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Autumn Auto Care



Inspect tires before fall road trips

Road trips are an autumn tradition for many people. Excursions to see the fall foliage can be awe-inspiring, but drivers must make sure their vehicles can handle such jaunts.

Tire inspections are essential before hitting the open road. The following are a handful of steps drivers can take to ensure their tires are up to the task of fall road trips.

• Give tires the eye test. The eye test can be an effective and quick way to detect tire damage. Uneven wear may be indicative of insufficient tire pressure or an alignment problem. Uneven wear also may indicate the vehicle is experiencing problems with its steering or suspension. But many times uneven wear can be remedied by a simple tire rotation, so take your vehicle to your mechanic if you notice uneven wear.

• Look for stowaways. Uneven wear is not the only thing drivers can detect with their eyes. In the course of your travels, your tire might have picked up a few stowaways, such as nails and screws that are poking into the tire. If you find any freeloaders, take your car to your mechanic, as your tires may need to be replaced.

• Look for cracking or bulging treads. Cracking or bulging treads or sidewalls can eventually cause a blowout, which can put you and your fellow road trippers in serious jeopardy. Cracked or bulging treads or sidewalls indicate tires are worn or weak, so bring your car to your mechanic for an inspection if you discover such problems.

• Perform the penny test. The penny test can help motorists determine if tire treads are worn. To perform the test, insert a penny with Abraham Lincoln’s head pointing upward into the tread. If the tread does not reach the top of Lincoln’s head, your tire’s treads are worn.

• Check tire pressure. Right before you pack up the car to hit the open road, check each of your tires’ pressure, making sure the pressure in each tire is at the level recommended in your owner’s manual. Inflating tires to the proper pressure takes just a minute or so, but that minute can protect you and your passengers while also saving you money at the filling station.

Properly maintained tires can go a long way toward ensuring the fall road trip season is a success.

Tips when driving in rainy conditions 

car-rainRainy weather can arrive any time of year. While an afternoon spent indoors watching the drops fall can be relaxing, driving in the rain is anything but. It requires extra concentration and improved reaction time. Rainy conditions can be challenging and treacherous, and drivers should proceed with caution on rain-slicked roads.

Rain is blamed for many accidents, but many of these situations are largely preventable among drivers who adapt to the weather and roadway conditions. Here are some things to consider.

* Reduced visibility occurs from wiper blades, glare (particularly at night) and heavy downpours. When you are unable to see the road ahead, including other vehicles, reduce your speed. If the rain is coming down in torrents, pull over to the side of the road and wait for a respite. Turn on your lights to ensure you are visible to other cars on the road.

* Recognize that rain can cause slick conditions. A film of water develops on the roadways, and that can affect the performance of your vehicle’s tires. Less traction means the car can slip and slide. Hydroplaning, or coasting on the surface of the water, is common. Another, lesser-known condition is slickness caused by grease and oil in the asphalt. During a long dry spell, these substances build up on the roads. When it rains, the oil and water doesn’t mix, bringing the oils to the surface and exacerbating slick conditions. The first few hours of a rainstorm can be quite dangerous until heavier rains wash the oils away.

* Water spraying up onto tires and brakes can compromise braking ability. That means it could take longer to stop under wet conditions. Do not tailgate and leave extra room between vehicles. If you drive through a puddle of water, pump the brakes and test them out to be sure you can stop. Brake earlier so that other drivers understand your intentions and can react accordingly.

* Avoid extremely large puddles. First of all, you cannot judge the depth of the puddle and you may end up getting stuck, especially in the event of roadway flooding. Water splashing into the engine compartment may damage electrical components. Steer around puddles to be on the safe side.

* Use extra care watching out for pedestrians. A normally observant person may be distracted by the rain, puddles and wrangling an umbrella and veer into the path of cars. Be mindful of the side of the roads and where pedestrians may be, such as around parked cars.

* Change wiper blades twice per year. You do not want to be caught with shoddy wiper blades in poor conditions.  Without an effective wiper blade, rain cannot be cleared effectively from the windshield.

* Limit distractions inside of the car to focus even more of your attention on the road. While some have become accustomed to answering phone calls or fielding questions from the backseat while driving, avoid such distractions when driving in the rain. Turn down the radio if you must and encourage passengers to remain quiet until safely home.

* Leave extra time to get to your destination. Rain causes slowing down of traffic. Rushing may increase your risk of being in an accident, so always leave extra travel time when driving in wet conditions.

* Make way for emergency personnel. Accidents and bad weather are common. Slow down or pull over to allow emergency vehicles to pass by. If there are flashing lights on the side of the road, move into the left lane to give a wide girth around first responders.

Driving in the rain requires drivers to exercise caution. Making a few adjustments improves safety on the roadways.

Topics to discuss before hiring your next mechanic

Few decisions weigh as heavily on automobile owners as their choice of mechanic. A good mechanic goes a long way toward ensuring drivers and their passengers stay safe on the road and that those drivers’ vehicles perform at their peak for years to come. That’s an important role to play, and it’s why many drivers acknowledge that choosing a mechanic is a decision that should not be taken lightly.

Certification can go a long way toward helping drivers find mechanics they can trust. . When shopping for a new mechanic, make sure that he or she is ASE-certified. In addition, discuss with the mechanic his or her work history, including any additional areas of expertise.

Many mechanics offer free estimates, but that should not be taken for granted. When bringing a car in for an estimate, drivers should confirm with the mechanic who will conduct the examination if the estimate is free or if they will be charged an inspection fee.

In addition to any fees regarding estimates, drivers should also inquire about labor costs and the payment policies at the facility. Labor can be quite expensive, so it’s best that you know these rates in advance of any repairs being conducted on your vehicle. It’s also important to get a rundown of the company payment policies, especially if your vehicle is in need of potentially costly repairs. You don’t want the bill to shock you once the work has been completed, so don’t hesitate to be inquisitive before leaving a car at the garage.

Replacing parts on a vehicle is a cause for concern for many drivers, and rightfully so. Consumer advocacy groups have exposed many mechanics who pass off used auto parts as new parts, charging their customers new part prices along the way. While there’s no way drivers can guarantee they won’t fall victim to such criminal behavior, they can inquire about company policies regarding vehicle parts. Does the garage even install used parts? If so, do they let drivers choose either new or used parts before any work is done? If the garage only uses new parts, ask for parts with solid warranties, so if the part must be replaced, you won’t have to pay for it again.

The preowned vehicle market is thriving, and drivers who take care of their vehicles have earned the right to reap their rewards for being good owners when it comes time to sell the car. When interviewing prospective mechanics, ask if they are willing to provide detailed documentation of any work they do on your vehicle. Such documentation can then be shared with prospective buyers when you want to sell the car, and it also serves as a way to keep the garage accountable for all the work they have done on the car throughout your relationship.

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