens ages 14 – 19. 

Safety Kit

Build your own roadside emergency kit:

- A spare tire and supplies to change a tire: tire iron, lug wrench and a jack.

- A basic tool kit including: tire gauge, screwdriver, pliers, wrench, duct tape, a pocket knife.

- Jumper cables

- A basic first aid kit

- A can of tire inflator and sealant

- Flares or reflectors

- Your car’s owner’s manual

- A gas can

- Flashlight

- A pair of work gloves

Immortal Engines: How to keep your car out of the junkyard for as long as possible

by Nate Ellender

Many people feel they know the secret to keeping a car alive. Change that oil every 3000 miles. It is the wisdom of the ancients, hallowed in industry scripture and affixed before our eyes on little stickers. What more must one know?

A bit more than that, but it's a good place to start. Keeping up with your manufacturer's recommended oil change schedule is a big step in ensuring a car achieves six-digit mileage. What you may not be aware of is that 3000 miles or three months is a somewhat outdated number. Ford recommends 7,500 miles or six months for any vehicles made after 2008. Mercedes Benz USA recommends 10,000 miles or one year for most of their models. Consult your owner’s manual to verify your manufacturer's recommendations. If the manual is lost, most car makers have free downloadable versions on their websites. 

Maintenance doesn't stop with changing the motor oil and filter. Other key fluids, such as transmission fluid and engine coolant, must be periodically changed to ensure proper function of all systems. It is important to consult the owner's manual, be familiar with the types of maintenance your car requires, and how often it should be done. This saves you money on avoidable repairs and on unnecessary services, lest you find yourself at the mercy of an unscrupulous mechanic. There are parts on the car that will wear out, and even the best machines will develop issues with age. If caught early and addressed quickly, these issues will usually remain minor. If instead drivers turn up the radio so they don't hear the rattles and squeaks, they are begging for a more severe issue, a costly adventure in auto repair, and a shorter vehicle life. 

Maintenance is a big part of automotive longevity, but there is another side of the coin that isn't addressed as often – vehicle usage. The vehicles we drive are designed with specific purposes in mind. Some are used to move people in comfort. Others are built to move things in bulk. Some are designed to turn gasoline into noise and tires into smoke, all while looking as good as possible. Still others are made to tackle rough terrain and survive that abuse. If used for the purpose they were designed to accomplish, and properly maintained, vehicles can last a long time. If, however, a driver insists on rock crawling in his Corvette, he will, in short order, no longer have a functioning Corvette. If a driver regularly hauls a 30-foot horse trailer behind his Fiesta, he's going to be in for a real party with the warranty folks. When purchasing a vehicle, look for one that can do all that you will require of it. Otherwise you doom it to a short life, and yourself to lost finances.

In general, the necessary steps to ensure a long-lived car are simple. Keep up with the maintenance as prescribed in the owner's manual. Deal with issues as soon as you detect them. Don't use the vehicle for purposes it was never built to do. In practice, it can be challenging to balance the time and money needed to keep up with these details; but it does pay off in the long run, both financially and in bragging rights.  

Top 8 Hacks for Cleaning and Organizing Your Car

It creeps up on the most tidy of people until it’s nearly too much to deal with, so you wait longer to do something about it, as if it will go away on its own: it’s the mess in and on your car. Whether you wash your car once a week or once a year, there’s a better way to keep your car clean.Check out these top eight hacks for cleaning and organizing your car.

Clean your windshield with club soda

Spray club soda onto your windshield with a spray bottle, or pour it directly onto the exterior glass to break up stuck-on bugs and grime. Let it sit for 15-30 seconds, then wipe it off with a microfiber cloth or paper towels.

Clean your dash vents with a small foam brush

Those tiny louvers in your dash vents collect dust and tell everyone who enters your car exactly how well you take care of your car. Use a small foam brush to wipe away the tell-tale dust that has accumulated. Foam paint brushes are perfect to get in those tight spaces, picking up dust without scratching delicate parts. Soft-bristle artist brushes also work, though they won’t trap the dust as well as the foam brush. Be sure to use a clean, new brush.

Remove odors in the carpet with baking soda

Heavily cover the affected area with baking soda and lightly agitate it into the carpet or seat fibers with a stiff-bristled scrub brush. Let it sit overnight, then vacuum the affected area the next day. 

Clean your chrome with cola

Pour a liberal amount of cola on a clean, soft cloth and wipe it onto your car’s chrome pieces, like the wheels, the grille, running boards, and emblems. Let the cola sit on the chrome for 5-10 minutes, then rinse well with clean water. The cola will remove all the corrosion and discoloration on your chrome, leaving it sparkly clean and shiny. You’ll want to properly wash your car soon after, however, or the sticky sugars in the cola will attract a mess.

Organize your interior with a remote control organizer

Hang it on the back of one of the seats or on the side of your console to keep all your items within reach. 

Clean crevices with a screwdriver

Ideally, you’d use compressed air to blow out all the gunk that builds up in cracks and crevices, but that’s not always an option. Instead, use a flat screwdriver with a cloth over the tip to get into those tight spaces. If there’s more than just dust in the gaps, you can wet the cloth with a cleaning solution before wiping out the crevices. If you don’t have a screwdriver handy, the corner of a credit card can do the trick.

Line your cup holders for easy cleanup

Inevitably, you’re going to spill your coffee or soda in your cupholder, and cleaning out that confined space is never an easy task. Minimize the difficulty by lining your cup holders with silicone cupcake liners. They’re flexible to fit inside the cup holder and will catch anything that might spill.

Wax your paint

Waxing your car will save you time cleaning it later on. The minor investment of car wax and applicators and a couple hours of your time will make subsequent washes that much faster. When it does get dirty enough to wash, the dirt comes off the waxed finish much easier than normal. Even if you just use one or two of these car hacks, you’ll end up saving yourself plenty of time and, potentially, a bit of money. Your car will stay cleaner for longer, and you’ll take greater pride in your car.

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