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Driving Tips to Stay Safe This Fall

Posted on 17, September, 2014

Imagine you're driving down a windy road, the sun is going down and there's not a car in sight. Your mind starts to wander as you think about dinner and the game you have recording when all of the sudden a deer runs in front of your car. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1.6 million vehicle crashes involving deer occur each year in the U.S. These accidents peak between October and January when deer are breeding and most active. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind as deer season gets into full swing:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings— Your chances of encountering a deer are greatly increased when driving through heavily wooded areas or rural areas. If you see a deer crossing sign, be on the lookout. These signs are usually posted in areas where there have been a lot of deer-related incidents. 
  2. Look out for the pack— Deer are pack animals, so chances are that if you see one cross the road, several others will follow. Slow down or stop if you see a deer crossing and wait until the last of the pack has run by. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you, in case you need to brake suddenly.
  3. Check the clock— Deer are most active around dusk and dawn. Visibility is low at these times, so use your high-beam headlights when possible. 
  4. Make sure your car is in good shape—Having brakes and tires that are in good shape will greatly increase your ability to stop suddenly.
  5. Have an accident plan— If you do hit a deer, know what to do. Check to see if anyone is injured and call the local police and/or medical services. Don't attempt to touch or move the deer. Inform your insurance company of any damages to your car.

Deer antlers look much better on your wall than they do coming through your windshield, so drive safe! If you have any questions or would like to have your brakes and tires inspected, feel free to give us a call or visit our website.

Decoding Your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Vin Number

Have you ever noticed a mysterious set of numbers at the base of your car's windshield? That number, the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), is like your car's Social Security Number and will tell you more about your vehicle than you probably wanted to know. It's used to register your car, buy insurance, order parts for your car, or to identify it in the event that it's stolen. But how do you uncover the secrets that these 17 numbers and letters hold? Here's a simple way to decode your vehicle's VIN. 

  1. Digits 1 – 3 (Make/Model): These digits break down the vehicle's make (1st digit), model (2nd digit), and manufacturer (3rd digit).
  2. Digits 4-8 (Vehicle Features): These digits detail the features of your car, like driveline options, body type, engine code, etc…
  3. Digit 9 (Verifying #): This number is used to verify that the VIN itself is valid and not a fake.
  4. Digit 10 (Model Year): This number represents the year the vehicle was made, not to be confused with the year it was sold or delivered.
  5. Digit 11 (Assembly Plant): Identifies where the car was built
  6. Digits 12 – 17 (Sequence of Model Production): These digits comprise the serial number and indicate the order in which the vehicle left the assembly line.

Knowing how to decode a vehicle's VIN will come in handy when buying, selling, or owning a car. Here are a couple articles for more information about this complex number:

http://www.edmunds.com/driving-tips/making-sense-of-your-vin.html
http://www.driverside.com/auto-library/the_vin_number-60

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to give us a call or visit our website. We're happy to help!

 

Tractor-trailers, Carpools & Cupcakes- Oh My!

Posted on 17, September, 2014

It's that time of year again— the summer is winding down and the new school year is just around the corner. Getting ready to go back to school is a busy time for students and parents alike, but we have one more thing to add to your to-do list— car maintenance. The combination of heat, long trips and heavy loads can put a lot of strain on your vehicle. Whether you have a high school or college student who's driving himself, or you're driving a carpool, it's important to make sure your vehicle is running in top condition. Here are few back-to-school musts for your car:

  1. Check all fluids under the hood— Make sure that your transmission, brake, power steering and windshield wiper fluids are at the appropriate levels, as well as the engine oil and coolant.
  2. Inspect the Battery— We recommend having your car's entire charging system checked once a year. If your battery is more than 3 years old, have it checked.
  3. Look for tire wear— Inspect your tires for uneven wear and check their tread depth. Measure each tire's pressure (including the spare). Make sure that the trunk is equipped with a jack, lug wrench, and jumper cables.
  4. Make it clear that driving is a privilege, not a right. Even if your teenager has his or her own car, they have to earn the privilege to drive by following your rules.
  5. Inspect all lights— Check that the headlights, turn signals, emergency flashing lights, and brake lights are all functioning properly.

If you have a child going off to college or driving to high school for the first time, performing back-to-school maintenance on their car is a great way to teach them the basics of car maintenance. As always, if you have any questions or need any help, feel free to give us a call or schedule an appointment online!

Tractor-Trailer Safety Tips that Could Save Your Life!

Moving TruckIf you've ever driven on the highway, you probably have a horror story about an encounter with an irresponsible or inattentive truck driver-- it seems like every other day we hear about deadly accidents involving tractor-trailers. What people don't consider, however, is that the truck drivers are not the only problem. General lack of knowledge among motorists about the challenges of driving such a large vehicle contributes greatly to these accidents. So, as you take your last few road trips this summer, consider the following about how trucks operate: 

  1. Be aware of the truck's blind spots— Most 18-wheelers have large blind spots to the right and rear of the vehicle and smaller blind spots in the right front corner. When trying to pass a truck, do it quickly so that you're not riding in their blind area for long. The best rule of thumb is if you can't see the driver in his mirrors, he probably can't see you.
  2. Recognize their increased stopping distance— Tractor-trailers require more than 3 times the stopping distance than regular passenger vehicles. That's why it's important not to cut in front of them, or to stop suddenly to make a turn with a truck behind you.
  3. Understand how truck drivers use momentum— When driving in hilly terrain, truck drivers slow down on inclines and gather speed quickly going down the other side. They use the resulting momentum to get them up the next hill. Consequently, allow trucks going down hill to pass you and be patient as they slow down on steeper inclines.
  4. Be patient— It's no easy feat to maneuver a 22-foot tractor and 48-foot trailer in traffic. If a truck driver is trying to merge onto the highway, leave room or change lanes. Be patient as they go in reverse and understand that it takes time and concentration to back up such a large vehicle.

There are more than 5,000 fatalities annually in the U.S. as a result from accidents with tractor-trailers. We can do our part to reduce that number by simply taking the time to understand the challenges involved in driving a truck that size and exercising a little more patience on the road.

Give Yourself A “Brake” This Summer!

Posted on 17, September, 2014

Overheat Broke CarCars are so reliable these days, it's easy to forget that things can still go wrong. Of these potential issues, overheating is a big one. A lot of factors can cause a car to overheat, including low coolant, long drives (especially in warm weather) and congested traffic. No matter what the cause, however, a situation can quickly become out of control if you don't know what to do when your vehicle's temperature rises.

1. The first step is to know if your engine is overheating. You can determine this in a variety of ways, but the best way to tell is to consult the temperature gauge. Once the engine is warm, a car's temperature gauge should read just below the midpoint line between cold and hot. If you notice the needle rising towards hot, it's probably not an emergency but definitely time to take action.

2. Next turn off the A/C and turn on the heat. It might seem counterintuitive, but turning on the heat blows hot air away from the engine, allowing it to cool.

3. If the temperature starts to fall, drive to your destination and let your car cool down. If it's not cooling down, or steam is coming from under the hood, find a safe place to pull over as soon as possible.

4. Next, check the coolant level in the radiator. Make sure to wait until the car has completely cooled before attempting to open the hood. Once cooled, slowly twist off the radiator cap, being careful to avoid any hot steam.

5. If needed, add coolant. Inspect both the radiator hose and any heater hoses for leaks, blocks, or disconnections.

6. Restart the engine while carefully monitoring the temperature gauge. If it doesn't go down, call a tow truck.

Overheating can put your personal safety at risk and cause extensive damage to your car. Your safest bet is to always to be prepared, so make sure your car is equipped with coolant, a tool kit, a working flashlight and water. 

Want more information or have questions? Give us a call or visit our website. We're happy to help!

Give Yourself A Brake This Summer - Brake Maintenance Explained

As one of the most important safety features on your vehicle, brakes should be regularly maintained and any issues should be addressed immediately. The majority of vehicles today use disc brakes—a brake system that works like hand brakes on a bike. As you apply pressure to the brake pedal, the brake pads squeeze a spinning disc rotor that's attached to the wheel. The resulting friction, when applied to each of the wheels, slows the car.

Because all brake systems work by creating friction, their parts are expected to wear out. The question is: how worn out are they? Symptoms of brake wear include:

  • Car pulls to one side during braking
  • Brake pedal pulsates when you apply the brakes
  • Brake pedal feels 'mushy'
  • Noise when you step on the brake pedal
  • Repeatedly need to add brake fluid to the master cylinder

If you experience any of these issues, you should bring your vehicle in immediately. Neglecting your brake pads and shoes will ultimately result in brake failure. Not to mention that you risk damaging other, more expensive brake parts. In short, the benefits of regularly maintaining your brakes far outweigh the cost and inconvenience of having it done. If you'd like any more information or if your brakes are in need of service, visit our website or give us a call. We're always here to help!

Stay Cool and Prepare for Summer!

Posted on 17, September, 2014

Road Sign BrakeSchool's almost out, the sun is shining, and the relaxing beach vacation you've been waiting for is just around the corner. In the midst of making your summer travel plans, don't forget to take a few minutes to plan for the unexpected. Long road trips, combined with summer heat, can put a lot of wear on your car. Make sure you're lying on the beach, not stranded on the side of the road, by outfitting your car with a roadside survival kit:

1. Don't skimp on materials —Cheap is not always better, especially when it comes to tools you have in your trunk. Make sure to get a set of heavy-duty jumper cables. They should be at least four-gauge, 20 feet long, and made of copper. Same goes for your tire gauge. Get one that goes up to 100 pounds so that you can also check your high-pressure spare tire. Lastly, pack a collapsible gas container for those times that you thought there'd be a gas station just around the corner…

2. Think Versatile— Multi-purpose tools are invaluable when you're stuck on the side of the road. Make sure your kit is equipped with a four-in-one screwdriver, a pair of vise-grip pliers, and the ever-useful roll of duct tape.

3. Light at the end of the tunnel— Changing a tire isn't fun, changing it in the dark is even worse. A flashlight is always a great thing to keep in your trunk, but if you really want to go the extra mile, pack a generator light. There's nothing worse than reaching for your flashlight only to realize that the batteries are dead.

4. Safety First— Of course, no roadside survival kit would be complete without basic first-aid supplies (bandages, sterile gauze pads/dressings, antibiotic ointment, acetaminophen tablets, and protective gloves). 

Once you've got this kit in your trunk, you'll be summer road trip ready! If you have any questions or would like a pre-trip inspection, give us a call or visit our website. We're always here to help!

Keep Your Cool This Summer - Cooling System 101

Cooling System InfoIf you've ever tried to open the hood of your car after it's been driven for some time, you know that it gets hot under there. On average, the engine of a four-cylinder vehicle travelling at a speed of 50 mph will produce 4,000 explosions per minute! If not controlled properly, the massive amount of heat generated by these explosions would destroy the engine in a matter of minutes. That's where the vehicle's cooling system comes in.

As you drive, the cooling system is circulating a liquid coolant through the engine and then out to the radiator, where it is cooled by air coming through the front grill. The main components of a cooling system include: passages within the engine block and heads, a water pump to circulate coolant, a thermostat to monitor coolant temperature, and a radiator to cool the liquid after it has travelled through the engine. As the anti-freeze travels through these passages, it picks up heat from the engine and carries it away to the radiator where it is cooled. Once cooled, the liquid is sent back through the engine.

Before you go on any long road trips this summer, check to make sure that your vehicle has enough coolant and that it is not corrosive. Over time, the coolant can become corrosive and, if not flushed, can cause leaks and overheating. Coolant should be changed every 24,000 miles and any cracked, leaking, or brittle hoses should be replaced at the same time. If you have questions or need help, give us a call or visit our website.

National Car Care Month is here –Time to get your Car in Gear!

Posted on 17, September, 2014

Be Car Care logoApril is National Car Care Month, and auto shops around the country are gearing up to get your car running smoothly! It's the perfect time to have any winter damage repaired, and to get your car, summer road trip ready. Heat, long trips, and heavy loads during the summer months can lead to a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle if it's not properly maintained. Regular maintenance and repair is the best way to ensure maximum safety and reliability of your vehicle and can save you money in the long run. Below are our Maintenance Musts for April:

1. Cooling System – The entire system should be checked, including the radiator, coolant, belts and hoses, cooling fans, heater core, and water pump. The radiator and belts/hoses take a beating during the cold winter months and can lead to serious engine damage if not checked.

2. Tires – Make sure your tires are road trip ready by checking both their pressure and tread. Tire pressure fluctuates with the weather and will increase approximately one pound per every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. For tire tread, the minimum acceptable tread depth is 3/32 inch—that's the distance from the edge of a penny to the top of Abe's head.

3. Steering and Suspension – Winter can be tough on a vehicle's suspension. We recommend having your suspension and the front end checked annually, including ball joints, tie rods and steering components.

4. Oil Change – As always, your vehicle should have an oil change at least every 5,000 miles. This is particularly important as the weather gets warmer because rising temperatures outside combined with a hot engine can be disastrous without the proper lubrication.

5. Transmission – If your transmission is close to its recommended service interval, have it checked. Make sure the transmission fluid is clean and, if necessary, have it flushed.

According to the Car Care Council, 8 out of every 10 vehicles failed at least one component of their inspection during last year's National Car Care Month—that's an 80% failure rate of vehicles on the road! Help us lower that statistic and make the roads safer by bringing your car in for a tune-up during National Car Care Month.

For more information about National Car Care Month, you can visit the Car Care Council's website.

10 Ways Regular Car Maintenance Can Save You Money at the Pump

As the temperature outside rises, so does the price of fuel. Keep your cool at the pump this spring by performing these mileage increasing maintenance tips from the Car Care Council:

1. Properly Inflated Tires = Deflated Gas Prices – A properly inflated tire can improve your gas mileage by 4 percent.

2. Clear The Air – Simply replacing dirty or clogged air filters can improve gas mileage by as much as 14 percent! 3. A Well-Oiled Machine – By changing your vehicle's oil regularly and keeping it properly lubricated, you can gain another mile per gallon.

4. Rekindle the Spark – A misfiring engine wastes fuel, so replace dirty spark plugs and improve your mileage by two miles per gallon.

5. Put a Cap on It – A loose gas cap will allow gas to vaporize. Next time you're at the pump, double check that your gas cap is nice and tight.

6. De-Junk the Trunk - Doing a little spring cleaning in your trunk can increase your gas mileage by as much as 2 percent.

7. Cruise to Savings – Fuel economy worsens rapidly above 60 mph, so observe the speed limit and save some gas.

8. Easy Does It – Aggressive driving and/or quick starts and stops can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city.

9. Consolidate trips- A longer multi-purpose trip uses half as much gas as several short trips taken from a cold start.

10. Avoid Idling – When a car is idling, it gets 0 miles per gallon.

According to the Car Care Council, 60 percent of people claim that rising gas prices have changed their driving behavior. Furthermore, 90 percent say that they drive less and 75 percent say that they are maintaining their vehicles better. Shouldn't you be one of them?