Winter Reminders for Every Driver: The Right Maintenance Steps (Part IV)

December 18, 2008

Note to Reader: The following tips apply to “pre-winter” and ‘middle of the season’ winter maintenance. Now, just because winter has started, it doesn’t mean you should neglect your duties as a car owner. I was actually looking for a better word apart from “duties” to describe what you need to do to help keep your car in tiptop condition during these cold months, but I couldn’t find any. Yes, you have a duty to keep your car in great shape. While vehicle maintenance may not seem like a pressing duty these days, neglecting simple things like auto tune ups can eventually lead to costly reparations, or worse, expensive auto-part or entire-vehicle replacement.

Tip #8: Conduct a Tune-Up!

Now if you’re a responsible vehicle owner, then you already know the importance of regular tune ups. But in case you missed my previous posts on this topic (multi-posts at that!) then I’ll give you two reasons why you should conduct regular auto tune ups: (1) It helps keep your car performing at its best by making sure your engine and ignition components are in great shape, and (2) it helps you catch small auto issues before they become full-blown, migraine-inducing, automotive problems—possibly saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

While a couple of auto breakdowns during the warmer seasons may seem like “petty issues” to some of us, it’s a completely different story when you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter with a busted car. When you feel

every muscle in your body starting to freeze when you step out of your car, then you’ll know you’re in deep trouble. Avoid turning into a human popsicle by making sure your car is in great shape before, during, and even after the winter season.

Because broken fan belts, hoses-gone-bad, frozen water pumps, arcing ignition wires, and malfunctioning distributor rotors and caps, are the usual culprits when it comes to auto breakdowns, it’s better to make sure each one of these auto units are in good condition before embarking in any long winter trips.

I know that the word “tune-up” can encompass virtually anything and everything that has to do with repairs and replacements, that’s why we’re going to be tackling some of the most important steps you shouldn’t forget when conducting a tune-up. If you decide to do a little “extra” work on your car, then that’s good news for both you and your car! If you don’t have the time to go through every single component in your vehicle, then I suggest checking at least the following:

Misc. Tip

Its widely known that winter time brings with it more auto expenses. Auto accident rates skyrocket with snow and icy conditions. Proper maintenance will certainly help you and your auto be better prepared for these conditions. In the mean time you might want to check out some cheap auto insurance savings tips as there is a very good chance you will have even minor accidents this winter.

Step #1: Check your tire pressure levels. If you don’t have the tools to check your tire pressure levels, then you can ask your local mechanic to do it for you—sometimes even for free! But since it’s Christmas, you might want to leave a nice tip for your mechanic.

If your vehicle has built-in tire pressure monitors, then you won’t have to worry about frequent tire checks, since these monitors should alert you when there are drastic changes in your car’s tire pressure levels. But if you notice one or all of your tires going soft gradually, then it’s best to still conduct a manual check once in a while.

Spark Plug Wires

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Car Maintenance 101: Bleeding your Brakes (Two-Person Brake Fluid Flushing)

September 6, 2008

While brake bleeding is a crucial part of auto maintenance, it’s not really something that people like to do. Bleeding your brakes can be an extremely messy affair, plus if you’re the guy (or girl) who gets stuck removing the bleeder screws or brake bleed screws, it requires a lot of contorting just to gain access to the auto parts that you need to remove.

It’s going to be an extremely taxing affair, so if you’re not up to it or if after reading this post, you’re still not sure about what to do, then I suggest you have a professional mechanic assist you while you bleed your brakes.

The Importance of Bleeding Your Brakes

With all that said, you’re probably wondering why you actually have to do this in the first place. When you bleed your brakes, you’re basically removing your old brake fluid that may be contaminated or may have air bubbles. Once air gets into your brake fluid, your braking system’s performance decreases dramatically. This could also result in a “too-soft” braking pedal that heads to your floorboard with the slightest pressure.

So How Does Air Get Into Your Braking System?

Leakage at the fittings where your hoses and lines connect with your master cylinder can introduce air to your braking system. Air can also enter through corrosion on your calipers, brakelines, and wheel cylinders.

What You’ll Need:

  • a willing and helpful assistant
  • transparent, plastic tubing
  • a box wrench
  • a couple of 8 oz. Brake Fluid cans
  • spacer (usually in the form of 1×4 wood)
  • transparent plastic bottle
  • a turkey baster
  • a bunch of clean rags

Why You’ll Need an Assistant:

While you can choose to bleed your brakes alone, bleeding your car’s brakes with an assistant makes the job a lot easier and simpler. When you have an assistant, one of you will have to step on the brake pedal while the other opens the bleeder screws to drain your brake fluid.

Make sure your assistant can hear you while you give out instructions. It’s crucial that the brake pedal is never released while the bleeder is open. If this happens, expect air to enter your braking system immediately.

Where Do You Start?

The sequence of wheels being bled depends on the type of vehicle you have. To make sure you’re doing the right thing, do consult your owner’s manual or even your service manual. Don’t forget to check for specific ABS-procedures and DOT-grade brake fluid suggestions. Keep in mind that the brake fluid you’re going to be using should meet your vehicle’s specifications.

As a general tip, remember that front-wheel drives are usually bled in a diagonal sequence. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, it’s always a good advice to start on the wheel that is farthest from your master cylinder.

Other Reminders Before You Start:

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Addressing Auto Problems: Replacing Worn Brake Lines

September 5, 2008

As a follow-up to my previous entry on how to check your braking components, here are some steps on how to replace worn brake lines. As we’ve discussed in my previous post, when it comes to your braking system, it’s best to conduct repair and part-replacement before the problem worsens. So if you’ve noticed corrosion on your brake lines or if they’ve become rigid and they’re sporting some cracks, then it’s best to start shopping for new brake lines to avoid getting into any accidents.

When buying a new brake line kit, be sure to find one that meets your vehicle’s specifications. If you don’t know what type of kit to get, then a professional mechanic should be able to help you out.

Remember, when it comes to your brakes, it’s best to find a high-quality part as opposed to settling for something cheaper but less dependable. Seriously, now’s not the time for you to scrimp.

That being said, here are some of the materials you’ll need when replacing your brake lines.

  • a vehicle jack
  • 2 open-end wrenches
  • a couple of rags
  • some brake fluid
  • your replacement brake lines

Note: While you may need to replace just a single line, based from experience (and other people’s experiences as well), it pays to replace your brake lines in pairs. Because when one brake line becomes corroded or damaged, it’s only a matter of time before the other one follows.

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Car Maintenance 101: Checking Your Braking Components

August 30, 2008

Action movie cliché (that works oddly well, might I add): hero gets into his car, drives off, and rapidly approaches a cliff only to realize that his brake lines have been sabotaged by the bad guy. He jumps off of his moving vehicle, miraculously escaping with just a few bruises and a limp, and his car zooms off of the cliff and tumbles, causing a huge explosion.

While this occurrence may be pretty rare in real life, it makes of you think of how important your car’s brakes are. You already know that your braking system is one of the most important auto systems installed in your vehicle, but when was the last time you actually inspected your numerous brake components?

When driving, you use your brakes everyday. If you’re a new driver, you probably use your brakes a lot more than you really have to.

The older your vehicle gets, the longer it usually takes before your brakes kick in. Sometimes you have to depress on your brake pedal extra-hard or pump it several times just to come to a complete stop. If these are some of the symptoms that you experience when braking, then there’s a high chance that some of your braking system’s components are in need of adjustment, repair or replacing.

To prevent any future accidents caused by brake-failure, remember to check your brakes twice a year and to look for signs of damage and wear. Catching damage before it becomes too costly can help save you money, and more importantly, can save your life as well.

Most vehicles should allow you to inspect their braking systems without having to remove the wheel. If you’re currently driving with alloy wheels, then you can simply peep through its holes to check out your braking connections. Whether you’re going to be doing some “peep-work” or you have to remove your wheels to access your components, the important thing is to have a clear view of the large shiny  brake disc and your brake pads.

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