Spring into action with these car care tips to save money at the gas pump and help you avoid the repair shop:
Tires lose one pound of pressure for each 10-degree change in temperature, so if you haven’t checked them since the last snowfall, you could need to add a couple of pounds. Under-pressure costs you fuel economy and handling, while over-pressure is a recipe for a blow-out. Check the spare, too. If you’ve been lucky and haven’t needed it lately, remember to top it off when you add air to the other four.
Always inflate tires to manufacturer-recommended levels, which are printed in the owner’s manual or on the door sticker panel. Always check the pressure when tires are cold. That means in your driveway or garage, not down the road at the gas station, since even a short distance of driving can change the reading.
Overheating becomes a bigger problem in warm weather, so be sure to check the radiator fluid level. A hint from Jiffy Lube – keep a bottle of distilled water in the trunk. If your car starts overheating, pour the water into the radiator to cool it down until you can get to a service station.
Check the windshield-wiper fluid level, too, so you are protected against spring and summer rainstorms. If you were using a cold-weather formulation over the winter, now is the time to switch to a lighter one. Check the blades, too. Replace them if they are cracked or worn, or if you’ve been straining to see through streaks the past few hundred miles.
Stop treating your vehicle like an attic on wheels, and get the junk out of the trunk or cargo space. Less weight means more fuel efficiency and less of your money going into the gas tank.
Always keep an emergency kit in the trunk. Mine is a Bridgestone Auto Safety Kit, with jumper cables, a flashlight, reflective road sign, work gloves, even adhesive bandages, all in one handy zippered pouch, with room for me to add granola bars and other emergency rations in case of a long wait for a tow truck. Eddie Bauer and AAA also sell grab-and-go emergency roadside kits.
If you are doing it yourself in the driveway with a garden hose, be sure the car is in the shade, since soap can bake spots or filmy streaks into the paint finish in the hot sun. If you have a movable lawn sprinkler that’s low enough, set it under the vehicle to wash away winter grime, including road salt that can corrode the under-carriage.
Or, take Old Breakdown to a commercial car wash – especially one that lets you and the kids stay inside and get soaped up and brushed clean. It’s fun ride and a lot less expensive than a trip to Disneyland.
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