Posts Tagged ‘AAA director of Automotive engineering and repair’

Ginnie PritchettAAA, the nation’s largest motor club, shares useful tips for drivers during Car Care Month

ORLANDO, Fla., (October 1, 2013) – October is Car Care Month and AAA is reminding drivers about the importance of properly maintaining their vehicles. There are a few simple things every driver can do to make sure their car is ready for the road.

“Learning how to handle common maintenance issues is beneficial to anyone who gets behind the wheel,” said John Nielsen, managing director of AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Proper maintenance can extend the life of your vehicle and help prevent costly repairs.”

Below are four simple car care practices AAA recommends every motorist perform on a regular basis:

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Check the Air and Wear of Your Tires

83% of American do not know how to properly inflate their tires, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The pressure on all tires—including the spare— should be checked monthly, with a quality gauge when the tires are cold. Proper pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker most often located on the driver-side door jamb. Do not use the pressure stamped on the sidewall of the tire. Note that the pressure levels on some cars are different for the front and rear tires.

Check the tread depth on each tire by placing a quarter upside down in the tread grooves. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed at any point, it’s time to start shopping for new tires. Also, look for uneven tire wear when checking the tread. This can be an indication of suspension, wheel balance or alignment problems that need to be addressed.

Every driver at some point deals with a flat tire. Click here for a step-by-step video that shows how to prepare for and repair or replace a flat tire.

Ensure Your Car Battery is Properly Charged

Extreme temperatures break down car batteries internally and can accelerate the rate of corrosion on battery terminals, leading to insufficient electrical power and the risk of being stranded without warning.

At every oil change, check the battery cables and ensure they are securely attached to the terminals. Clean the terminals if there are signs of corrosion. Disconnecting the cables to clean the hidden areas where they contact the battery terminals is the best way to remove external corrosion.  Most car batteries have a three to five year service life, depending on local climate and vehicle usage patterns. If your battery is getting old, have it tested at a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop or by using AAA Mobile Battery Service to determine if it needs to be replaced.

Keep Those Wipers Working

Inspect the wiper blades monthly. Check to see if they are worn, cracked or rigid with age.  Damaged wiper blades won’t adequately remove debris, compromising the driver’s vision and safety. 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 a replacement is needed.  Click here to learn more.

The windshield washer fluid reservoir should be checked monthly. Top it off with a solution formulated to aid in the removal of insects or other debris. In winter, use a solution that will not freeze at low temperatures. Also, test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim before leaving on a trip.

Work with a Local Repair Shop You Trust

Every car requires routine maintenance and repair. The best time to find a mechanic or auto repair shop is before you need one. Start by asking friends and family for recommendations of repair shops and mechanics. Visit www.aaa.com/repair to find nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, take your vehicle to your top candidate shop for routine maintenance. While there, talk with the employees and take a look at the facility and consider the following questions:

  • Does the facility have up to date equipment?
  • Were you offered a written estimate?
  • Does the shop offer a nationwide warranty on parts and labor?
  • Are customer areas clean, comfortable and well organized?

Click here for more on finding the right automotive repair shop for you.

When having your car serviced, follow the factory recommended maintenance schedule to avoid under- or over-maintaining your vehicle.  Oil changes, tire rotations, changing transmission fluid, and replacing an air filter are the types of routine maintenance recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. The maintenance schedule for these services and more can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 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.

Ginnie PritchettAAA alerts drivers that extreme summer heat can push vehicles to limits if not properly maintained

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ORLANDO, Fla., (July 25, 2013) – With temperatures soaring to record highs around the country, AAA cautions motorists not to underestimate the ways in which extreme heat can wreak havoc on vehicles.  With an estimated eight million automobiles in need of AAA’s roadside assistance this summer, heat will take its toll on vehicles and their occupants.

“Prolonged exposure to high temperatures is not only a threat to passengers, but a vehicle concern as well,” said John Nielsen, AAA Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Knowing the dangers and preparing your vehicle for extreme heat can help keep your vehicle running smoothly during the hot summer months.”

To keep your vehicle running smoothly this summer AAA recommends motorists address the following common heat-related car problems:

Over-Heating Engine

Automobile engines work extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system’s job to protect the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper cooling system maintenance, the odds of long term engine damage, and a summer time boil over, definitely increase.

Over time, engine coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives are depleted. That’s why the system should be flushed and the coolant replaced periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Older coolants required changing every two years or 24,000 miles, but most modern formulations are good for at least five years and 50,000 miles, and many do not require replacement until approximately 100,000 miles. See the owner’s manual or maintenance booklet to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.

Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper levels by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer. CAUTION! – Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns.

Other fluids help keep vehicles running cool as well. Most vehicle fluids don’t just lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers to should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.

Battery Failure Due to Heat and Vibration

Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. While drivers cannot do much about the heat, they can make sure their battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration.

If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last. This test can be performed at any AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, or AAA members can request a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician come to them and test their battery free of charge. Should the battery need replacement, the technician can usually replace it immediately on location. For more information on the AAA Mobile Battery Service visit AAA.com/Battery.

Blown Tire

Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it also can cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high.

Tires should be checked when the car has not been driven recently, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer—not the number molded into the tire sidewall. Recommended tire pressures can be found in the owner’s manual or on a tire information sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb. Drivers also should inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem.

Air Conditioning Failure

During extreme summer heat, a properly operating air conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. If a car’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it did in the past, it may mean the refrigerant level is low or there is another problem. Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician.

Many automotive climate control systems today are equipped with a cabin filter that prevents outside debris from entering. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.

If you think your vehicle is experiencing problems due to the extreme summer heat, have it checked out by a trained automotive technician. The AAA Approved Auto Repair program is a free public service that helps motorists identify high-quality auto repair facilities they can trust to work on their vehicle. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops must meet stringent professional standards and maintain an ongoing customer satisfaction rating of 90 percent or better. To locate a nearby AAA-approved repair shop visit AAA.com/Repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 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.

Ginnie PritchettMotorists’ smart key learning curve results in risky and costly lesson

ORLANDO, Fla., (March 06, 2013) – Even as the technology, security and convenience of automobile “smart keys” evolve, AAA finds motorists are not keeping pace and are frequently outsmarted by their “smart” keys.  In 2012, AAA came to the rescue of over four million members who locked themselves out of their vehicles, a number that has dropped little in the past five years; even as use of smart keys has increased.  First available in luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, almost all automakers now offer the smart key  as standard or optional equipment within their fleet of vehicles. As a modern convenience, transponder fobs allow motorists to enter and start their vehicle key-free.

“Traditional car keys will likely become obsolete and be replaced by technologies offering even greater security and convenience,” said John Nielsen, AAA Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Motorists will need to adapt with the technology to avoid the hassle and expense of smart key replacements.”

While new smart key features provide long list of conveniences, including remote start and stored driver profiles, motorists unfamiliar with operating keyless fobs can face risky situations and lockouts. Forgetting to turn off the car before exiting the vehicle, or not knowing how to quickly shut down the engine in an emergency, has proven to be a problem for some. And, for those systems with remote start capability, it is critical that motorists never start the vehicle in an enclosed space where engine exhaust gasses containing poisonous carbon monoxide can be trapped – with potentially fatal consequences.

Just as motorists adjust to smart key features, they may be surprised to learn that smartphones may soon be an option to replace their car key altogether. Electric vehicles from Chevrolet and Nissan today have special mobile apps that can be used to monitor and control many of their basic functions.  And, Hyundai recently unveiled a more advanced concept that allows motorists to enter and start a vehicle using a specially-configured smartphone that can then interface with the vehicle to provide additional functions and services. Some of this technology could be seen in vehicles as soon as 2015.

The greater conveniences and features of modern car keys do not come cheap and require more maintenance. The purchase price of vehicles that offer modern key technology are higher, the fob battery must be changed periodically and it can cost hundreds of dollars to buy, cut and program a new or replacement key.

“The cost to replace a transponder key runs around $100, and replacement smart keys can cost several hundred dollars depending on the make and model,” continued Nielsen. “Many newer keys must be programmed by a dealer or locksmith with special electronic equipment and accesses to highly confidential codes that are required to service the vehicle security system.

AAA recommends motorists take special care of their transponder and smart keys. Here are some steps that can help prevent danger, loss or damage of vehicle keys, and limit the replacement cost in the event a key is misplaced:

  • Familiarize yourself with the full capability of your smart key and know what to do in an emergency situation
  • Become comfortable with the features of the smart key in a safe environment
  • To avoid keyless-entry remote or smart key failure, replace the key/fob battery every 2 years or when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer or the in-car low battery warning system.
  • Don’t expose your keyless-entry remote or smart key to harsh elements – especially water.
  • Obtain a spare key and store it in a safe location for emergency use only.

With more new car choices than ever, AAA helps simplify the process for consumers to find and finance the ‘right’ car for their lifestyle and budget 

ORLANDO,Fla., (March 28, 2012) – Buying a new vehicle takes time, research and eventually money.  So when the occasion comes to purchase a new car, it’s not a choice that should be made lightly. To help consumers, AAA offers a checklist of factors to consider when looking for the ‘right’ new car.

“Today’s consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to picking a new vehicle, but that also means the selection process can be much more difficult,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “There are numerous factors to consider, many of which take place long before a buyer ever hits a car lot.”

When shopping for a new vehicle, AAA recommends the following:

  • Determine What Is Affordable. Before considering any specific makes or models, sit down with the household budget and determine what is affordable before visiting a car lot. AAA’s financial services experts advise that no more than 15 percent to 20 percent of your total monthly budget should go to all car-related expenses. Consider the value of your trade-in and how much cash you want to put towards the vehicle purchase. Consult with an insurance agent to get a rough estimate of premiums on the type of vehicle being considered. AAA insurance agents can be located at AAA.com.
  • Evaluate Driving Habits. Take a realistic look at how the vehicle will be used. What types of trips will it be used for most frequently? How many passengers will the vehicle need to carry? How long of a commute will it need to accommodate? Will the vehicle be driven on the highway? Will you need extra cargo space?
  • List Needed Features (Current and Future). Make a list of all required features the new vehicle should include, being careful to separate ‘wants’ from ‘needs.’ How much seating? How much cargo? Minimum fuel economy? When making the list, think about needs today and those several years down the road. Could children be in the future? Could the commute lengthen?
  • Consider Depreciation Costs. The biggest yearly expense to new cars is depreciation. Research how much the models being considered depreciate within the first few years and consider a model that has a track record of holding its value longer. The new AAA Auto Buying Tools App can assist consumers shopping for a new vehicle by providing all of the information they need to make an educated decision by visiting AAA.com/AutoBuying or by downloading the AAA Auto Buying Tools app from the iTunes App Store. The app can build the car you want, including options and available incentives, while viewing pricing information, crash safety ratings, AAA reviews, images and more.
  • New or New to You. Look at pricing options for both new vehicles, as well as models that are one to two years old. There are benefits to both new and slightly used models. New vehicles typically come with longer warranties, buying incentives from the automaker, the latest features and are widely available. Slightly used vehicles might offer a price break, but it can be more difficult to find the ‘perfect’ vehicle with the exact features a buyer is seeking and does not have buying incentives from the manufacturer.
  • Review Warranty and Maintenance Costs. Review the length of the warranty of vehicles being considered and exactly what it covers. Investigate the maintenance costs associated with the car by reviewing its recommended maintenance schedule and calculating new costs of regularly needed maintenance items. If the buyer consistently uses the same repair shop, ask how the cost of maintaining the new vehicle will compare with the current vehicle.  AAA Approved Auto Repair shops are located across North America and are excellent sources of trusted maintenance information.  The nearest shop can be located by visiting AAA.com/repair.
  • Investigate Safety Ratings and Features. Check the safety ratings of all models under consideration from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Evaluate the safety features available on each model. If using a car seat for a child, check the accessibility to the vehicle’s LATCH system and the ease of installing a child passenger safety seat.
  • Seek Recommendations and Reviews. Ask friends, family and colleagues for feedback on their vehicles. Read professional reviews provided by AAA’s Auto Buying experts at AAA.com/AutoBuying, and feedback from current owners of the models being considered. These can often be found on web forums.
  • Don’t Limit Choice to One Vehicle. Narrow the choices to two or three vehicles that meet all the criteria, but do not narrow it down to only one. By allowing flexibility, buyers have more negotiating room and a better chance of finding the best possible price.
  • Financing is Key. AAA financial services experts advise that consumers gain a distinct advantage in the car buying process by arriving at the dealership with financing in hand.  Carefully and thoroughly shop loan options and available interest rates in advance. Inching down a loan’s interest rate even a percentage point or two can save hundreds of dollars over the life of the car loan.  Match the length of the loan to the length of ownership.  Select your loan term based on how long you plan to own the vehicle and make sure your loan has no prepayment penalty.

AAA can help consumers save for major purchases like buying a new vehicle.  Building a sound savings strategy is the best way to prepare for the future and different savings options offer different benefits to help you reach your goals.  AAA members can learn more at AAA.com/deposits.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 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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