Keep Your Cool in Hot Summer CarsJune 12, 2012
When it’s hot outside, one of the last places you want to be is sitting in traffic without a properly functioning air conditioning (A/C) system. To help avoid this uncomfortable situation, the Car Care Council recommends having your A/C system checked annually to make sure it is functioning at its peak performance level when the temperatures are soaring.
“Making sure your A/C system is working properly will give you the peace of mind knowing that your vehicle will keep you cool and safe when you hit the road this summer,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Not only are high temperatures harmful to the body with prolonged exposure, but they can provide unnecessary wear and tear on a vehicle.”
A vehicle’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC) keeps the interior cabin comfortable in any season by providing the right temperature and humidity level. Typical A/C service consists of the following steps:
- Service technician visually inspects hoses, lines, seals and other components for leaks as well as inspect the drive belt for cracks or damage.
- Technician checks pressures to test operation, refrigerant charge and outlet temperatures.
- If the system is found to be low on refrigerant, a leak test is performed to find the source of the leak. Keep in mind that if your vehicle is leaking refrigerant, it is damaging the ozone layer.
- Refrigerant may be added if necessary to “top off” the system. A technician may also check for evidence of refrigerant cross-contamination, which is the mixing of refrigerants.
- A/C service should also include a check of the compressor’s drive belt and tension.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers
Tip #1: Drive Now. Talk Later.
- The use of cell phones is the most common distractions for drivers.
- Dialing a hand-held device (typically a cell phone) increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost 3 times, and talking or listening on a hand-held device by 1.3 times.
- 62 percent of high school drivers say they talk on a cell phone while driving and 24 percent say that talking on a cell phone is safe. More than one in five admits to text messaging while behind the wheel.
- Sources: NHTSA and VTTI, SADD/Liberty Mutual
Tip #2: Pay Attention.
- Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the crash.
- A high percentage of the crashes reported by teens involved rear-ending a car that had stopped while the teen driver was looking away from the road.
- Reaching for a moving object increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by 9 times, looking at an external object by 3.7 times, and reading by 3 times.
- Sources: NHTSA and VTTI
Tip #3: Get Ready at Home – Not in the Car.
- Applying makeup increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost 3 times.
- Other risky behaviors including shaving, fixing your hair, and eating while driving.
- Sources: NHTSA and VTTI
Tip #4: Drowsy? Pull Over.
- Drowsiness is a significant problem that increases a driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash by at least a factor of four. Driving while severely drowsy increases the risk to up to 8.5 times.
- Statistics show that 100,000 police-reported crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 deaths occur due to drowsy driving each year in the U.S.
- Sixty percent of adult drivers – about 168 million people – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year.
- Sources: NHTSA and VTTI, NSF
Tip #5: Limit Teen Passengers.
- Teen passengers in a vehicle can distract a beginning driver and/or lead to greater risk taking.
- Fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers are much more likely to occur when other teenagers are in the car. The risk of a fatal crash increases in proportion to the number of teenage passengers.
- Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for 36 percent of all deaths in this age group.
- Sources: IIHS, CDC
Tip #6: Know the Facts about Age.
- Today there are more than 18.9 million licensed drivers in the U.S. who are 70 or older. By 2020, it is estimated that there will be more than 30 million.
- The accompaniments of aging can affect a driver’s ability to sense, decide, and act.
- As the number of older drivers increases, new mindsets and behaviors are necessary to prevent a corresponding increase in traffic accidents and fatalities.
- Sources: NHTSA 2001, AAMVA
More car fires occur every year due to deferred maintenance than accidents. Keep your family safe…
Things can get out of control quickly if you don’t know what to do when your vehicle’s temperature rises.M any modern automobiles are so refined that you can hardly hear their engines anymore, but don’t be lulled into complacency—there’s still a combustion cycle taking place under the hood, and catastrophic overheating remains a remote possibility. That’s why you should periodically check your vehicle’s temperature gauge while driving. Every gauge has a normal stopping point once the engine is warmed up; it’s usually a bit below the midpoint line between cold and hot. It’s probably not a doomsday scenario for your engine if your gauge ever reads anywhere above normal, but it could easily become one if you don’t take prompt action. Here are the steps you’ll need to know.Step 1: Check for steam
The one surefire indication that you’ve really got an overheating engine is that old B-movie standby: plumes of steam pouring out before your eyes. Except it likely won’t be that dramatic, so take a closer look. If you see any steam at all, proceed to Step 3 posthaste lest you meet the same fiery demise as many a B-movie villain. Steam is bad. Take it seriously.Step 2: Turn off your A/C, Turn on your heater
If you’re the cautious type, skip directly to Step 3—but bear in mind that older engines in particular are prone to mild overheating on hot days, especially when the air conditioner has been running. There’s nothing out of the ordinary in this case; you just need to give your engine a breather. So if you don’t see any steam, you can turn off the A/C and see if that calms things down. If it doesn’t, put your heater on full-blast, which will transfer heat away from the engine. Of course, it will also transfer heat toward you, but your comfort is a lesser priority than the engine’s at this point. If these measures don’t work in short order, then you’ve definitely got a problem, and you need to stop driving and figure it out.Step 3: Pull over and turn off your engine
When you find a safe place to stop, get there and kill the engine immediately. Do not idle the engine while you’re collecting your thoughts. Engines have to work harder to keep cool at idle than at cruising speed, and the last thing you want to do is add stress to a potentially overheating engine. So turn it off, and then take that breath. NOTE: If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, and you believe your engine is suffering from more than just temporary overload, now is the time to call for roadside assistance. The remaining steps will require you to get your hands dirty.Step 4: Pop the hood
WARNING: Very likely it’s hotter than usual under there. You’ll get a feel for this once you’ve pulled the hood release and the hood is slightly ajar. If the heat strikes you as potentially dangerous—as it may well be—then let the engine cool down before proceeding. Only open the hood fully when you are confident that it’s safe to do so.Step 5: Check coolant levels
Your engine should have a coolant reservoir in the vicinity of the radiator (see your owner’s manual for the exact location). This is usually made of plastic and thus unlikely to be dangerously hot. Check the coolant level in this reservoir. If it’s normal, you’re in luck—chances are you’ve just got a malfunctioning temperature gauge. As long as there are no other signs of overheating, you can restart the engine and proceed with caution. If it’s low or empty, however, there’s probably a coolant leak somewhere. Calling for roadside assistance is strongly advised here, though the more mechanically inclined might first inspect the radiator hoses for loose clamps and such.
Step 6: If you need to keep driving…Wait until you’re certain that the engine is cool, protect your hand with a thick glove or rag, and twist off the radiator cap. Coolant is normally visible just below where the cap sits (your owner’s manual will have the details), but if your engine’s overheating, the coolant in your radiator should be visibly depleted. Be sure to refill both the radiator and the reservoir, using coolant or—if necessary—water. This should bring the temperature down once you’re underway, but remember, you’ve got a serious leak somewhere, so be vigilant. If the temperature starts rising again, you’ll have to pull over and repeat the process. Incidentally, by no means should you view this as a long-term solution—your engine needs professional help, so get your mechanic on the job as soon as you can.
Get Your Car Ready For A Road TripWhether you are going for a day trip or taking a week long vacation, DriverSide is here to help make your road trip memorable and fun.The weather’s warming and the birds are chirping. Make no mistake about it, it’s time to get your car ready for the first road trip of the season. Whether you’re headed north for some last-minute skiing or toward the coast for some fun in the sand, there are a few things you can take care of before you set off that will make your drive as easy going as the rest of the trip. They might even save you some cash by keeping you off of the side of the road, too.Whether your trip is 100 miles down the road or 1,000, it’ll pay to get your car up to speed on all of its regular maintenance. That means taking care of any fluids that may have been neglected over the winter. If you can’t remember the last time you checked, changed or topped off your oil, coolant, brake or transmission fluid, go ahead and swap them out for brand-new examples. In the case of your oil or automatic transmission, make sure you get a high-quality filter, too. It may seem like overkill to take care of all of your fluids at once, but think of it as cheap insurance. Which is better? A $30 oil change or a new engine? Even we can do the math on that one.Go ahead and have your tires rotated and inspected, too. The last thing you need is to head off into the sunset on bald or dry rotted tires. A blowout at interstate speeds can be both frightening and dangerous, even if you do make it to the side of the road. Err on the side of caution and replace any tires that look suspect. Again, it may seem expensive at the time, but we guarantee it’ll be cheaper than having to get someone to tow your car to some no-name garage in the middle of the night for new rubber. Once you’ve made sure everything looks good, take a look at your tire pressure. With everything up to spec, you’ll get better gas mileage and your vehicle will handle and stop better.With the vehicle’s wheels off, it’s a good time to take a look at the car’s brakes, too. Are your rotors warped or cracked? Do they have deep grooves or are your pads warn close to their minimum clearance? Your vehicle will be experiencing harsh conditions for much longer than your daily commute to and from work, so once again it’ll pay to nip any potential problems in the bud now rather than deal with them a few hundred miles down the road.With the major issues taken care of, you can focus on easy-to-do items. Have a friend help you check all of your vehicles lights. A burnt-out bulb is a great way to get a visit from the local police department while you’re on a trip. New bulbs only cost a few dollars and are easy to install. Some parts locations like Advanced Auto Parts or Autozone may even help you install them for free.The same goes for windshield wipers. If your blades are more than six months old, odds are it’s time to swap them out for new ones. Bad windshield wipers can make driving in the rain in a foreign land a nightmare. Again, new wipers are cheap compared to getting into a fender bender just because you can’t see the guy in front of you.Last but not least, give your car a good top to bottom cleaning. Pull out any and all unnecessary items from the trunk and backseat. Doing so will this help with your vehicle’s fuel economy, freeing up more cash for food and brew once you arrive. Making sure your windows are clean will also improve your visibility and reduce the likelihood of steamy glass. Remember, greater visibility reduces your chance of bumping someone in traffic. Nothing ruins a vacation quicker than an accident.Knocking out simple preventative maintenance can go a long way toward keeping everyone smiling as you head on down the road. You may never know if what you’ve done has actually kept you out of trouble, but in this case, it’s better not to test your luck.
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