Car Care Tips

Tips to keep your car on the road.

Maintenance February 3, 2016

40 Automotive Trade Secrets

Automotive trade secrets

For 40 years we’ve been Northern Virginia’s first choice for car service. And we’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are 40 automotive “trade secrets” to help you get the most out of your car.

1. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it attracts moisture (even though it’s in a sealed system). Excess moisture leads to corrosion and reduced effectiveness. Get your brake fluid changed every two years or so!

2. Regularly wipe down your headlights, taillights and signal lights. Dirt and debris can reduce their effectiveness.

3. Check the pressure of all your tires, including the spare, on a monthly basis (and even more often during colder weather).

4. Jump-start a battery in a pinch by pouring a can of cola onto the terminals! The acid will remove the corrosion, improving the odds of a jump-start. Once you park your car, run water over the battery to remove the cola, and dry it off.

5. Turning off your A/C can lower fuel consumption, but only if you’re not on the highway. Opening your windows on the highway actually uses more gas because of the drag on your car.

6. Electronic windows will short out if they come in contact with deep water. Invest in a center punch, a device with a sharp point, to break your windows in case of emergency, and always keep it within reach.

7. A re-manufactured engine can make your vehicle more fuel efficient for the cost of an average down payment on a new car!

8. Most cars are ready to drive in cold weather without idling. In fact, idling longer than 30 seconds is unnecessary. The best way to warm up your engine is to drive gently at first.

9. Idling dates back to when cars were built with carburetors. With new technology, complex computer systems and thinner synthetic oils, drivers like you don’t need to warm up their cars before hitting the road!

10. When a car idles for more than 30 seconds, it increases air pollution, wastes fuel, and causes excessive wear on your vehicle’s engine.

11. Keeping your engine properly tuned can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. Properly inflated tires improve mileage by up to 3.3 percent, and a higher-grade motor oil improves mileage by 1 to 2 percent.

12. It is possible to repair tire punctures yourself, but long-term repairs can only be completed by removing the tire from the wheel. Punctures should only be repaired in the tread area, and should not be over 1/4″ in diameter.

13. Check tire tread using the penny test! Place an upside-down penny, with Lincoln’s face toward you, in the tread on both the inside and outside of the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to change your tires.

14. Nothing will help an engine last longer than regular oil and filter changes.

15. If you must drive through water, pick a place where the flow is slow and enter at an angle. Enter with enough speed to cause a bow wave, which creates a shallower area, and stay at a constant speed.

16. Flush your cooling system and change coolant about once a year. A 50/50 mix of coolant and distilled water will keep the cooling system in good shape.

17. Don’t forget to wash underneath your car! Debris and dirt can also get stuck to the underside. Hose off winter salt and road grime often.

18. Keep paint refreshed and protected with a quality coat of wax about every six months.

19. If your tires are stuck in mud or snow, lower the tire pressure (by a lot!) and dig out some space in front of the tires. If there’s still no movement, try putting down some pieces of carpet for traction.

20. Protect any interior plastic by parking your car in the shade whenever possible, using a deflector screen, and applying a UV protectant to prevent it from drying out.

21. Make your gas money go further! A damaged, loose or missing gas cap can sometimes allow gas to vaporize into the air.

22. Extend the life of your wipers by rainproofing your windshield! Spray a rainproofing product onto the glass every few weeks. In light rains, it may even make wipers unnecessary.

23. Washing a car at home can use five to 20 times more water than a professional car wash! An at-home wash can also leave scratches as deep as a tenth of the paint’s thickness.

24. Dialing a phone triples your risk of a crash, reaching for an object increases your chances by nine times, and texting increases it by 23 times. Put your cell phone out of sight when driving so you are not tempted to use it.

25. Drivers who sit higher feel as if they’re driving slower. Lower your seat to get the sensation of more speed.

26. Don’t ride your clutch in anticipation of shifts. You’ll accelerate quicker (and your clutch will last longer) if you use it sparingly.

27. Deer in the road? If you have time, flash your headlights to try to scare it off. If a collision is imminent, brake and hold your steering wheel straight. At the last second, steer away from the deer’s midsection to prevent it from breaking through your windshield.

28. When a rear-end collision is imminent, pull your seat belt taut, then release the brake and put the car in neutral. This will help distribute the force and may prevent you from being rear-ended twice.

29. Want to add horsepower? If you drive a turbo, a few minutes of chip tuning by your mechanic can add up to 20 percent more power!

30. If you’re leasing a car, you can sometimes buy the car at a huge discount in your final six months.

31. Increase gas mileage by shifting into neutral at traffic lights.

32. Stick to the center lane on freeways! Rear-end crashes happen more frequently in the adjacent lanes.

33. Chronic lane changer? You’re only saving yourself about four minutes out of an 80-minute drive.

34. Always leave your thumbs on top of the wheel. Otherwise, in a collision, the wheel can whip back around and harm your thumbs.

35. Air conditioning speeds the defrosting process because A/C air is dry, so it will remove moisture from the air by dehumidifying as it cools.

36. Using cruise control on the highway applies the throttle more smoothly, reducing fuel consumption and increasing mileage.

37. Get your engine up to 70 mph for 10 miles at least once a month (on an open freeway, of course). This evaporates any water and gas buildup in the engine and exhaust system.

38. Did you know: Three-quarters of car wax can disappear after 2 months? Wax often, and remove remaining wax residue with car cleaner or paint clay beforehand.

39. On average, trips take 10 to 15 percent longer than you originally planned! Give yourself extra time to get there.

40. Instead of using your toe on the accelerator, experts suggest placing a foot flat on the pedal. It makes it easier to keep steady pressure and leads to less gas consumption.

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