When to Replace Your Shock Absorbers

Shock absorbers are one of the most easily overlooked parts of an automobile. However, they can also cause a major safety concern if they are worn out or broken. Shock absorbers help to control the kinetic energy of a car as its weight shifts through corners, travels over uneven terrain or encounters bumps, potholes and other urban obstacles. Shock absorbers that don’t work properly can have a serious impact on handling and make it more difficult for you to control your car in case of an emergency.

Of course, riding in a car with poor shock absorbers also just isn’t fun. The most common problem with shock absorbers is worn out seals, which let fluids and air leak into the areas around the pistons and stop the effect of dampening the spring movement. The easiest way to check for a leak within the springs is to compress the shock absorber by hand. If it compresses easily and without much force, this means that you either have a fluid leak (which should be visible) or an invisible air leak and that it is time to replace your shock absorbers.

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Breaking in Your New Car

If you’ve bought a new car, your first instinct might be to “see what it can do” and see how fast it can go. Don’t! Not only will this put you in danger of getting a speeding ticket, but it’s also potentially very bad for your car. Car salesmen will warn you about the “break-in” period for a new car and they aren’t kidding. New cars need to go around 1,000 miles before all of the parts and fluids are working at maximum efficiency. Taking your car to the limit out of the lot is a recipe for disaster.

During the 1,000 miles of use, it’s a good idea to not drive faster than 55 mph. You’ll also want to check the owner’s manual of your new car for further advice – certain cars will require that you drive even slower. Placing additional strain on the drive train is also a bad idea – this includes towing trailers or other vehicles or loading the roof rack and truck with heavy items.

It’s also a bad idea to let your car idle for long periods – this decreases the oil pressure in the engine, meaning that oil might not be getting everywhere it needs to be in the system. In fact, avoiding lengthy periods of idling is good for the car at all times.

In general, you’ll want to baby your car for the first 1,000 miles – including keeping your engine under 3,000 rpms. If you do this, you and your car will have a long and wonderful relationship.

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Choosing the Right Tires

When it comes to purchasing new tires for your car, the choices can seem endless. However, it doesn’t have to be a confusing process if you do a little research and know what you are looking for ahead of time. There are five key components to consider when purchasing new tires. Understanding what they are will give you an advantage when you head to the tire store:

Tire Wear: You need to go beyond the manufacturer’s tire wear ratings to understand the truth behind how long a tire will last, since manufacturers use different standards for testing – making it difficult to compare between different brands. A better idea is to look at the Uniform Tire Quality Grading rating. These independent tests are done under U.S. Department of Transportation-approved guidelines and give you a better baseline for comparing the expected rate of tire wear.

Weather Requirements: People who live in warm weather states probably won’t need to worry about purchasing tires based on winter weather. However, this should be a consideration for drivers in other parts of the country. Wet-weather tires are a must in the Pacific Northwest, while people in the Midwest and Northeast might want to consider all-weather tires for additional traction during the snowy season.

Tire Profile: A lower-profile tire will often give a bumpy and uncomfortable ride. The trade-off is looks and performance versus comfort. For the everyday passenger car, you are better off with a higher-profile tire.

Speed Rating:
This is one element that you can ignore, since even the lowest speed rated tires are adequate for speeds under 100 mph – and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be going faster than that in your passenger car (at least, legally).

Noise: You want a smooth ride in your car, and different tires make different levels of noise. However, there is no one rating for this, so you’ll have to rely on feedback on tire review websites and salespeople to give you a sense of how noisy a tire is.

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5,000 Mile Maintenance Tips

Whether you have just bought a new car or are trying to keep your current car on the road as long as possible, it’s important to follow a maintenance schedule. Car parts need love too, and if you ignore the basic upkeep of your car, chances are that you will run into significant problems that can leave you stranded and paying a major repair bill. Putting in a little bit of effort ahead of time to service you car will help you significantly down the road.

Some of these maintenance steps are larger and will be done fairly infrequently (like replacing spark plugs) but others should be done on a regular basis. Here are a few car care steps that should be done every 5,000 miles:

Replace the engine oil and filter. Many people forget about their air filter when they change their motor oil. However, having a clogged or dirty air filter can be just as damaging to the performance of your engine that old motor oil.

Service the Battery: While you might not need a new battery every 5,000 miles, it’s a good idea to have it serviced (such as cleaning off dirty connections). You can also have it tested to see if it is starting to wear down – it’s better to fix it before it dies.

Rotate the Tires: Rotating your tires every 5,000 miles helps to prevent uneven wear caused by improper alignment. In addition, front tires will wear differently than rear tires, and changing positions will allow your tires to last longer.

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How Often Should You Change Your Motor Oil?

When you got your first car, chances are that your father gave you a list of things that you needed to do. At the top of the list was probably to change your oil every 3,000 miles. That number has become an industry standard – if you go to a mechanic to have your oil changed, chances are that they will give you a reminder to come back and have your oil changed again within three months or 3,000 miles.

But do you really need to change your oil that often? The answer is that you don’t, even though 3,000 miles was a good standard until recently. However, improvements in oil quality and the ability of modern engines to operate well at higher heats and stresses that are closer to their maximum tolerances mean that motor oil can last longer and that your engine doesn’t need fresh oil every 3,000 miles.

How often you decide to change your oil depends on several factors. If you have an older car or a work vehicle that is under high stress, then it’s still a good idea to change your oil close to 3,000 miles. Newer passenger cars can go significantly longer depending on the type of oil used. If you are using a regular, petroleum-based motor oil, you should change your oil around every 5,000 miles. If you use a synthetic oil, you can get up to 7,000 miles out of one oil change.

Are Synthetic Motor Oils Worth the Cost?

“Synthetic or standard oil?” If you’ve gone into a shop for an oil change in the last few years, the chances are good that you’ve heard that question. And there’s also a very good chance that you didn’t have a good answer for that question because you didn’t understand the difference between the two types of oils.

Synthetic oils are created in a laboratory from artificially-created polymers. This process was created in Germany because they lacked the crude oil resources needed to create “standard” motor oil. Because the polymers could be controlled and their size standardized, synthetic oil was used for high-end products like aircraft and large boats.

Today, synthetic oils are used for all types of engines, including commercial and passenger vehicles. Synthetic oils do offer more protection than regular oils. However – and this is key to remember – the amount of difference is very limited. If you have a work vehicle or other vehicle that is placed under a high level of stress, synthetic oil might be the best choice. But if you are just looking for the right choice for your oil change, then you will likely want to consider a blend of synthetic and standard oils, which will give you many of the enhanced protection benefits of a synthetic while still being affordable.

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What the Numbers in Motor Oil Mean

When you go into the automotive parts store to buy new motor oil, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the different options that are available. There are many different brands, each offering different additives and protections for certain types of cars. Many times, a person makes a decision on the motor oil to purchase based not on what’s right for their car but what’s the easiest to grab.

Choosing the right motor oil for your vehicle isn’t a difficult decision – if you understand what to look for. One of the most important concepts to understand is the viscosity of the oil. Also known as the oil’s “weight,” this is usually shown as a pair of numbers on the oil container. Both numbers relate to the oil’s ability to withstand the extremes of hot and cold temperature. The number with a “W” next to it is the oil’s rating for winter weather – a lower number means it will flow freely in colder weather. The second number means that the oil is thicker and will not thin out while subjected to extreme heat.

When it comes time to select the motor oil for your vehicle, you should consult the guidelines for your car as instructed in the owner’s manual. If necessary, you can make adjustments based on the weather conditions your car might be exposed to. If your owner’s manual suggests 10W-30 oil but you are in Minnesota in the winter, you might want to consider going down to 5W-30.

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Choosing the Right Car Wax

Selecting the right car wax for your vehicle truly is a matter of personal preference. Your two main options are synthetic liquid waxes versus natural pastes. The one that you choose greatly depends on how much time you are willing to devote to the care of your car.

Natural paste waxes are probably what you were used to your father using on the family car when you were a kid. They are thick and need to be applied by hand. Meanwhile, synthetic liquid pastes can either be applied by hand or by a high-speed buffer or other machine. This means that if you are in a hurry, you can polish your car much faster using a synthetic liquid wax. The results are the same no matter which type of wax you use, and synthetics have the additional advantage of also having a polisher – eliminating that potentially lengthy step.

One advantage of a paste wax is that while it costs slightly more to purchase, one tin will generally last longer than a tube of liquid paste. There is also something to be said for getting the enjoyment of waxing your car by hand and knowing that you are carefully waxing every nook and cranny. However, for most people, a liquid wax will let them keep their car looking great while saving them time.

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