Automotive Tips and Informative Sites
The best way to save money on repairs and get the most out of your vehicles is to do preventive maintenance and pay attention to what your car is telling you. We've put some tips together to get the most out of your ride.
Need to find an answer to a question about your car? There is no better place than a forum or manufactureres website. Below is a list of sites that we believe will enhance your automotive experience. If you would like to recommend a website to add to this page click here.
Parking on Dry Leaves
Don’t park on top of a pile of leaves. Since 1975, all cars and trucks have catalytic converters installed in the exhaust system to help clean emissions. They run at an average temperaure of 500° F or above. So obviously if the leaves get near the catalytic converter, there could be quite a colorful display.
Remember to turn off your windshield wipers before you turn off your car. If the wipers are left on and the windshield freezes, the wipers may be stuck to the windshield. Unable to move, the linkage could break, or the wiper motor could burn up.
Think carefully before you jumpstart your car. The car with the good battery should NOT be running at the time of the jump. If it is, and the other car starts there is a chance that both alternators will kick in at the same time. This causes a voltage spike that could burn out the relays or computers. This might be the voltage spike that would burn out your checking account.
Just in case you do break down in bad weather, it’s a good idea to have a few things in your trunk. Especially recommended are a blanket, a flashlight, road flares, a jack, a lug wrench and a first aid kit. You might also consider fuses and a small shovel to dig yourself out of snow. Of course, a cell phone can be a lifesaver and even better if you put Import Autohaus on speed dial. Always check the air in spare tire when you check your other tires, so you know you’re in good shape.
5 tips to make sure your car goes the distance!
Here are a few tips that will help you make sure your car stays in the best possible shape.
- Change your oil regularly. As a general rule, you should stop in for an oil change every three months or 3,000 miles – whichever comes first. Make this a habit, and your car is a lot more likely to become a member of the 100,000-mile (or more) club!
- Pay attention to warning signs. If you’ve driven a car for any length of time, you probably know it pretty well. So, if you happen to notice any out-of-the-ordinary sights and sounds when you fire up your engine, a checkup may be in order.
- Have your car serviced regularly. Even if your car seems fine, it’s wise to schedule regular maintenance. Certified auto mechanics can make sure your car is running as it should be – and they can catch problems before they become serious!
- Check tire pressure regularly. So exactly what does “regularly” mean? When it comes to tire pressure, the answer is once a month. And yes – it may seem like a hassle, but the few minutes it takes to complete this safety check are surely less of a burden than a flat tire! Look on the inside of the driver’s side door to find your car’s specific tire pressure recommendations.
- Give your car a break. Idling for long periods of time can be tough on your car. (Plus it wastes gas and it’s not good for the environment, either.) If you plan to stay put for more than a few seconds, turn off your engine.
Have you rotated your tires recently?
Front and rear tires wear differently, so it’s important to rotate your tires periodically. This helps equalize tread wear and maximize the life of your tires. Regular tire rotation may also be a condition of your tire warranty.
So, just how often should you incorporate tire rotation into your car maintenance plan? As always, we recommend you check your owner’s manual for specific guidelines. If you’re still not sure, a general rule of thumb is to rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. In fact, if you do this every other time you change your oil, you’ll be in great shape.
Make your car a lean, green machine
Most of us understand the importance of living “green,” and as drivers, there are plenty of things we can do to be kind to Mother Earth, too. Take these simple steps, and you’ll be driving a leaner, greener car in no time!
Go easy. Aggressive driving, complete with lots of starts and stops, can wreak havoc on your fuel economy and cause unnecessary wear and tear on your car. Take it easy when you hit the road!
Check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires cause a decrease in fuel economy, so it’s a good idea to check your tire pressure about once a month. Find your car’s optimal tire pressure in your owner’s manual or on the inside of your driver’s side door.
Lighten your load. Carrying excess weight is another way to decrease your fuel economy. If you do have to haul a big load, try to limit the amount of time the heavy items are in your vehicle.
Plan ahead. Consolidate trips. Start at one end of town and work your way to the other. This is good for your car, and it will help you save time, too!
Crank your gas cap. A loose or missing gas cap can cause gasoline to evaporate. Prevent an unnecessary loss of gas by giving your gas cap an extra twist or two every time you fill up!
What emergency items should I keep in my vehicle?
No one ever PLANS to be involved in a roadside emergency, but the truth is, they DO happen. No one is exempt. Here, we’ve put together a list of items that could come in handy. Consider stashing some safety gear in your trunk – just in case!
Jumper cables – Car batteries seem to die at the most inopportune times. Stow a set of cables, and you’ll be prepared to give your car – or someone else’s – an emergency jump.
A flashlight – Unless you never drive at night, you need to consider the fact that emergencies can happen in the dark, too. A versatile flashlight could save the day.
Warm blankets – These are a must if you end up stranded on the side of the road in cooler weather. Plus, you may even find that you grab these at sporting events and picnics, too (an added bonus!).
A first-aid kit – Pre-assembled kits are readily available at drugstores, and they are usually quite affordable. You may also choose to assemble a kit of your own.
Water bottles and simple snacks – Under certain circumstances, it’s possible that you could be stuck for a few hours – or worse. Water bottles and granola bars are good items to keep among your emergency gear.
Make sure your lights shine!
Fixing dead bulbs on headlights, tail lights and brake lights can be a drag – but it’s important to get the job done.
Driving without working lights on your vehicle can be a safety hazard. It’s also against the law. Remember: Your vehicle’s lights are an important communication tool.
To check your lights, simply have someone start your car for you. Then, take a quick stroll around the vehicle to make sure all of the lights are illuminated. (Don’t forget to have the person in the car step on the brake pedal to make sure those lights are working too!)
If any lights aren’t working, fix them immediately. You can buy replacement bulbs at an automotive store and install them yourself, or you can ask your friendly neighborhood shop (that’s us) to tackle the job for you. As always, we’d be glad to help!
Don’t ignore dashboard warning lights
Dashboard warning lights can be frustrating. Sometimes, instead of putting us at ease, they cause us to worry about unwanted repair bills – especially when things seem to be working just as they should be.
A word of caution: That approach can backfire.
Putting off a small repair now can ultimately result in a more serious failure down the road. (Keep in mind, of course, that the more serious the problem, the more you’ll likely have to pay to get your car back in working order, too.)
So, what should you do if a dashboard light illuminates in your vehicle? Take your car into a reputable service department (that's us) and have a certified technician diagnose the problem. It could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Poor tire pressure? It could be a problem!
Have you ever noticed this dashboard warning light? If so, it could mean that one or more of your tires is low on air. Good tire pressure is pretty important. It improves your gas mileage, it helps your car handle better, and it reduces your risk of blowouts.
So, what should you do if you suspect your tires are low on air?
Start by purchasing a quality gauge. It’s a good idea to keep this in your glove compartment so it’s always handy.
- Locate the correct air pressure specifications for your vehicle. These are usually located on a sticker inside the driver’s side door or in your owner’s manual.
- Unscrew the plastic cap on your tire and use the gauge to evaluate your tire pressure. (Be sure to push down firmly. If you hear a hissing sound, you are letting air out of your tire.)
- Add air as needed, being careful not to overfill.
Play it safe! Get in the habit of checking your tire pressure once a month to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape!
Give the INSIDE of your car a little TLC
Cleaning the inside of your car can seem like Mission: Impossible – but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips for sprucing things up:
Remove everything that does not belong in your car. This includes shopping bags, books and magazines, travel mugs, sports equipment, work materials and more. (The list goes on and on!)
- Toss all trash, including paper scraps, food wrappers and empty cups.
- Thoroughly vacuum the inside of your car. Use a hose attachment to tackle dirt in hard-to-reach spaces.
- Remove floor mats and vacuum them thoroughly. If you have all-weather mats, dislodge caked-on dirt with a hose.
- Spot treat stains on your upholstery. If you have cloth seats, use a little water and some upholstery cleaner. If you have leather seats, it’s a good idea to invest in a quality leather cleaner. A leather protectant will keep your seats looking great.
Check Engine Lights
Modern automobiles come with elaborate checks and balances that adjust to the conditions within your engine. When something goes wrong, there are bells and whistles to alert you, if you watch your dashboard. One of the most general alarms is the CHECK ENGINE light, which is programmed to tell you whether you should pull over immediately, or if you should call for an appointment soon.
When you start your car, the check engine light will go on. This indicates that your car's engine management system is up and running. It will turn off soon, unless it senses a malfunction.
If it stays on continuously, something is wrong. A check engine light that stays on may not mean imminent engine failure, unless there are other warning signals. Pull over and turn the car off. Start the car again. If the light turns off this time, there may not have been anything wrong. Keep an eye on the dashboard though. If the light comes on again after a while call and make an appointment with us to get it checked. If the light stays on, you’ve got bigger trouble, and you probably should call Import Autohaus immediately.
The check engine light does not measure all the internal working, so you’ve still got some responsibility. Watch all your gauges and lights. There are other lights that indicate low engine oil (STOP!), low engine coolant, and engine overheating. Some of these lights are referred to as “idiot lights” for people who pay no attention to smoke pouring out of their car, gauges that are waving warning flags at them, and clunking sounds coming from under the hood. If you don’t notice when something goes wrong it may trigger the check engine light eventually, but by then the problem will have compounded. Glance at the dashboard regularly and be familiar with the messages your car is sending.
To Change or Not To Change
As the old saying goes, “Motor oil is the lifeblood of your engine.” We’re here to tell you, it’s true! As your engine works, it generates tremendous friction. That friction wears down the internal components but the oil is there to lubricate and minimize the damage. The friction also generates intense heat. Oil dissipates the heat, but the oil’s effectiveness is gradually altered as it is heated again and again. The high temperatures break the oil down until it can no longer protect your engine’s components. Keeping good, fresh oil in our car will prevent wear on your components, and it will prevent sludge buildup, which can block the flow of oil through the engine. If sludge blocks the flow, excessive heat generated by the engine will have a field day.
Most manufacturers recommend changing your oil every 7500 miles under normal operating conditions. You probably like to think of yourself as a moderate person, but if you read the auto manufacturers’ descriptions of normal and severe driving conditions, you may decide that you’re as weird as your brother-in-law has always claimed. The manufacturers define severe conditions as:
- making frequent short trips (less than 5 miles)
- making frequent short trips (less than 10 miles) when the temperature is below freezing
- driving in stop-and-go traffic in hot weather
- towing a trailer
- driving in areas with heavy dust (gravel roads, constructions zones, etc.)
You have probably deliberately chosen schools, cleaners, supermarkets and gyms within 5 miles of your house. You also probably get in traffic jams, sometimes in the summer. If you ever go to the beach, take a kid to college, or go to a garden center down a gravel road, label yourself abnormal and change your oil more often.
Import Autohaus and most other service centers and oil companies recommend the change at 3000 to 4000 miles, the suggested mileage for cars driven under “severe” conditions.
We are happy to change your oil, check all other fluid levels, and the air pressure in your tires. If you’d rather change it yourself, please bring the old oil in to any Import Autohaus and we’ll recycle it for you.