Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Rules of the Road

With road rage being so common these days, we should all take a step back and review a few rules of the road. While not taught in most driver education classes or state driver's manuals, these rules will help you be a better driver.

The left lane is for passing. If you are going to pass, do it quickly and safely. Some states have laws that prohibit "driving" in the left lane, leaving it open for passing only.

If someone is trying to merge onto the highway and you have room, get into the left lane. This can help avoid an accident or at the least make someone's day a little brighter.

Be aware of large trucks and their driving styles. Tractor trailers, dump trucks, and other large vehicles can not stop as fast as you can. Keep that in mind the next time you squeeze in front of a truck at the stop light. Also, heavy trucks while on the highway will slow down while going up large hills but pick up speed on the downhill side. This can lead to a game of leap frog which will frustrate you and the truck driver. If possible get far enough ahead of the truck to avoid excessive passing!

Use your turn signals. I swear they were an option in some cars, considering most people do not use them. They are there as a signal to inform your fellow drivers where you plan to go.
I guess this has been a list of my pet peeves, but I hope it will help you have a safer trip down the road. Remember, we all share the road and together we can make it safer.

Take care and safe driving,

Tips On Car Leasing

Leasing a car isn't for everyone. If you're like me and keep your car for many, many years then leasing isn't for you. If however, you don't get "attached" to a vehicle as some of us do, and you like having a new car every few years then leasing may be for you.

Today's cars are built very well and you can expect to get a good amount of mileage from your car. You can expect at least 100,000 miles. If you purchase a car you may have five years of payments, but your car may last eight to ten years. This means three to five years of no monthly car payments. However, as you car ages, the need for upkeep goes up too. With more mileage on you car things start to break down and costs to keep your car up mechanically may go up. It's doubtful though that what you pay out for maintenance and car repair will ever be as much as monthly payments would be.

When you lease a car you make monthly payments as you would if you purchased a car outright. But, when a lease is up you have nothing to show for it. These monthly payments may be somewhat less than if you were purchaseing the car. Leasing a car usually requires large down payments and security deposits, taxes and fees. It isn't necessarily cheaper up front than purchaseing a car. Also, when you lease a car you have mileage restrictions. A lease generally allows between 12,000 and 15,000 miles annually. If you go over that amount you pay for each mile. This can really add up.

Leasing doesn't mean you don't have to pay for upkeep. You are held to the manufacturers specified servicing schedule for your vehicle. If you don't have the required maintenance performed this can void your lease.
If you want to end the lease early there are generally large termination fees. At the end of your lease if there is damage to the car, or if there are missing parts you will be charged for them.

Make sure if you are considering leasing a vehicle that you understand all the fine print in the contact and all possible extra costs before signing on the dotted line.

Why Won't My Car Start?

Have you ever had your car just "die" on you, you try to start it and it just will not start. You end up calling a tow truck and paying those big tow bills, then to make matters worse the technician at the shop tells you that it will cost hundreds of dollars to make it run again,is that true? Maybe maybe not.

I own and work as a diagnostics Tech here at Ace Automotive in Lakewood Wa and I can tell you from experience if some people knew just a little more about their cars workings they could save a whole lotta money. Say for instance you are driving at night wipers and heater ,lights and radio on you notice that the headlights keep getting dimmer and dimmer soon the vehicle "dies" and now won't start the most likely cause is the alternator has failed, not the battery because if the battery failed the alternator would still keep power to the vehicle until you turned it off then it would not restart.

You are driving for a while and the car just "shuts off" all the instrument lights come on but when you try to start it it just turns over but will not start. First it depends what kind of car this happend to if it was an import like say Honda, acura, toyota, subaru, nissan, mitubishi, the engine timing belt may have broken (if it's been more that 60,000 miles since you changed it last time) you should be able to tell if when you try to start the engine it sounds different like its just "freewheeling" faster than normal, this is bad cause most of the import cars mentioned will do expensive damage to the engine when the timing belt breaks.

If your vehicle is a domestic one chevy ford ect, be patient wait a little bit maybe 30-45 min and try to start it if it starts hurray! But it will "die" again once it's hot enough again, be sure to tell your local tech this valuable information and ask for all parts they replace to repair your vehicle to let them know you know something about the car too.

Your Cars Electrical System

When the automotive industry was in its infancy, it used electricity only to ignite the fuel inside the engine. By the late 1920's, the electric starter replaced the hand crank, electric headlights made acetylene lamps obsolete and the braying of the electric horn drowned out the squeak of the hand-squeezed air horn. Today, an automobile requires an elaborate electrical system of circuits just to produce, store, and distribute all the electricity it requires simply for everyday operation.
The first major component in the electrical system is the battery. The battery is used to store power for starting, and for running auxiliary devices such as clocks, radios and alarms when the engine is off. The next major component is the starter motor, which is used to start the engine. The third component is a charging device powered by the engine, known as the alternator. It powers the electrical system when the car is running, and restores the charge within the battery. With these basic components, the car maintains its supply of electricity. A device called the voltage regulator keeps the power level stabilized, and the fuse box keeps minor problems from becoming major ones.
Many different auxiliary electrical devices are used in modern cars, such as: radios, cellular phones, rear window defrosters and electric door locks, as well as a vast array of motors powering everything from the moon roof on down.
The above information is directly from the Auto Insight program, which you can purchase online from
Common Problems:

· The battery is usually the first part of the system to wear out. Most batteries last between 3 and 7 years depending on brand and design. Batteries can be fine on minute, and dead the next. More on this later.
· Blown fuse: Is one part of the electrical system not working like the interior lights or dash lights? The first thing to check is the fuses. Look for the fuse panel under the dash, in the glove box, or even in the engine compartment in some cars. Most fuse boxes will be labeled by circuit. Modern cars use a blade type fuse which is rectangular in shape and transparent. Look for the wire, which runs through the fuse, and see if it is burned through. Any discoloring of the fuse is a good sign the fuse has blown. If you have doubts, replace with a new fuse and test the system, which is not working.
· Alternator: Does your car start ok, but your headlights dim when idling. It could be a bad alternator. When the alternator cannot produce enough electricity to keep the electrical systems running and the battery will have to be used to take up the slack. This will eventually wear down the battery and not allow your car to start.
I don't think there is a tougher system to troubleshoot on your car than the charging/starting system. This is due to the fact that there are many things that can go wrong and it's tough to test some components without special equipment. Let's go over some possible situations and their possible causes.
· Car won't start, all I hear is a click but the engine does not turn.
o First check all battery cables for corrosion as this will keep power from flowing freely to the starting system. If they are dirty, clean with a wire brush and reattach. Apply a light coat of grease to the top of the terminals to prevent further corrosion.
o Battery could not have enough power stored in it to spin the engine. This can be caused by a bad cell in the battery or from a bad alternator not charging the battery when the engine is running. If you can get the car to a mechanic, have him or her test the battery and charging system with a special tester. This tester places a load on the battery and can tell the condition. They can also check to see if the alternator is working to it's full potential.
o Starter or solenoid could be bad. If you can not jump start the car and all of the battery cables are ok then suspect the starter.
· Car won't start, I hear nothing.
o Check battery cables as above.
o Have the battery tested. There could be a bad cell causing a short. You can try jump-starting but often the car will not stay running.
· Car won't start, all I hear is a horrible grinding noise.
o Grinding noises point to the starter not properly meshing with the flywheel. This can be caused by a bad solenoid or a bad spot on the flywheel.
o I have also seen starters loosen up so they no longer contact the flywheel at the proper distance. While not common, it is something to keep in mind.
· Car starts but my headlights are dim at low engine speeds.
o Look to the alternator for problems. Take the car to your mechanic to have the alternator checked for proper operation.
o Check for loose wires going to the alternator. Also check for corrosion, as this will inhibit the alternator from charging properly.
o Check the tension on the alternator belt. If it is too loose, the belt may slip and not drive the alternator properly.
As you can see there are plenty of things to go wrong with the charging system and it is always best to take the car to your mechanic and have it tested before you go replacing parts blindly.
Preventing problems with your electrical system:
· Replace your battery every 4 years as a safety measure. It will save allot of headaches down the road.
· If your battery is not a sealed unit, check fluid levels in each cell. Only fill with distilled water and be careful around the acid, which is in the battery.
· Check your alternator belt frequently for cracks and tension. Replace per your cars manufacturers recommendations.
· Clean your battery connections at least once a year. Parts stores sell a handy terminal cleaner which is basically a round wire brush, which works wonders. Once you reattach the terminals, coat with a layer of heavy grease or special purpose grease sold at parts stores. This layer will block the air from reacting with the connectors and creating corrosion.
How to jump start your car:
Jump-starting your car does not have to be a hard task. First lay out the cables on the ground between the two cars. Make sure that the cable is not tangled and none of the end clamps are touching each other. The car with the good battery should be running.
Step 1: Take the positive (red) clamp closest to the car with the good battery and hook it to the positive terminal of that car. The positive terminal will have a + sign on it and usually a red wire running to it.
Step 2: Repeat this step on the car with the bad battery, hooking up the positive clamp to the positive terminal on the battery. Make sure the clamps are contacting well and can not fall off.
Step 3: Take the negative cable (black) closest to the car with the good battery and hook it to the negative terminal of the battery. The negative terminal will have a - sign and usually a black wire running to it.
Step 4: This is the last step and the most important. Take the negative clamp closest to the car with the bad battery and attach it to a bare metal part of the engine. DO NOT hook it to the batteries negative terminal as there maybe hydrogen gas present from the battery and a spark from the connection could cause an explosion.
That's it...... turn the key on the dead car and the car should start. If it does not, try revving the engine on the good car to boost the charge coming from the alternator. If this does not work, try wiggling the cables to assure you have a good connection. GOOD sets of jumper cables are a necessity. I have had cheaper sets not jump-start a dead car. I actually had to double up two cheap sets to get enough current to start my car. The cheaper sets will have thinner cables, which cannot carry enough amperage to start some stalled cars. I would suggest purchaseing a cable, which has 4,6 or 8-gauge wire.

Your Drive Train Explained

The drive train serves two functions: it transmits power from the engine to the drive wheels, and it varies the amount of torque. "Power" is the rate or speed at which work is performed. "Torque" is turning or twisting force. Multiple ratio gearboxes are necessary because the engine delivers its maximum power at certain speeds, or RPM (Rotations Per Minute). In order to use the same engine RPM's at different road speeds, it is necessary to change the "Gear Ratio" between the engine and the drive wheels. Just like a bicycle, the car has to switch gears in order to move at a wide range of speeds. Unlike your bicycle, the car's drivetrain also has to allow you to back up. (Well, you could push it backwards if you ate your Wheaties)
There are actually two sets of gears in the drive train; the transmission and the differential. The transmission allows the gear ratio to be adjusted, and the differential lets the drive wheels turn at different speeds.
Manual transmissions usually have four or five speeds, and often have "overdrive", which means that the output shaft can turn faster than the input shaft for fuel economy on the highway. Some use an electric clutch and a switch that controls whether the overdrive is engaged or not. An interesting development on a few cars is the "clutchless" manual transmission, which uses a stick shift and an automatic electric clutch. Speed and position sensors, mini computers, and throttle controls keep the engine from over-revving when the driver shifts gears. As with many automotive "inventions", this is an old idea, which may now reach feasibility due to the computer revolution.
Automatic transmissions commonly use three forward gears to blend speed and torque. In the case of a three-speed transmission, first gear delivers maximum torque and minimum speed for starting. Second gear offers medium torque and speed for acceleration and hill climbing. Third gear allows maximum speed with minimum torque for highway travel. A reverse gear permits backward movement.
A transmission is a speed and power-changing device installed at some point between the engine and driving wheels of a vehicle. It provides a means for changing the ratio between engine RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) and driving wheel RPM to best meet each particular driving situation.
Some types of drive train layouts use a "Transaxle", which is simply a combination of the transmission and the differential. These are usually found on front wheel drive cars, but are also used on mid- and rear-engine cars. Some exotic cars have their engine in the front, and a transaxle in the rear of the car for better weight balance.
Torque is derived from power. The amount of torque obtainable from a source of power is proportional to the distance from the center of rotation at which it is applied. It is logical, then, that if we have a shaft (in this case, the crankshaft) rotating at any given speed, we can put gears of different sizes on the shaft and obtain different results. If we put a large gear on the shaft, we will get more speed and less power at the rim than with a small gear. If we place another shaft parallel to our driving shaft and install gears on it in line with those on the driving shaft, we can obtain almost any desired combination of speed or power within the limits of the engine's ability. That is exactly what an automobile transmission does by means of gears and other devices.
There are two types of transmissions; manual and automatic. If you have a manual transmission, you have to shift the gears yourself, usually with a stick located on your console and the clutch pedal. If you have an automatic transmission, the mechanism changes without any help from you. This is accomplished through a system that works by oil pressure. Each shift of the gears is controlled by a shift valve; the gears shift change depending on speed, the road, and load conditions.
Another basic component of all drive trains is some form of a clutch. it allows the engine to continue rotating while the gears and wheels are stationary. Automatic transmission cars use a "torque converter" in lieu of a clutch.
The last component in the drive train is the axle. In a rear wheel drive car the axle is in the rear. Engine power is transmitted from the transmission to the axle via the drive shaft. The drive shaft is basically a metal tube with joints on each end called universal joints. These joints allow the tube to move in relation to the suspension and keep power flowing to the rear. In front wheel drive cars the axle is integrated into the transmission thus the term transaxle.
From the back of the engine to where the rubber meets the road, the drive train encompasses one of the most complicated systems of your car. Some people say looking at a transmission "makes their brain hurt".
The above information is directly from the Auto Insight program, which you can purchase online from
Common Problems:

· Manual transmissions suffer from wear mainly in the synchronizers. The synchronizers make shifting easier and help to prevent gear clash. Over time the synchronizers, which are made of brass, can wear out causing hard shifting and grinding.
· Automatic transmissions can also wear out, causing slipping and uneven shifting patterns. Universal joints can wear and cause vibrations while driving. Many newer universal joints are sealed and cannot be lubricated, leaving replacement as the only option.
Preventive Maintenance:

· Change the fluid in your transmission at recommended intervals. Your owners manual will give you a time schedule in miles and or months. If you tow a boat or trailer be prepared to change the fluid even sooner. Most owners manuals will give you recommend intervals for severe use like towing or off-road use.
· Do not "ride" the clutch if you have a manual transmission. Learn to release the clutch in a smooth motion without revving the engine too much. Revving the engine too much while pulling out can cause premature wear on the clutch.
· If you do tow a boat or trailer, consider getting a transmission cooler for your automatic transmission. Temperatures can approach the boiling point in severe conditions. Most newer trucks come equipped with transmission coolers if sold with a towing package.
· Make sure your universal joint is lubricated at oil changes if they are the type, which can be lubricated. When replacing universal joints try to find replacements with lubrication fittings so you can lubricate in the future.
· If you have a front wheel drive car, avoid applying the gas to the floor while the wheels are turned at full lock. This puts stress on the universals and can cause premature failure. This can happen when stuck in the snow and trying to get out.
What to discuss with your mechanic:

· If you are noticing a vibration in the car while driving, make sure to describe when it happens. While accelerating? braking? maintaining speed? when turning?

Your Engine

Your Engine, Your Baby: Synthetic or Conventional Oil

One central argument between car enthusiasts and on Internet car forums alike is what oil is better for your car, synthetic or conventional. Before synthetic oils became available for regular automobiles, the argument centered solely on brand types and weight. But now, with the advent of these synthetics all over the market, what is truly the best choice for your engine? Let’s explore both of these worlds to find out.

Conventional oil is rated according to a SAE system. This scale is used so that you know what type of oil is best for your car given the environmental conditions (temperature, city driving, etc.) of where you live. The first number, for example on 10W30 motor oil, is 10 followed by a “W”. This “W” indicates that the number before it is the viscosity rating of the oil. The lower this number, the better the oil is for colder climates. The higher the number, the better it is for hotter driving conditions.

Synthetic oils, on the other hand (before their commercial release) were used in many military vehicles and fighter jets. Airlines also use synthetics in their engines. The synthetic oil has been designed not to break down as quickly and can tolerate extremities in temperature and weather (hot to cold).

One of the major differences between conventional and synthetic oils is that synthetics are treated with more additives that protect your engine for a longer amount of time before you have to change it. And, while we don’t want to get into all the molecular chemistry involved in the making of these oils, we should mention that they also last longer in hotter conditions and won’t “gel” in colder ones, like conventional oil. In other words, synthetics have more additives, which greatly protect the car from viscosity breakdown. They are designed to withstand temperature extremes. It may be safe to say that extreme driving conditions call for the use of synthetics.

On the financial side of the matter, synthetics cost a whole lot more; up to three or four times as much as regular conventional oil. But, the wonderful thing is that you don’t have to change your oil every 3,000 miles; recommended with conventional oil use. In fact, you may not have to change it until well after 25,000 and up to 50,000 miles as long as the oil filter is changed every 10,000 miles. So, the cost at first might scare consumers away, but the long-term benefits of synthetic oil use are substantial.

However, you will still have to be responsible for your car’s maintenance check-up every 3,000 miles or so. With regular oil-changes, you are automatically checking over the car for other problems (or if you don’t an inspection mechanic does). It might help you find a problem that could be dealt with, that could’ve gone unchecked. Also, you’ll want to check the synthetic oil every now and then to be sure that it isn’t contaminated and/or that there isn’t any moisture build-up.

With normal everyday driving, perhaps conventional oils work best for you. You aren’t driving in extreme conditions and you swear allegiance to regular oil. That may be fine. Synthetic oil cannot really offer you anything that conventional oil cannot under normal operating conditions. However, the definition of extreme driving states that if you do a lot of short driving (two to twenty miles) daily, it’s hard on your car. And, specialists agree that this constitutes extreme driving due to the faster breakdown of the structure of conventional oil.

Another major reason that many are choosing the synthetic route is that it contains fewer impurities; impurities that can cause your engine harm, perhaps to the point of premature engine wear. With conventional oil, there’s no way to totally rid, filter or clean the impurities from the natural elements. That’s another reason why synthetic oils do not have to be changed as much even in extreme driving conditions.

You’ll want to be careful; however, if you do decide that you want to give synthetic oils a try. If you’ve been driving your 1983 Ford Thunderbird for years using 10W30, you may not want to switch using your conventional oil brand.

Conventional oils have solvents that stick to gaskets and seals and often cause them to swell a certain way. These gaskets and seals have been used to the same oil for years and the switch to any other type of oil (whether it is to a different conventional oil brand, or an upgrade to a synthetic) may be harmful. The oil you change (or upgrade to) will also have solvents and additives, different from the original. So in other terms, the changing of oils could result in oil leaks and/or a once small oil leak becoming bigger due to the reaction the seals and gaskets will have to the change (not because of the oil itself). If you think that this might be the case for you (i.e. if you have an older car using conventional oil), it’s recommended that you not try synthetic oil until you have an engine (or new car) with relatively virgin gaskets and seals that will be able to acclimate much more easily to the chemical changes of the newer type of oil.

It’s easy to see that that fanfare for one or the other is an argument that has really been explored. It’s best for you to decide what will fit your personal needs. If you have an older car, you may want to wait until you upgrade. However, if you have a newer car, the benefits of synthetic oils are easily seen. Again, it’s solely dependent upon you and the conditions where you drive. Synthetics are shown to provide their best protection above 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people do not drive their cars this hot. However, many do drive in cities, where driving times are considered to be more of a “stop-and-go” nature, which may be considered “extreme” in many circumstances. When the time comes for you to make a decision, at least you’ll be informed of the differences of each. And, until that time, no matter what, keep up that automotive pride!

Your First Car Auction

You are about to go to your first car auction. You can feel the excitement in the air. There are so many cars to choose from. But do you really know what to expect at a car auction? Do you know the legalities that occur at a car auction? Most people get in way over there heads at a car auction. If this is your first car auction, you better come prepared.

There are a lot of things you need to do and a lot of things you need to pay attention to at a car auction. First off, before you go to a car auction make sure you have enough money in your bank account. All cars purchased at a car auction must be paid in full. You also need to bring your drivers license and any other form of ID to the car auction. This is needed to purchase the vehicle and to do the title work and registration.

When you first get to the car auction you should make notes of the cars you are interested in. Then, if you can, go to and check the retail value of the vehicles you would like to purchase. This way you know what to go with when you make your bid. At a car auction, many vehicles have a reserve price. This means that the vehicle has a minimum price t be sold at. If it is too high, do not bid on it. Be sure when you do bid that you do not get into a bidding war. Never bid more than you can afford. If the bidding war begins, just walk away. At a car auction, it is every man for himself.

Before you begin to bid on cars, you need to see if the vehicle is a good purchase or not. Many vehicles at a car auction could have been previously damaged. An example of this is in Texas and Louisiana many cars were severely damaged by flooding during a hurricane. These vehicles were sent to a car auction and the purchaseers more than likely had no idea the vehicles had flood damage. You may also wish to take a mechanic to the car auction. A mechanic is a good idea at a car auction because they can see where someone may have tried to hide repairs and damage that the vehicle might have incurred. Lastly, you can get a free Carfax vehicle history report on the vehicle if you get the vehicles identification number (VIN).

Remember, at a car auction vehicles are sold "as is" and they do not come with a warranty. Keep all of these tips in mind to protect yourself from a bad purchase. You are supposed to go to a car auction to get a great deal on a car and to save money. With the proper frame of mind, this is easily accomplished.