Fall Car Care Month Checklist

October is Fall Car Care Month, and the Car Care Council reminds motorists that checking their vehicles before the temperatures drop is a sensible way to avoid being stranded out in the cold and the unexpected expense of emergency repairs.
“The last thing any driver needs is a vehicle that breaks down in cold, harsh winter weather. Winter magnifies existing problems like hard starts, sluggish performance and rough idling,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Whether you perform the check or maintenance yourself or go to the repair shop, it’s a small investment of time and money to ensure peace of mind, and help avoid the cost and hassle of a breakdown during severe weather.”
The Car Care Council recommends the following Fall Car Care Month checklist to make sure your vehicle is ready for cold winter weather ahead.

Heating, Wipers & Lights
  • Make sure heaters, defrosters and wipers work properly.
  • Consider winter wiper blades and use cold-weather washer fluid. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months.
  • Check to see that all exterior and interior lights work and headlights are properly aimed.
Tires & Brakes
  • Check the tire tread depth and tire pressure of all tires, including the spare. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads.
  • During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly.
  • Have the brakes checked. The braking system is the vehicle’s most important safety item.
Gas, Oil & Filters

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full throughout the cold weather to prevent moisture from forming in gas lines and possibly freezing.
  • Be diligent about changing the oil and filter at recommended intervals. Dirty oil can spell trouble in winter. Consider changing to “winter weight” oil if you live in a cold climate.
  • Check the fuel, air and transmission filters at the same time.
System Checks – Charging, Cooling & Exhaust

  • Have the battery and charging system checked, as cold weather is hard on batteries.
  • Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
  • Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.

Pack the Essentials

  • Make sure that your ice scraper and snow brush are accessible and ready to use.
  • Stock an emergency kit with jumper cables, a flashlight, blankets, extra clothes, bottled water, nonperishable food and a first aid kit with any needed medication.
  • Order a free copy of the recently-updated 80-page Car Care Guide for your glove box at www.carcare.org/car-care-guide

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a free copy of the council’s popular Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.

Warning Signs of a Failing Alternator

Recently my alternator went out on my 2006 Dodge Stratus SXT. Thankful my dad is my mechanic and he took my alternator to get rebuilt at CS Auto Electric Inc located at 7020 Mableton Pkwy SE 770 941 0003 it was significantly cheaper than buying new one from the Auto Part Store. I recommend doing this ONLY if you have a mechanic that you trust and that is knowledgeable! 

When it comes to your vehicle, the alternator is a pivotal piece of machinery. The alternator re-cycles the power your car battery uses while driving, restoring the power it has lost while supplying the engine management, climate, entertainment and host of other systems with the juice they need to run properly.

It takes a lot of battery power to get – and keep – your vehicle running. So much power that if not for the alternator, the battery’s power reserve would not last. Your vehicle’s electrical system depends on an optimally running alternator. When the alternator malfunctions or stops working altogether, it can mean expensive repairs, inconvenience or a break down.

Alternator Warning Signs

Dim lights

The alternator is part of the electrical system of your vehicle. Its key role is to provide power to operate the starter, ignition and all of the electronic accessories in your car. If the alternator starts to die, you might notice your headlights and/or dashboard lights beginning to dim. Once the dash light or headlights dim, it is a clear indication of potential alternator malfunction. A waning alternator may cause other electronic accessories such as power windows and/or power seats to operate a more slowly than usual.

Warning light

Most modern cars have a dashboard warning light that alerts you when the alternator is on the fritz. Usually, the light will be shaped like a battery, though, some might say ALT (for alternator) or GEN (for generator). This light may only trigger if you are using multiple electrical components. It is generally contingent on how much life your vehicle’s alternator has left and how much electricity your vehicle is using.

Weak or dead battery

A car battery, by definition, has a finite life and will not last forever. As good as an alternator is at replenishing your car battery; it can only recharge it to the point that it has a decent amount of life left in it and is able to accept a charge. If the battery is really weak or dead, the alternator cannot bring it back to life. To troubleshoot whether the issue is the alternator or the battery, just charge the battery and restart the vehicle. If the battery is weak or dead, the car will continue to run but the lights will again become dim after a short time, indicating a problem with the charging system. If the vehicle has difficulty starting after the battery is fully charged, the problem likely is with the alternator.

Weird smells

An alternator works in conjunction with a system of belts. If a belt is not turning freely, the excess friction will cause the belt to heat up, which produces a burning rubber smell. If you catch a whiff of a smell similar to that of an electrical fire, this could indicate that the belt is slipping on the alternator pulley, causing poor alternator output. Tightening the belt often does the trick. If the situation arises where tightening your belt does not fix the strange smell and alternator output, we recommend having your alternator evaluated by a professional.

Odd sounds

There are many different parts that spin inside your vehicle’s alternator to produce electrical current. If one of these parts becomes worn or breaks, this could cause a grinding or whining noise. Specifically, worn out bearings inside the alternator have been known to cause this type of noise. If the bushings that the alternator is mounted on have gone bad, a noise will be produced. Alternators are normally replaced as an assembly.

Visual cues

If you are experiencing problems with the electrical system, the alternator itself might be fine because the problem could be with one of the belts connected to the alternator. By doing a visual inspection of the engine compartment, you can determine if a belt is too loose or too tight. If a belt is cracked or worn, you should be able to spot that as well.

Alternator Warning Signs provided by Pep Boys

How to Check and Add Air to Car Tires

Keeping the appropriate air pressure in your tires is one way to help maintain the safety of your vehicle. Low air pressure can lead to accidents, extra wear on your tires and overuse of gasoline. Learning how to check and add air to car tires is an essential skill that every driver should master.

1) Purchase tire gauge from an auto store or auto department of a hardware store. Tire gauges measure pounds per square inch (standard) or kilo Pascal's (metric).

2) Determine how much air should be in your tires

Look at the writing on the side of your tires or on a sticker on the inner panel of the door. The tire will have a recommended PSI or KPA number. This is the pounds per square inch or kilo Pascal's that your tires need. You can also check your owners manual for this information

3) Check the pressure when the tires are cold, as this is how the automakers list these recommended tire pressures. Tires heat up as you drive, so measuring them while they are hot will give you an inaccurate (overly high) reading. They take about a half hour to cool down. You also can just check the tires first thing in the morning

4) Unscrew the valve cap and set it to the side or in a pocket where you won't lose it

 5) Place the tire gauge onto the tire valve stem

6) Press the tire gauge firmly down on top of the valve stem, and Read the gauge to gain information about the PSI or KPA in your tires

Now you can compare the tire pressure readings you got with the specified amount called for by the manufacturer (on the doorjamb or in the manual). If the level of pressure in your tires is below the specified amount, you need to fill the tires with air

Filling Your Tires
There are at least two ways to refill your tires to bring them up to specification. You can go to an auto parts store and buy a portable air compressor. If you do this you can refill your tires at your house or in your garage.

Most people, however, will just refill their tires at a gas station. Even though many stations charge 75 cents to use their air compressors, you can usually get the attendant to turn on the machine for free.

Adjusting Your Tire Pressure
Here are the steps needed to adjust the pressure in your tires:

1. Pull your car in close to the air compressor so the hose reaches all four tires.
2. Remove the valve stem caps and set them to the side or in a pocket.
3. Insert coins or if the gas station attendant turned it on, you will hear the compressor motor beginning to run.
4. Press the hose fitting down on the valve stem and press the lever. You should feel air flowing through the hose and hear it inflating the tire. This can take a little effort to hold the hose on the valve stem.
5. Check to see when you have enough air pressure in the tires by releasing the inflation lever. The gauge on the hose fitting will show if you have approximately enough air pressure. You can check it again later with your own gauge. At this point, it is better to slightly over inflate the tire.
6. Adjust the pressure in all the tires in the same way. (Note: If the tires are warmed up, you can inflate the tire pressure to 3 psi over the specified amount as a general rule of thumb, but you'd still want to officially check the tires later.)
7. Recheck the tire pressure with the digital gauge. If the pressure is too high, press the gauge down just far enough to release some air from the tire. Check it again.
8. Replace the valve caps on all the tires.

Source: WikiHow

Maintenance Monday: Oil Changes and Tire Care

Since the weather is heating up I decided to start sharing tips on how to care for you car during the Summer Months. Starting with Oil Changes and Tire Care.

 Today I gave my car some TLC starting with an Oil Change:

For my oil changes I go to Sears Auto Center because they have great service and offer coupons for loyal customers today I got my oil change for $14.49

#ChickAutoTip: Many mechanics, dealers and quick-change lube shops suggest 3,000-mile oil change intervals for many cars but refer to your owners manual to be certain.

Next up, I needed one tire so I headed to Brown Tire Shop in Marietta--
1629 S Cobb Dr SE, Marietta, GA
One of the best places in Cobb County to get Tires! Quality Tires at a Discounted Price

I needed a tire for long time and I don't advise driving on a tire with the tread that is that low. I thank god for his mercy because that tire was DONE.

Penny Tire Tread Test- If you always see the top of Lincoln's head, your treads are shallow and worn and needs to be replaced--Top Picture

If Part of Lincoln's head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining. This means you don't need new tires --Bottom Pic

Main Image Source: Google
Penny Test Image: Firestone

Under The Hood Checks

While not as critical as it used to be, checking under the hood periodically can head off problems before they become costly.

First: Safety ---- Read the safety warnings in your owners manual and any safety warning stickers that may be under the hood.
If the engine has been running for any length of time, there are areas under the hood that can be very hot. Except for checking transmission fluid level, all checks should be done while the engine is turned off.

The following items should be checked periodically:
  • Engine oil level
  • Transmission fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Coolant (Antifreeze) level
  • Battery
  • Windshield washer solvent
  • Belts & Hoses
  • Windshield wiper blades
Engine Oil
This is the most important under-hood check you can do.  An engine cannot run without oil even for a minute without serious engine damage or total destruction! To check the oil level, make sure that the engine is turned off, then find the engine oil dipstick and remove it. With a paper towel or rag, wipe off the end of the stick and notice the markings on it. You will usually see a mark for "Full" and another mark for "Add." Check your owners manual to be sure. Push the stick back into the tube until it seats then immediately pull it out to see the oil level. You should not add oil unless the level is below the "Add" mark and NEVER add oil to bring the level above the "Full" mark. 

Transmission fluid
Most automatic transmissions should be checked while the engine is running. Check your owners manual to be sure. Also make sure the car is on a level surface and fully warmed up. Pull the transmission dipstick out, wipe off the end and note the markings on the end of the stick. The usual markings are "Full" and "Add 1 pint." Push the stick into the tube until it seats, then immediately pull it out to see the fluid level. Transmission fluid should be pink or red in color with the look and consistency of cherry cough syrup.  If the fluid is a muddy brown or has a burnt smell, have it checked by a mechanic. As with the engine, never add fluid unless it is below the "Add" mark and never bring it above the "Full" mark. Make sure you use the correct transmission fluid for your vehicle. If you plan to add Transmission fluid yourself, you should know that fluid usually comes in quarts, but the level may not be low enough to take the full quart.  Also, you will need a special funnel to get the fluid into the small tube that the dipstick came out of

Brake fluid
The brake fluid reservoir is under the hood right in front of the steering wheel. Most cars today have a transparent reservoir so that you can see the level without opening the cover. The brake fluid level will drop slightly as the brake pads wear out. This is a normal condition and you shouldn't worry about it. If the level drops noticeably over a short period of time or goes down to about two thirds full, have your brakes checked as soon as possible. NEVER PUT ANYTHING BUT APPROVED BRAKE FLUID IN YOUR BRAKES. ANYTHING ELSE CAN CAUSE SUDDEN BRAKE FAILURE!  Keep the reservoir covered except for the amount of time you need to fill it and never leave a can of brake fluid uncovered. Brake fluid must maintain a very high boiling point .Exposure to air will cause the fluid to absorb moisture which will lower that boiling point.

Power steering fluid
The power steering fluid reservoir usually has a small dipstick attached to the cap. Remove the cap and check the fluid level. The level should not change more than the normal range on the stick. If you have to add fluid more than once or twice a year, then have the system checked for leaks. These systems are easily damaged if you drive while the fluid is very low. Another warning of low power steering fluid is a buzzing noise when you turn the steering wheel at slow speeds.

Coolant (Antifreeze) level
Never open the radiator of a car that has just been running.
The cooling system of a car is under high pressure with fluid that is usually hotter than boiling water. Look for the cooling system reserve tank, somewhere near the radiator. It is usually translucent white so you can see the fluid level without opening it. (Do not confuse it with the windshield washer tank). The reserve tank will have two marks on the side of it. "FULL HOT" and "FULL COLD." If the level frequently goes below "full cold" after adding fluid, you probably have a leak which should be checked as soon as possible. Today's engines are much more susceptible to damage from overheating, so do not neglect this important system.

Most batteries today are "maintenance free" which simply means that you can't check the water level. This doesn't mean however, that there is nothing to check. The main things to check are the top of the battery which should be clean and dry, and the terminal connections which should be clean and tight. If the top of the battery continuously becomes damp or corroded soon after cleaning, then have the charging system and battery checked by your mechanic.

Windshield washer solvent
Windshield washer solvent is readily available by the gallon in auto supply stores as well as supermarkets and it is cheap. It is fine to use with or without adding water but will clean better undiluted. Never dilute it during winter months to insure that it retains its antifreeze protection.

Belts & Hoses
In most cases your mechanic can check your belts and hoses when you bring in the car for an oil change. However, if you get your oil changed by some quick lube type centers, belts and hoses may not be on their list of items to check in which case you're on your own. These checks are best done while the car is cold.

Belts are used to drive a number of components on an engine including: the water pump, power steering pump, air conditioner, alternator and an emission control pump. Some later model cars have a single "serpentine" belt that handles everything. This type of belt looks flat on one side with several ribs on the other side. You should check the ribbed side for signs of dry and cracked rubber. Serpentine belts are usually self adjusting and very durable. They should last about 30,000 miles. The other type of belt is called a "V" belt and is adjustable. There is usually more than one to an engine, sometimes three or four. Check each one for cracks and tightness and have them replaced if you find any problems. Some V belts are hard to reach but no less important so if you can't reach it to check then have your mechanic do it periodically.

Hoses should be checked visually and by feel. You are looking for dry cracked rubber, especially at the ends where they are attached. You should also check the ends for any signs of ballooning.
Main Image:www.cybercletch.com