Treating The Car Right

By Chelle Cordero

December 20, 2012 5 min read

Considered one of the more expensive purchases, the average consumer buys multiple cars in a lifetime.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach, says car buyers should familiarize themselves with the owner's manual and suggested manufacturer guidelines. "Regular and preventative maintenance is the best mix to save money, prolong the life of your car and keep it running well."

Fix says everyone should have a basic tool kit. The more experienced owner should carry such items as: jumper cables, jack, spare tire, tire inflation product and a tire pressure gauge. The less experienced owner should have a fully enclosed battery jumper kit, and an all-in-one fix-a-flat kit.

Dead batteries can happen to everyone. Have two cars facing each other or next to each other. With both cars off, attach one end of jumper cables to each vehicle -- connect the non-working car first, the positive end of the cable to the positive end of the dead battery and the negative end to the negative end of the battery. Next, connect the other end of the jumper cables to the other car, positive to positive terminal and negative to negative terminal; do not let the ends of the jumper cables touch each other and do not touch the metal ends. Start the engine of the donor car and let it run for a minute before starting the engine of the lifeless vehicle. It should start up immediately; if not, wait a minute, rev the engine of the running auto and try again. Once both cars are running, disconnect the negative cable and then the positive on the first car -- make sure the terminals do NOT contact each other, then disconnect the negative cable from the other vehicle followed by the positive cable. Keep the newly started car running so the battery gets a chance to charge.

Tires hold traction on the road and help regulate road speed. Steering and braking both depend on good tires. Proper tire maintenance significantly contributes to road safety. If the tread is worn, there is tread separation or the sidewall is visibly damaged or punctured, it is time to change the tire. Generally if the tread is down to 1/16th of an inch or at the level of "tread bars" (rubber placed by manufacturers between the treads), the tires need replacement. If a tire needs frequent air due to a "slow leak," there is extra strain put on the wall of the tire. Check for irregular tread wear and bubbles, bulges or gouges. These are unsafe conditions that can cause blowouts and loss of steering control on the road. If you use a fix-a-flat-in-a-can, it should only be used to get to a service station for a more permanent fix.

Changing a tire on the side of the road may be necessary, but can also be dangerous. The car should be as far off of the road as possible, in a well-lit area, on level ground and in unobstructed view. The owner's manual details the recommended spots to place a jack for each wheel. Roadside flares, hazard signs, or someone with a flashlight facing oncoming traffic (not IN the way of traffic) can help to warn oncoming traffic. Chock the good wheels before jacking the car up. Place the spare tire under the raised portion of the car to break the fall if the jack fails or rolls.

Fuel additives can help, but are usually unnecessary. "It may be useful if your car's engine has never been cleaned," said Lauren Fix. "Gas mileage can improve whether you use an additive or a higher grade of gas. If your car is running rough, it could help to clean out the gunk."

While it's only aesthetics, nicks and scratches can aggravate. Make sure it's not just a paint rub from another car by running your fingernail over it. Dealers and auto stores sell bottles of touch up paint. Be specific about the make, model and year of your car. Use a fine edge of sandpaper to smooth the scratch, wipe it with an alcohol moistened cotton ball and use the tip of a toothpick dipped in the paint to fill it in. Allow it to dry thoroughly before waxing.

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