The ‘walk around’ check: basic preventive maintenance

Most car owners and drivers sail through the back door with a piece of toast in their mouth, a mug of coffee, the newspaper and a briefcase. They go directly behind the wheel, start their car and back out the driveway. This amount of stress and tension really is not very good for your own health or for your car’s.

If you keep pets around your house, you know better than just start the ignition and get out the driveway in the morning. You know you have to check out your tires to see if the cat has sharpened its claws on it and has caused tears on it, or the dog has chewed down that nozzle that sticks out of the tire where the tire is inflated. These simple irritations might just cause your car to break down while on the road, or worse, it might lead to an accident.

If you suddenly find yourself with a flat tire in the middle of traffic, you would have to push your car to the side and you can be sure that you will get a ticket for obstruction and get towed for it. If the tire blows out while you are on the interstate doing 50mph, it’s not only unpleasant, it’s downright scary! You will struggle to keep your car from weaving. You will have to apply the brake gently, move your car slowly to the side and avoid colliding with another vehicle on the interstate at all costs. Not a very pleasant scenario, is it?

To prevent little irritations such as these from becoming life-threatening accidents, you must make it a habit to do a simple “walk around” check before you start your car in the morning. Beginning at the front of the car: check the lights, the tires, the wheel fixings (the nuts and bolts and the rim of the tires) as well as the body.

Make sure that the lights are all intact (no broken lights). Look and see if the tires are standing and not flat. Check to see that the nuts and bolts that keep the tire attached to the car are tight. Look to see that the rim of the tire is round and not dented in some parts. If you see stains on the rim of the tire, it could just be mud, it could be your dog’s pee, or it could be brake fluid leaking. Check behind the rim of the tire if there is any moisture there. Look at the doors and see that they close and open well.

If you have time, pop the hood and check the dipstick and the level of the motor oil. Check that there’s water in the radiator. Check the level of brake fluid in the reservoir. If you still have time, start the car with the hood popped open; and listen for any unusual sounds: check for loud grinding and squeaky noises. A grinding noise might mean there’s something loose somewhere which is causing the engine to vibrate too much. A squeaky noise might mean there’s something wrong with the fan belt that drives the alternator or the air conditioning or the car’s cooling system.

Turn the headlights on and off to see that they are working fine. Turn on the signal lights to see if they are working. If on the dashboard there are flashing lights, it might mean that your gasoline tank is nearly empty, it might mean that your car is overheating – flashing lights on the dashboard are not a good sign. If on the dashboard, the signal lights are blinking faster than usual, check to see that outside, the signal lights are blinking as well. It might mean that something is off in the electrical wiring. Faulty electrical wiring might lead to a fire in the engine or inside the car.

If your car does not pass the “walk around” test, you might have to call a mechanic and borrow your wife’s or husband’s car for the day. It will be inconvenient, for sure, but at least, you won’t find yourself miserable in the middle of lonely stretch of road without any cell phone signal and without any way to call on a mechanic. Or worse, find yourself in the middle of a road wreck.

Fluid check: Signs that a car is roadworthy

Preventive car maintenance checks for the warranty

If you bought your car brand new and it is just three years old, chances are, it is still under the manufacturer’s warranty. A manufacturer’s warranty is only valid if you bring your car in for preventive car servicing every three months at the car dealer. Check out the owner’s manual in the glove compartment of your car. You’ll find a thick book that shows you the features of your car and also provides you with a schedule for when to bring your car in for its preventive maintenance.

The fluid check

If you do not bring your car in for any of its preventive car maintenance checks, the manufacturer’s warranty will be invalidated. It is important that you keep to your schedule. The first maintenance check is usually after the first month and it is for tightening of nuts and bolts. The successive maintenance checks are also valuable as the oil is changed and all the fluid levels in the car are checked. This means that the coolant in the radiator is checked along with the brake fluid, the motor oil, the transmission fluid, and even the amount of water in the reservoir for the windshield sprinkler!

overheated car

If you’ve ever gone for an annual physical examination, you will probably recall that you give samples of your blood and urine for testing. The fluids in your body give a picture of the overall health and working condition of your body. It is the same way with cars: the fluid levels in the car give a picture of the overall roadworthiness and condition of the car.

If too much coolant in the radiator has been used up, it might mean that there is a leak in the radiator hose or the car’s thermostat isn’t working properly. This may imply that when you operate the car, it is at a higher temperature than is recommended, thus some component parts may get warped or “baked” into place. If the brake fluid has been used up too much, there may be a leak in the brake hose, or the braking system isn’t working properly.

The fluid check is very important – do not miss out on it.

Basic Tire Maintenance Check: Rotation and tire depth

stack of tires

Aside from checking the tire pressure weekly, you can also check the wear and tear on the tires and rotate the tires. You can bring your car to a mechanic and have him check the wear on the tires. He will then take each tire out and replace them into a different place from the previous spot it used to be in (front tires may get replaced in the back tire wells or vice versa). This will ensure that the tires wear down at a fairly even and uniform rate. If you’re handy, you can do this yourself.

Some cars are front-wheel drive (both of the front tires are driven by the motor when you run the car while the back tires just roll along as they are pulled by the front tires). There are cars that are rear- wheel drive: both the back wheels drive the car while the front wheels roll along as they are pushed by the back tires.

SUVs are usually “4×4” meaning all the wheels are driven by the engine simultaneously; or they may be “2×4” meaning two wheels are driven by the engine simultaneously while the other two wheels roll along as they are pulled or pushed by the other tires. You can just imagine that the tires that “drive” the car are the ones that suffer more wear. Rotating your tires will ensure even wear on the tires. This will also ensure even handling as you brake.

How can you tell when your tires are worn?

Well, if you go to a tire store, you will notice that the new tires have small “hair-like” bits of rubber sticking out. You will also notice that there are deep grooves on the tires. The depth of the grooves signals that these are new tires. As you drive your car, the depth of the groves lessens as the road eats away more rubber from the surface of your tire. A tire that is smooth (it doesn’t have deep grooves on its surface) is “bald.”

An observant traffic cop will pull you over if you are driving around with “bald” tires. Bald tires mean that your car will have trouble stopping as there will be nothing that will maintain traction on the road. When the road is wet as when it has just rained, a car with tires that are “bald” or nearly “bald” will more likely skid and slip on the wet surface. You will lose control of your car when you apply your brakes. Yes, even the emergency “hand” brake will not keep the car from skidding out of control when your tires are “bald.” Bald may be beautiful, but this does not apply to car tires.

Basic Tire Maintenance: tire pressure check

The car’s tires are like a person’s feet. If your feet are sore or you wear shoes that have very little or no support at all, then you are likely to get injured. The same analogy applies to cars and its tires. The tires are the part of the car that touches the road. It bears the weight of the car and its passengers and cargo. Thus, it is the part of the car that is subjected to the most wear and tear. Checking it regularly may save you from expensive repair, and it can save your life.

Check the tire pressure once weekly

The tire pressure is measured in pounds “per square inch” (psi). This not only measures how much air there is in the tire, but it also measures how much that amount of air inside the tire pushes against the inner walls of the tires. To check how much air you should keep inside the tires, check the manual for the car manufacturer’s recommendations. If your car isn’t brand new or if you’ve changed your tires before, the recommended tire pressure should be embossed on the tire itself, near the rim.

Stick to the recommended tire pressure: too low tire pressure means more drag as more of the tire touches the road, there is more friction, and thus, more rubber gets eroded as you drive your car. If the pressure is too high, your ride will be too “bouncy” and only the middle of the tire surface will touch the road. Either way, the wear on the tire will not be even and it will affect how much gas you consume: drag makes you push harder on the gas pedal, increasing the consumption of fuel to simply propel the car forward.

Things to check when planning a road trip

A Few of the Essentials

When you are planning to take your car on a road trip cross-country, a little planning and foresight is necessary. Since you will be driving your car to a destination that may be unfamiliar to you, it pays well to get your car looked at to see that it is not only roadworthy, but also to give you peace of mind that you have done your best to make sure that your car won’t suddenly cough and sputter and just roll over and die on the side of the road somewhere.

Check your tires  

why you need long distance driving services

Take a penny and slide it in the grooves. If the grooves are not deep enough to bury the penny up to half its height, your tires are too worn to survive a cross-country road trip. Change your tires. Some people check the tires that are attached to the car but they forget to check the spare tire that’s sitting in the trunk of the car. You also have to get that checked to see if it has proper tire pressure and if it is not too worn down. Nothing is more annoying than to get a flat tire and to learn that the spare tire in the trunk is also flat. You won’t be able to limp your way to the nearest service station. Worse, an unexpected expense like this can upset your road trip plans.

Check the fluids

Check the oil. Better yet, get an oil change. Change the oil filter and check the air filter. These things keep particulates from accumulating in the oil making it too thick and viscous that it won’t lubricate the engine properly.

If you are in the habit of getting a periodic oil change, then all you have to do is to ensure that you have enough motor oil. Locate the dipstick. Take it out and wipe it clean. Then put the dipstick back in and take it back out. You will see the level of oil in the engine. There is usually two indicators for minimum and maximum.

By checking the oil, you will also see if it is clear or murky and filmy. Clear oil means it is still clean and thus, your car engine is in good working order. When the oil is dark or murky, chances are, you need an oil change. When there is a whitish film on the oil – that means water has mixed with in with the oil and that could spell major trouble.

Check your emergency car supplies

Make sure that in your emergency kit in the car. Don’t just pack a first aid kit. Also pack in a can of motor oil, a can of automatic transmission fluid and a can of brake fluid. It just might save your car and save you a headache while on the road. It also will not hurt to have an empty gas can in the trunk just in case you run out of gas and you need to hike to the gas station you just passed to purchase enough gas to drive back to the gas station and fill up.

Make sure you pack a flashlight with extra batteries. Make sure you have your reflectorized early warning device (you should have a pair) to put in front of and in back of your car as you are stalled on the road. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in case of engine or fuel fire. Pack some flares in case you are in real trouble and someone is badly injured.

Make sure that the pliers, a screw driver, lug wrench, cross wrench and jack are all in the trunk and they are all in good working condition. You never know when you might need it. Also, a set of jumper cables can help you get your car started if your battery suddenly dies on you.

Check all your lights

Check your headlights, signal lights and tail lights. Make sure that your front and rear windshield wipers are working properly. Check to see that the utility light in the trunk and the map light in the car are also working. Checking the windshield wipers and sprinklers will ensure that visibility on the road is maintained.

You do not want to be pulled over and issued a traffic ticket for broken or faulty lights. You also might want to get your car battery checked as these lights depend upon battery power when you use them. You also will not enjoy sitting in your car on the side of the road in the dead of night being eaten alive by mosquitoes as you wait for a tow truck because your battery is drained.

If you don’t have time to check all this out, and make the appropriate changes before your trip, I recommend and have has great success traveling with long distance transportation companies. One in particular I like and have worked with before you can find here: http://www.longdistancedrivingservices.com/. It’s kinda a last minute resort, if you can’t fly or drive yourself. But it’s a fun experience, and you get to be on the road.

That’s all for now. Have fun!

Preventive Car Maintenance: Keeping your car roadworthy

Roadworthiness is a driver’s basic obligation

If you’ve had a decent driver’s education, you would know that it is the car owner’s responsibility to maintain the roadworthiness of the car he drives. Driving a car is not a right, it is a privilege. Only persons who can fulfil the obligations required by law for operating a vehicle are given a license to drive. Keeping a car roadworthy is one such obligation of car ownership and car operation. A person cannot just keep driving his car until it falls apart in the middle of the road. A car’s registration is periodically renewed as this is the opportunity for government agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles to determine a car’s roadworthiness.

Maintaining roadworthiness benefits the driver

Maintaining your car is beneficial for you. A car which is well-maintained will seldom get into accidents caused by equipment malfunction (faulty brakes, brakes that do not deploy, etc.). There is also less risk for a car to be pulled over because a police officer happens to see wires sticking out from under the lid of the trunk, or under the trunk. There will be no traffic citation or traffic ticket for a busted tail light or a signal light that isn’t working.

Keeping a car well-maintained also means that if you are suddenly in need of money and find yourself having to sell your car, you can get a good deal because your car’s resale value is not lowered by obvious signs of wear and tear – or signs of neglect.

What is roadworthiness?

When a car is roadworthy, it is suitable and safe for use on public roads. A car is suitable for use on public roads when its condition meets the requirements for being used on public roads – it runs smoothly without endangering the lives and wellbeing of its driver or passengers. This also means that a car is safe to ride in and it does not put other motorists or pedestrians at risk of injury. In some states, before a car is allowed to be registered or before it is allowed to renew its registration, a car owner must submit his car for roadworthiness inspection and the car must obtain a certificate of roadworthiness.

The longest running Harley blog post

This was a post that was on the blog before we took over the site. But we love (hate?) Harleys too, so we decided to recreate it!

It is amazing some of the things that you will come across while surfing the web. In fact, I have started a collection of pages that I have found and would like to share with my readers.

Today’s link is to a very large and popular blog site with many contributors called Blog Critics Magazine. I mean this site is huge! However, today we will be exploring the culture section where Frank Giovinazzi of Car Buyer’s notebook made a post entitled Harley Davidson – How Do I Hate Thee. Its a rather small post in itself where Frank gives out 11 reasons  why he hates Harley Davidson and the dweebs (as he refers to them) who ride them. The post was made in may of 2003 and only contains 243 words, but to this day the Post still gets traffic and has currently 1745 comments with the last comment being made as of this post at 16:36 on January 12th. That was yesterday in case nobody is paying attention…. this post has been read and commented on for going on 5 years now.

I have to hand it to Frank for making this post. Fact may even be that the man owns a Harley. But whether he does or not is not what it is all about. It is about the controversy that was created by him making the post. The post about hating Harley Davidson that has almost created a meeting hole on the web where people get together on a semi-regular basis to kick sand at each other on everything motorcycle related from helmet laws to owning American vs metric motorcycles.  How ingenious of Mr. Giovinazzi.

There you go! Check out the blog post and shoot us a comment below and let us know your opinion of Harleys! By the way, not sure where the laws are headed, but I thought I’d mention it here while we’re talking about motorcycles…pretty soon the government might start requiring smog checks for motorcycles too. At any rate, keep your bike clean, and you won’t really have anything to worry about!