Some Extracts from Our Automobile Articles
you've got two left hands when it comes to your car, you can still provide the first line
of defense in winterizing: information. Inspect your car for winter well being by
examining the basics and if anything's amiss, tell your mechanic.
- Check brake lights, turn signals, the trunk light -- right down to the glove box light.
- Make sure you've got enough antifreeze in your cooling system. Letting it get too low
can be a costly mistake.
- Test the horn (but not at midnight).
- Check the trunk for moisture or rust, which can indicate a water leak.
- Examine the car for nicks and chips in the paint.
- Check shocks and struts by pushing down on the hood as hard as you can. If the car
bounces like a yo-yo, you may have trouble.
- Take a Lincoln-head penny and insert it Lincoln-head first in your tire tread at the
most worn part of the tire. If you see the top of Lincoln's head, you may need new tires.
- Look under the car for signs of mud or salt buildup and inspect the garage floor for
signs of leaks.
As a companion to your emergency kit, consider the following commonsense guidelines to
protect you and your family.
- Try to move the car completely off the road.
- Never stand near the edge of the highway while checking the car.
- At night, turn on flashers to signal your need for help. During the day, raise the hood
and tie a white cloth on the antenna or door handle.
- Set out flares.
- If you have to repair a car at night, wear a fluorescent safety vest. While you wait for
help to arrive, stay inside your car with the windows up and the doors locked. Never
accept a ride home from a passing motorist.
- Carry a cellular phone or carry a cardboard sign for your windshield. Preprinted signs
that say call police for help are available at auto parts stores.
Today, there's not much call for the extensive skill I developed
in, say, working Holley carburetors. I could build a 1970s hot rod
from nothing but parts, but today I take my car in for most of its
servicing needs. Yet, there are many things I do that any reasonably
mechanical person can do. You need only a few things:
- Drop cord (also called a trouble light). Never work in poor
- A few different screwdrivers.
- A small ratchet set.
Here's a partial list:
- Change the cabin air filter. Most cars have these, today.
They are easy to change. You can probably find a Youtube video
showing you how.
- Change the engine air filter. In the old days, this was a
snap to do. Today, it's a bit trickier on many models. But it's
not particularly challenging. Just be careful and take note of
whatever you disconnect. If you're unfamiliar with what goes
where, literally take notes. On a pad of paper.
- Change oil. Always use synthetic (not a blend, which gives
you zero synthetic advantages while jacking up your cost).
Always change the filter, too. If you have not changed oil
before, find a qualified mechanic to teach you. Nothing ruins an
engine faster than an oil change gone wrong.
- Changing fuses and lamps. These just plug in. The "trick" is
to learn how to read the numbers. It's really not so tricky.
Every three years, do a core pressurization check, do power system flush, and replace
your belts and hoses. If you cant remember when this was last done, have it done (or
do it yourself) now. If youre within the three-year window, inspect your hoses with
the engine cool. They should be pliably firmthat is, they should not
Make sure you have a record of all pertinent information regarding your vehicle stored
safely at home, that includes the make, model, year, a copy of the registration, Vehicle
Identification Number (VIN), license plate number, insurance company and policy number.
Take a picture of your car periodically, including any specially installed equipment; this
will help you to prove current condition/worth in the event that it is stolen. Also save
the receipts for all major work done on the car.
The easier your car and its parts are to identify, the better. Have the VIN etched on
windows and door panels, radios and other expensive accessories. Drop your business card
under floor mats and down through window slots so they rest hidden between the door
panels. This makes it easier to identify the car as yours should the police recover it.
- Don't use your defroster, the rush of hot or cold air could cause the ding to crack.
- Don't wash your vehicle; the water will contaminate the damaged area and could cause a
crack to grow.
- Don't touch the ding with your finger or any tool. You could contaminate or cause the
damage to spread.
- Don't slam your doors shut. The excess pressure combined with the impact of the door
could cause the ding to continue cracking. Leave a window slightly open when shutting
- Don't dig a surface scratch in the glass over the tip of the crack. This seldom prevents
a crack from running and only causes additional surface damage on the windshield that can
not be repaired.
While you are driving in stormy conditions:
- Keep your low beam headlights on, even during the day.
- Do everything more slowly - turning, stopping, accelerating.
- Place a greater distance between your car and the one in front of you. Slippery
conditions can triple the distance it takes to come to a complete stop.
- Drive defensively. Keep your eyes open, and anticipate what other drivers may do.
- If your car begins to fishtail, turn in the direction of the skid and keep your foot off
the brake. (If the rear of your car veers to the right, turn your steering wheel in the
- When braking on a slippery surface, allow plenty of time and pump the brakes gently to
avoid skidding. Anti-lock brakes provide the lone exception to this rule. If you have ABS,
press on the brake pedal firmly and hold. Expect noise and vibration; this means the ABS
is working. Pumping and extreme steering may cause you to lose control.
- Keep in mind that bridges and overpasses freeze more quickly than roadways. Use extra
caution while driving on them, and beware of "black ice" when the road appears
dry but is darker than usual and very slick.
- Before maneuvering through a turn, brake while the car is still traveling straight.
Then, take your foot off the brake as you turn, but don't accelerate until you begin to
straighten the steering wheel again.