Car Maintenance Guide – the basics

Special thanks to AAA, yes I am a long time member, for bailing me out <lol>.  Following are some terms I’ve been exposed to and had zero idea what they were speaking about until I ran across this condensed AUTO LINGO FOR DUMMIES.  Since I study the impact of toxic carbon emissions on the environment, it made sense to learn A LOT MORE about it.  To see the images, where the fluids go, descriptions, tire wear, etc. click here.

Able to learn about preventative maintenance and caring for my vehicle.  Really cool stuff!  It is a very long article and doesn’t include everything, but what helped me a bunch.  Hope it can help someone out there reading this blog post as well!

Now I know the difference between a strut and a strut!  Do you?

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Car Maintenance Guide
Automotive Terms

Aftermarket: Part not made by the original manufacturer.

All-wheel drive (AWD): Permanent, full-time four-wheel drive system designed for improved traction on slippery surfaces and off-road use. The main difference between AWD and 4WD systems is that AWD cannot be disengaged by the driver.

Anti-freeze (coolant): The liquid located in the cooling system and engine that is used to dissipate heat. Engine coolant prevents freeze-up in winter, reduces the engine temperature in the summer, and protects the cooling system from rust and corrosion year round.

Anti-lock braking system (ABS): System that prevents wheel lock-up by automatically regulating the brakes. ABS can decrease braking distances, prevent skidding and allow more control during sudden stops.

Backfire: Gunshot-like sound from the engine or tailpipe.

Balancing: By adding small amounts of lead weights to the wheel, it is possible to equal out any unevenly distributed weight which may be present in the tire or wheel. Proper balance helps eliminate unwanted wheel and tire vibrations, and uneven wear caused by an out-of-balanced tire and wheel condition.

Battery acid (electrolyte): The fluid in most automotive batteries. Electrolyte is a solution of sulfuric acid and water.

Brake fluid: The liquid in the brake system that acts as a hydraulic fluid. As you step on the brake pedal, the fluid is forced through the brake system and initiates the braking components.

Battery hold-down: A fastening device used to secure the battery in place. The two most common types are the wedge type (which fastens near the bottom of the battery), and a strap or bracket type (which goes across the top of the battery to hold it firmly in place).

Bottoming: When your vehicle reaches the limits of the suspension travel (such as when going over bumps), and the vehicle’s springs are completely compressed. The vehicle produces a transfer of noise/harshness, particularly through the steering, with possible contact of the undercarriage with the pavement.

Brake drag: Brakes do not completely release.

Brake fade: Increased brake pedal effort is required to get braking action, particularly on hard stops.

Brake master cylinder (master cylinder): Master cylinders are used on braking systems to turn the mechanical power provided when you step on the brake pedal into the hydraulic power that is needed to apply the brakes and slow or stop the vehicle. The brake master cylinder is where the brake fluid reservoir is located on most vehicles. The reservoir stores the fluid until it is needed.

Bucking: Engine stalls, kicks in, and the car lurches.

CCA (cold cranking amps): A rating that indicates the amount of power that a battery can provide for engine cranking in cold-start conditions.

Chassis: Undercarriage of a vehicle that carries all suspension and powertrain components.

Coolant (antireeze): The liquid located in the cooling system and engine used to dissipate heat. Engine coolant prevents freeze-up in winter, reduces the engine temperature in the summer, and protects the cooling system from rust and corrosion year round.

Coolant recovery reservoir: A tank that stores coolant for when the cooling system either needs coolant (coolant is then sucked into the cooling systems radiator) or when the system needs to expel excess coolant. The coolant reservoir can then store that coolant for future system requirements.

Compression ratio: Relationship between the cylinder volume when the piston is at the top of the stroke and the volume when it is at the bottom of the stroke. For instance, a compression ratio of 9:1 means the piston has compressed the air/fuel mixture into a space that is nine times smaller than it would normally utilize.

Control arms: Pivoting suspension components mounted between the frame (or uni-body) and the wheels.

Crank: If the car “will not crank” when you turn the ignition key, you typically either hear a clicking sound, or nothing at all. If the car “cranks” it means the engine is spinning or “turning over,” but not starting.

Crankcase: The single largest section of engine containing the crankshaft in an oil-tight housing.

Curb weight: The weight of a vehicle measured with no passengers or loads, and carrying a full tank of fuel.

Cuts out: When an engine “cuts out” it loses power or mis-fires. It feels as if the engine is momentarily shut off.

Detonation: Rapid, rattling combustion, also called knocking.

Dieseling: Engine runs when you turn off the car because fuel continues to burn.

Differential: Gear system that allows one wheel to rotate faster than the other while providing equal power to each wheel, as necessary, when turning or cornering.

Differential lube (gear oil): A heavy-duty lubricant designed specifically to handle the requirements of the internal gear and mechanisms. It is located within the differential case.

Dipstick: The device used to measure the level of a fluid (usually oil or transmission fluid). It is commonly known as an “oil dipstick” or “transmission dipstick,” but also can be found in power steering reservoirs and other fluid reservoirs.

Disc brake: Brake design in which brake pads press against a disc (commonly known as a brake rotor) to slow or stop the vehicle.

DOHC (Dual overhead camshafts): An engine with two camshafts located in the upper portion of the cylinder head.

Drive shaft: Shaft coupled to the transmission that supplies power to the drive wheels.

Electrolyte (battery acid): The fluid in most automotive batteries. Electrolyte is a solution of sulfuric acid and water.

Electronic fuel injection (EFI): A fuel delivery system in which nozzles (injectors) spray fuel into the intake manifold or cylinders. This allows for precise fuel control and better fuel efficiency than a carburetor system.

Engine block: The lower portion of the engine. An enclosed casting which contains the cylinders, pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft.

Fast idle: Engine runs fast while vehicle is stopped.

Flooding: Excess fuel in the cylinders makes starting difficult or impossible.

Four-wheel drive (4WD or 4X4): Drive system that powers all four wheels. It provides better traction during adverse road conditions and for off-road use.

Front-wheel drive: Drive system that provides power to the front wheels of the vehicle. Front-wheel drive systems incorporate a differential into a transmission, creating what is called a transaxle. A transaxle can be automatic or manual shift.

Fuel injection (electronic fuel injection or EFI): A fuel delivery system in which nozzles (injectors) spray fuel into the intake manifold or cylinders. This allows for precise fuel control and better fuel efficiency than a carburetor system.

Gear oil (differential lube): A heavy-duty lubricant designed specifically to handle the requirements of the internal gear and mechanisms. It is located within the differential case.

Grab: Brakes “grab” when the car stops even when applying light pressure on the brake pedal.

Group number: A designated number identifying the battery height, terminal design, length, width and overall physical description of the battery.

Hesitation: Momentary loss of power on acceleration.

Horsepower: The measurement of the engine’s ability to produce energy.

Intermittent: A problem that comes and goes with no obvious pattern.

Knocking: Rapid, rattling combustion, also called detonation.

Master cylinder (brake master cylinder): Master cylinders are used on braking systems to turn the mechanical power that is provided when you step on the brake pedal into the powerful hydraulic power that is needed to apply the brakes and slow or stop the vehicle. The brake master cylinder is where the brake fluid reservoir is located on most vehicles. The reservoir stores the fluid until it is needed.

Misfire (Miss): Engine runs rough or unsteady at idle or speed.

Multi-point injection: A fuel delivery system that utilizes a fuel injector for each cylinder.

PCV (Positive crankcase ventilation): If the PCV valve is clogged, your car will run rough or stall. It may also cause engine to use oil, smoke, and have high emissions.

Play: Degree of “looseness” in steering wheel, delay between turning the steering wheel and the wheels turning.

Port fuel injection: A fuel delivery system that utilizes a fuel injector for each cylinder.

Power loss: Engine runs at reduced speed or requires more throttle to maintain constant speed.

Pull: Vehicle moves to one side when braking.

Ride: The driver’s comfort level while driving. Factors that determine a vehicle’s ride include the suspension, steering and braking characteristics.

RPM (Revolutions per minute): The number of times an object, such as a tire, makes one complete revolution around its axis.

Rough idle: When vehicle stops, engine vibrates or shakes.

Rust-proofing: A protective coating is applied to vulnerable areas on your vehicle (usually the under-carriage and bottom of the vehicle).

Shimmy: Side-to-side motion that makes tires and steering wheel shake.

Shock absorber: A suspension component designed to dampen spring oscillation. It can be either gas- or oil-fed, depending on make and model of vehicle.

Sidewall: The most visible part of the tire when viewing the vehicle from either side. The sidewall contains information about the tire size, grade, and ratings as well as the manufacturer’s name.

Sluggish: Vehicle does not accelerate smoothly or with authority.

SOHC (Single overhead camshaft): An engine with one camshaft located in the upper portion of the cylinder head.

Specific gravity: This term is usually used in connection with the testing of the battery’s electrolyte. A specific gravity test is used to determine the battery’s state of charge. On sealed “maintenance free” batteries there is usually an indicator on the top of the battery that serves the same function.

Stall: Engine dies.

Strut: Also known as a “MacPherson strut.” This suspension component incorporates the dampening ability of a shock absorber with the rebound of a coil spring. It is mounted to the outer portion of the assembly. If no spring is present, it is called a “modified strut.”

Stumble: Engine begins to stall but then kicks in.

Surge: Vehicle speeds up and slows down with no acceleration or braking by driver.

Torque: Force produced by the engine.

Transaxle: Used in front-wheel drive and rear-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicles. Transaxles incorporate both a transmission and a differential into a single unit.

Transverse mounted engine: An engine that is mounted from side-to-side, in relation to the vehicle.

Tread: The pattern that is designed into the area of the tire that comes into contact with the road (or other driving surface). These patterns or groves in the tire provide increased traction.

TSB (Technical service bulletin): an advisory issued by manufacturers that describes performance problems for vehicles of a specific make, model and year.

Under carriage: Supporting structure and framework. Essentially, it is the under-side of the vehicle.

Vacuum: Vacuum is produced by the engine. A suction force is created (similar to your vacuum cleaner) through the vacuum hoses to activate various components in the engine.

Vacuum hose: A hose (usually rubber or hard plastic) that transfers vacuum to various components in the engine.

Wander: Vehicle drifts from side to side while driver steers straight.

Wheel (rim): This is what the tire is mounted on. Wheels can be made of steal or an alloy, such as aluminum.

Car Maintenance Guide
Maintenance Schedule

Reading your vehicle’s owner’s manual is the first step in becoming an informed consumer. The manual explains how your car works, and provides you with a detailed recommended maintenance schedule specifically for your vehicle’s make and model. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you can buy one from a car dealership that sells your type of vehicle. Call the parts department and ask them to order one for you. Keep the manual in your glove compartment for quick reference. It is the definitive source of maintenance information for your vehicle.

You can determine what your vehicle’s maintenance needs are by paying attention to how and where you drive your vehicle. Automobile manufacturers divide driving maintenance requirements into two categories: “normal” and “severe.” Follow the maintenance schedule that fits your driving habits.

Normal driving conditions: Highway driving on paved roads in relatively dust-free areas. (Dust clogs up your air filter and PCV filter).

Severe driving conditions:

  • Trips less than 10 miles
  • Stop-and-go city driving
  • Driving in extremely cold weather
  • Dusty driving conditions
  • Towing a trailer
  • Idling for long periods

By spending a moderate amount of money following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, you will save money on repairing and replacing prematurely worn parts. You will also save money on fuel consumption when your car is running properly. There are some maintenance tasks you can do yourself, like inspecting your tires, and belts and hoses.

Car Maintenance Guide
Fluids

With the abundance of self-service gas stations, sometimes the only way to ensure your vehicle’s fluids receive the attention they need is for you to check them yourself. Maintaining appropriate fluid levels is inexpensive. However, improper maintenance and low fluid levels can make driving more difficult and lead to serious damage and shorter engine life.

If you have a question regarding any fluid not covered, contact a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility or your local AAA club for assistance


BRAKE FLUID

Brakes are a critical system on your vehicle, yet brake fluid is one of the most neglected fluids. A quick check of the brake fluid reservoir will determine the current fluid level.

Checking Brake Fluid

  • Before removing the brake reservoir cap to check the condition of the brake fluid, always clean away any dirt or debris to ensure it doesn’t get into the master cylinder.
  • Only add brake fluid that is designed for your specific vehicle. This information can be found in the owner’s manual and also may be located on the filler cap of the brake master cylinder reservoir. Adding anything other than the recommended brake fluid can damage brake components or cause brake failure.
  • Do not mix fluids. For example, if your vehicle has DOT 3 fluid, then add only DOT 3 fluid. If you are unsure which fluid is in your vehicle, have a AAA Approve Auto Repair facility identify the DOT fluid in your vehicle.

What Should My Brake Fluid Look Like?

  • The fluid should be clear to amber in color (DOT 3 and DOT 4), or have a light purple tint (DOT 5).
  • Dark brown or black brake fluid indicates that it is time to replace the fluid.

Brake Fluid Classification

The Department of Transportation designates fluid grades as DOT 3 and DOT 4 (polyglycol), and DOT 5 (silicone). Most vehicle manufacturers recommend DOT 3 brake fluid for use in their vehicles. DOT 5 is not recommended for use in vehicles that have anti-lock brake systems.



ENGINE COOLANT

Coolant (also known as antifreeze) prevents engine freeze-up in winter, reduces the engine temperature in the summer, and protects the cooling system from rust and corrosion year round.

Checking Coolant

  • Make sure your vehicle is parked on a level surface and is not running.
  • Always check your engine coolant when the engine is cold, and never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot. The best time to check the coolant level is before the vehicle has been started.
  • Checking the coolant reservoir is usually all that is needed to ensure the proper level of antifreeze is in the cooling system. If coolant is needed, add a 50/50 mix of the correct type of antifreeze with water to bring the reservoir to the correct level. However, if your vehicle is equipped with a radiator cap, it is a good practice to also check the level of coolant in the radiator, especially if you have a leak or expect a low-coolant condition.
  • The coolant level in the recovery reservoir should be between the minimum and maximum lines.
  • Before removing the radiator cap, verify that there is no pressure in the coolant system by squeezing the upper radiator hose. If you can’t easily squeeze it, there is too much pressure in the system. If pressure is present, wait until pressure dissipates.
  • The coolant level should be within one inch of the top of the radiator filler neck, and the coolant should be free of contaminants.
  • Adding a small amount of coolant is normal. However, if you find that you are regularly adding coolant, a leak in the cooling system or engine may be the problem.
  • When changing the coolant, it is also a good idea to have your cooling system’s thermostat checked.
  • Coolant should be tested yearly for acid content and to check its freeze protection capabilities.

What Should My Coolant Look Like?

    • The color of the coolant will depend on which type of coolant you use.
    • If your coolant has lost its coloring or is contaminated with rust, it is time to change the coolant.
    • If possible, avoid mixing coolant of different types/colors.

ENGINE OIL

Engine oil is one of the most vital fluids your vehicle needs to operate. It works as a lubricant for the engine and as a means of cooling and cleaning internal engine parts.

Checking Engine Oil

Your engine oil is the most important fluid to check because running your engine when it is low on oil can result in serious engine damage.

The best time to check your engine oil is when your vehicle has not been running for a while. If you have been driving your vehicle, waiting at least an hour will give you the best results. This will give the engine time to cool down and the oil will drain back into the oil pan. Cool oil stays on the dipstick better, making it easier to measure the oil level. The cooler the engine, the less risk you have of incurring an accidental burn.

  • The vehicle’s engine should not be running.
  • Make sure the vehicle is on level ground.
  • After opening your hood, find the engine oil dipstick and remove it.
  • Wipe off the end of the dipstick with a rag, and notice the markings located near the end of the dipstick. You will usually see a mark for “Full” and another mark for “Add.”
  • Insert the dipstick back into tube, remove it immediately, and read the level.
  • If the dipstick indicates the level is at or below the “Add” mark, then add oil. Be sure to add only enough oil to reach the “Full” mark. Do not overfill.

AAA recommends that consumers change their oil between 5,000 and 7,500 miles, when driving under normal conditions.

What Should My Oil Look Like?

  • New engine oil will generally have a light gold to brown tint and should be nearly transparent.
  • Synthetic oil is normally darker in color, sometimes almost black.
  • If the oil appears milky or thick, or if it is very thin and has a strong fuel odor, there may be a mechanical problem with the engine. If this is the case, have the vehicle checked by a qualified technician.

Engine Oil Terms and Ratings

In 1993, the starburst symbol (shown below) was introduced to help consumers identify engine oil that is suitable for use in gasoline engines. This symbol, along with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) ratings, will help you identify the correct motor oil that your manufacturer recommends for your specific vehicle.

API Classification

This two-letter classification signifies the type of engine (gas or diesel) and the service class. The first letter will be either an S (signifying a gasoline engine) or a C (signifying a diesel engine). The second letter is the service class designator, which has been sequentially assigned since the service classification system started. The letters range from “A” through “J,” with J signifying the most recent improvements in the quality of the motor oil. For example, “SJ” motor oil is suitable for use in today’s gasoline engines, while “SA” motor oil is considered outdated and will not meet the engine oil requirements for modern vehicles.

AAA recommends that motorists use the highest designated oil in their vehicles.

SAE Viscosity Grades

Viscosity grade ratings indicate the oil’s resistance to flow, or “how thick or thin the oil is.” SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) utilizes a numbering system to grade engine oil. An example of a single grade oil is SAE 30, while an example of a multi-viscosity grade oil is SAE 10W-30. (The “W” indicates that the oil’s minimum viscosity grade was determined at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, assuring that this oil has been tested and rated for use in cold climates.)

Synthetic Oils and Oil Additives

Synthetic engine oils possess performance characteristics that are more desirable than conventional engine oil. However, synthetics should still be changed at the same intervals as conventional oils. Synthetic oils clean better than conventional oils because of their ability to hold more detergents. However, the high cost of synthetic oils makes the benefits far less appealing. If cost is not a concern and you desire protection beyond normal driving conditions, synthetic oils may be for you. For the average driver, the money you save may pay for your next oil change or two.

Don’t Spend Money on Aftermarket Oil Additives that can Diminish Oil Protection. Engine oil comes with additives already blended into the formula. These additives are included to enhance the oil’s performance and to help meet the demands required by today’s engines. Aftermarket additives often contain the same additives that the oil manufacturers have already formulated into their oil. There is no research that substantiates that adding these “cure-all additives” will provide any greater protection. In fact, by adding some of these products you may actually be detracting from the protection that is already built into the oil.

GASOLINE

Advancements in automotive technology have allowed manufacturers to provide yet another feature on selected makes and models of vehicles — with a touch of a button it is possible to monitor fuel mileage and actually see how driving habits are saving or costing us at the gas pump. There is another way to save, and that’s knowing what type of gas is best for your vehicle. The following information should help you to better understand the fuel requirements of your vehicle and the terms that are associated with gasoline.

Which Fuel is Right for Your Car?

The most expensive fuel may not be the best fuel for your vehicle. In fact, “super” or “premium” fuel may actual hurt the performance of your vehicle. Most modern economy cars are designed to operate with minimum octane requirements, while most performance vehicles require a higher octane to operate at peak performance. Simply said, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific vehicle.

The recommended octane rating can be found in your vehicle owner’s manual.

Octane Ratings and Engine Knock

The octane ratings that most of us are familiar with are regular, mid-grade, and premium/super. Premium/super is the highest octane-rated fuel. These labels are representative of the numerical octane ratings, and are usually affixed to the fuel pumps on a yellow and black tag.

Gasoline octane ratings can best be described as the fuel’s ability to resist engine knocks. Engine knock (also known as pinging, pre-ignition, detonation and spark knock), is a result of too-rapid or uneven burning of the air-fuel mixture in the engine’s combustion chamber. This results in an internal knocking noise in the engine. The higher the octane rating, the slower the fuel burns, and the greater the resistance it has to engine knock.

Engine knock also can be caused by several other factors. In fact, in most cases an engine knock is a result of a control problem, such as improper ignition timing, carbon deposits in the engine, a malfunctioning exhaust gas recirculation valve system, an engine that is running too hot, or simply an engine that has worn with age.

If your vehicle is knocking, and all mechanical areas check out okay, it may be time to switch to another brand of fuel. Octane ratings can vary from brand to brand, and simply switching brands may be the answer to correcting that engine knock.

If the vehicle manufacturer recommends regular gasoline, higher octane-rated fuel will not provide more engine power, burn cleaner or improve fuel economy in vehicles that are in good mechanical condition and do not have engine knock.

Follow Manufacturer Recommendations

If the manufacturer recommends that mid-grade or premium fuel should be used in your vehicle, it is important to follow that recommendation. Most modern vehicles are equipped with a sensor that is able to detect engine knock. If a lower rated fuel is used, and engine knock is detected, the sensor will send a signal to the vehicle’s computer and the computer will react to that signal, resulting in adversely effected engine performance.

Quick Tips

  • If you see that a fuel tanker has just finished refilling a gas pump, you may want to try a different gas station for your fill-up. Freshly filled fuel pumps are not your best option because when the gasoline from the tanker is poured into the in-ground tanks, it stirs up water and debris that has settled at the bottom of the in-ground tank. If you fill your vehicle’s tank with this, it will most likely contain the water and debris.

POWER STEERING FLUID

Power steering fluid has special additives to help protect the rubber hoses and seals located in the steering system. Although some vehicles may use automatic transmission fluid, most manufacturers recommend the use of a specific type of power steering fluid. Refer to your owner’s manual for the fluid that is recommended for your vehicle.

Checking Power Steering Fluid

  • The power steering fluid reservoir usually has a small dipstick attached to the cap.
  • Although you can check the power steering fluid when the vehicle is cold, it is more accurate to check the fluid once the vehicle is fully warmed up.\
  • The vehicle should be parked on a level surface with the engine turned off.
  • Remove the cap from the fluid reservoir and check the fluid level. The level should be within the normal range on the stick. Be sure to read the dipstick marking for either warm or cold levels, depending on your engine’s condition.
  • If you have to add fluid more than once a year, have the system checked for leaks.
  • If you hear a buzzing noise when you turn the steering wheel at slow speeds, that’s a warning sign of low power steering fluid.

AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION FLUID

Automatic transmission fluid serves multiple functions. It provides lubrication, keeps seals soft, protects internal parts and acts as a coolant for your transmission.

Checking Automatic Transmission Fluid

  • Automatic transmissions in recent model vehicles should be checked while the engine is running.
  • Make sure the vehicle is on a level surface with the emergency brake applied, and the transmission in park or neutral. (Check your owner’s manual for information on whether your vehicle should be in park or neutral when checking the transmission fluid and where your transmission’s dipstick is located.)
  • Raise the hood and locate your transmission’s dipstick, making sure to avoid any hot or moving parts of the engine.
  • Once you’ve located the dipstick, remove it, wipe off the fluid, and re-insert it. Remove the dipstick again to check the fluid level. The level should be within the “Full” range.

What Should My Automatic Transmission Fluid Look Like?

  • Clean automatic transmission fluid should have a pink tint.
  • Amber to brown fluid is a sign that the fluid may need to be changed.
  • Brown or black, burnt-smelling fluid is a sign of internal failure or lack of proper maintenance. If your fluid shows these signs, consult a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility for the proper diagnosis.

Manual Transmission and Differential Fluid

On most models, finding an accessible way to check the manual transmission and differential fluid level is very difficult. It is recommended that service and inspection of these fluids be performed by a qualified technician. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific service information.

WASHER FLUID

When it comes to maintaining your vehicle, adding washer fluid is one the easiest tasks that you can perform. Keeping the washer reservoir full of washer solvent will maximize your visibility by keeping the windshield clean and clear, which ultimately makes driving easier and safer.

Adding Washer Fluid

  • Always add washer fluid only to the reservoir. Plain water can grow algae or leave mineral deposits that clog spray nozzles. Water also may freeze in cold weather. Washer fluid provides added protection from these elements.
  • Check the owner’s manual to verify the location of the washer solvent reservoir. Although the filler caps are usually labeled, it may be hard to differentiate between the engine coolant and washer reservoirs on some makes and models.
  • Most washer fluid is sold in gallon containers. There also is a concentrated formula available in a much smaller container that is mixed with water and is just as suitable as the already mixed version.

Car Maintenance Guide
Tune-Ups

Is an engine tune-up a thing of the past? After all, modern engines have no points and condenser to replace, no carburetor to adjust and spark timing is controlled by the car’s computer. Most cars now even have direct ignition that replaces the distributor.

Is a tune-up necessary anymore? Well, yes. But the procedure is different. About every 30,000 miles, you should take your car to a service facility for an “engine inspection” and “computer scan”. With an “engine inspection”, a service technician will check all the engine functions by hooking it up to a diagnostic analyzer. This computerized piece of equipment reveals problems in the ignition, fuel and emissions systems, and allows the technician to return the engine to factory specifications.

At this point, they may replace the spark plugs or other parts as found faulty. Beware however, the technician may find only one or two components from a set to be faulty (such as spark plugs or ignition wires), therefore only replacing the ones found bad. Save yourself a future headache and be certain to replace components like these as a set, being that they’re all the same age and all have the same amount of wear. Think about it, would you buy a new left shoe and not the right? And as with anything that is mass produced, replacement parts for your car can be bad right out of the factory. Just about every technician can attest to this, so never take for granted that just because something is “new” means it will always be “good”.

Electronic sensors in your engine and exhaust system can wear out too, so they also need to be checked. By “scanning” your car’s computer, in addition to a “tune-up”, you can spot faulty sensors and other mis-adjustments which can reduce gas mileage, cause running or idling problems and increase emissions.

However, not all cars with on-board computers are capable of being “scanned”. Many of the models in the mid to late 1980’s were not programmed to divulge this type of information while being scanned, therefore the electronic sensors for these vehicles need to be checked manually. A properly trained technician will know how to determine the condition of your car’s computer and sensors.

Don’t be fooled by big fancy shops with elaborate machines, because a repair facility is only as good as it’s technicians. While certain equipment is a must, in this day and age of the high tech, computer controlled car, trained and certified technicians are the thing to look for when seeking a repair facility to conduct this kind of service. These grand diagnostic machines are only a tool for the technician to use while servicing your car, but they will do you no good if the technician doesn’t know what to do with it.

Car Maintenance Guide
Tires

Your tires are the only part of the car that has direct contact with the road. Tires affect your vehicle handling, ride, braking and safety. For optimum performance, tires must have the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance and the vehicle must have the correct wheel alignment.

Checking your tires on a regular basis is an important step in protecting your safety as well as your automotive investment. Ideally, tire inspections should be performed monthly. If you drive over potholes and debris in the road, live in a cold climate, or drive long distances regularly, then you should inspect your tires more often. Always inspect your tires before a long trip. The more often these inspections are performed, the easier it will be to find a small problem, such as a nail in your tire, and fix it before it becomes a more expensive and time-consuming problem.

However, properly trained and equipped service personnel should perform some tire maintenance, including puncture repairs, tire replacement (mounting on the rim), tire rotation and balancing, and wheel alignment.

SIGNS OF TIRE WEAR

Poor tire maintenance can lead to premature tire wear, tire blowout or a flat tire. Factors other than tires themselves also can affect tire wear. Worn suspension parts and the vehicle’s alignment both play a direct role in tire wear and performance.

Tire Problems to Look For During a Visual Inspection

Over inflation: Too much air pressure causes only the tire’s middle section to touch the road. This creates wear primarily in the center of the tire, and not the tire’s edges.

Under inflation: Too little air pressure causes the tire’s sides to sag and the middle section pulls up from the road. This creates wear primarily on both edges of the tire, but not in the center.

Tread wear on one edge of the tire: This typically occurs when the wheels are out of alignment.

Erratic tread wear: This is often called cupping, and may mean the wheel is out of balance, or that the shock absorbers or ball joints need to be replaced.

Raised portion of the tread: may indicate that a radial belt inside the tire has separated.

Tire Problems to Look for While Driving

  • Unusual vibration or thumping noise: Vibration or thumping noises can indicate a separated radial belt or badly chopped tire.
  • A pull to one side: While driving at a steady speed, pulling to one side may indicate that tires on one side of the vehicle do not have equal air pressure with the tires on the other side of the vehicle. If this is not the case, then pulling to one side may be caused by a separated radial belt, or the need for a wheel alignment.

SNOW TIRES

When driving conditions change, so should your tires. Most vehicles come equipped with all-season tires, which are designed to be used in all seasons and weather conditions. However, the tread pattern is not as aggressive as that of a dedicated snow tire. When driving in snow regions, it may be in your best interest to invest in tires specifically designed for greater traction in snow, sleet and icy conditions.

Snow Tires

Snow tires are the most common solution for driving in snow regions. They are designed to provide maximum traction in snow. The aggressive tread design provides traction when the condition of the road surface has unfavorable traction characteristics (snow, sleet, ice or mud).

Snow Chains

Snow chains are a set of chains that are attached to each other, and fit around the tire to improve traction on snow, sleet and ice. Show chains provide good traction, but they are hard on the roads. Before investing in snow chains, check to be sure they are legal where you plan to use them. Many states allow them to only be used during certain times of the year or when officials deem that the conditions warrant their use. Some states have laws against the use of snow chains.

Studded Snow Tires

Studded snow tires have the same basic design as regular snow tires, but incorporate a series of studs (small, metal spikes protruding from the tire’s tread) for added traction on snow, sleet or ice covered surfaces. Similar to snow chains, the studs provide good traction but are hard on the roads. Check to be sure they are legal where you plan to use them. Many states allow studded snow tires to only be used during certain times of the year or when officials deem that the conditions warrant their use. Some states have laws against the use of studded snow tires.

Tips

  • When purchasing snow tires, be sure they are labeled M/S (mud and snow). This will help ensure that you are in compliance with any local or state regulations that may require the use of snow tires. Most all-season tires are marked M/S.
  • If snow chains are used, be sure they properly fit the tires and are in good condition.
  • Check your tire pressure more often in cold weather. This will help avoid under inflation, which can hamper traction.
  • Whether your vehicle has front or rear wheel drive, maximum traction and proper handling of the vehicle can only be achieved when snow tires are installed on all four wheels.
  • If you decide to use only two snow tires, be sure to put them on the drive wheels of the vehicle. Drive wheels refer to the front wheels for front wheel drive vehicles and the rear wheels for rear wheel drive vehicles.

TIRE TREAD INSPECTION

While you are checking the air pressure on each tire, visually inspect the tire’s tread and sidewall for signs of wear and road debris that may have penetrated your tire.

Tires depend on good tread condition to maintain traction and to shed water on wet roads. Tread depth should be checked for excessive and uneven wear. Measure tire tread with a depth gauge (available at most parts stores) or a small ruler that has 1/16″ graduations. Although it is not as accurate, you also can check tread depth by placing a penny in the tread of the tire. Insert the penny upside-down (inserting President Lincoln’s head into the tire’s tread). If President Lincoln’s entire head is showing, it is time to replace your tires.

Take measurements in three locations across the tire’s tread: (1) outer edge, (2) center, and (3) inside edge. The more tread the tire has remaining, the higher the reading will be. Uneven readings indicate improper tire inflation or the need for a wheel alignment. At 3/32 of an inch, it is time to shop for new tires. At 2/32 (1/16) of an inch, the tread wear has reached its legal limit in most states.

You also may see wear indicators (thin bald strips) revealed across two or more treads. This indicates that the tires have worn to an unsafe tread level, and should be replaced.

TIRE INFLATION INSPECTION

Check your tire’s pressure at least once a month with a tire gauge, which measures pressure in pounds-per-square inch (psi). Tire gauges are available at most auto parts stores. There are basically three types of air pressure gauges: pen, digital and dial. Dial gauges are easier to read then pen or stick designs.

Recommended tire pressures are for cold tires. Therefore, tire pressure should be checked when tires are cold. Checking tire pressure on a car that has hot tires can result in a pressure reading of up to 5 psi higher than the recommended pressure. Look for your tire’s recommended air pressure in the vehicle’s owner’s manual, or inside the driver’s side car door or glove compartment. Increase the pressure by 2 to 4 psi when carrying a heavy load or pulling a trailer.

Checking Air Pressure

  1. Remove the tire’s valve cap.
  2. Place the gauge over the tire’s valve stem and press firmly so that no escaping air is heard. The tire gauge will indicate how much pressure is in the tire. It is in your best interest to purchase your own high-quality pressure gauge, because gas station and convenience store gauges are sometimes abused and may not be accurate.
  3. Adjust the tire’s air pressure if needed. When adding air, push the air hose into the valve firmly, until the air stops escaping. Check the pressure every few seconds to help judge the amount of air going into the tire, until you reach the recommended air pressure. If the tire’s pressure is greater than it should be, use the nipple on the tire gauge to press the center of the tire valve stem and release air.
  4. Replace the valve cap.
  5. Repeat the process for the other tires. Don’t forget the spare tire.

TIRE MAINTENANCE

There are tire maintenance procedures that automotive repair professionals should do because they have the proper tools and knowledge. However, understanding these procedures will help you feel more confident in dealing with a repair provider.

Tire Rotation

Tires on the front and the rear of vehicles operate at different loads and perform different steering and braking functions, resulting in unequal wear patterns. To gain maximum life and performance from your tires, it is essential to rotate your vehicle’s tires every 6,000 miles if you drive under normal driving conditions.

Wheel Balancing

Properly balanced tires help minimize uneven wear and extend their life. When tires are balanced, small lead weights are attached to the wheels to limit vibration of the tire and wheels as they turn. Tires and wheels should be balanced when the tires are rotated (normally every 6,000 miles), after putting on new tires, after fixing a flat tire, and any other time a tire is removed from its rim.


Lead weights

Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment is the measurement of the position of the wheels compared to specifications that the vehicle manufacturers recommend. Each vehicle has a specific wheel alignment range. If the wheel alignment isn’t within its range, steering may become difficult and tires can wear unevenly. This can make them unsafe and also lower the vehicle’s fuel mileage. You should check your wheel alignment every 12,000 miles or whenever you get your tires serviced. If the wheel alignment is out of specification, adjustments can be made by moving adjustable suspension parts.

A vehicle’s wheels are properly aligned when you can drive down a road in a straight line without drifting or pulling to one side. Drifting and pulling to one side also can be caused by several other factors: a failed radial belt in a tire, low air pressure and worn or bent suspension parts can cause these conditions. A complete inspection should be made before a wheel alignment is performed.

HOW TO READ TIRES

Tires are stamped with traction, temperature and resistance-to-wear grade and ratings to help you purchase the right replacement tires for your vehicle and assist in choosing a tire that will meet your driving needs. All of your vehicle’s tires should be the same size and grades (the exception being some performance cars that utilize front tires with a different size than the rear tires). These vehicles should still maintain the same size and grade for both front tires, and the same size and grade for both rear tires.

Treadwear, Traction and Temperature Grades: Treadwear indicates an estimate of how long the tire tread will last before the tire is worn out. Grading starts at 100 and goes up to 500, with 500 being the longest lasting tire wear grade. Tire wear also is determined by tire maintenance, your driving style and where you drive. The word “Traction” followed by a letter A, B or C (A providing the best traction) rates the tire’s ability to stop on a wet road surface. Most quality tires will indicate an “A” grade. “Temperature” grades the tire’s ability to withstand and dissipate heat. It also is graded A, B, or C, where “C” indicates a temperature grade that meets Federal requirements for passenger car tires, and A and B providing an even higher level of performance. This can be very critical if you live in a hot climate where road temperatures can increase tire temperature significantly.

DOT Number: This indicates compliance with the Department of Transportation safety standards. The “DOT” will be followed by the tire’s identification number, which is used to identify a variety of characteristics about that tire (the manufacturer and plant code, tire size code, optional codes and the date the tire was tire is recalled. For example, 059 indicates a tire that was manufactured in the 5th week of 1999.

Size: This designates the size of the tire, such as a 15 inch or 16 inch tire. Below is a breakdown of a typical tire size and tire ratings that are located on the sidewall of the tire, and what the numbers and letters indicate.

Example: P205 / 70R15 95 T

P:

“P” indicates passenger cars. You also may see “LT” for light truck and “T” for temporary spare.

205:

The nominal width of the tire in millimeters.

70:

Indicates the relationship of the tire sidewall height to the width of the tire.

R:

Indicates a radial belted tire. You also may see “B” for belted bias and “D” for diagonal bias.

15:

The wheel (rim) diameter in inches that is required for this tire. The most common are between 12 and 18 inches.

95:

Load index. This can range from 65 to 150 (where 65 = 639 pounds, and 150 = 7,385 pounds).

T:

Speed rating, which ranges from A through Z (with A being the lowest rating).

To determine which tire size is recommended for your vehicle, check the tire sticker which can be found in one of the following locations: vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door, or fuel door.

Load Index/Load Rating: The load index is a number ranging from 0 to 279, and indicates the maximum load a tire can carry at the speed indicated by the speed rating.

Speed Index/Speed Rating: The speed rating is an alphabetical code (A through Z) that indicates the range of speeds at which the tire can carry a load corresponding to its load index. When replacing your tires, consult your vehicle owner’s manual for the tire’s recommended speed rating.

Car Maintenance Guide
Air-filters

Regardless of whether your car’s engine has a carburetor or fuel injection, whether it is powered by gasoline or diesel fuel, one item it must have is a clean air filter. Just as an athlete wouldn’t run a race with a sock in his mouth, a car shouldn’t run with a clogged air filter.

Oxygen is essential for proper fuel combustion in the cylinders. If you notice reduced engine performance, especially at high speed, your air filter may be dirty. A clogged filter will also reduce your gas mileage and increase emissions. You should inspect the air filter every time you change the oil. You should be able to see bright light, such as sun light through the filter at all points. If you cannot, it should be replaced.

If the filter is only slightly dirty, you can try cleaning it by tapping it on a flat surface or by blowing compressed air through it, from the clean side out. You’ll find that you need to replace your air filter more often if you frequently drive on dirt roads or live in a dusty area.

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Taking a road trip?  Is your checklist and budget prepared?  Preparation equates to prevention and knowing there is a way to save on your fuel while gently removing carbon buildup and creating a smoother, yet more powerful ride, is quite important.  Don’t you agree?  Know your options and realize the savings.

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Car Maintenance Guide
Automotive Terms

Aftermarket: Part not made by the original manufacturer.

All-wheel drive (AWD): Permanent, full-time four-wheel drive system designed for improved traction on slippery surfaces and off-road use. The main difference between AWD and 4WD systems is that AWD cannot be disengaged by the driver.

Anti-freeze (coolant): The liquid located in the cooling system and engine that is used to dissipate heat. Engine coolant prevents freeze-up in winter, reduces the engine temperature in the summer, and protects the cooling system from rust and corrosion year round.

Anti-lock braking system (ABS): System that prevents wheel lock-up by automatically regulating the brakes. ABS can decrease braking distances, prevent skidding and allow more control during sudden stops.

Backfire: Gunshot-like sound from the engine or tailpipe.

Balancing: By adding small amounts of lead weights to the wheel, it is possible to equal out any unevenly distributed weight which may be present in the tire or wheel. Proper balance helps eliminate unwanted wheel and tire vibrations, and uneven wear caused by an out-of-balanced tire and wheel condition.

Battery acid (electrolyte): The fluid in most automotive batteries. Electrolyte is a solution of sulfuric acid and water.

Brake fluid: The liquid in the brake system that acts as a hydraulic fluid. As you step on the brake pedal, the fluid is forced through the brake system and initiates the braking components.

Battery hold-down: A fastening device used to secure the battery in place. The two most common types are the wedge type (which fastens near the bottom of the battery), and a strap or bracket type (which goes across the top of the battery to hold it firmly in place).

Bottoming: When your vehicle reaches the limits of the suspension travel (such as when going over bumps), and the vehicle’s springs are completely compressed. The vehicle produces a transfer of noise/harshness, particularly through the steering, with possible contact of the undercarriage with the pavement.

Brake drag: Brakes do not completely release.

Brake fade: Increased brake pedal effort is required to get braking action, particularly on hard stops.

Brake master cylinder (master cylinder): Master cylinders are used on braking systems to turn the mechanical power provided when you step on the brake pedal into the hydraulic power that is needed to apply the brakes and slow or stop the vehicle. The brake master cylinder is where the brake fluid reservoir is located on most vehicles. The reservoir stores the fluid until it is needed.

Bucking: Engine stalls, kicks in, and the car lurches.

CCA (cold cranking amps): A rating that indicates the amount of power that a battery can provide for engine cranking in cold-start conditions.

Chassis: Undercarriage of a vehicle that carries all suspension and powertrain components.

Coolant (antireeze): The liquid located in the cooling system and engine used to dissipate heat. Engine coolant prevents freeze-up in winter, reduces the engine temperature in the summer, and protects the cooling system from rust and corrosion year round.

Coolant recovery reservoir: A tank that stores coolant for when the cooling system either needs coolant (coolant is then sucked into the cooling systems radiator) or when the system needs to expel excess coolant. The coolant reservoir can then store that coolant for future system requirements.

Compression ratio: Relationship between the cylinder volume when the piston is at the top of the stroke and the volume when it is at the bottom of the stroke. For instance, a compression ratio of 9:1 means the piston has compressed the air/fuel mixture into a space that is nine times smaller than it would normally utilize.

Control arms: Pivoting suspension components mounted between the frame (or uni-body) and the wheels.

Crank: If the car “will not crank” when you turn the ignition key, you typically either hear a clicking sound, or nothing at all. If the car “cranks” it means the engine is spinning or “turning over,” but not starting.

Crankcase: The single largest section of engine containing the crankshaft in an oil-tight housing.

Curb weight: The weight of a vehicle measured with no passengers or loads, and carrying a full tank of fuel.

Cuts out: When an engine “cuts out” it loses power or mis-fires. It feels as if the engine is momentarily shut off.

Detonation: Rapid, rattling combustion, also called knocking.

Dieseling: Engine runs when you turn off the car because fuel continues to burn.

Differential: Gear system that allows one wheel to rotate faster than the other while providing equal power to each wheel, as necessary, when turning or cornering.

Differential lube (gear oil): A heavy-duty lubricant designed specifically to handle the requirements of the internal gear and mechanisms. It is located within the differential case.

Dipstick: The device used to measure the level of a fluid (usually oil or transmission fluid). It is commonly known as an “oil dipstick” or “transmission dipstick,” but also can be found in power steering reservoirs and other fluid reservoirs.

Disc brake: Brake design in which brake pads press against a disc (commonly known as a brake rotor) to slow or stop the vehicle.

DOHC (Dual overhead camshafts): An engine with two camshafts located in the upper portion of the cylinder head.

Drive shaft: Shaft coupled to the transmission that supplies power to the drive wheels.

Electrolyte (battery acid): The fluid in most automotive batteries. Electrolyte is a solution of sulfuric acid and water.

Electronic fuel injection (EFI): A fuel delivery system in which nozzles (injectors) spray fuel into the intake manifold or cylinders. This allows for precise fuel control and better fuel efficiency than a carburetor system.

Engine block: The lower portion of the engine. An enclosed casting which contains the cylinders, pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft.

Fast idle: Engine runs fast while vehicle is stopped.

Flooding: Excess fuel in the cylinders makes starting difficult or impossible.

Four-wheel drive (4WD or 4X4): Drive system that powers all four wheels. It provides better traction during adverse road conditions and for off-road use.

Front-wheel drive: Drive system that provides power to the front wheels of the vehicle. Front-wheel drive systems incorporate a differential into a transmission, creating what is called a transaxle. A transaxle can be automatic or manual shift.

Fuel injection (electronic fuel injection or EFI): A fuel delivery system in which nozzles (injectors) spray fuel into the intake manifold or cylinders. This allows for precise fuel control and better fuel efficiency than a carburetor system.

Gear oil (differential lube): A heavy-duty lubricant designed specifically to handle the requirements of the internal gear and mechanisms. It is located within the differential case.

Grab: Brakes “grab” when the car stops even when applying light pressure on the brake pedal.

Group number: A designated number identifying the battery height, terminal design, length, width and overall physical description of the battery.

Hesitation: Momentary loss of power on acceleration.

Horsepower: The measurement of the engine’s ability to produce energy.

Intermittent: A problem that comes and goes with no obvious pattern.

Knocking: Rapid, rattling combustion, also called detonation.

Master cylinder (brake master cylinder): Master cylinders are used on braking systems to turn the mechanical power that is provided when you step on the brake pedal into the powerful hydraulic power that is needed to apply the brakes and slow or stop the vehicle. The brake master cylinder is where the brake fluid reservoir is located on most vehicles. The reservoir stores the fluid until it is needed.

Misfire (Miss): Engine runs rough or unsteady at idle or speed.

Multi-point injection: A fuel delivery system that utilizes a fuel injector for each cylinder.

PCV (Positive crankcase ventilation): If the PCV valve is clogged, your car will run rough or stall. It may also cause engine to use oil, smoke, and have high emissions.

Play: Degree of “looseness” in steering wheel, delay between turning the steering wheel and the wheels turning.

Port fuel injection: A fuel delivery system that utilizes a fuel injector for each cylinder.

Power loss: Engine runs at reduced speed or requires more throttle to maintain constant speed.

Pull: Vehicle moves to one side when braking.

Ride: The driver’s comfort level while driving. Factors that determine a vehicle’s ride include the suspension, steering and braking characteristics.

RPM (Revolutions per minute): The number of times an object, such as a tire, makes one complete revolution around its axis.

Rough idle: When vehicle stops, engine vibrates or shakes.

Rust-proofing: A protective coating is applied to vulnerable areas on your vehicle (usually the under-carriage and bottom of the vehicle).

Shimmy: Side-to-side motion that makes tires and steering wheel shake.

Shock absorber: A suspension component designed to dampen spring oscillation. It can be either gas- or oil-fed, depending on make and model of vehicle.

Sidewall: The most visible part of the tire when viewing the vehicle from either side. The sidewall contains information about the tire size, grade, and ratings as well as the manufacturer’s name.

Sluggish: Vehicle does not accelerate smoothly or with authority.

SOHC (Single overhead camshaft): An engine with one camshaft located in the upper portion of the cylinder head.

Specific gravity: This term is usually used in connection with the testing of the battery’s electrolyte. A specific gravity test is used to determine the battery’s state of charge. On sealed “maintenance free” batteries there is usually an indicator on the top of the battery that serves the same function.

Stall: Engine dies.

Strut: Also known as a “MacPherson strut.” This suspension component incorporates the dampening ability of a shock absorber with the rebound of a coil spring. It is mounted to the outer portion of the assembly. If no spring is present, it is called a “modified strut.”

Stumble: Engine begins to stall but then kicks in.

Surge: Vehicle speeds up and slows down with no acceleration or braking by driver.

Torque: Force produced by the engine.

Transaxle: Used in front-wheel drive and rear-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicles. Transaxles incorporate both a transmission and a differential into a single unit.

Transverse mounted engine: An engine that is mounted from side-to-side, in relation to the vehicle.

Tread: The pattern that is designed into the area of the tire that comes into contact with the road (or other driving surface). These patterns or groves in the tire provide increased traction.

TSB (Technical service bulletin): an advisory issued by manufacturers that describes performance problems for vehicles of a specific make, model and year.

Under carriage: Supporting structure and framework. Essentially, it is the under-side of the vehicle.

Vacuum: Vacuum is produced by the engine. A suction force is created (similar to your vacuum cleaner) through the vacuum hoses to activate various components in the engine.

Vacuum hose: A hose (usually rubber or hard plastic) that transfers vacuum to various components in the engine.

Wander: Vehicle drifts from side to side while driver steers straight.

Wheel (rim): This is what the tire is mounted on. Wheels can be made of steal or an alloy, such as aluminum.

Car Maintenance Guide
Maintenance Schedule

Reading your vehicle’s owner’s manual is the first step in becoming an informed consumer. The manual explains how your car works, and provides you with a detailed recommended maintenance schedule specifically for your vehicle’s make and model. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you can buy one from a car dealership that sells your type of vehicle. Call the parts department and ask them to order one for you. Keep the manual in your glove compartment for quick reference. It is the definitive source of maintenance information for your vehicle.

You can determine what your vehicle’s maintenance needs are by paying attention to how and where you drive your vehicle. Automobile manufacturers divide driving maintenance requirements into two categories: “normal” and “severe.” Follow the maintenance schedule that fits your driving habits.

Normal driving conditions: Highway driving on paved roads in relatively dust-free areas. (Dust clogs up your air filter and PCV filter).

Severe driving conditions:

  • Trips less than 10 miles
  • Stop-and-go city driving
  • Driving in extremely cold weather
  • Dusty driving conditions
  • Towing a trailer
  • Idling for long periods

By spending a moderate amount of money following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, you will save money on repairing and replacing prematurely worn parts. You will also save money on fuel consumption when your car is running properly. There are some maintenance tasks you can do yourself, like inspecting your tires, and belts and hoses.

Car Maintenance Guide
Fluids

With the abundance of self-service gas stations, sometimes the only way to ensure your vehicle’s fluids receive the attention they need is for you to check them yourself. Maintaining appropriate fluid levels is inexpensive. However, improper maintenance and low fluid levels can make driving more difficult and lead to serious damage and shorter engine life.

If you have a question regarding any fluid not covered, contact a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility or your local AAA club for assistance


BRAKE FLUID

Brakes are a critical system on your vehicle, yet brake fluid is one of the most neglected fluids. A quick check of the brake fluid reservoir will determine the current fluid level.

Checking Brake Fluid

  • Before removing the brake reservoir cap to check the condition of the brake fluid, always clean away any dirt or debris to ensure it doesn’t get into the master cylinder.
  • Only add brake fluid that is designed for your specific vehicle. This information can be found in the owner’s manual and also may be located on the filler cap of the brake master cylinder reservoir. Adding anything other than the recommended brake fluid can damage brake components or cause brake failure.
  • Do not mix fluids. For example, if your vehicle has DOT 3 fluid, then add only DOT 3 fluid. If you are unsure which fluid is in your vehicle, have a AAA Approve Auto Repair facility identify the DOT fluid in your vehicle.

What Should My Brake Fluid Look Like?

  • The fluid should be clear to amber in color (DOT 3 and DOT 4), or have a light purple tint (DOT 5).
  • Dark brown or black brake fluid indicates that it is time to replace the fluid.

Brake Fluid Classification

The Department of Transportation designates fluid grades as DOT 3 and DOT 4 (polyglycol), and DOT 5 (silicone). Most vehicle manufacturers recommend DOT 3 brake fluid for use in their vehicles. DOT 5 is not recommended for use in vehicles that have anti-lock brake systems.



ENGINE COOLANT

Coolant (also known as antifreeze) prevents engine freeze-up in winter, reduces the engine temperature in the summer, and protects the cooling system from rust and corrosion year round.

Checking Coolant

  • Make sure your vehicle is parked on a level surface and is not running.
  • Always check your engine coolant when the engine is cold, and never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot. The best time to check the coolant level is before the vehicle has been started.
  • Checking the coolant reservoir is usually all that is needed to ensure the proper level of antifreeze is in the cooling system. If coolant is needed, add a 50/50 mix of the correct type of antifreeze with water to bring the reservoir to the correct level. However, if your vehicle is equipped with a radiator cap, it is a good practice to also check the level of coolant in the radiator, especially if you have a leak or expect a low-coolant condition.
  • The coolant level in the recovery reservoir should be between the minimum and maximum lines.
  • Before removing the radiator cap, verify that there is no pressure in the coolant system by squeezing the upper radiator hose. If you can’t easily squeeze it, there is too much pressure in the system. If pressure is present, wait until pressure dissipates.
  • The coolant level should be within one inch of the top of the radiator filler neck, and the coolant should be free of contaminants.
  • Adding a small amount of coolant is normal. However, if you find that you are regularly adding coolant, a leak in the cooling system or engine may be the problem.
  • When changing the coolant, it is also a good idea to have your cooling system’s thermostat checked.
  • Coolant should be tested yearly for acid content and to check its freeze protection capabilities.

What Should My Coolant Look Like?

    • The color of the coolant will depend on which type of coolant you use.
    • If your coolant has lost its coloring or is contaminated with rust, it is time to change the coolant.
    • If possible, avoid mixing coolant of different types/colors.

ENGINE OIL

Engine oil is one of the most vital fluids your vehicle needs to operate. It works as a lubricant for the engine and as a means of cooling and cleaning internal engine parts.

Checking Engine Oil

Your engine oil is the most important fluid to check because running your engine when it is low on oil can result in serious engine damage.

The best time to check your engine oil is when your vehicle has not been running for a while. If you have been driving your vehicle, waiting at least an hour will give you the best results. This will give the engine time to cool down and the oil will drain back into the oil pan. Cool oil stays on the dipstick better, making it easier to measure the oil level. The cooler the engine, the less risk you have of incurring an accidental burn.

  • The vehicle’s engine should not be running.
  • Make sure the vehicle is on level ground.
  • After opening your hood, find the engine oil dipstick and remove it.
  • Wipe off the end of the dipstick with a rag, and notice the markings located near the end of the dipstick. You will usually see a mark for “Full” and another mark for “Add.”
  • Insert the dipstick back into tube, remove it immediately, and read the level.
  • If the dipstick indicates the level is at or below the “Add” mark, then add oil. Be sure to add only enough oil to reach the “Full” mark. Do not overfill.

AAA recommends that consumers change their oil between 5,000 and 7,500 miles, when driving under normal conditions.

What Should My Oil Look Like?

  • New engine oil will generally have a light gold to brown tint and should be nearly transparent.
  • Synthetic oil is normally darker in color, sometimes almost black.
  • If the oil appears milky or thick, or if it is very thin and has a strong fuel odor, there may be a mechanical problem with the engine. If this is the case, have the vehicle checked by a qualified technician.

Engine Oil Terms and Ratings

In 1993, the starburst symbol (shown below) was introduced to help consumers identify engine oil that is suitable for use in gasoline engines. This symbol, along with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) ratings, will help you identify the correct motor oil that your manufacturer recommends for your specific vehicle.

API Classification

This two-letter classification signifies the type of engine (gas or diesel) and the service class. The first letter will be either an S (signifying a gasoline engine) or a C (signifying a diesel engine). The second letter is the service class designator, which has been sequentially assigned since the service classification system started. The letters range from “A” through “J,” with J signifying the most recent improvements in the quality of the motor oil. For example, “SJ” motor oil is suitable for use in today’s gasoline engines, while “SA” motor oil is considered outdated and will not meet the engine oil requirements for modern vehicles.

AAA recommends that motorists use the highest designated oil in their vehicles.

SAE Viscosity Grades

Viscosity grade ratings indicate the oil’s resistance to flow, or “how thick or thin the oil is.” SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) utilizes a numbering system to grade engine oil. An example of a single grade oil is SAE 30, while an example of a multi-viscosity grade oil is SAE 10W-30. (The “W” indicates that the oil’s minimum viscosity grade was determined at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, assuring that this oil has been tested and rated for use in cold climates.)

Synthetic Oils and Oil Additives

Synthetic engine oils possess performance characteristics that are more desirable than conventional engine oil. However, synthetics should still be changed at the same intervals as conventional oils. Synthetic oils clean better than conventional oils because of their ability to hold more detergents. However, the high cost of synthetic oils makes the benefits far less appealing. If cost is not a concern and you desire protection beyond normal driving conditions, synthetic oils may be for you. For the average driver, the money you save may pay for your next oil change or two.

Don’t Spend Money on Aftermarket Oil Additives that can Diminish Oil Protection. Engine oil comes with additives already blended into the formula. These additives are included to enhance the oil’s performance and to help meet the demands required by today’s engines. Aftermarket additives often contain the same additives that the oil manufacturers have already formulated into their oil. There is no research that substantiates that adding these “cure-all additives” will provide any greater protection. In fact, by adding some of these products you may actually be detracting from the protection that is already built into the oil.


GASOLINE

Advancements in automotive technology have allowed manufacturers to provide yet another feature on selected makes and models of vehicles — with a touch of a button it is possible to monitor fuel mileage and actually see how driving habits are saving or costing us at the gas pump. There is another way to save, and that’s knowing what type of gas is best for your vehicle. The following information should help you to better understand the fuel requirements of your vehicle and the terms that are associated with gasoline.

Which Fuel is Right for Your Car?

The most expensive fuel may not be the best fuel for your vehicle. In fact, “super” or “premium” fuel may actual hurt the performance of your vehicle. Most modern economy cars are designed to operate with minimum octane requirements, while most performance vehicles require a higher octane to operate at peak performance. Simply said, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific vehicle.

The recommended octane rating can be found in your vehicle owner’s manual.

Octane Ratings and Engine Knock

The octane ratings that most of us are familiar with are regular, mid-grade, and premium/super. Premium/super is the highest octane-rated fuel. These labels are representative of the numerical octane ratings, and are usually affixed to the fuel pumps on a yellow and black tag.

Gasoline octane ratings can best be described as the fuel’s ability to resist engine knocks. Engine knock (also known as pinging, pre-ignition, detonation and spark knock), is a result of too-rapid or uneven burning of the air-fuel mixture in the engine’s combustion chamber. This results in an internal knocking noise in the engine. The higher the octane rating, the slower the fuel burns, and the greater the resistance it has to engine knock.

Engine knock also can be caused by several other factors. In fact, in most cases an engine knock is a result of a control problem, such as improper ignition timing, carbon deposits in the engine, a malfunctioning exhaust gas recirculation valve system, an engine that is running too hot, or simply an engine that has worn with age.

If your vehicle is knocking, and all mechanical areas check out okay, it may be time to switch to another brand of fuel. Octane ratings can vary from brand to brand, and simply switching brands may be the answer to correcting that engine knock.

If the vehicle manufacturer recommends regular gasoline, higher octane-rated fuel will not provide more engine power, burn cleaner or improve fuel economy in vehicles that are in good mechanical condition and do not have engine knock.

Follow Manufacturer Recommendations

If the manufacturer recommends that mid-grade or premium fuel should be used in your vehicle, it is important to follow that recommendation. Most modern vehicles are equipped with a sensor that is able to detect engine knock. If a lower rated fuel is used, and engine knock is detected, the sensor will send a signal to the vehicle’s computer and the computer will react to that signal, resulting in adversely effected engine performance.

Quick Tips

  • If you see that a fuel tanker has just finished refilling a gas pump, you may want to try a different gas station for your fill-up. Freshly filled fuel pumps are not your best option because when the gasoline from the tanker is poured into the in-ground tanks, it stirs up water and debris that has settled at the bottom of the in-ground tank. If you fill your vehicle’s tank with this, it will most likely contain the water and debris.


POWER STEERING FLUID

Power steering fluid has special additives to help protect the rubber hoses and seals located in the steering system. Although some vehicles may use automatic transmission fluid, most manufacturers recommend the use of a specific type of power steering fluid. Refer to your owner’s manual for the fluid that is recommended for your vehicle.

Checking Power Steering Fluid

  • The power steering fluid reservoir usually has a small dipstick attached to the cap.
  • Although you can check the power steering fluid when the vehicle is cold, it is more accurate to check the fluid once the vehicle is fully warmed up.\
  • The vehicle should be parked on a level surface with the engine turned off.
  • Remove the cap from the fluid reservoir and check the fluid level. The level should be within the normal range on the stick. Be sure to read the dipstick marking for either warm or cold levels, depending on your engine’s condition.
  • If you have to add fluid more than once a year, have the system checked for leaks.
  • If you hear a buzzing noise when you turn the steering wheel at slow speeds, that’s a warning sign of low power steering fluid.


AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION FLUID

Automatic transmission fluid serves multiple functions. It provides lubrication, keeps seals soft, protects internal parts and acts as a coolant for your transmission.

Checking Automatic Transmission Fluid

  • Automatic transmissions in recent model vehicles should be checked while the engine is running.
  • Make sure the vehicle is on a level surface with the emergency brake applied, and the transmission in park or neutral. (Check your owner’s manual for information on whether your vehicle should be in park or neutral when checking the transmission fluid and where your transmission’s dipstick is located.)
  • Raise the hood and locate your transmission’s dipstick, making sure to avoid any hot or moving parts of the engine.
  • Once you’ve located the dipstick, remove it, wipe off the fluid, and re-insert it. Remove the dipstick again to check the fluid level. The level should be within the “Full” range.

What Should My Automatic Transmission Fluid Look Like?

  • Clean automatic transmission fluid should have a pink tint.
  • Amber to brown fluid is a sign that the fluid may need to be changed.
  • Brown or black, burnt-smelling fluid is a sign of internal failure or lack of proper maintenance. If your fluid shows these signs, consult a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility for the proper diagnosis.

Manual Transmission and Differential Fluid

On most models, finding an accessible way to check the manual transmission and differential fluid level is very difficult. It is recommended that service and inspection of these fluids be performed by a qualified technician. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific service information.


WASHER FLUID

When it comes to maintaining your vehicle, adding washer fluid is one the easiest tasks that you can perform. Keeping the washer reservoir full of washer solvent will maximize your visibility by keeping the windshield clean and clear, which ultimately makes driving easier and safer.

Adding Washer Fluid

  • Always add washer fluid only to the reservoir. Plain water can grow algae or leave mineral deposits that clog spray nozzles. Water also may freeze in cold weather. Washer fluid provides added protection from these elements.
  • Check the owner’s manual to verify the location of the washer solvent reservoir. Although the filler caps are usually labeled, it may be hard to differentiate between the engine coolant and washer reservoirs on some makes and models.
  • Most washer fluid is sold in gallon containers. There also is a concentrated formula available in a much smaller container that is mixed with water and is just as suitable as the already mixed version.

Car Maintenance Guide
Tune-Ups

Is an engine tune-up a thing of the past? After all, modern engines have no points and condenser to replace, no carburetor to adjust and spark timing is controlled by the car’s computer. Most cars now even have direct ignition that replaces the distributor.

Is a tune-up necessary anymore? Well, yes. But the procedure is different. About every 30,000 miles, you should take your car to a service facility for an “engine inspection” and “computer scan”. With an “engine inspection”, a service technician will check all the engine functions by hooking it up to a diagnostic analyzer. This computerized piece of equipment reveals problems in the ignition, fuel and emissions systems, and allows the technician to return the engine to factory specifications.

At this point, they may replace the spark plugs or other parts as found faulty. Beware however, the technician may find only one or two components from a set to be faulty (such as spark plugs or ignition wires), therefore only replacing the ones found bad. Save yourself a future headache and be certain to replace components like these as a set, being that they’re all the same age and all have the same amount of wear. Think about it, would you buy a new left shoe and not the right? And as with anything that is mass produced, replacement parts for your car can be bad right out of the factory. Just about every technician can attest to this, so never take for granted that just because something is “new” means it will always be “good”.

Electronic sensors in your engine and exhaust system can wear out too, so they also need to be checked. By “scanning” your car’s computer, in addition to a “tune-up”, you can spot faulty sensors and other mis-adjustments which can reduce gas mileage, cause running or idling problems and increase emissions.

However, not all cars with on-board computers are capable of being “scanned”. Many of the models in the mid to late 1980’s were not programmed to divulge this type of information while being scanned, therefore the electronic sensors for these vehicles need to be checked manually. A properly trained technician will know how to determine the condition of your car’s computer and sensors.

Don’t be fooled by big fancy shops with elaborate machines, because a repair facility is only as good as it’s technicians. While certain equipment is a must, in this day and age of the high tech, computer controlled car, trained and certified technicians are the thing to look for when seeking a repair facility to conduct this kind of service. These grand diagnostic machines are only a tool for the technician to use while servicing your car, but they will do you no good if the technician doesn’t know what to do with it.

Car Maintenance Guide
Tires

Your tires are the only part of the car that has direct contact with the road. Tires affect your vehicle handling, ride, braking and safety. For optimum performance, tires must have the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance and the vehicle must have the correct wheel alignment.

Checking your tires on a regular basis is an important step in protecting your safety as well as your automotive investment. Ideally, tire inspections should be performed monthly. If you drive over potholes and debris in the road, live in a cold climate, or drive long distances regularly, then you should inspect your tires more often. Always inspect your tires before a long trip. The more often these inspections are performed, the easier it will be to find a small problem, such as a nail in your tire, and fix it before it becomes a more expensive and time-consuming problem.

However, properly trained and equipped service personnel should perform some tire maintenance, including puncture repairs, tire replacement (mounting on the rim), tire rotation and balancing, and wheel alignment.

SIGNS OF TIRE WEAR

Poor tire maintenance can lead to premature tire wear, tire blowout or a flat tire. Factors other than tires themselves also can affect tire wear. Worn suspension parts and the vehicle’s alignment both play a direct role in tire wear and performance.

Tire Problems to Look For During a Visual Inspection

Over inflation: Too much air pressure causes only the tire’s middle section to touch the road. This creates wear primarily in the center of the tire, and not the tire’s edges.

Under inflation: Too little air pressure causes the tire’s sides to sag and the middle section pulls up from the road. This creates wear primarily on both edges of the tire, but not in the center.

Tread wear on one edge of the tire: This typically occurs when the wheels are out of alignment.

Erratic tread wear: This is often called cupping, and may mean the wheel is out of balance, or that the shock absorbers or ball joints need to be replaced.

Raised portion of the tread: may indicate that a radial belt inside the tire has separated.

Tire Problems to Look for While Driving

  • Unusual vibration or thumping noise: Vibration or thumping noises can indicate a separated radial belt or badly chopped tire.
  • A pull to one side: While driving at a steady speed, pulling to one side may indicate that tires on one side of the vehicle do not have equal air pressure with the tires on the other side of the vehicle. If this is not the case, then pulling to one side may be caused by a separated radial belt, or the need for a wheel alignment.


SNOW TIRES

When driving conditions change, so should your tires. Most vehicles come equipped with all-season tires, which are designed to be used in all seasons and weather conditions. However, the tread pattern is not as aggressive as that of a dedicated snow tire. When driving in snow regions, it may be in your best interest to invest in tires specifically designed for greater traction in snow, sleet and icy conditions.

Snow Tires

Snow tires are the most common solution for driving in snow regions. They are designed to provide maximum traction in snow. The aggressive tread design provides traction when the condition of the road surface has unfavorable traction characteristics (snow, sleet, ice or mud).

Snow Chains

Snow chains are a set of chains that are attached to each other, and fit around the tire to improve traction on snow, sleet and ice. Show chains provide good traction, but they are hard on the roads. Before investing in snow chains, check to be sure they are legal where you plan to use them. Many states allow them to only be used during certain times of the year or when officials deem that the conditions warrant their use. Some states have laws against the use of snow chains.

Studded Snow Tires

Studded snow tires have the same basic design as regular snow tires, but incorporate a series of studs (small, metal spikes protruding from the tire’s tread) for added traction on snow, sleet or ice covered surfaces. Similar to snow chains, the studs provide good traction but are hard on the roads. Check to be sure they are legal where you plan to use them. Many states allow studded snow tires to only be used during certain times of the year or when officials deem that the conditions warrant their use. Some states have laws against the use of studded snow tires.

Tips

  • When purchasing snow tires, be sure they are labeled M/S (mud and snow). This will help ensure that you are in compliance with any local or state regulations that may require the use of snow tires. Most all-season tires are marked M/S.
  • If snow chains are used, be sure they properly fit the tires and are in good condition.
  • Check your tire pressure more often in cold weather. This will help avoid under inflation, which can hamper traction.
  • Whether your vehicle has front or rear wheel drive, maximum traction and proper handling of the vehicle can only be achieved when snow tires are installed on all four wheels.
  • If you decide to use only two snow tires, be sure to put them on the drive wheels of the vehicle. Drive wheels refer to the front wheels for front wheel drive vehicles and the rear wheels for rear wheel drive vehicles.


TIRE TREAD INSPECTION

While you are checking the air pressure on each tire, visually inspect the tire’s tread and sidewall for signs of wear and road debris that may have penetrated your tire.

Tires depend on good tread condition to maintain traction and to shed water on wet roads. Tread depth should be checked for excessive and uneven wear. Measure tire tread with a depth gauge (available at most parts stores) or a small ruler that has 1/16″ graduations. Although it is not as accurate, you also can check tread depth by placing a penny in the tread of the tire. Insert the penny upside-down (inserting President Lincoln’s head into the tire’s tread). If President Lincoln’s entire head is showing, it is time to replace your tires.

Take measurements in three locations across the tire’s tread: (1) outer edge, (2) center, and (3) inside edge. The more tread the tire has remaining, the higher the reading will be. Uneven readings indicate improper tire inflation or the need for a wheel alignment. At 3/32 of an inch, it is time to shop for new tires. At 2/32 (1/16) of an inch, the tread wear has reached its legal limit in most states.

You also may see wear indicators (thin bald strips) revealed across two or more treads. This indicates that the tires have worn to an unsafe tread level, and should be replaced.

Tread
wear
indicators


TIRE INFLATION INSPECTION

Check your tire’s pressure at least once a month with a tire gauge, which measures pressure in pounds-per-square inch (psi). Tire gauges are available at most auto parts stores. There are basically three types of air pressure gauges: pen, digital and dial. Dial gauges are easier to read then pen or stick designs.

Recommended tire pressures are for cold tires. Therefore, tire pressure should be checked when tires are cold. Checking tire pressure on a car that has hot tires can result in a pressure reading of up to 5 psi higher than the recommended pressure. Look for your tire’s recommended air pressure in the vehicle’s owner’s manual, or inside the driver’s side car door or glove compartment. Increase the pressure by 2 to 4 psi when carrying a heavy load or pulling a trailer.

Checking Air Pressure

  1. Remove the tire’s valve cap.
  2. Place the gauge over the tire’s valve stem and press firmly so that no escaping air is heard. The tire gauge will indicate how much pressure is in the tire. It is in your best interest to purchase your own high-quality pressure gauge, because gas station and convenience store gauges are sometimes abused and may not be accurate.
  3. Adjust the tire’s air pressure if needed. When adding air, push the air hose into the valve firmly, until the air stops escaping. Check the pressure every few seconds to help judge the amount of air going into the tire, until you reach the recommended air pressure. If the tire’s pressure is greater than it should be, use the nipple on the tire gauge to press the center of the tire valve stem and release air.
  4. Replace the valve cap.
  5. Repeat the process for the other tires. Don’t forget the spare tire.


TIRE MAINTENANCE

There are tire maintenance procedures that automotive repair professionals should do because they have the proper tools and knowledge. However, understanding these procedures will help you feel more confident in dealing with a repair provider.

Tire Rotation

Tires on the front and the rear of vehicles operate at different loads and perform different steering and braking functions, resulting in unequal wear patterns. To gain maximum life and performance from your tires, it is essential to rotate your vehicle’s tires every 6,000 miles if you drive under normal driving conditions.

Wheel Balancing

Properly balanced tires help minimize uneven wear and extend their life. When tires are balanced, small lead weights are attached to the wheels to limit vibration of the tire and wheels as they turn. Tires and wheels should be balanced when the tires are rotated (normally every 6,000 miles), after putting on new tires, after fixing a flat tire, and any other time a tire is removed from its rim.

Tire Weights
Lead weights

Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment is the measurement of the position of the wheels compared to specifications that the vehicle manufacturers recommend. Each vehicle has a specific wheel alignment range. If the wheel alignment isn’t within its range, steering may become difficult and tires can wear unevenly. This can make them unsafe and also lower the vehicle’s fuel mileage. You should check your wheel alignment every 12,000 miles or whenever you get your tires serviced. If the wheel alignment is out of specification, adjustments can be made by moving adjustable suspension parts.

A vehicle’s wheels are properly aligned when you can drive down a road in a straight line without drifting or pulling to one side. Drifting and pulling to one side also can be caused by several other factors: a failed radial belt in a tire, low air pressure and worn or bent suspension parts can cause these conditions. A complete inspection should be made before a wheel alignment is performed.


HOW TO READ TIRES

Tires are stamped with traction, temperature and resistance-to-wear grade and ratings to help you purchase the right replacement tires for your vehicle and assist in choosing a tire that will meet your driving needs. All of your vehicle’s tires should be the same size and grades (the exception being some performance cars that utilize front tires with a different size than the rear tires). These vehicles should still maintain the same size and grade for both front tires, and the same size and grade for both rear tires.

Tire Illustration

Treadwear, Traction and Temperature Grades: Treadwear indicates an estimate of how long the tire tread will last before the tire is worn out. Grading starts at 100 and goes up to 500, with 500 being the longest lasting tire wear grade. Tire wear also is determined by tire maintenance, your driving style and where you drive. The word “Traction” followed by a letter A, B or C (A providing the best traction) rates the tire’s ability to stop on a wet road surface. Most quality tires will indicate an “A” grade. “Temperature” grades the tire’s ability to withstand and dissipate heat. It also is graded A, B, or C, where “C” indicates a temperature grade that meets Federal requirements for passenger car tires, and A and B providing an even higher level of performance. This can be very critical if you live in a hot climate where road temperatures can increase tire temperature significantly.

DOT Number: This indicates compliance with the Department of Transportation safety standards. The “DOT” will be followed by the tire’s identification number, which is used to identify a variety of characteristics about that tire (the manufacturer and plant code, tire size code, optional codes and the date the tire was tire is recalled. For example, 059 indicates a tire that was manufactured in the 5th week of 1999.

Size: This designates the size of the tire, such as a 15 inch or 16 inch tire. Below is a breakdown of a typical tire size and tire ratings that are located on the sidewall of the tire, and what the numbers and letters indicate.

Example: P205 / 70R15 95 T

P:

“P” indicates passenger cars. You also may see “LT” for light truck and “T” for temporary spare.

205:

The nominal width of the tire in millimeters.

70:

Indicates the relationship of the tire sidewall height to the width of the tire.

R:

Indicates a radial belted tire. You also may see “B” for belted bias and “D” for diagonal bias.

15:

The wheel (rim) diameter in inches that is required for this tire. The most common are between 12 and 18 inches.

95:

Load index. This can range from 65 to 150 (where 65 = 639 pounds, and 150 = 7,385 pounds).

T:

Speed rating, which ranges from A through Z (with A being the lowest rating).

To determine which tire size is recommended for your vehicle, check the tire sticker which can be found in one of the following locations: vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door, or fuel door.

Load Index/Load Rating: The load index is a number ranging from 0 to 279, and indicates the maximum load a tire can carry at the speed indicated by the speed rating.

Speed Index/Speed Rating: The speed rating is an alphabetical code (A through Z) that indicates the range of speeds at which the tire can carry a load corresponding to its load index. When replacing your tires, consult your vehicle owner’s manual for the tire’s recommended speed rating.

Car Maintenance Guide
Air-filters

Regardless of whether your car’s engine has a carburetor or fuel injection, whether it is powered by gasoline or diesel fuel, one item it must have is a clean air filter. Just as an athlete wouldn’t run a race with a sock in his mouth, a car shouldn’t run with a clogged air filter.

Oxygen is essential for proper fuel combustion in the cylinders. If you notice reduced engine performance, especially at high speed, your air filter may be dirty. A clogged filter will also reduce your gas mileage and increase emissions. You should inspect the air filter every time you change the oil. You should be able to see bright light, such as sun light through the filter at all points. If you cannot, it should be replaced.

If the filter is only slightly dirty, you can try cleaning it by tapping it on a flat surface or by blowing compressed air through it, from the clean side out. You’ll find that you need to replace your air filter more often if you frequently drive on dirt roads or live in a dusty area.

http://www.aaasouth.com/Automotive/auto_maintenance_guide.aspx?nvbar=Automotive:CarMaintenance

Taking a road trip?  Is your checklist and budget prepared?  Preparation equates to prevention and knowing there is a way to save on your fuel while gently removing carbon buildup and creating a smoother, yet more powerful ride, is quite important.  Don’t you agree?  Know your options and realize the savings.

HTTP://NANOTECHFUEL.COM

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