Car Maintenance 101: Checking Out Your Vehicle’s Coolant/Water Levels

April 30, 2008

The radiator is easily one of the most important parts of your vehicle. It has the role of helping cool and also circulating the heated coolant that has been absorbed from the engine of your ride. If your vehicle constantly overheats, there’s a high chance that your radiator is no longer doing its job. This is why it’s important for you to keep your radiator filled with water or a mixture of coolant or antifreeze.

In most cars, you’ll find your radiator located near the very front of your vehicle. The radiator is usually situated directly behind your ride’s grille. On top of your radiator you’ll find what is called the pressure release cap. And a few ways off, close to your radiator, you’re going to find an almost completely transparent tank or reservoir which is called the “slosh” tank or the coolant overflow. Inside your coolant overflow, you’ll find the excess water or antifreeze that is not needed by your ride’s cooling system.

The fluid found inside your radiator is usually not just water or antifreeze/coolant. Most of the time, it’s a carefully balanced mixture (50-50) of coolant/antifreeze and water. Also located under your vehicle’s hood is a thermostat that carefully monitors your car’s operating temperature. It is the part of your vehicle responsible for the adjustment of coolant/antifreeze mixture that will be supplied to meet the demands of a specific situation.

The coolant, much like all the other fluids used in your vehicle can degrade or lose potency after much time has passed. When this happens, the coolant becomes less effective in providing your vehicle the right amount of protection needed for it to perfectly adjust to the radical changes in operating temperatures in your ride. When buildup and dirt from the exhaust system in the radiator builds up, it leads to the contamination of your car’s fluid mix, also draining your water-coolant/antifreeze mixture faster than normal.

It’s crucial that you check your water/coolant levels at least once every month. If you find that there’s a problem with your coolant overflow or your radiator, whether it’s leakage or damage caused by corrosion or cracks, then it’s time for you to find replacement car parts. If you drive a truck, then head straight to a reputable truck accessories and parts dealer for direct replacement products. If, however, you’re on a tight budget, then I suggest you check out this link to discount auto parts.

While once a month may be frequent enough for most vehicles, there are instances wherein you need to check more often. Check weekly or every other week if:

  • you see that your ride’s temperature gauge on the dashboard is showing higher numbers even when your vehicle is idle or parked

  • it’s a sweltering hot summer and you think your vehicle is in danger of constantly overheating

Also keep in mind that you need to flush your radiator every six months or as frequently as your owner’s manual recommends. This helps ensure the effectiveness of your water-coolant mixture, and takes out any debris or dirt that could have made its way to your ride’s cooling system.

Notice how most coolants or radiator fluids are usually yellow-green? Well, this is just one of the many different types of coolant-water mixtures available on the market. Colors can also vary depending once the antifreeze or the coolant is finally mixed with water or has been in the reservoir for a period of time.

To check your vehicle’s water-coolant mixture level, simply follow these simple instructions:

Step 1: Open your vehicle’s hood.

Step 2: Find your ride’s coolant overflow or “slosh” tank. It should be located near your vehicle’s radiator.

Step 3: Check the markings located on the tank to see whether you have an adequate amount of fluid in the tank or if you need to add more. If you find that you have enough fluid in your overflow tank, close the hood and you’re done with your check. If not, proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Unsnap the tank’s pressure release cap.

Step 5: Add the right amount of water-coolant mixture as indicated in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Make sure to wipe away any drops of spilled mixture.

Step 6: Return the cap and close your auto’s hood.


Car Maintenance 101: Checking Your Windshield Wiper Fluid Level

April 26, 2008

We’ve covered the importance of car maintenance, now it’s time to share with you the simplest way you can make sure your windshield wiper is in great condition. In one of my previous posts, from way, way back, I’ve detailed the importance of your windshield wiper. In case you don’t feel like browsing the pages to find this entry, here are a few reasons why you need to take care of this particular car part.

  • During harsh weather conditions, you’ll find this particular car part extremely important. Keep the weather, sleet and snow away with your well-maintained windshield wipers.

  • When you find that residual rain, acid or whatnot, has created stains on your windshield, wash them off and wipe them clean with your vehicle’s handy wipers. Sometimes these stains can be a bit harder to remove, so you might need to pull over and give your ride a well-deserved wipe-down.

  • Worst case scenario: a pigeon or some other animal has decided to relieve itself on your vehicle’s windshield. Normally, you would have the time to head to the nearest car wash, but this particular instance requires you to drive with these obstructive materials stuck to your vehicle. Wipe them down quickly and let your windshield wiper and its fluid do the rest.

Now that you know its importance, perhaps you can be persuaded to check your windshield wiper fluid levels a bit more frequently. Believe it or not, this is probably the easiest fluid check and change you’ll ever have to make.

Your windshield wiper fluid is the great mixture of solvent and water that your vehicle pumps onto the windshield to help clean or at the very least clear the glass. Few drivers forget to add water to this reservoir.

But if this happens to be your first time to check and change your windshield wiper fluid, don’t fret. Here are some easy-to-follow steps on how you can go through this highly important and incredibly easy vehicle maintenance trick.

Step 1: Check your owner’s manual to find the precise location of your windshield fluid reservoir.

Step 2: Find the right fluid mixture that you’re supposed to use for your vehicle’s windshield fluid reservoir.

Step 3: Prop up your hood and check out your windshield fluid reservoir. Outside the tank, you’re going to find markings that indicate the amount of fluid left in the reservoir.

Step 4: If you find that the tank is more than half-full then close the hood. If not, proceed to step 5.

Step 5: Remove the cap. The cap is usually situated on top of the tank.

Step 6: Add the right washer fluid mixture into the tank until the correct level indicated on the markings or your owner’s manual.

Step 7: Pop the cap back on and close your vehicle’s hood.

Now, if however, you find that something’s amiss, whether the cap is too big, or there’s a leak in your windshield wiper fluid reservoir, examine this car part carefully. If the damage is irreparable, then you might need to have the unit replaced. For discount auto parts or truck accessories, simply follow the link.


Car Maintenance 101 Reminder: On Oil Color

April 25, 2008

Although pop culture seems to portray car oil as something black and viscous, keep in mind that oil is not supposed to be black at all! Usually great quality oil should be fairly translucent and amber in color when you’re checking it with your vehicle’s oil dipstick. If you see that your oil is too thin or too thick, grainy with residues floating on top, or black (or near it), then your vehicle needs an oil change. If you’ve already had your oil changed recently, but it still looks somewhat opaque, then you may need a mechanic or a professional to have a good look inside your engine. It’s possible that the oil corruption is caused by a faulty part of your engine’s system.

If you need to replace your oil cap or some other part of your engine, then you’ll need to find a great auto parts or truck accessories provider. Conducting your search online helps you find the best parts providers on the market. Keep in mind that the initial price indicated on the vehicle part may have “hidden costs” that includes shipping. For great quality discount auto parts minus the confusing computations and hidden costs, click on the link.


Want To Become An Auto Mechanic Yourself?

April 24, 2008

Perhaps because you just love cars or perhaps because you hate your desk job, you’ve decided you want to become an auto mechanic. Given that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics believes future job opportunities to be very good, and with the top 10% of automotive technicians earning over $27* an hour, you’ve probably made a great choice. So where to start?

High school vocational programs

If you’re still in high school, you should take advantage of any vocational programs in auto repair and electrical trades. It is an advantage to have physical science and math courses under your belt before you start. Automotive Youth Education Systems (AYES) is a not-for-profit organization that brings together the automotive industry, participating dealers and high schools to help prepare students for entry-level careers in retail automotive service. For more information, and to find participating schools and dealerships, visit http://www.ayes.org

Apprenticeship

Once you have some classroom training to your name, you should look for a combined apprenticeship and training program. Thanks to the short supply of good, qualified auto mechanics, many larger employers offer first-rate programs for entry-level technicians. If you’re not ready for the level of commitment a full time trade school might entail, you might consider working in an auto repair shop and taking evening courses, or look for an online program. Many mechanics have started this way.

Finding a trade school

Investigate the some of the thousands of technical schools and community colleges that offer programs in automotive repair in your area. You should look for those schools whose programs are specifically structured to prepare you for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. For most mechanic positions, employers will require you to have a minimum number of ASE certifications. They will require more still if you want to be classified as an automotive technician. The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF – http://www.natef.org) is the organization responsible for granting certification to qualifying schools. For a fast, state-by-state list of certified auto mechanic schools, visit http://www.automechanicschools.com.

You should bear in mind that many trade schools partner with employers. Their sponsorship of students is given in return for an employment commitment.

Finding the right employer

Choose the opportunity that best suits your skills and requirements. As mechanics pay is based on their productivity, your earnings will partly depend on the volume and type of work that comes through your employer’s shop.

Additionally, some shops offer incentives such as in-house ASE preparation courses. Continued professional development through training and certification will help you to command a higher hourly rate. Some shops may offer new mechanics discounts on the basic equipment for a personal tool inventory. When applying for jobs, make sure to list all certifications you hold and detail your experience of areas such as advanced computerized diagnostic system, which are of great interest to potential employers.

* http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos181.htm


Car Maintenance 101: Oil Checks

April 22, 2008

Did you know that checking your vehicle’s oil level is probably one of the easiest car maintenance tricks you can do? Most professionals are actually bewildered at how few drivers seem to actually understand the importance of regular oil checks. There’s a mentality that goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And while this old saying rings true for a lot of things, it doesn’t translate to: “remember only when already broken”.

In the previous post we tackled the importance of vehicle maintenance, and this is something that all car owners should be aware of. Believe it or not, a number of vehicle problems and breakdowns occur due to simply “forgetting” to check the auto’s oil level. A brand new car will be completely useless in a matter of months if you don’t check and refill your oil.

Before checking your vehicle, consult with your owner’s manual first on what type of oil you need to use for your SUV, car or truck. You can tell the difference between various vehicle oils based on the viscosity or the thickness of the liquid. Be sure to use the type of oil the manual describes. Don’t switch viscosities just because a type of oil is cheaper than your usual brand. Most professionals would actually recommend not changing oil types throughout your vehicle’s entire run.

If you find that your vehicle is prone to oil leakage caused by an unsteady cap, then you may need to replace these faulty parts. For high quality direct replacement car parts or truck accessories, I suggest you conduct your search online. There are numerous parts providers peddling their wares online. For discount auto parts simply follow the link.

When are you supposed to check you oil levels? Before turning your oil checking into a routine, you first need to check your owner’s manual to see how often you’ll need to change your vehicle’s oil. This would vary depending on the number of months and/or mileage.

Most mechanics would tell you that the best time to check for oil levels is every gas fill-up, although if you happen to be a pretty busy person, then you may check your oil levels every week or two. If you still don’t have enough time for this weekly practice, then I suggest you check your vehicle’s oil levels when:

· You notice how your vehicle seems to be using up more oil than before (This is usually a sign seen in older vehicles—most of the time, it means your vehicle needs some engine work)

· You’ve been using your vehicle more

· You’re about to take a long trip

· You’ve been taking more frequent drives around town

· The oil levels are low but not low enough for you to fill the tank up

Remember to check your oil levels while the engine is still a bit warm. Take note: warm and not blistering hot. Oil level results are usually more accurate during this time.

Follow these easy steps when checking your vehicle’s oil level:

Step 1: Prop up your hood.

Step 2: Look for your dipstick or oil stick. This stick is usually located near your vehicle’s oil fill cap.

Step3: Take out the dipstick as evenly and as straight as possible.

Step 4: Wipe down the dipstick using a paper towel or a piece of cloth. Try to get it as clean as possible.

Step 5: Take the dipstick and insert it into the tank once again. Do this as straight and as evenly as possible, up to its full length. Then remove it once again, keeping the dipstick as straight as possible.

Step 6: Look at the dipstick to determine the oil level. There are many different dipstick-types used depending on your vehicle type, model or maker. Indicators may vary according to the dipstick used, but most of these dipsticks usually have marks that indicate a “full” level—meaning no oil is needed. If the dipstick indicates an “add” level, then you need to add a quart of oil. If your vehicle needs oil, proceed to step 7, if not, skip and go to step 8.

Step 7: Depending on your oil level, it may be necessary for you to add more than just a quart of oil. To add oil, follow these simple procedures:

Reinsert your dipstick.

Remove your vehicle’s oil cap.

Carefully add a quart of oil. Be extra-careful to avoid spilling anything.

Recheck your oil level. If it’s still pretty low then add around half a quart more then check again.

Repeat these steps until your vehicle has enough oil. Replace your oil cap after you finish these procedures.

Step 8: Reinsert your dipstick and replace the oil cap.


The Importance of Vehicle Maintenance

April 19, 2008

The Parts Bin| Automechanic

So far we’ve tackled the numerous ways by which you can easily conduct effective car/vehicle reparations and some ways on how you can easily maintain the various parts of your ride. Let’s take a break from the technicalities of repair and automobile upkeep to focus on the importance of vehicle maintenance.

While learning to repair your vehicle is a great way to cut costs, there are also a number of undeniably important reasons why it’s just as vital for you to conduct regular maintenance on your car, SUV or truck. The following are some compelling arguments on the value of vehicle maintenance.

The Parts Bin| Automechanic

By carefully maintaining your vehicle, you increase driving safety. You can be the world’s most effective and skillful driver, but with a rotten ride, you and your vehicle become accident-prone. Every year, thousands of accidents become a result of vehicle neglect. It’s not just bad driving that causes accidents, in fact when it comes to the majority of automobile accidents around the world, you have faulty brake systems, worn wiper blades and tires, exhaust buildups and leaking gas tanks to blame.

You help reduce pollution with vehicle maintenance. Most countries around the world have anti-smoke belching campaigns to help save the environment. Each year, your vehicle’s noxious emissions contribute directly to global pollution. A well-maintained vehicle will easily limit the amount of dangerous fumes and automotive fluids released into the air and local water tables.

Another reason why you should maintain your vehicle is it definitely lowers your cost of operation. It’s common sense, I know, but it never hurts to point out good advice, right? The point is a well-maintained car wouldn’t need too many repairs. Meaning, you won’t have to keep on heading to your car mechanic and ordering car parts or truck accessories if you keep your vehicle in excellent condition. But just in case you do need to get high quality, discount auto parts, simply follow the link.

A hidden advantage behind careful maintenance is that in case you do decide to sell your used vehicle, you’re going to get a better price. Most buyers value excellent vehicle performance and condition over the car model. So it only follows that a well-maintained five-year-old vehicle is going to fetch a more handsome price compared to an ill-maintained and broken-down two-year-old car.

If you keep your vehicle well-maintained, expect it to perform better. You lengthen your vehicle’s great performance if you keep a careful eye on its vital fluids, oil and various parts. If you don’t maintain your vehicle well, expect it to quickly show signs of internal wear. Your car will also be more dependable if you make sure that it is always in good condition.

And lastly, a well-maintained vehicle will mean less roadside emergencies. There’s nothing more frustrating then having your vehicle break down in the middle of nowhere with no tools at hand. Lessen your chances of getting stranded due to a cracked radiator, bad tires or a malfunctioning battery by making sure your vehicle is in excellent condition prior to a long trip.

Remember, these are just some of the main reasons behind keeping your vehicle well-maintained. In the next few days, I’ll be featuring more vehicle maintenance tips to ensure that you get the best performance out of your ride.


Looking Under the Hood: Checking Belts, Connections and Hoses

April 18, 2008

Excellent driving skills are not the only factors that could prevent a driver from encountering a possibly fatal accident. Your vehicle must always be in tiptop condition for you to prevent any traffic or driving mishaps. Consider this: an ill-maintained vehicle is an accident waiting to happen. Keep yourself and your passengers safe by making sure your vehicle is in excellent condition.

That being said, let’s discuss how you could maintain your vehicle’s hoses, connections and belts. Keep in mind that any time you are looking under your vehicle’s hood is always the perfect time to examine the different connections, hoses and belts to make sure that they are damage, wear and leak-free. To avoid getting burned, be sure to conduct your checking while your vehicle is cool. Wait an hour or two after driving to make sure the engine and all the parts located under your hood is no longer blistering hot.

If it’s your first time to check under your vehicle’s hood, then you’ll probably be unfamiliar with all the numerous parts in your engine and around it. However, if you make it a frequent practice to check your system and make sure that everything works, you’ll be able to identify all the different hoses and connections in a jiffy. I suggest you procure a photograph of a relatively clean engine and use it to evaluate any loose connections or changes that might have occurred in your vehicle.

While checking, be mindful of possible tears or leaks in your hose. If you find that there is a rip in the hose, use heat-tolerant tape to temporarily patch it up. Remember, the keyword in the previous sentence is temporary, meaning it’s best to look for a reputable car parts or truck accessory dealer and to purchase a replacement hose as soon as possible. If you’re under a tight budget, then check out this link for discount auto parts. If you’re unable to install the new hose yourself, I suggest you take your vehicle to a mechanic ASAP.

Make it a point to check all the different connections like the ones you see running from the spark plugs and cylinders to the batter, the distributor cap and other parts of the engine. Should you find these connections in a state of disarray or if you see anything questionable about these connections, then check out your vehicle’s owner’s manual to figure out how a specific hose or part should look.

It’s best to check your belts at least once a month to avoid breakage or having these belts give way while you’re driving or out on the road. Damaged, frayed, badly worn or separating belts need replacing as soon as possible. While belts that are beginning to slack about half an inch or more should be tightened using a screwdriver or any other tool. To check properly, touch the belt to detect if there is any slack present.

(tightening the fan belt)