Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pay Attention to What's Ahead

I would suggest to everyone to look ahead way down the road when you drive, to anticipate what is happening in front of you and respond accordingly. If you see traffic stopped up ahead begin slowing down a couple of  hundred feet before you get there. It makes no sense to continue your speed with your foot on the accelerator just to apply your brakes even more. I see this happen quite often, I will be driving on the highway or in the city and I see those big orange signs up ahead taking time to read them so that I can adjust to what I am approaching, do I need to merge left, merge right, detour, stop, or what? Oh yeah, seeing orange and black construction zone signs is already an automatic signal to slow down anyway. As I am figuring out what to do, someone driving in the construction lane that is closed up ahead comes blasting past me going as far as they can until they have to get over in front of everyone else who has been waiting in the lane that goes through. I have a question. What is the difference between this and someone cutting in line in front of everyone at a movie theater, a sports event, or anywhere that other individuals are patiently waiting? What we all need to do is slow down, turn on your signal and wait for someone to let you over. Don't keep driving in the closed lane acting as if you didn't see that the road was closing and now you're at the end and have to get over because you had plenty of time to observe what was coming before you got there. The key to avoid traffic jams is to observe, observe, observe, and for drivers to be courteous enough to allow the science of driving to flow harmoniously.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Emergency Vehicles

Pull to the right and stop! This is the first course of action you should take but sometimes you can't do this. If you are in the left turn lane don't move and if you are already out of the way don't get in the way by moving into a clear lane or where you are blocking an intersection because an emergency vehicle may need to turn where you are so never stop across an intersection. If you are in the far left lane and the cars in front of you move left to the median or shoulder you should move left also, don't go to the right you just create a more difficult path for emergency vehicles to get through. If you have to stop at an intersection or pull over for an emergency vehicle to pass, do not proceed without checking for additional emergency vehicles approaching. Crack your window, turn down the radio, heater, or airconditioning so you can hear what's going on. Oh and never, ever, ever try to drive close behind an emergency vehicle after it passes with lights and sirens going because you will get a ticket! Most of what I have written here about moving left or right is from the perspective of a firefighter and would help him or her tremendously to make their way safely through traffic and don't act like these vehicles are a pain in your butt because they may be going to help someone you know.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Checking and Adding Fluids

If you are going to attempt to check or add any fluids to your engine always refer to your owner's manual there are some procedures to follow. Let's start with oil now that you have bought the correct type. Make sure your engine is off and your vehicle is on a level surface. When you open your hood on some newer vehicles you will see a lot of plastic covering most of the engine and also some colored plastic hoops or hooks usually yellow or red or some other bright color. These colors are basically telling you that "You Can Do This and leave everything else alone and bring it to us" ( the dealer's service dept.). Once you have located your oil dipstick pull it out and wipe it off with a clean rag. You should disregard this first reading because there is usually residual oil on the dipstick and may give you an inaccurate reading. Re-insert the dipstick, pull it back out and take note of the level, wipe it clean and repeat this process once or twice more and that should be your level. If you need to add oil locate your oil cap and add oil here. Only add a little at a time from a quart size bottle unless you know that you can use an entire quart in one pour without overfilling your capacity. Do not overfill your oil capacity you can cause unnecessary engine problems and find yourself under your car draining some of the oil out that you just put in.

If you can check your power steering fluid, again have the vehicle level and engine off. Make sure you have the correct specification fluid. Use the same procedure as I mentioned for checking your oil dipstick except for with the power steering the dipstick might have two levels, one for "cold" and one for "hot". This means that if your engine is cold when you check it use the "cold" level and if it's hot use the "hot" level. You may need a funnel and remember not to overfill.

When you check your transmission fluid make sure your vehicle is on a level surface, but this time you will need to have your engine idling in "Park" for an automatic transmission. Make sure you take all safety precautions if you plan to do this so that the car does not move and you should not have on any loose dangling clothing and remember there will be moving parts on the engine so stay clear. Also you will need a small funnel for this because you fill the transmission down the same tube where the dipstick comes out on most cars. Pour in very small portions because you don't want to overfill this capacity either. You might also have the hot and cold level marks on the dipstick. If you have a manual transmission you should have a small reservoir at the back of the firewall in the engine compartment. This reservoir is not only similar to your brake master cylinder but usually takes the same fluid which in most cases is DOT 3 or 4 brake fluid.To be sure check the stamped wording on the cap if it is present. Find the level marks on the reservoir they might read "min" and "max" or something comparable.

Be extremely careful if you need to add engine coolant also known as "antifreeze". Never try to fill this fluid when your engine is hot it's under pressure and you can get burned. You will fill your coolant at the radiator cap either on the radiator or at the overflow reservoir. The reservoir will have level marks on it but usually not the radiator just fill it up below the overflow tube on the neck. Engine coolant is keeping up with oil with all the choices but basically you have straight concentrated coolant and 50/50. Concentrated has to be mixed to 50 parts coolant plus 50 parts water when added to your radiator. 50/50 coolant can be poured right in with no mixing required. Generally you should add the same color coolant to your radiator but this is not always fool proof. You can buy coolant that will mix with all types but if you are not comfortable with this check your owner's manual, look for a labeled sticker under your hood, or on your radiator cap for the correct type.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

OTR and other Delivery Vehicles

I want to discuss Over The Road vehicles and Local Delivery vehicles because for several years now from my observation these guys drive these vehicles like they're driving their personal vehicles. They cut you off and just come over into your lane before they are totally clear and safe to do so. Sometimes they end up in the passing lane (that would be the left lane for those of you that loaf around in this lane also) for a long period of time backing up traffic for miles. In their defense however I must say that other drivers on the road are extremely selfish and inconsiderate. If you are in a position to slow down a little to let these large vehicles over do it, don't speed up to prevent them from getting over be courteous.

Ok let's talk Safety around large vehicles. Personally I don't drive next to them no longer than I need to because I consider any vehicle that is hauling something to be a hazardous vehicle and has greater potential for something to go wrong. If I'm in the other lane and can't pass a large vehicle I stay back until I can pass it completely in one motion because I would hate to be next to one if something falls off,  a tire blows out, or something comes unhooked. So if you find yourself next to a large vehicle try not to linger next to it too long because if your car ends up under one that would be a bad day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Changing Your Oil

Thanks Box'd Out for your comment and suggestion for this topic. First, let's talk about the different types of oil on the market for your vehicle. Basically you have organic oil refined from the earth better known as conventional oil, then there is synthetic oil which is synthesized or made. From these main types a brand called synthetic blend is derived by mixing the two. So in order of quality you could consider synthetic the best, synthetic blend next in line, then conventional. I am surprised that there are a lot of people that don't know what oil to put in their vehicle so I will try to clear this up a little bit. I know it's confusing when you go in a store to buy some oil and you have several brands and service types (i.e. regular conventional, synthetic blend, full synthetic, high mileage, high rpm, 4X4, bla, bla, bla, etc., etc., etc.). Ok let's start with your vehicle. Do you have an owner's manual? If so look up oil change recommendations and you should see a chart or something showing some arrows or lines that show different weights of oil such as(0w-40, 5w-20,5w-30, 10w-30,10w-40,15w-40). This chart is basically telling you that you can use these different weights depending on what type of climate you are in however it should recommend one of these for normal temperatures. Using the lower number next to the "w" in cold climates and higher number in hotter climates would be the basic rule-of-thumb for this chart.You should also see a circle with letters in it or just letters this should be your engine's specification requirement. If you see the letters SF, SG, SL,SM,or SN or something along this line just match what is in your manual to the back of a bottle of oil and this should be the right oil for your vehicle. This is the most important part in choosing the right oil everything else is "bells and whistles". If you don't have an owner's manual or just can't find it under all that stuff in your glove compartment or console try to look under your hood at your oil cap where you fill your oil and you may be lucky enough to have the recommended oil stamped on the cap or even on your dipstick.

There are still some variables to deciding on the right oil like if your engine has over 75,000 miles on it consider using high mileage oil, or if your engine burns oil consider a thicker oil especially in a hotter climate. If you live in a seasonal climate and you do use a thicker oil make sure you go thinner in the winter and always try to stick with the same brand and type. To decide what type of oil to use ask yourself some questions; How much do you care about your vehicle? How long do you plan to keep your vehicle? How much driving do you do before you can honestly change your oil? Can you keep up with the maintenance schedule of changing your oil every 3,000 miles? To offer a suggestion to these questions is the good, better, best concept when choosing a type of oil to use. Personally I buy the best for my vehicle with over 250,000 miles on it not just oil but all my fluids and parts I replace. I depend on this vehicle and need it to start every time. Although cheaper products claim to meet specifications I side with choosing the best.

Now that you can select your oil you need to change your oil filter. Again there are now different service type filters on the market there is the regular oil filter, high mileage filter, the tough filter, extreme, high performance, etc.. Ask yourself the same questions I stated when selecting your oil. If you haven't already make sure you can gain access to your oil filter and oil drain plug before tackling this job. You may need a good oil filter wrench and the skill of a contortionist on some vehicles to get to your oil filter. Seriously though if you plan to keep this vehicle for a long time I would suggest using a motor flush when you change your oil. This product will help you get a cleaner drain of the old oil and can possibly help clean your crankcase over time. If none of this helps you and you decide to have your oil changed somewhere else just make sure they use the oil and filter you want so that you know whats in your engine and if you have to add oil later you can put the same type in it. If you would like more help and technical information about oil see link in the right side bar for a downloadable handbook.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Emergency Parts

Most of us possibly own a vehicle that doesn't require much maintenance and when it does we probably keep up with our maintenance schedules right? Well for those of us who don't or drive older vehicles you might consider keeping some parts in your trunk or stow away compartment that could keep you from being stranded. I know...... that's what emergency roadside service is for and that's great but, if your like me a DIY kinda guy with an older vehicle you may want to have some emergency parts available. A part that will leave you stranded without warning or any signs of going bad is an ignition module or sometimes called an ignitor. This part controls the spark of the spark plugs and when it goes bad the spark plugs don't fire. Your vehicle will act like it wants to start when you turn the key but it won't. The other parts are Drive Belts and Radiator Hoses along with some duct tape or hose tape. Most vehicles have Drive Belts and Only one turning everything, the alternator, power steering pump, air conditioning, etc..If this belt snaps off all of these components stop functioning and will force you to the side of the road. Further discussion on this topic is welcomed please leave a comment.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slow Down and Save Gas

I was driving on the freeway today and I was passed by a minivan determined to go faster than I was. He got quite aways in front of me but was still in view. On this particular stretch of freeway there were traffic lights every so often and the minivan and I were both making the green lights for the first 15 miles. Approaching 20 miles one light turned red long enough for me to catch this minivan and end up waiting at the same red light. All I could think about was what I wrote in an earlier blog about taking your time because everyone gets to where they are going without travelling way over the speed limit.
Try to drive at a constant rate of speed without varying too much this will save you some fuel. to learn more ways on saving fuel. Also keep your windows closed when driving at high speeds and maintain your tire pressure. Fill your tires when they are cold to get a more accurate pressure. You can find the recommended pressure for your vehicle in the owner's manual or on a sticker in the driver's door jamb. This sticker also contains other useful information like when your vehicle was built and the paint code for the exterior paint color.