Thinking Of Replacing Your Own Brakes? Read The Pros and Cons Here

If you have the know-how to do your own brake work or know someone who does and is willing to share their expertise for free, the do-it-yourself approach to replacing pads and rotors can save you lots of money. But be sure you know what’s wrong before you get started, or you could waste a lot of time and money.

The cost of brake parts varies widely by brand and model, and you should certainly expect to pay more for brake work on a BMW than on a Honda.

Doing it yourself also means you choose the parts that go on your car, you’re in charge of quality control and you do it on your own schedule.

If that was all there was to it, we would recommend that anyone with a little mechanical skill perform their own brake repairs. Brake maintenance, though, isn’t always as simple as just removing and replacing parts.

For example, unevenly worn brake pads could be the result of sticking caliper slide pins, the calipers themselves might need cleaning, lubricating or replacement, and excessive brake pedal travel might be the result of air in the hydraulic brake lines, not worn pads.

If you don’t have the knowledge to diagnose what might be wrong or the tools or experience to correct it, you might be wasting time and money by replacing parts because they’re the usual suspects. You might know your car better than anyone, but a good mechanic probably knows much more about brakes than you do.

Repair shops also guarantee their labor as well as the parts they install, so if something doesn’t seem right after a brake job, they usually stand behind it and fix what’s wrong.

If you decide to do the work yourself, be sure you’re addressing the root causes of your brake issues, and make sure pads, rotors and other parts really do need replacing before you buy new ones.

Above all, know your limits, because brakes are what stop your car and you don’t want to make a dangerous mistake.

Need A Tune Up? Find Out Here

If your engine misfires, hesitates, stalls, gets poor mileage, is hard to start or has failed an emissions test, it clearly needs something, though a tune-up in the traditional sense might not be the cure.

If you tell a repair shop you need a tune-up, the mechanic should ask why you feel you need one before recommending any service. Just like a doctor should ask what symptoms you’re experiencing, a mechanic should seek to diagnose the problem. And just as a doctor may recommend some tests, a mechanic may do the same.

You can speed the process by being ready to describe what happens and when (such as whether your car hesitates when the engine is cold or when passing at highway speeds), any sounds you hear and what you feel when your car’s “illness” shows up.

One caution about lower fuel economy: You should expect it to go down at least a little during the cold months, and maybe a lot. Colder temperatures make your engine and charging system work harder. In addition, winter gasoline blends have slightly less energy content than summer blends, so they don’t deliver as many miles per gallon. A tune-up won’t make Old Man Winter, or his effects, go away.

What are symptoms that might make you think you need a tune-up?

* A misfiring engine (when spark plugs ignite at the wrong time) could be caused by worn or fouled spark plugs. Bad spark plugs can also cause low fuel economy, hard starting and sluggish acceleration. Most plugs, though, should last 100,000 miles or more, and engine computers do a remarkable job of compensating for worn plugs, so that might not be the main or only culprit.

* A dirty or clogged engine air filter is more likely to reduce acceleration than fuel economy, according to tests conducted by the EPA. Because filters get dirty gradually over time, you might not notice a small but steady loss of performance until your car is accelerating like a turtle. But if you haven’t changed the filter in a couple of years (or sooner in areas that have a lot of soot in the air), that could be part of the problem.

* Engine deposits caused by low-quality or contaminated gasoline create drivability problems, and the cure for that might be a fuel system cleaning, either by a repair shop or with a gas-tank additive.

* An illuminated check engine light signals when something is amiss in the emissions control system, but depending on what the issue is it could also affect fuel economy or engine performance, so don’t ignore it. A faulty oxygen sensor, for example, leaves the engine computer in the dark about how to set the air-fuel mixture, and that can result in poor fuel economy.

* An old oxygen sensor (say, 90,000 miles or more) may still work well enough that it doesn’t trigger the check engine light but could still hurt fuel economy. Engine performance can also be reduced by more serious internal problems, such as valves that don’t seat properly or worn piston rings, or by restrictions in the exhaust system.

Because the same symptoms can suggest different problems, and there are often several possible causes and cures, it’s better to consult a professional mechanic than to try to be one if you have neither the experience nor the right equipment to diagnose drivability problems.In short, rather than ask for a tune-up, tell a mechanic what you’re experiencing and ask him or her to find the cause.

Is Your Radiator Leaking? Check This Simple Guide

When the temperature gauge on your dashboard reads high or a temperature warning light comes on, you have a cooling system problem that may be caused by a leak — be it in the radiator itself or some other component.

First, make sure it’s coolant that’s leaking, not another fluid. (Coolant is often referred to as antifreeze, but technically coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.) You can easily check the coolant level in your see-through overflow tank. If it’s empty or low, the next step should be to check the coolant level in the radiator, but that should be done only when the engine is cool.

Once you know you’re losing coolant, the radiator is a good place to start. Some radiator leaks will be easy to spot — such as a puddle underneath the radiator — but others not so much. It’s best to check the radiator from every angle, not just from above, and pay particular attention to seams and the bottom. Corrosion inside the radiator or holes from road debris also can cause leaks.

Antifreeze comes in different colors — green, yellow and pinkish-red, for example — feels like slimy water and usually has a sweet smell. If you can’t see coolant dripping or seeping, look for rust, cracks or stains on the radiator. Those are telltale signs of where it has leaked.

If the radiator appears to be OK, the cooling system offers several possibilities for leaks, including the hoses from the radiator to the engine, the radiator cap, water pump, engine block, thermostat, overflow tank, heat exchanger (a small radiator that circulates hot coolant into the dashboard for cabin heating) and others. A blown gasket between the cylinder head and the engine block is another possibility, allowing coolant inside the combustion chambers — a problem that must be addressed immediately by a mechanic.

If you can’t find a leak, have it checked by a professional. Coolant has a way of escaping only under pressure when the car is running — possibly in the form of steam, which may not leave a trace.

Improve Your Gas Mileage With These Easy Tips

There are a lot of reasons to improve your automobile gas mileage. It starts with the costs that you pay at the pump, with fluctuating gas prices reminding consumers that spending time on the road isn’t always cheap. Then there is dependence on foreign oil (which affects countries with higher use or without vast reserves), not to mention peak oil projections that lead to a lot of people wanting to cut back, in order to benefit the community at large and for the future of the planet. If any of this resonates with you, you can use some of these handy tips to get the best mpg (miles per gallon) possible out of your vehicle.

Improve MPG with Easy Changes

Here are some of the top ways that drivers improve the mpg of their cars, SUVs, trucks and other vehicles.

  1. Unload Vehicles: Driving around with extra weight requires your engine to burn a lot more gas. Take out heavy extras when they’re not needed for a trip, and you’ll be cutting down your overall fuel consumption.
  2. Keep Tires Properly Inflated: Well inflated tires can help you avoid some kinds of road accidents, and save you gas money at the same time. Studies have shown that vehicles get significantly better mpg when all four tires are inflated to capacity. Seasonal changes and other factors mean that your tire inflation can change over a month or two, so keep monitoring your inflation levels for the best results.
  3. Use the Right Motor Oil: Other research has shown that using the correct grade of motor oil can also help with fuel economy. This is as easy as spending that few extra seconds looking for the right grade of oil, or requesting it for your ‘instant oil change.’
  4. Maintain Your Fuel Economy System: Many newer vehicles have sophisticated electronic systems that are made to ensure good mpg by optimizing the fuel mix and other engine performance factors. Letting this system fall into disrepair will cause your vehicle to burn more fuel on every trip. Don’t just ignore your broken O2 sensor or clogged catalytic converter. When the check engine light comes on, get the issue fixed even if it doesn’t impair your use of the car, and you’ll be contributing to better long-term maintenance and fuel economy.
  5. Drive Slower: Charts of fuel consumption by speed show that your fuel economy maxes out around 50 mph and then gradually goes down until at 70 to 80 mph. At the average speed on some highways, you may be getting pretty poor mpg. Some drivers who have decided to use the slow lane on long trips have found that they save quite a bit of gas this way.
  6. Drive Consistently: Some environmental advocacy groups recommend using the cruise control on your vehicle to maintain a constant speed, which lowers the amount of fuel use and improves mpg. To drive efficiently, avoid those quick acceleration moves that make your engine work a lot harder.

These are just some of the ways you can improve the fuel economy of a vehicle without swapping it in for a more expensive high-mpg model. Eventually, newer cars will have better fuel economy built into them, but for now, lots of conscientious drivers are choosing some of these popular fuel-saving approaches.

Secrets To Car Warranties Everyone Should Know

Car warranties ensure that if your car breaks down, you will have the necessary funds available to repair it. There are numerous companies offering car warranties today, but not all of them are created equal. To get the best deal on a car warranty, you must arm yourself with information that helps you pick the good warranty companies from the bad. To help you in the process, here are 4 secrets of car warranties that everyone should know before putting money down on one.

1. Prices are Negotiable

You may think the price on the manufacturer’s extended warranty is set in stone, but think again. Like the price of the automobile, the cost to cover repairs can also be negotiated. To ensure you get the best rate on auto warranties, call a few dealers to find out what their prices are on extended warranties. Once you’re armed with general pricing information, begin the negotiation process. Don’t be afraid to low ball the initial quote, in an effort to bring down the overall cost of the warranty. You and the dealer are likely to meet in the middle between their initial quote and your counter offer

2. Costs Can Be Financed

When you are shopping for auto warranties on new vehicles, the cost of the warranty can often be folded into the car’s financing arrangement. Instead of paying a large sum when the warranty needs to take effect, you see a small increase in your monthly payment amount. However, some dealers only quote a monthly rate on the warranty. When you are planning to add the cost of the warranty to your car finance, ask about the total cost before you sign on the bottom line. This will tell you whether you are getting a fair price and assist with the negotiation process listed above.

3. Warranties Can Be Transferred

Extended used car warranties can often be transferred to the new owner of a vehicle when the car is sold. If you are selling a car with an extended warranty, this fact is a good selling feature, offering additional value to the prospective owner. If you are purchasing a used vehicle, ask about extended used car warranties, to see if you can keep the warranty currently in effect. In some cases, this transfer requires a letter from the current owner and a small transfer fee. Transfer the policy when you purchase the vehicle, to ensure repairs are covered right away.

4. Third Party Warranties

Many car purchasers turn to third-party warranties as a means of saving money. Because some auto manufacturers have closed down recently, manufacturer warranties are not holding as much attraction as they once did. However, if you decide to go with a third party warranty, thoroughly research the company and read the fine print of the policy before purchasing. This extra effort may go far in protecting you from fraud and lack of coverage when you need it most.

Car warranties can be very helpful in covering repairs to your vehicle after the initial warranty expires. By observing these secrets of the warranty industry, you can save money and ensure complete coverage of your automobile.