Auto Repair & Tires Blog
How many times have you narrowly missed running into the back end of a vehicle because you couldn’t stop in time on a dry road? With worn tires in wet conditions, those narrow misses could turn into tragic accidents. In fact, AAA says that nearly 800,000 car crashes occur on wet roads each year. That’s why they’re encouraging you and other drivers to have your tire tread inspected regularly.
Experts at the Automobile Club of Southern California Automotive Research Center worked with AAA to test new all-season tires against tires with a tread depth of 4/32nds of an inch. In addition to proving longer stopping distances, the research showed that braking on wet pavement with worn tires also reduces handling by an average of 33% for passenger cars.
“AAA’s testing demonstrates the impact that tire tread has on safety,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Research Center. “If tested side-by-side at 60 miles per hour, vehicles with worn tires would still be traveling at an alarming 40 miles per hour when reaching the same distance it takes for vehicles with new tires to make a complete stop.”
The study shows that, as tires wear, their ability to stop quickly on wet roads decreases. According to AAA, tires should be replaced once the tread depth reaches 4/32nds of an inch. Even by that point, though, “stopping distances have already begun to deteriorate significantly.”
I have a confession to make: I can fall asleep just about anywhere: a movie theatre, a concert hall, even during a long meeting. So, I always need to be careful about becoming too comfortable while driving or I can get a little drowsy behind the wheel.
If you have the same problem, these tips may help you stay alert.
1) Keep your mind engaged. Have a conversation with your travel companion. If you're driving alone and start to get tired, call a friend who can talk with you on speaker. Find a podcast that makes you think about an exciting new topic. Or listen to a talk radio host whose point of view you disagree with. That'll get your blood flowin'.
2) Get your body movin'. Sitting still for hours in a confined area would make anyone sleepy. So every hundred miles or so - or as often as you need to - pull into a rest stop or parking lot and treat yourself to a few minutes of walking or light exercise. The movement and fresh air are sure to re-energize you.
3) Keep it cool. Like a hot bath, a warm car interior can cause you to relax and may even lull you to sleep. So keep the temperature cooler by rolling down the windows or turning on the AC. Make sure you have a cold, caffeinated drink handy, too.
4) Prepare for your trip. Well before your drive, get plenty of sleep. Don't eat a big meal within a few hours of leaving. And be mindful of any medications you take that might induce drowsiness
If you're on a tight schedule, it can be tempting to push through and finish the trip, even when you know you shouldn't. But make the smart choice: if none of the tips above are working for you, pull into a rest stop or grab a hotel room for the night. Getting there late is better than not getting there alive.
If you wear reading glasses, you may recall developing a need for them over time. Maybe you kept moving books or your smart phone a little bit further away each day to accommodate your changing eyes.
Then, eventually, you had to admit to yourself that you needed glasses. (Yeah, I've been there.)
So, are you playing that same game with your windshield wipers?
Like your eyes, wiper blades fail over time. When they do, they can leave you with a limited and unpredictable view of the road, which endangers you, everyone in your vehicle and your fellow drivers. Still, you might be tempted to ignore your waning wipers for the sake of convenience or to save a few dollars, or even because you've convinced yourself that you'll "get by."
Since we don't have a lot of rainfall in Southern California, it can be easy to forget about your wipers. But our consistent sunshine causes the rubber to crack and peel away just as quickly as it does in wetter climates. As a result, you may notice that your wipers leave streaks, that they bounce across the glass with a “chattering” sound, and that they don't leave your windshield as clear as you'd like.
Don't put off having your wiper blades changed, like a lot of people put off buying reading glasses. To give yourself the best possible view of the road, replace the blades once or twice each year. Let us know if we can help.
RELATED POST: 5 DIY Car Care Tasks
Before I go on a road trip, I have to clean my car. It’s a must.
I’m the kind of guy who likes a neat environment anyway, but when I know I’ll be spending several hours or even a few days in the relatively small driving compartment of my car, it’s especially important to me that the area be clean and organized.
Even beyond the satisfaction of the end result, there are a few reasons it feels good to clean your vehicle.
A clean car is safer. You don’t want all your work gear flying through the air or those extra coffee mugs rolling around the floor when you hit the brakes hard. That can be distracting and dangerous.
A clean car is more organized. It’s frustrating when you can’t find a pen in the car. Or your sunglasses. Or that repair receipt. So, use a large envelope to hold important car-related papers and store larger items in a bin that you keep in the trunk or on the floor of the back seat.
Cleaning your car provides a sense of accomplishment. Do you like the sensation that comes from checking items off your to-do list? Then washing, waxing and vacuuming your vehicle should make you feel great!
Cleaning your car is a different kind of work. If you sit at a computer all week, the physical and detailed task of caring for your car on the weekend can provide an entirely different type of satisfaction. I have a few friends who even think of car washing as relaxing and therapeutic.
A clean car is a source of pride. Not a “car person”? That's okay. You can still take pride in the work you’ve put in to maintain your vehicle, whether you’re driving down the street or giving a lift to a friend.
A clean car holds more of its value. No one wants to buy a vehicle that’s obviously seen better days. Even if you can sell or trade in your beat-up ride, you won’t make as much money as you would have if you had cleaned and detailed it regularly. Caring for your car’s appearance - as well as its mechanical well-being - is likely to pay off for you in the end.
Most of us will never rely on an emergency kit in the trunk of our car, but if one day you need to, you’ll sure be glad it's there.
A roll of duct tape - You can use it to temporarily wrap blown hoses or re-attach side mirrors and other plastic parts that break off.
A can of Fix-a-Flat - This product can quickly plug and re-inflate a flat tire, but it’s only a temporary fix, as the manufacturer notes. For a safe, permanent repair, pull into your nearest Mountain View Tire and Auto Service location as soon as possible.
You affect how far your vehicle can travel on a tank of gas.
Sure, there are factors you can’t control, such as the weight of the car, it’s body type and aerodynamics. But with minimal effort, you can improve your fuel economy.
Start with these basics: keep your tires properly inflated, limit stop-and-start driving, and take the fastest route to your destination. Then, add these…
1) Use Your Cruise Control - Continually accelerating and decelerating during a long trip burns more fuel than necessary. By keeping your speed consistent, cruise control prevents surges of higher gasoline consumption. It can boost fuel economy by as much as 14%.
2) Replace Old Spark Plugs - Worn plugs can cut fuel efficiency by a whopping 30%. The experts at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence suggest that bad spark plugs are usually to blame when gas mileage drops suddenly. We can fix that problem for you.
3) Shut Down Your Vehicle - This is an easy one! If you’ll be idling for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. According to the California Energy Commission, idling costs you about five cents per minute. That may not seem like much, but it certainly adds up over time. Shutting it down also reduces the amount of pollution your car generates.
4) Have Your Alignment Checked - When your tires aren’t perfectly pointed in the direction you’re driving, they don’t roll as easily as they should. That causes drag, which can lower your MPG by about 10%. Misalignment reduces the service life of your tires, too.
5) Cut Back on the AC - On very hot days, running your air conditioner can slice your fuel economy by 25%. So, to keep your car’s interior cool, park under a tree or in a garage, or use a sunshade. Leave your windows down until you reach highway speeds. Then, when driving faster, use your AC, but try to keep it set at a warmer temperature.
Q: How often should I have my automatic transmission fluid changed?
A: As always, we suggest checking your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation. Generally, though, automatic transmission fluid should be changed every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. If you tow regularly, drive hilly or mountainous roads, or put excessive strain on your transmission any other way, have the fluid level checked frequently.
Q: Does my standard transmission require fluid?
A: Yes, it does. Typically, it should be changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles; more regularly if you make your transmission work harder.
Q: What happens if I don't have my transmission fluid changed?
A: Over time, metal shavings that come off your transmission are suspended in the transmission fluid. As that fluid moves in and around the unit, the shavings can wear down the other components of the transmission, shortening the system’s service life.
Q: Why is my transmission slipping out of gear?
A: Transmissions are designed to stay in a specific gear until either the driver or the vehicle’s computer shift at the appropriate times. “Slipping” can occur as a result of a low fluid level, burnt fluid, worn gears or transmissions bands (the metal that links the gears together), and other mechanical failures.
Losing power on the highway can be dangerous, so if your transmission is slipping, pull into a Mountain View Tire and Auto Service location as soon as possible.
STOP what you’re doing and watch the video above. It puts an interesting spin on your vehicle’s braking system and why high-quality brake parts are crucial to your safety.
Now, imagine if you couldn’t stop while driving. Talk about terrifying! That’s why you can never afford to ignore the signs that your brakes need repair or replacement. Like these...
A Consistent Noise - A squealing noise when you press the brake pedal doesn’t necessarily mean your brakes need attention. However, a scraping or squealing sound when you’re driving may mean your brake pads have had it.
The irritating noise is generated by wear indicators - a built-in warning system that lets you know when your pads need to be replaced. A clicking or rattling sound may indicate that the pad is loose.
A Soft Pedal - If you now need to push the brake pedal closer to the floor to stop your car, your brake fluid may be low. If the problem returns in a short amount of time, that may be a sign that your master cylinder has a leak.
Longer Stopping Distances - Over time, your brake pads and rotors will wear down, losing their ability to generate enough friction. Less friction = more time required to stop your car.
If it’s been a while since your brakes have been installed, try this: drive through an empty parking lot at a safe speed and then brake suddenly, trying to stop the vehicle as quickly as possible. If you can’t stop on a dime, it may be time for a brake inspection.
Pedal Pulse - Does your brake pedal push back against your foot in short pulses? The cause could be dirty or damaged brake pads, old discs, misaligned wheels, or worn suspension parts. Each of those problems could lead to more serious issues down the road, so if your pedal is pulsing, stop into any Mountain View Tire and Auto Service location so we can check into it.
It's easy to put off vehicle maintenance. Maybe you’re busy. Money could be tight. Or you might just forget.
And, sometimes, you may not even realize that part of your car needs attention.
Tires can be tricky that way. With a quick glance they can appear to be in fine condition, but to prevent costly damage down the road - and maybe even an accident - you need to look at them closer (or pull in to let us do it for you).
Don’t Believe Your Eyes - Your tires could appear to be fully inflated and still be a dozen pounds or more under the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. So, have the pressure checked with a reliable tire gauge at least once per month.
Look Around - If you only check your tires by looking at the sidewalls you may not notice wear in the middle of the tread or on the inner edge. Uneven tread wear can be caused by misaligned wheels, improper balancing, faulty suspension components and, yes, under-inflation and over-inflation.
To prolong the service life of your tires, have them rotated each time your oil is changed or every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, whichever comes first. And remember those monthly pressure checks and inspections.
You’ve probably heard how important it is to maintain proper pressure in your tires and inspect them regularly for cuts, bulges and other types of damage. But you may not have heard these three suggestions from Cooper Tire.
1) Roll Through Holes. Potholes can tear up your tires and suspension and, over time, throw your wheels out of alignment. But sometimes, steering clear of road craters isn’t safe or even possible. If you’re headed for a pothole, don’t slam on the brakes right before hitting it. Instead, slow down as you approach the hole, then release your brakes just before striking it. That allows your tire to roll through the hole easier, softening the impact. Of course, you should always consider vehicles behind you before braking unexpectedly.
2) Lighten Up. When you put too much weight in or on your vehicle, excessive heat can build up inside your tires. That can lead to sudden tire failure - a potentially fatal problem. Your tires’ maximum load rating is listed on the sidewall, in your owner’s manual and/or on the placard mounted on the door jamb. Before buying new tires, check their load-carrying capacity to make sure it’s equal to or greater than your vehicle’s original tires.
3) Care for Your Spare. Your spare tire won’t do you any good if it’s not properly inflated when you need it. So, check its pressure and condition each time you inspect your other tires. If it’s a full-size spare, it should be put into service when you rotate your tires.
With minimal effort, you can maximize the service life of your tires and make the most of your investment. If we can help with your new tires or any type of tire repair or service, let us know. There are dozens of Mountain View Tire and Auto Service locations across Southern California.
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