Car Care Tips
How to Handle Sticky Dilemma of Summer
Nothing turns your summer drive into a sticky mess faster than driving through a horde of insects.
Worse, bug goo can destroy your vehicle’s paint and bond to any surface, especially windshields and headlights.
“The clock starts running the minute insects explode against the glass,” said Thomas Kalagher, Prestone Performance’s product development manager. “Bug guts are organic materials like fats and proteins that basically bake into glue if they are left there.
Timing is crucial in preventing your windshield and fender from looking like a mass grave of pests, he said.
”The bug is easiest to remove before it is allowed to dry in the sun, so make a habit of using your washer fluid shortly after impact,” Kalagher said.
If you’ve been less than vigilant on removing bugs, Schultz said, a good place to start would be with a car wash and towel dry to remove as much as possible. Then, he said, a specialized stain remover would help tackle the trouble spots.
Kalagher offers the following suggestions for banishing bugs from the windshield this summer:
- Prepare yourself: Fill the window wash tank with fluid or additives designed for bug removal. A quality bug fluid helps remove gooey insect parts and prevents streaking when you use windshield wipers.
- An ounce of prevention: Look for products designed to keep bugs from sticking to vehicle surfaces. Be sure it is intended for automobile surfaces and can rinse off easily. Avoid harsh solvents–detergents or other household cleaners can permanently damage paint and rubber surfaces.
- Use the right tool for the job: A car sponge with soft netting traps insect parts. Gently wipe the surface and rinse the sponge frequently. Insect parts trapped in the netting can act like sandpaper.
Make Old, Faded Rims Look Like New Again
Any vehicle looks sharp when blessed with some polished wheels and gleaming tires. Getting the look right requires some attention to detail–and choosing the right products for the job.
“Make sure the product you use to clean your wheels doesn’t have an acidic base,” said Adam Bateman, the sales and marketing director for Wizards Products, a Minnesota-based polish and wax company. “A general rule to remember is if it’s safe to use on the vehicle’s paint, it’s safe to use on the wheels.”
Aesthetics aside, clean wheels play a role in overall vehicle health. Wheels that are left to flake, chip, and corrode can pose safety threats as they deteriorate.
“Keeping your wheels clean is about making sure rust and corrosion don’t set in,” he said.
As for tires, some cleaning products offer some protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays while bringing out the tire’s natural black sheen and reducing cracking.
In contrast, tire dressing is just for aesthetic appeal.
“Dressing your tire can repel water, but it doesn’t actually add to tire life,” said Ron Fausnight, research and development manager for ITW Global Brands.
Below, Bateman and Fausnight offer advice for getting those wheels and tires looking like they belong in the showroom.
- Clean wheels when they are cold. Wheels heat up when driven, so allow them to cool before washing to avoid thermal cracking or other complications.
- Avoid household detergents that can leach oils and wax from the rubber. An auto wash solution works well, as do specialty tire cleaners. When using tire cleaners, avoid overspraying onto the wheel.
- Choose a cleaner that is acid-free. A general rule: If it is safe to use on vehicle paint, it is safe to use on wheels.
- A layer of polish or traditional auto wax provides protection against dusty summer roads.
- Clean the wheels every time you wash the vehicle.
Latest Devices Help Pets As Passengers
Dogs don’t strap on a seat belt when they jump into your vehicle, but experts say they should.
How can you keep your pet from injury when riding shotgun or prancing around the rear seat? In particular, sharp turns and sudden stops and collisions can cause severe injury or death to unrestrained animals—and put human passengers at risk of injury as well.
Lindsey Wolko, founder of the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety, has spent the last decade raising awareness about animal restraints for pet owners. Yet, she cautions there is no uniform safety standard for the industry.
In one test sponsored by the Center for Pet Safety, one out of 11 dog harnesses tested offered substantial protection to pets and humans. The others either didn’t restrain dogs, experienced hardware failures, had stitching tears or failed in some other way.
“Beware of the marketing spin around all pet travel products,” Wolko said. “There’s no such thing as a ‘pass’ for any category of pet travel device when it comes to crash testing.”
Lack of pet restraints in vehicles presents a common danger to drivers. In a 2011 study co-sponsored by AAA and Kurgo pet products, more than half of drivers in the study took their hand off the wheel to pet their canine companion.
When picking out a safety harness for your dog, Wolko offered the following advice:
- Never let your dog ride in the front seat. Even with a restraint, there is the chance of significant injury from the airbag or broken glass.
- Find out if harness connectors have been tested (buckles, clasps, buttons).
- Avoid using extension tethers and zipline-style products. They allow the pet to choke or become airborn.
- Inspect products thoroughly. Your pet’s safety depends on the quality of straps, connectors, how products were tested and size of your pet.
Give Your Battery Its Summer Check-up
Nothing causes more battery failure than summer heat, especially for units weakened by age. You can extend its lifetime through some basic maintenance steps.
“Summer heat is often more damaging to batteries than winter cold,” said Gale Kimbrough of Interstate Battery.
Regular inspection, clean terminals and routine testing of a battery’s charge level make all the difference, he added. Maintenance is especially important in summer, when high temperatures accelerate corrosion and can evaporate the water inside the battery.
On top of hostile summer heat, batteries must also contend with the fact that they’re being asked to do more work than ever before.
“We’re asking our charging systems to put out a lot of power,” said Kimbrough, nicknamed “Mr. Battery” and the co-author of Interstate’s technical manual. “The variety of wants and needs has increased, and the battery suffers.”
The amount of driving and length of your trips also plays into battery wear and tear.
“People who drive sporadically or consistently drive short trips often encounter discharged batteries due to the increased parasitic drains,” he said.
Kimbrough had the following suggestions to avoid getting stuck with a dead battery this summer.
- Ask your service advisor to test the battery’s power retention capability. A weak battery may be able to turn over your vehicle’s engine at home and go dead when you travel to a mountain retreat.
- Inspect the battery for leaks, cracks, or bulging. Any one of these symptoms means it’s new battery time.
- Check for corrosion around the cables. Rust and crust on the terminals can diminish the effectiveness of your vehicle’s battery and must be removed.
- Inspect your vehicle’s charging system every three months or every oil change.
- Always get the battery checked before taking a long road trip. Have a professional mechanic inspect battery cables, posts and fasteners.
Keep Your Cool While Traveling In Summer
‘Tis the season of overheating–for vehicles, and those inside them.
Here’s how to keep a humming engine and breezy interior.
“Most vehicles overheat due to poor maintenance,” said Jared Avent, training manager at Universal Technical Institute’s Sacramento campus. “Coolant, like oil, has a service limit. Over time the coolant evaporates and overheating begins.”
Fans and coolant maintain an engine’s temperature–a busted fan or insufficient coolant disables an engine.
And that’s just outside–the cabin itself isn’t exactly welcoming. This isn’t a problem if your climate control works. But that’s not always the case. Air conditioners can fail in a variety of ways for a number of reasons. One expert points out that there’s no cure-all simply because there’s warm air venting.
“Never assume warm air from the vents automatically means the system’s low on refrigerant,” said Dave Cappert of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, a nationwide certification agency for automotive technicians.
Below, Cappert and Avent suggest services and precautions worth considering this time of year:
- Hot air from the A/C does NOT always mean “add refrigerant.” It could be a blown fuse–or something entirely different
- Don’t put tap water in the radiator. Tap water invites foreign minerals that can plug passages and increase wear and tear
- If your car overheats, turn off the engine and open the hood
- Never twist the radiator cap while it is hot. Not only is the cap itself blistering hot, it’s holding back a rolling boil of chemicals under high pressure. Opening the cap of a hot radiator may cause severe injury from scalding liquid. Wait for the radiator to cool before opening
- Continuing to drive an overheating engine can cause severe damage. Consider a tow to a local service center or repair shop
Car Care Tips for Your Post-Vacation Blues
The car performed flawlessly during your road trip. Now it’s time to show some appreciation by detailing inside and out. Plus, it makes the car look better and provides long-term benefits.
“Caring for your vehicle can increase resale value,” said James Franklin, past chairman for the trim segment of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. “There are lots of good products that help keep your car interior in good condition and help reduce wear.”
No worries, our experts offer some helpful tips that will have the car looking sharp and ready for its next adventure:
- Consider using an all-in-one wash-and-wax product. It saves time and adds shine to plastic or textured parts
- Use a terrycloth, microfiber towel or sponge made specifically for vehicles to help prevent scratching
- All-in-one products are no substitute for a traditional car wax, but they prolong the life of the existing wax protection and add shine with no more work than a normal wash
Rob McCarter, marketing manager for Eagle One, makers of Nanowash and Wax.
- Clean the wheels every time you wash the vehicle exterior
- Use acid-free cleaner
- Apply with a wash mitt or soft brush—not tools with metallic bristles
- A layer of polish or traditional auto wax provides protection against filth
Adam Bateman, sales and marketing director for Wizards Products, a Minnesota-based polish and wax company.
- Start with clean, dry tires. The tire dressing will adhere better, last longer than otherwise, and look better
- Let the dressing dry for at least an hour, or overnight with certain applications. Wet or gloppy tire dressing may fling off the tires and onto the outer edges of your car’s underbody while you’re driving
Ron Fausnight, research and development manager for ITW Global Brands, makers of Black Magic and Rain-X.
- Vacuum frequently. Regular vacuuming helps remove odors and allergy-causing particles that accumulate in porous materials
- Clean up spills quickly. They can turn into permanent stains if not treated right away. Use a carpet or upholstery spot cleaner according to the manufacturer’s recommendations
- Read manufacturer labels carefully before applying cleaners, and test a small amount by applying it to an inconspicuous spot
Jim Dvorak of Mothers, Southern California-based polish and wax company.
Indispensable Items for Every Road Trip
The car feels packed, but there’s always room to satisfy your inner survivalist during a road trip.
“The simplest things can be so important in an emergency or breakdown. Like a flashlight and simple first-aid items,” said Jason Grubard, marketing manager for DC Safety.
DC Safety is based in Long Island and offers protection products and customized safety kits for US and Canadian drivers. DC Safety has provided emergency kits for Toyota, Lexus, and Scion since 1989.
“Plenty of companies sell reliable safety kits. Some people like to piecemeal a kit on their own. The important thing is that you’re planning ahead,” he said.
Below, Grubard and other safety experts suggest items to bring or actions to consider during your summer road trip.
- First-aid kit
- LED flashlight
- Extra batteries
- Snacks (energy bars, granola)
- Jumper cables
- Reflective vest
- Tools (jack, tire iron)
- Tow rope
- Cell phone charger
- Recently inspected spare tire.
- Drinking water
Be The Cool Guy (or Gal) at Hot Events
Bringing the conveniences of home into the car instantly improves a summer road trip. That’s why an electric cooler–fully stocked with snacks and refreshments, of course–deserves to tag along.
“Electric coolers aren’t only for long-haul truck drivers who want to avoid eating fast food,” said Sneha Kulkarni, director of public relations for Koolatron, an Ontario-based company that has manufactured thermoelectric coolers since 1983.
Officially known as thermoelectric coolers, these portable devices don’t contain refrigerant, instead, they draw in surrounding air and push it through an electric fan.
The cooler serves a dual purpose. Reversing the fan invites warm air into the container.
“It’s not something you can use to cook a meal, but it will keep takeout warm until you get home or keep that dish ready on your way to the potluck,” she said.
Below, Kulkarni shares some insight about finding the right thermoelectric cooler and how to get the most out of it:
- Have a plan. How big is your vehicle? Where do you want to store it? What do you want to use it for? Ask and answer these questions and you’re on the path to an informed purchase.
- Simple is best. More components equals more risk for something to break down. The fan should be the only moving piece. The electric motor and the fan should be encased by the cooler in a way that doesn’t impede storage capacity.
- Easy cleaning. Plastic interiors are easy to clean and won’t absorb odors. Clean with soap and water. DO NOT submerge the cooler in water. Ever. At all. Under any circumstances. Submerging the cooler will destroy the electric motor.
- It’s an investment. A thermoelectric cooler can and should last years. Hard shell models are especially durable.Plan ahead. For best results, refrigerate anything you want kept cold overnight before stocking the cooler.
- Convenience within a convenience. Some models might include a USB port, allowing you to charge a cell phone or tablet as the cooler does its thing.
Dressed to Impress: Give Your Tires a Bit of Pizzazz for Spring
Audiences never see faded tires during a car show. Jet black tires act like the border of a painting– they enhance the art. The best part? It really doesn’t take much time or effort.
Wheels and tires determine a vehicle’s overall appearance. Like a dry-aged filet mignon served on a dirty plate, grimey wheels and dusty tires undermine even the best wash and wax jobs.
Want your tires to look like they came off a show car? Fausnight offers the following tips and suggestions for dressing your tires.
- Start with clean, dry tires. The tire dressing will adhere better, last longer than otherwise, and look better.
- Know your base.
- *Water-based: Spritz some onto the tires and then wipe it evenly across the surface with a rag. You may need to reapply it every couple of days, depending on the weather.
- *Silicone: Similar application process as above, though it will last longer—maybe a week or more—and produce a slicker, shinier surface.
- *Gel: Applied with a sponge for precise spot treatments. This method also eliminates the potential of overspray on the driveway, wheels or paint.
- Give it some time. Let the dressing dry for at least an hour, or overnight with certain applications. Wet or gloppy tire dressing may fling off the tires and onto the outer edges of your car’s underbody while you’re driving.
- Wet wax dressings produce the longest-lasting wet-look shine (eight to ten weeks).
Drivers Get a Brake Out of Innovative Driving Technology
The technological equivalent of a guardian angel is making its way to every car sold in North America.
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) increases the pressure applied to brakes to reduce stopping distance–it can even apply the brakes before the driver does. AEB technology has been a standard inclusion for all vehicles sold within the European Union since 2009.
One Canadian insurance company–Aviva Canada–offers a price break on vehicle policies with AEB.
“Automatic emergency braking is quickly becoming a key feature in preventing collisions and reducing their severity. This means less repair costs and more importantly, fewer injuries,” said Jason Storah, Aviva Canada’s executive vice president of broker distribution. “It’s simple – our customers who choose vehicles with features that help prevent collisions, or reduce their impact, will pay less for their insurance coverage.”
How it works
As the name indicates, Automatic Emergency Braking can operate independently of the driver, though authorities stress the safety feature isn’t a replacement for attentive driving.
AEB and driver assist technologies often include forward collision warning, a system of radar, sensors or lasers monitors the surrounding landscape and alerts the driver when trouble’s ahead.
The cues might be a vibration, light, chime, or a mix of all three. The driver assist technologies will engage automatically if the person at the wheel doesn’t respond fast enough.
How to Stay on Track By Going Old School
Digital navigation has changed the way we drive, but a printed map remains a useful resource for every glove box. Even the Millennial generation absorbed with glowing rectangles finds use for the traditional road map.
“A road atlas remains an important tool in an emergency– or when travelers like to get a more visual and tactile feel of a journey,” said Gena Rieger, a spokesperson for Rand McNally. “We have found that people are hesitant to part with their atlases because routes have been highlighted and notes have been made on pages. It becomes a memento.”
Printed maps aren’t relics. If anything, they are the ever-ready backup. Rieger believes drivers should have an atlas in their vehicle, even if they have digital navigation. Rand McNally built itself through publishing, but the company isn’t shying away from the digital age.
“We design GPS products to work in concert with our road atlases. Whenever customers look up a location on their GPS device, we also provide a corresponding page number and coordinate, so they can see the location on a paper map. While the screens on our GPS devices are great, they’ll never be as large as a 2-page spread,” she said.
Below are some reasons to keep the trusty atlas nearby during your summer road trip:
- When time isn’t a factor. If you drive a delivery truck, you want GPS for its direct-to-the- target routing.
- When you forget to bring your smartphone. Better to have a paper map on hand than nothing at all.
- Digital navigation is still a luxury. Many vehicles only include the option of a navigation system, not necessarily offering as a standard feature. Smartphones have GPS capabilities, but the app drains the battery and can quickly chew into your data plan.
The Heat Is On: Check Brakes Before Travel
Modern brake systems give us thousands of kilometers of worry-free driving. But that peace of mind sometimes breeds complacency that lasts until the brakes have almost eroded. That’s why it’s vital to schedule an inspection ahead of that summer road trip.
“Drivers should always get their brakes inspected before going on vacation,” said Tony Molla, vice president of the Automotive Service Association, a nonprofit trade group focused on vehicle care. “You don’t want to get stranded in a remote area or triple-digit heat.”
What are the major components that drivers should get inspected before heading out on their next major road adventure?
Rotors: As the name implies, these metallic discs rotate as the wheels are in motion. Rotors sit behind the wheel assembly and can sometimes be seen through the vehicle’s rims. Pressing the brake pedal activates a clamp on either side of the spinning disc.
Rotors should be checked during a tire rotation or multipoint inspection.
Brake pads: Made from an assortment of metals, brake pads pinch the rotor whenever the brake pedal is pushed. Brake pads are designed to alert drivers when they’re wearing thin. A small metal piece pings or “chirps” when it makes contact against the brake disc. Dismiss that squealing and you could do serious damage to your rotors.
Brake fluid: Stopping a car depends on hydraulics, and brake fluid is literally the system’s lifeblood. Pushing the pedal forces fluid through the lines, causing components to expand against the wheels and stop the vehicle.
Calipers: Part of a disc brake system, calipers push the brake pads against the rotors when the brake pedal is pushed. This resulting friction between the pads and rotors slows–and ultimately stops–the vehicle.
Drums: These bowl-shaped components use springs to expand the brake pads against the inside of the drum. This style of brakes is typically found on the rear of trucks or sedans. While it produces brake dust, the majority of it hides behind the covering, which means less gunk on your rims.
Spring Filter Change Reduces Allergens, Improve Efficiency
Filters operate under a basic principle: Block out as much of the bad stuff as possible. They act as the kidneys to your vehicle engine and are vital to a vehicle’s health.
How often should they be replaced?
“Filters might be the best example of something that costs so little mattering so much,” said Patricia Serratore, senior vice-president for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. “Simply put, dirty filters can cost you money.”
These humble devices living under the hood and inside the car are integral to vehicle health. Neglecting them can lead to expensive repairs. Besides the oil and air filters, your vehicle might also use a filter in both the transmission and fuel systems.
A cabin air filter, found inside the vehicle, helps cleanse the air you and your passengers breathe.
ASE recommends changing oil filters at each oil change. Contaminants from old oil taints the fresh oil if the filter’s not replaced, Serratore said.
The problem reduces effectiveness of the fresh oil change and can reduce the engine’s lifespan.
“Routine oil changes and filter replacements remain at the top of the list of the most important parts of routine maintenance,” Serratore said.
Service centers and repair shops employ trained technicians who can assess a filter’s quality and life expectancy. They’re also a common source of troubleshooting.
ASE’s offers the following advice on vehicle filters:
- Fuel filter: Contaminants in gas—rust, dirt, tank chip—damage fuel injectors and the fuel pump. Your fuel economy may drop because contaminants also prevent fuel from burning efficiently. Inspect the fuel filter frequently, especially if you drive in dusty or smoggy areas.
- Oil filter: A new filter efficiently removes microscopic particles that cause engine wear and tear. Dirty filters can contribute to abrasion. Replace it every time you change your engine oil.
- Engine air filter: Like the fuel filter, a dirty air filter contaminates the engine compartment and lowers fuel economy. Inspect it in early springtime before pollen strikes.
- Cabin air filter: All the other filters are for the car itself, this one is for you and your passengers. This interior filter helps remove allergens and irritants from inside the car. Inspect your cabin air filter in early spring.
- To improve vehicle performance and lifespan – replace all filters regularly.
“Make it a point to listen to your car regularly and plan for routine maintenance as you would health and dental care,” Serratore said.
Remove Winter Grime With Spring Cleaning
Nothing fully replaces waxing, but all-in-one products buy time between labor-intensive applications.
“It’s about ease of use,” said Rob McCarter, brand manager for Eagle One. “You get the benefits of waxing as you wash – that extra layer of UV protection and shine.”
McCarter recommended using a wash-and-wax solution containing natural carnauba wax as opposed to synthetic polymers for better protection.
“Most one-step solutions work like traditional car wash soap, with the wax and soap in the same bottle,” McCarter said. Another benefit of all-in-one products is that drivers can use them to add shine to plastic or textured parts that typically collect a white residue with traditional waxes.
McCarter offered the following advice when using wash-and-wax solutions:
- Rinse your vehicle thoroughly before cleaning with a wash & wax product.
- Use a terrycloth, microfiber towel or sponge made specifically for vehicles. This will help prevent scratching.
- Does water still bead and roll off your vehicle? If it does, then there’s some wax protection. If not, it’s time to use some wash & wax solution.
- Check the label for environmentally safe detergents, especially if you live near water. Chemicals typically used in wash & wax solutions are non-toxic and can be used frequently, once a week or more.
- Prevent water spots. Dry your vehicle with a microfiber towel or chamois.