June 26, 2013

When Do I Need a Wheel Alignment?

How do you know whether your car needs a wheel alignment?  Uneven tire wear is a prime indicator that your car is likely out of alignment.  Often, more wear will be on the outside of some tires.  Your car might seem to be drifting to one side, even when you think you’re driving straight.  Also, if your steering wheel vibrates you may need alignment.  It may be needed if you are driving straight, but your steering wheel isn’t centered.  If none of these indicators occur it is still a good idea to check your owner’s manual to see how often the manufacturer recommends having this service. Causes of Wheel Misalignment A misaligned car is a common result of everyday driving. The term alignment doesn’t really refer to your car’s wheels but rather to the suspension. As part of normal driving, parts of your car’s suspension may become worn, and springs can be stretched out. Even a small accident or bumping a curb can disrupt your suspension, knocking some of the highly calibrated components off-kilter, making your wheels sit at improper angles. An alignment restores these angles to their correct measurements, making sure that your wheels sit straight.  An alignment will ensure that your car drives straight and handles properly.  You’ll also get better gas mileage because your tires will be properly aligned with the road, decreasing resistance. The Wheel Alignment Process An alignment is a complicated process that brings the car’s suspension into the proper configuration.  During this process, components are positioned and adjusted so that wheels are aligned with each other as well as the road surface.  An experienced mechanic, who uses an alignment machine, should perform the alignment.  Newer alignment machines feature clamp-like devices that are attached to the wheels of the car.  These devices link to a computer that helps make precise measurements. Some shops even provide a printout that shows before and after images of the suspension alignment.  The mechanic will also take this opportunity to make sure that no suspension components are excessively worn or broken.  An alignment essentially requires squaring a car’s wheels and axles with each other so that they’re moving in the same direction. The mechanic adjusts the various suspension angles that influence tire movement and position. These are known as toe, thrust, camber and caster.  The technician will also ensure that the steering wheel is centered.  Types of Wheel Alignment Each car’s manufacturer designates standard angles for the alignment, specified in degrees. If you’re a driver of a high-performance car or sports car, your mechanic may be able to align your suspension to improve handling and tire performance, but such an alignment still may lead to uneven tire wear.  The type of alignment you receive will depend on your car’s suspension. A four-wheel alignment is reserved for all-wheel drive vehicles or front-wheel drive vehicles with independent or adjustable rear suspensions. In this case, both axles have to be properly aligned so that all four wheels align in a rectangle, parallel to one another and perpendicular to the ground.  If you don’t have a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle, your car will likely only require a front-end alignment, in which only the front-axle components are adjusted, or a thrust-angle alignment. Thrust angle refers to the angle that a car’s rear wheels point relative to the car’s center. In such an alignment, the rear wheels and axle are realigned so as to be parallel with the front axle and perpendicular to the center of the car.
June 18, 2013

General Car Maintenance is For All Cars

Some people believe that only changing the oil and air filter and giving it a good washing is enough maintenance for their cars. Unfortunately, there are many of those people who are having more significant problems with their cars because they neglected to maintain them. They need all sorts of auto repair done, but you can avoid all of that if you take a few moments and give your car general car maintenance on a regular basis. Now with the spring season in full bloom, you should make sure that your car would be able to give you a trouble-free season of traveling, commuting, or whatever you plan to do for the season. Begin with the Easy Things When you inspect your car, you should make sure you cover all areas from headlights to taillights. You should make sure that your headlights, taillights are illuminating properly, and that the lenses or covers are clean. During the winter, your car has been subjected to cold weather, snow, and ice, especially if you live in the northern part of the country. In these areas, the cold can be extreme and the snow and ice can be plentiful. Your car has also been subjected to the effects of road salt and other debris, which can accumulate on your headlight lenses and cause the light to appear dim or diluted. You should also make sure that you have adequate windshield wiper fluid and that your wipers are working properly. Check to make sure that you do not have any rust or corrosion building up on the bottom part of your car, especially the undercarriage, which receives the brunt of the driving punishment. Continue with the Rest of the Car When you are under the hood, make sure that you change the oil. An oil change should also include changing the air and oil filters. Clean filters will do a better job of trapping debris that has gotten into the car. You should also check the spark plugs and wires. If you change the plugs, it may be wise to change the wires, especially if they are broken or damaged. Make sure the battery is free from dirt and corrosion on the top and on the terminals. Replace the battery cables if they are not in good shape. It would be wise to inspect your radiator and alternator to make sure they are working properly. The alternator is an important part and if it fails, your car will be rendered useless. This part also will fail without warning, so it should be watched closely, especially if it is nearing the end of its life. For the Big Finish, Maintain to Maintain You should make it a point to regularly inspect your tires, brakes, and steering and suspension. The brakes are the parts that stop the car, the steering helps you control the car, and the suspension helps make the ride more comfortable and protect the car from excessive bumps and jolts on the road. These systems are important to the safety of your car and you should take special care with them. If your brakes fail, you lose your ability to stop. If your steering is bad, you will not be able to control the car, and if your suspension is bad, the bottom of your car will be damaged and your passengers will be shaken up. Maintain your car so that you can maintain your lifestyle and your ability to travel to your destinations.
June 10, 2013

What is a Radiator?

A radiator is a type of heat exchanger. It is designed to transfer heat from the hot coolant that flows through it to the air blown through it by the fan.  In most cars, there is one radiator, which is located at the front of the vehicle.  Some high performance autos, such as the Bugatti Veyron, have 12 radiators to cool down its larger engine.  The famous design of the Rolls Royce’s radiator grille was inspired by the Parthenon, a Greek temple located in Athens, Greece.  The first automobile radiator was designed and invented by Karl Benz and Wilhelm Maybach for the Mercedes 35HP engine and was known as a “Honeycomb radiator” due to its honeycomb-like design. What does a Radiator Do? To cool down the engine, a coolant is passed through the engine block, where it absorbs heat from the engine. The hot coolant is then fed into the inlet tank of the radiator and distributed across the radiator core. As the coolant circulates through the radiator tubes on its way to the opposite tank, it cools again. The tubes transfer heat from the coolant to fins that are lodged between each row of tubes. The fins then release the heat to the ambient air. Fins are used to greatly increase the contact surface of the tubes to the air, thus increasing the exchange efficiency.  The cold coolant is then fed back to the engine, and the cycle repeats.  For each vehicle manufacturer, it takes more than 8000 miles of material strip for the production of radiators annually. Brass and copper were the base materials of the radiator, but due to chemical reactions the materials had to be replaced by plastics and aluminum.  These radiators are made by brazing thin aluminum fins into flattened aluminum tubes.  Radiators often have one or more fans that blow air through the radiator. To save fan power consumption in vehicles, radiators are often behind the grill at the front end of a vehicle. Just driving the car can supply a portion or all of the necessary cooling air flow so the fan can remain disengaged. What Coolant does a Radiator Use? This coolant is usually water-based, with the addition of glycols to prevent freezing and other additives to limit corrosion, erosion and cavities. However, the coolant may also be an oil. The first engines used thermo siphons to circulate the coolant.  Today, however, all but the smallest engines use pumps.  Since air has a lower heat capacity and density than liquid coolants, a fairly large volume must be blown through the radiator core to capture the heat from the coolant.  The tubes sometimes have a type of fin inserted into them called a turbulator, which increases the turbulence of the coolant flowing through the tubes. If the coolant flowed very smoothly through the tubes, only the coolant actually touching the tubes would be cooled directly. The amount of heat transferred to the tubes from the coolant running through them depends on the difference in temperature between the tube and the fluid touching it. So if the fluid that is in contact with the tube cools down quickly, less heat will be transferred. By creating turbulence inside the tube, all of the fluid mixes together.  This keeps the temperature of the fluid touching the tubes up so that more heat can be extracted and all of the fluid inside the tube is used effectively.  
June 7, 2013


Oil changes are an important part of your vehicle and deserve your attention. Engine oil is responsible for carrying out a number of important engine related duties. Oil helps to reduce friction against the engine. The older oil gets, the dirtier it becomes. As it becomes dirty it loses its friction-reducing capabilities. Oil is equally important in that is reduces the engine’s operating temperatures. Frequent oil changes ensure that your vehicle’s engine has a steady supply of clean engine oil.  Clean engine oil that flows better and absorbs engine related heat. Oil also helps to increase engine lubrication, which in turn prolongs the longevity of your engine and its internal parts.  It also helps to prevent engine sludge. Lastly, it removes engine wear particles. Small pieces of metal flake off from the engine parts and get picked up by circulating engine oil. Old oil can get loaded with particles and can cause build up within the engine and major damage. WHAT IS SYNTHETIC OIL  Synthetic oil was originally developed as a lubrication alternative for high-performance racing engines. However, recently is it has been common use for all car owners. Synthetic oil is similar to traditional petroleum-based motor oils and the two can be used interchangeably. There are some advantages to using synthetic oil though. Synthetic oil has a greater lifespan, meaning it doesn’t need to be changed as often as traditional motor oil. This is because synthetic motor oil is both slower to decompose chemically and less susceptible to evaporation over time. Synthetic oil is highly recommended in warmer temperatures because it flows more easily and performs better with higher temperatures. There are also environmental benefits as well. Synthetic oil is immune to the high demands of traditional oil, where much drilling and digging take place in order to meet the increase needs. Synthetic oil lasts longer and can easily be recycled. HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CHANGE MY OIL If you are using traditional petroleum motor oil, it is recommended that you get your oil changed every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. If you are using synthetic oil, it breaks down much slower than normal oil. It is generally considered safe to extent the intervals between oil changes when using synthetic oil by up to 50 percent. Therefore, making for regular oil changes every 7,500 miles or 12 months. Many synthetic oils guarantee a life for up to 15,000 miles, but recommend an oil filter change after 12,500. Synthetic oils are engineered not to build up on engine components and some are designed to clean engines as they lubricate. Because of this, many mechanics recommend synthetic motor oil for vehicles with more than 100,000 miles. Overall, it does not matter what type of oil you use in your vehicle as long as you are cautious and make regular oil changes with your mechanic. HOW TO TELL IF MY CAR NEEDS AN OIL CHANGE First, you can tell if your car needs an oil change by looking for the oil dipstick that is labeled for oil under the hood. Pull the dipstick out and check for the oil level. If the oil level is below the marked spot on the dipstick then getting your car in for an oil change is important. You may also notice a light on your dashboard that will resemble an oil can. If you notice this light, you should have your oil level looked at immediately. A simple way to keep track is looking for the sticker mechanics typically place in the upper left hand corner of your windshield. The sticker will tell you the date and mileage of your next oil change. Oil is an important liquid for your vehicle. Regularly check your oil level and you will be prepared for much safer travels.
June 5, 2013

Is the Asian Car Model Better?

Many people are celebrating the spring season with a new car. Whether the car is showroom-floor new or pre-owned but clean, the decision to buy a car is not one that should be taken lightly. With so many makes and models available, it may be daunting to find the right one. One decision that causes some debate is whether you should buy an Asian car model or a domestic car. Many people have declared that the Asian cars are better than American cars and they point to all of the awards and accolades that the Asian carmakers receive annually. Now that the American carmakers have made some major improvements, can the argument that Asian cars are better still be made? Asian Cars and Fuel Efficiency American consumers have been singing the praises the fuel efficiency of Asian cars. During the time when Americans were in love with the huge sport utility vehicles, Asian and European car models were creating cars that helped the buyer save money at the fuel pump. As gas prices started to rise, the sport utility vehicles slowly fell out of favor as people began searching for fuel-efficient cars. The Asian cars were already in tune with this new spirit and as a result, they gained an enormous lead over the American cars. Over the past decade or so, domestic cars have struggled to compete in this department and have gained considerable ground in recent years. The disparity in gas consumption between the import car and domestic car became smaller and smaller. Asian Cars and Reliability Along with good fuel economy, Asian cars have also enjoyed a reputation of being very reliable. However, with the technological advances that have been made in the automotive industry in America, domestic cars are becoming just as reliable as the imports. Parts are being made of material that is more durable and car design has become more responsive to not only the needs of the consumer but also the demands of the industry. Environmental concerns and other issues have pushed the car industry to create a more reliable car that will last longer on the road and create fewer emissions. Improvements in reliability have also led to increases in resale value. Asian cars usually command a higher resale value than domestic cars, and part of that is because of its reputation for being reliable. Does it Really Matter in the End? Many reports announce that the Asian car model is slowly falling out of grace because of some hiccups in production and some manufacturing issues that have affected the quality of these cars. American cars are now poised to claim the top spot for producing reliable, safe, fuel-efficient cars with a more generous resale value. Is the Asian car model better? For now, they may be, but the American car model is providing stiff competition. In the end, whether you own a domestic car, or an Asian or even a European car model, you can still have a reliable, safe car if you stick to a regular general maintenance schedule. If you keep your maintained, you will be able to coast through spring and straight into summer.