Car Care Tips

By Reina V. Kutner

August 15, 2008 6 min read

Shorts and Fillers

Car Care and Buying

Reina V. Kutner

Creators News Service

GAS SAVINGS

As gas prices remain high, the question on everyone's mind is, "How do I save money?" The answer is simple: maintain your vehicle. The Car Care Council offers these tips for keeping up your car:

* Inflate your tires properly. When they aren't, it's like driving with the parking brake on, and can cost you one or two miles per gallon.

* Replace dirty air filters. A clogged air filter causes too much gas to be burned for the amount of air, and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing one can improve your mileage by 10 percent and save you 15 cents per gallon.

* Replace dirty spark plugs. Spark plugs can fire as many as three million times each 1,000 miles, and can cause chemical erosion. A dirty spark plug that is misfiring wastes a lot of fuel.

* Tune-up your car regularly. A regular tune-up can improve your mileage by four percent. Fixing a serious maintenance problem can improve your mileage by 40 percent.

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE

When owning a car, the most important thing is to keep it maintained. A properly maintained car lasts longer and keeps your car running well, not to mention improves your gas mileage. It is important to:

* Change the oil and filter every 3,000 miles or three months, depending on your vehicle make. Doing this helps keep the engine clean.

* Check the pressure of your tires at least monthly, including the spare. This affects handling, traction and safety.

* Schedule an annual tune-up. A well-tuned engine not only allows your car to have more power, but it improves the fuel economy and lowers the levels of emissions.

* Check the alignment annually. Normal wear and tear can take a toll on your car's steering and suspension. However, checking the alignment also improves fuel economy, handling and reduces tire wear.

* Inspect the windshield wipers and lights. These are especially important for safety, and need periodic replacement.

--- Information courtesy of the Car Care Council.

MECHANIC SEARCH

Mechanics are a dime a dozen. A great mechanic that doesn't overcharge you is hard to find. Here are some quick tips to find the best mechanic for you:

* Always look for a mechanic before you actually need it. You want to make the best decision possible and not feel rushed.

* Ask friends and acquaintances for their recommendations.

* Do not choose a shop solely on location.

* When picking a shop, consult local consumer organizations about the reputation of the shop, as well as any complaints.

* Always look for a tidy, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot of equal value to yours and modern equipment in the service bays.

* Make sure the repair shop handles your make and model of vehicle. Some specialize in certain types of cars.

* Look for signs of technician competence. These include certification from ASE, AAA, trade school diplomas and certificates of advanced course work.

* Also look for community service awards, plaques that indicate civic involvement, customer service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau and other consumer groups.

* The staff should be courteous and helpful. The manager, service writer or technician should be willing to answer any questions.

* Labor rates, fees for testing and diagnostic work, guarantees and methods of payment should be posted.

* Ask for some names of customers as references. Call them.

* Start with a minor job. If the service is good, repeat business there.

--- Information courtesy of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)

TEEN FATALITIES

A special report on teen driving in the August issue of Reader's Digest listed the top 10 states for teen-driving fatalities based on data provided by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety from 1997-2006. The ratio was every teen death per 100,000 people.

The ten states are:

Mississippi: 35.1

Wyoming: 34.5

Montana: 33.8

Alabama: 33.5

Missouri: 32.5

Arkansas: 31.9

South Dakota: 30.8

Tennessee: 30.8

Kentucky: 30.6

Oklahoma: 28.6

COMMUNICATING BETTER

If there is a problem with your car, you can't expect your mechanic to read your mind about it. Here are some tips from the ASE about how to communicate the problem properly.

* Before you take your car in, do your homework. Read the owner's manual, follow the recommended service schedules and keep a log of all repairs.

Check your car. Check out unusual sounds, odors, leaks, smoke, warning lights and gauge readings. Note changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, problems in handling, braking, steering and vibrations.

* If there's a problem, tell the mechanic when it started, if it's constant or periodic, and when it happens. Does it occur at all speeds, when you're accelerating, braking or shifting?

* When at the mechanic, don't be embarrassed to ask questions or definitions of technical terms.

* Ask to be apprised of the problem, course of action and costs before work begins. Understand all the fees before you take the care in.

* Never be in a shop where you feel rushed or ignored. Good shops will allow for good communication.

(C) 2008 Creators News Service

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