Posts Tagged ‘AAA Car Care Month’

Orlando, Fla. – 10/27/2009


Erin SteppAs part of AAA Car Care Month, motor club warns foregoing maintenance and needed repairs can put drivers, passengers and those in surrounding vehicles in danger

Disregarding maintenance on your vehicle can definitely result in costly repairs. However, AAA reminds motorists that ignoring their vehicle’s upkeep also can put them, their passengers and others on the road in danger.

“Some motorists have cut back on maintenance or put off needed vehicle repairs due to tight budgets in this tough economy—especially if the vehicle remains drivable,” said John Nielsen, director, AAA Approved Auto Repair and Buying Services. “But, delaying certain repairs can be a dangerous gamble for motorists as some conditions can make their vehicles unsafe and at greater risk for a crash, a fire or a roadside breakdown.”

Five elements critical to safe vehicle operation are:

Traction — Maintaining good traction with the road is imperative, but when tires begin to lose their tread, traction in poor conditions is significantly reduced. Worn tires with little tread are much more likely to hydroplane on wet pavement or lose traction in the snow, resulting in a loss of braking power and steering control—two of the most dangerous situations in which drivers can find themselves.

Check the tread depth of a vehicle’s tires whenever it appears low. Insert a quarter upside down into a tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head at any point, start shopping for new tires. Making a necessary investment in new tires when tread depth begins to recede is critical to vehicle safety.

Suspension & Alignment — Wheels, shock absorbers, springs and struts work together to keep vehicles moving in the direction they are steered with minimal pitch and body roll. Neglecting to maintain these components—especially struts and shock absorbers which wear out as more miles are driven—can lead to unsafe driving conditions, including loss of vehicle control during sudden turns or at higher speeds that can lead to a crash. A poorly maintained suspension and alignment also will accelerate tire wear reducing the available traction in adverse driving conditions,

Braking — Properly working brakes are essential for safe driving, but old brake fluid or low fluid levels can lead to brake fade or failure. Fluid contamination also accelerates wear and corrosion of various brake hydraulic system components.

Brake fluid hydraulically converts foot pressure at the brake pedal into stopping power at the wheels. An adequate supply of clean fluid is essential. Old, moisture-contaminated brake fluid, or a low fluid level that allows air to enter the system, can lead to brake fade or even a complete loss of braking power. Contaminated fluid also increases wear and corrosion in the brake hydraulic system, which can include expensive electronic anti-lock brake system (ABS) components.

Inspect the brake fluid level at every oil change. If the level has fallen below the “low” mark on the fluid reservoir, it usually indicates major brake wear or a leak somewhere in the system; have the brakes inspected as soon as possible. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend that brake fluid be replaced every two years or so to flush moisture and contaminants from the system. Check the vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations.

Fluids — Leaking fluids are a sure sign of needed maintenance. They also can be a dangerous fire hazard. Oil, power steering fluid, transmission fluid and brake fluid are all flammable and can burst into flame when contacting a hot engine or exhaust component. Each year fire departments answer more calls for vehicle fires than for house fires. Fluid leaks are the primary culprit. Have fluid leaks inspected and remedied as soon as they are detected.

Vision — Motorists’ ability to see where they are going and spot any obstacles in their way is vital to safe driving. Rain, insects, grime and other debris on the windshield will compromise vision if the windshield wipers cannot remove them.

If the wiper blades are worn, cracked or rigid with age, they will not adequately remove rain, grime and other debris that can obscure motorists’ vision. If the wiper blades are sufficiently deteriorated, the metal wiper blade frame could contact and permanently damage the windshield. Where mud or other debris is being thrown up on the windshield, a good spray of the proper type windshield washer fluid will aid the wiper blades in removing containments.

Check a vehicle’s wiper blades at each oil change or whenever they fail to wipe the glass clean in a single swipe. The life of a rubber insert is typically six to 12 months depending on its exposure to heat, dirt, sunlight, acid rain and ozone. Streaking and chattering are common clues that the rubber is breaking down and needs replacement. Check the washer fluid reservoir monthly and more often if the washers are used frequently. Top it up with a washer solution formulated to aid in the removal of insects and other debris. In winter, be sure to use a product with appropriate antifreeze protection.

Certified technicians at AAA Approved Auto Repair shops can be trusted to provide motorists with guidance on what repairs are critical to their vehicles safety. AAA inspects and certifies more than 8,000 auto repair shops across North America as a free public service to all motorists. Shops can be identified by the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign, or by searching online at AAA.com/Repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

As part of AAA Car Care Month, the motor club reminds motorists to attend to frequently overlooked maintenance items when preparing their vehicles for winter weather

(Orlando, Fla. – 10/20/2009) When there is a chill in the air, it’s time for motorists to prepare their vehicles for the upcoming cold-weather season, AAA says. There are key components that frequently come to mind when thinking of winter car care such as antifreeze and the vehicle’s battery. But there are other components that are susceptible to wear or failure when the temperature drops that are too frequently overlooked.

“Properly preparing your vehicle for upcoming winter weather is essential for safe driving and will greatly decrease the chances of your vehicle leaving you stranded in the cold,” said John Nielsen, director of AAA Approved Auto Repair and Auto Buying Services.

As motorists prepare their vehicles for winter weather, AAA offers the following list of frequently forgotten maintenance items that should be addressed:

Antifreeze Protection

Antifreeze protection is the first item that comes to mind when most people think of winter vehicle maintenance. A 50/50 solution of engine coolant and water will provide the necessary antifreeze capability.

Don’t Forget—Check hoses: The coolant solution will only work if it stays in the system, which means the hoses and clamps that carry the mixture have to be in good working order. Visually inspect the cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, feel the hoses to check for any that are brittle or excessively soft and spongy feeling. If you find any problems, have them addressed immediately.

Don’t Forget—Flush cooling system: While engine coolant never loses its antifreeze capability, the additives that lubricate the water pump and protect internal engine components from rust and corrosion become depleted over time. Motorists should have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is typically necessary every two to five years.

Electrical System

Most drivers know the efficiency of a vehicle battery decreases in colder temperatures. If the battery is already weak, it will likely become ineffective when the mercury drops, leaving them stranded. Heading into cold weather, have the vehicle battery’s condition tested—especially if the battery is older than three years. AAA Mobile Battery Service will test members’ auto batteries at no charge. If the battery has removable caps, make sure the cells are filled to the proper level with distilled water. Also, check that all cable connections are tight and make sure there is no corrosion on the terminals or clamps.

Don’t Forget—Alternator belt: While the battery provides a reserve source of electrical energy, the alternator provides electrical power once the engine is running and charges the battery. Make sure the alternator belt is properly adjusted. A loose belt is a common cause of a dead battery. While older vehicles require manual belt tightening, late models typically have automatic tensioners—but those can wear out or fail. When checking the belt tension, also inspect it for signs of wear such as cracks or missing segments on ribbed belts on the underside that signal the need for replacement.

Windshield

Anyone who has made the mistake of using their windshield cleaner on a cold morning and found it was filled with water—that is frozen in the reservoir or freezes when contacting the windshield—knows the importance of checking the windshield fluid reservoir before the first freeze of the year and using a windshield cleaning solution with antifreeze components. When filling the washer reservoir, also check the operation of the pump and aim of the sprayers.

Don’t Forget—Winter wiper blades: Wiper blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. If there are streaks or missed spots, it’s time to replace them. During the snow season, consider installing winter wiper blades. These special units wrap the blade in a rubber boot that prevents ice and snow buildup that can inhibit good contact between the rubber blade and glass.

Tires

Traction is key to safe winter driving and having the right type of tires on a vehicle is essential. In areas with heavy winter weather, using snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires will work well in light to moderate snow conditions, providing they have adequate tread depth. If any tire has less than 3/32-inches of tread, it should be replaced.

Don’t Forget—Tire pressure: While motorists should check the pressure in their tires at least once a month, they should increase the frequency during winter months. As the temperature starts to drop, so will the pressures in the tires—typically 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found on a sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb. And, do not forget to check the spare.

Brakes

Any brake system problems that were noticeable in the summer will become worse in the winter when traction is reduced. Brakes that tend to grab or pull on a dry road are likely to lock on ice or snow-covered pavement, resulting in a loss of stopping power and/or steering control. Make sure brakes are in properly working order before winter weather arrives.

Don’t Forget—Brake fluid flush: Brake fluid absorbs water that collects at low points in the hydraulic system and causes rust, fluid leaks and, if not prevented, brake failure. On vehicles with antilock brakes, moisture in the brake fluid also can damage expensive electro-hydraulic control units. For this reason, most manufacturers recommend that the brake system be flushed and new fluid installed every two to three years. Check the owner’s manual for the recommended service interval.

While some do-it-yourselfers might check these items themselves, others can find guaranteed professional maintenance and repair service at a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. AAA inspects and certifies more than 8,000 auto repair shops across North America as a free public service to all motorists. Shops can be identified by the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign or by searching online at AAA.com/Repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

As part of AAA Car Care Month, the motor club offers tips for vehicle upkeep that improve appearance and resale value

(Orlando, Fla. – 10/13/2009) When many motorists think of vehicle maintenance, the first things that comes to mind are oil changes and other engine upkeep. However, the steps to maintaining a vehicle, and its resale value, extend beyond what is under the hood.

“Motorists can extend the life of their vehicle’s interior and exterior the same way they take care of its mechanical parts—through proper maintenance,” said John Nielsen, director of AAA Approved Auto Repair and Auto Buying Services. “Forms of vehicle upkeep that are frequently thought of as cosmetic care can reduce wear and tear and help maintain a higher resale value.”

AAA recommends motorists perform the following maintenance tasks:

Vehicle Interior

  • Vacuum regularly and lightly shampoo the carpets as needed. Dirt remaining in the carpet greatly accelerates wear, but be careful not to soak carpets with too much moisture.
  • Use floor mats to protect carpet. Carpeted floor mats will collect dust and dirt and are best for dry climates, while protective vinyl floor mats are recommended in wet and snowy areas.
  • Wipe down dusty or soiled surfaces with a damp cloth. Follow with a UV-protective coating on vinyl and rubber surfaces. A solution with a matte or semi-gloss finish is preferred on the dashboard to reduce reflections in the windshield. Be careful not to apply petroleum-based products to plastic surfaces; especially clear ones. If the interior has leather, use products designed for cleaning and maintaining this material.
  • Clean stains from seats and other interior surfaces promptly to prevent them from becoming set. Use a cleaner recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer to prevent fabric, vinyl or leather damage. Test any non-approved product in an inconspicuous spot before use to make sure it is safe.
  • In hot and sunny climates, consider having the windows tinted to cut down on infrared rays that cause heat buildup and ultraviolet rays that fade and damage interior materials. Over-darkening windshields and front seat windows can compromise visibility and is frequently illegal, so use appropriate materials.
  • Use protective flooring and seat covers when transporting pets or items with sharp edges that could gouge upholstery or carpeting.

Vehicle Exterior

  • Wash the vehicle approximately every two weeks and wax it twice a year. More frequent washing and waxing could be advisable depending on climate and driving conditions. A good coat of wax looks great, protects the finish from contaminants it comes in contact with, and contains filtering chemicals that help reduce paint fading from the ultraviolet rays in sunlight.
  • When washing the vehicle, be sure to rinse out the wheel wells and accessible areas of the undercarriage. This is especially important where salt is used on roads in the winter as it will help prevent rust.
  • Use care when removing bugs and tar to avoid damaging the clear coat or paint. Auto parts stores, such as NAPA Auto Parts, carry specialty products that can ease removal without causing damage. AAA members qualify for discounts at all NAPA locations by showing their membership card.
  • Clean glass inside and out to ensure good vision. Use a product that does not leave streaks or cause glare.
  • Have small windshield chips repaired to prevent them from becoming cracks that require complete windshield replacement. Most such repairs can be made easily by an auto glass technician coming to the vehicle’s location.
  • Consider headlight restoration if the headlight lenses have developed a frosted yellow surface. This repair process restores a clear finish to the lens, which improves both vehicle appearance and nighttime vision. Do-it-yourselfers can purchase restoration kits at auto parts stores for approximately $20. Commercial services will typically do the job for between $50 and $100.

Another easy way to improve the resale value of a vehicle is by saving all of its maintenance records. Motorists can be as organized as keeping them in a file or just stuffing them the glove box. Either way, being able to produce a record of proper maintenance and repairs during ownership of the vehicle can add hundreds of dollars to a vehicle’s sales price. Also, most repairs come with some form of warranty, and documentation of the repair will be needed to support any warranty claim that might arise.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

During AAA Car Care Month, the motor club reminds consumers two-way communication is a key to quality maintenance and repair
ErinStepp(Orlando, Fla. – 10/6/2009) A trip to the auto repair shop can feel like visiting a foreign country for some motorists—they do not understand the language and are worried about being taken advantage of by the locals. However, AAA says a trip to the repair shop can be much easier—and less stressful—by selecting a quality facility and learning to speak ‘auto tech.’

When communicating with an automotive technician, AAA recommends motorists do the following:

  • Before taking the vehicle to a repair facility, write down notes on the vehicle’s symptoms and performance so important information is not overlooked or forgotten. Include any observations, even if they seem silly or irrelevant.
  • Describe the symptoms to the technician rather than solutions. Explain what has been seen, smelled, heard and felt while driving the vehicle. For example, does it vibrate or pull to the left? Explain under what type of driving conditions the problems takes place and how long ago it started.
  • Try to be precise. Such as explaining a rattle under the hood starts at 40 mph or an issue occurs only on cold days after the engine has been running for 10 minutes.
  • When describing symptoms, refer to the driver side and passenger side instead of the right or left side of the vehicle.
  • Resist the temptation to use technical jargon unless absolutely sure what it means. Explain what is being experienced in terms that do not direct the technician to a single solution. This will help eliminate unnecessary or ineffective work being performed due to misinterpretation or misdiagnosis.
  • If the vehicle has been serviced recently, bring copies of the previous repair orders rather than trying to explain what work was done.

There also are some things motorists can do to help protect themselves from unexpected charges or unneeded repairs. AAA recommends motorists:

  • Ask questions if the technician uses jargon that is not understood or if something is not clearly explained. A quality auto technician should be willing to take time to clearly explain the problem in advance of the repair and the proposed solution. If the technician does not explain the problem and the remedy in a clear and convincing manner, or suggests the repair is too complicated to explain, consider seeking a second opinion from another shop.
  • Always read the repair order before signing it and authorizing any work. Look for specific instructions detailing the maintenance to be done, or the condition to be corrected and work to be performed. If the language is vague or unclear, such has ‘fix engine noise,’ ask that it be rewritten. In some cases it makes sense to ask that a diagnosis be performed and an estimate provided before a final repair is authorized.
  • Read over the bill, and question any charges that are not clear. Insist on descriptions of parts, not just the serial numbers; be listed on the final invoice. In some cases, motorists might want to specify in advance that the shop will show them the parts that are to be removed and replaced on the vehicle.
  • Before authorizing a repair, be sure to obtain a written description of the warranty the shop provides, including the warranty on parts as well as labor. Most repairs should carry a warranty of at least 12 months and 12,000 miles.

To better help motorists understand some of the technical terms associated with auto repair, AAA offers an Auto Repair Glossary with commonly used terms and definitions at AAA.com/Public Affairs.

Finding a quality auto repair facility that can be trusted another important key to a good auto repair experience. To assist motorists in their quest, AAA offers a free public service where it inspects and certifies auto repair facilities. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops must meet and maintain stringent quality standards for customer service, training, equipment and cleanliness. There are more than 8,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. They can be located online at AAA.com/repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

AAA Car Care Month study finds 62 percent of motorists operate their vehicles under one or more severe service conditions while only six percent think they do

(Orlando, Fla. – 10/1/2009) AAA has always advised motorists to follow the automobile manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule to improve the reliability and longevity of their vehicles. However, owner’s manuals usually contain two different maintenance schedules—one for normal service and one for severe service, depending on how the vehicle is driven. In a recent study, AAA found more than half of all motorists follow the wrong maintenance schedule.

When polled by AAA, only six percent of motorists felt they did most of their driving under severe service conditions. But when asked about the actual driving behaviors that create severe operating conditions, 62 percent of motorists admitted they drive their vehicle that way all or most of the time.

Vehicle manufacturers vary slightly on how they identify severe service driving, but AAA’s study asked motorists if they frequently:

  • Drive on short trips of less than 5 miles in normal temperatures or less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures.
  • Drive in hot weather stop-and-go traffic.
  • Drive at low speeds of less than 50 miles per hour for long distances.
  • Drive on roads that are dusty, muddy or have salt, sand or gravel spread on the surface.
  • Tow a trailer, carrying a camper (if a pickup truck) or transport items on a roof rack or in a car-top carrier.

“Manufacturers provide differing sets of recommendations for severe driving conditions because of the increased wear they put on vehicle components and fluids,” said John Nielsen, director of AAA Approved Auto Repair and Auto Buying Services. “With increased traffic congestion and longer commutes becoming more common, many motorists do not realize what they think of as normal driving is actually severe when it comes to wear and tear on their vehicle.”

Maintenance schedules for severe driving conditions typically recommend having the vehicle’s fluids and filters changed on a more frequent basis, and more frequent inspections of some components.

AAA advises motorists they should:

  • Read their owner’s manual and/or maintenance booklet.
  • Learn what the manufacturer considers normal and severe service driving conditions for their vehicles.
  • Make an honest assessment of their driving habits.
  • Schedule service in accordance with the appropriate maintenance schedule.

For additional assistance in evaluating whether they drive under severe conditions and determining the proper maintenance intervals for their vehicles, motorists can visit any of the more than 8,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. These shops have undergone an extensive inspection and meet stringent AAA standards for quality, ability, integrity and professionalism in auto repair. Shops can be located online at AAA.com/repair.

The AAA study was conducted as part of the 2008 AAA Car Care Month and included interviews with 841 U.S. adults, both AAA members and non-members, who currently own or lease a motor vehicle. Interviews were weighed by age, sex, geographic region and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population, 18 years of age and older.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

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