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Car Care Tips

Safer Tires for Only One Penny

(ARA) - Only 14 percent of drivers nationwide properly check their tires, leaving an astonishing 86 percent who are making mistakes. This from the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which annually tracks tire care and maintenance habits among motorists. RMA research also reveals that 45 percent of drivers incorrectly believe that when taking a trip with a fully loaded vehicle, it's better if their tires are a little bit under inflated.

"Properly inflated tires are safer, improve gas mileage and last longer," said Donald B. Shea, RMA President and CEO. "But our research shows America's drivers do not know enough about proper tire care."

It only takes five minutes to check your tires, which you should do once a month and before every long trip. RMA offers four simple tips to keep your tires safer:

1. Pressure: Under inflation puts unnecessary stress on tires, which can cause irregular wear, loss of control, decreased fuel economy and accidents. And don't be fooled by outward appearances -- tires can lose up to half of the required air pressure and not appear flat. Therefore, check your tires once a month with a tire gauge. Use the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure, not the inflation pressure listed on the tire sidewall. The recommended pressure is typically found on a sticker located on the driver's door, doorpost or in the owner's manual.

2. Alignment: A bad jolt from hitting a curb or pothole can throw your front end out of alignment and damage your tires. Have a tire dealer check the alignment periodically to ensure your car is properly aligned.

3. Rotation: Regularly rotating your vehicle's tires will lead to more uniform tire wear. Unless your vehicle's owner's manual notes otherwise, tires should be rotated every 10,000 Km.

4. Tread: Unusual wear can reduce the ability of tread to grip the road in adverse conditions. Check your tires' tread by taking the penny test: insert Lincoln's head upside down into the groove of a tire. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, you need a new tire. Also, visually check your tires for uneven wear and signs of damage.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Does Your Car's Air Filter Need Replacing?

(ARA) How good are you about changing your vehicle's air filter? The owner's manuals in most cars and trucks recommend you check the filter -- which is designed to trap dirt and contaminants before they reach your engine -- every time you get an oil change, and replace it whenever it's dirty or has been driven 30,000 Km, whichever comes first. For people who regularly drive on dirt or sand roads, that could be every 10,000 Km, but not everyone does it in a timely fashion.

If it's too dirty, the air filter won't trap dirt particles, which can damage engine cylinders, walls, pistons and piston rings, severely impacting fuel economy and engine performance. An inefficient engine can cause air pollution. The situation has gotten so bad in some states, they now require vehicles to pass engine emissions tests to stay on the road. In many cases, drivers find out their vehicle's failed because of a dirty air filter.

Visteon, one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world, has come up with a solution that will ensure you never have a dirty filter again. The Long Life Filtration System is a fully sealed air induction system designed to remove contaminants from engine intake air while providing noise control with minimal power loss. It contains a reticulated, or networked foam filter, designed to last more than 240,000 Km under normal use. Ford is the first automobile manufacturer to offer the new high-tech air filter as standard equipment in two of its 2005 models: the F150 and Focus.

"This technology saves space in the engine compartment because it can be placed in another area of the vehicle, such as just behind the instrument panel. It saves consumers time and money because it doesn't require routine maintenance,' says Greg Green, an engineering supervisor in Visteon's powertrain product line team.

Not only does the system save consumers money, it helps the environment. The filters reduce evaporative emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect, and save landfill space because they don't need to be replaced as often. They are made of 100 percent recycled materials that are recyclable themselves.

If you don't have one of the new Ford F150s or Focuses, and still need to replace your air filters, here are some things you should keep in mind:

* To determine whether your air filter needs to be replaced, just lift it out (it isn't fastened down) and hold it up to the sun or to a strong light. If you can't see light streaming through it, try dropping it lightly, bottom side down, on a hard surface. Doing so should jar some dirt loose. If the filter is still too dirty to see through after you've dropped it a few times, you need a new one.

* When buying an air filter, look for well-known, quality-brand filters; you can often get them quite cheaply at discount stores. Unknown brands sell for very little, but they aren't always of good quality, and if your air filter lets a lot of junk get into your carburetor, you may find that a cheap filter is very costly in the long run. If you need help determining which air filter is the one you need, go to your local auto supply store or to the parts department at your dealership. Give them your vehicle's make, model, and year. Make sure that the filter you get matches your old filter in size and shape. If it doesn't, you've been sold the wrong filter for your car.

* If you decide to change the filter yourself, always do so with the engine off, and never start or run the engine with the air filter out of place. Most filters can be easily replaced by removing snap clips, a clamp or several screws. Make sure you use the filter specified for your car's engine; do not try to make a filter fit. An improperly fitting filter can allow unfiltered air into the engine, causing engine damage. These tips are from the experts at www.dummies.com, and were adapted from the book, Auto Repair for Dummies. To learn more about the Long Life Filtration System from Visteon, log on to www.visteon.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content

How to Keep Your Car Looking New

(ARA) - Our cars reflect our personalities. From a cute lime green bug to a powerful black SUV to a sexy red convertible, what we drive says a lot about who we are. But this good impression can be quickly ruined by a tarnished finish.

"Your car's exterior is constantly being assaulted by all kinds of potentially hazardous substances -- many of which you can't even see," says Glenn Canady, president of 5 Star Technologies, a company that makes vehicle maintenance products. Canady says that dirt and grime from the road are just the beginning: "The dangers are everywhere, tiny droplets of sticky sap from trees that get on your car and will not only attract dirt and dust, but will bake into the paint surface and leave stains. And what we may think of as innocuous bird droppings are actually highly acidic substances which can erode paint and clear coat finishes," he adds.

Airborne contaminants such as by-products from construction and manufacturing and other floating elements can also threaten your finish. Add to that salt from the sea and from snow trucks and daily exposure to moisture, sometimes from acid rain, and you have a lethal combination. Even the hot sun beating down on your car is problematic: it causes the paint pores to expand and absorb more dirt and moisture.

The most critical step you can take to maintain your finish is frequent washing, yet it is surprising how many people don't take this precaution. A recent survey by carlove.org found that 52 percent of car owners wash their cars less than once a month and 15 percent never wash their cars. Here are a few suggestions from Canady on how to keep your finish glossy:

* You should wash your car at least once a week. Keeping your exterior consistently clean will lessen the impact of damaging dirt and chemicals that build up on your car's surface. In parts of the country that experience the use of road salt in the winter, frequent washing can reduce the corrosive effects of salt that cause body rust-through.

* Polish your vehicle with a product that provides durable protection as a final step after washing. Car waxes do not provide the long-term protection necessary to keep your paint looking new. They are made from inexpensive carnauba waxes, which melt and get sticky and attract dirt and pollutants.

"People can actually be doing more harm than good," says Canady, whose company makes a two-step polish called 5 Star Shine that uses PTFE (the same substance that makes nonstick cookware so slippery) and durable acrylic elements that create a chemical fusion that seals paint from the elements. "This is not like ordinary waxes and polishes that simply lay on top of your paint and wear off in a few weeks," says Canady. "It actually bonds with the molecules of your paint." The slick coating repels dirt and will remain durable for at least 150 washes.

* If you drive on muddy, messy roads, consider an undercarriage treatment every time you wash your car. This will remove caked-on mud that holds moisture to metal and causes rust and body rot around wheel wells and door sills.

Remembering to do this routine maintenance of your car's exterior will not only protect your investment, but also your public image.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Will Your Brakes Provide the Stop You Need?

(ARA) - Have you ever stopped your car at a busy intersection and cringed in embarrassment as your brakes let out an ear-jarring squeal? Or braked and felt the whole car shudder and chug to a stop? Or worst of all, have you pressed on the pedal and realized that absolutely nothing was happening?

Anyone who drives a car has heard their brakes make funny noises and wondered what it meant. But how do you tell the difference between normal sounds and the danger signals that tell you it's time for a new brake job?

"Some braking noise is normal, but it should be minimal," says Pete Murnen of Federal-Mogul, manufacturer of Wagner brake products. "An occasional squeal does not necessarily mean there is a problem; noise can be related to a lot of different factors," he adds.

For consumers who want high-quality, quiet brakes with an extended life span, there is now a new alternative. ThermoQuiet Disc Pads are dramatically different from any other brake pad available. The onepiece, integrally moulded insulator (IMI) design eliminates the squeaks and vibration often associated with other brake pads, while still providing superior stopping power. This patented, heatdissipating configuration also extends the life of the braking system well beyond that of most conventional pads.

"ThermoQuiet quite literally has changed the game in brake pad design," says Murnen. "It has virtually eliminated brake-noise complaints, and the stopping performance and durability is excellent."

The experts at Federal-Mogul offer guidelines for monitoring the condition of your brakes. Here are some common scenarios and what they mean:

* Brakes grab at the slightest pressure: It could mean a problem with grease- or oil-contaminated linings, or a loose or broken component that could fail in an emergency.

* Vehicle pulls to the side when braking: This could mean an under inflated tire, brakes in need of adjustment or brakes in need of repair.

* Brake pedal or steering wheel shakes or vibrates, or the vehicle shakes when the brakes are applied: It could mean disc brake rotors need resurfacing, there is a loose component, or a faulty steering mechanism.

* Brakes are sticky, wheels are hot or there is a loss of engine power: It could mean brakes are failing to release.

* Excessive squealing, grinding, screeching, clattering, chattering, and groaning: Brakes need attention.

ThemoQuiet brake pads are available for most domestic and import vehicles. Consumers can request them from their local service technician.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Preventative Maintenance and Hassle Free Driving Go Hand in Hand

(ARA) - Just because you and your vehicle made it through winter doesn't mean you can coast like a beach bum into summer. The hotweather months present their own unique challenges. Extreme heat, humidity, and heavy stop-and-go traffic can cause marginal systems to fail. Springtime offers an ideal opportunity to fix the wear and tear of last season's cold weather driving while preparing for the busy vacation season.

The experts at the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offer the following tips on getting your vehicle ready for summer.

* Read the owner's manual and follow the recommended service schedules. The manual contains a complete checklist of services and schedules and other important information about your vehicle.

* If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, look for repair facilities with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own, modern equipment in the service bays, and signs of qualified automotive technicians as evidenced by trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work and training classes, as well as national certification of the individual technicians by ASE.

* Flush and refill the cooling system (radiator) according to the service manual's recommendations. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. If you are doing your own work, make sure the engine has cooled down before removing the radiator cap and make sure you choose the proper coolant for your vehicle make and model.

* Have engine performance problems -- hard starts, rough idling, stalling -- corrected. You'll get better gasoline mileage and you might just prevent more expensive repairs later on. For example, something as simple as a rough idle could indicate an underlying problem that could ruin your vehicle's catalytic converter over time. The old adage, "Pay me now or pay me later," is especially true with today's high-tech, computerized systems.

* The tightness and condition of belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a qualified auto technician. Most do-it-yourselfers do not have the proper equipment. But weekenders can look for signs of wear, cracking, or frayed belts. And, once again, don't ignore the service schedules listed in the owner's manual.

* Have a marginally operating air conditioner system serviced by a qualified technician. The air conditioners on older vehicles often contain ozone-depleting chemicals that could be released into the air through improper or incompetent service.

* Change the oil and oil filter as specified in owner's manual. (Properly dispose of used oil). Poll after poll of technicians indicates that this is one of the most neglected services, and one that can greatly reduce the life of your automobile, light truck, or SUV.

* Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended in the service manual.

* Check the condition of tires, including the spare. Let the tires "cool down" before checking their pressure. Uneven wear, 'cupping,' vibrations, or 'pulling' to one side indicates problems with your tires or suspension system.

* Don't neglect your transmission. Costly repairs can be prevented by routine service.

* For safety and convenience, inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs. Replace worn wiper blades and keep plenty of washer solvent on hand to fight summer's dust and insects.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was founded in 1972 as a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. ASEcertified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification. Their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign.

For a free brochure with summertime automotive tips, send a selfaddressed, stamped long envelope to: ASE Summer Brochure, Dept. ARA-104, 101 Blue Seal Dr., S.E., Suite 101, Leesburg, VA 20175, or visit www.ase.com for more information.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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