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Helpful Tips to Extend the Life of Your Vehicle

Helpful Tips for Accidents

You should keep the following in your glove compartment just in case of an accident:

  1. Name of insurance company
  2. Your policy number
  3. Your agent’s phone number
  4. Name and number of a local tow company

Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible. Give them all the information you gathered at the scene and make arrangements for repair.

Helpful Tips for Overheating

To cool down an engine on the verge of overheating, turn OFF the air conditioner and turn the heater to full blast. This will help dissipate the heat from the engine. Stop the car if this doesn’t cool down the engine. This is not a permanent fix. Visit Milt’s Service Garage and have the problem permanently fixed.

Avoid overheating by releasing load on your engine. If you are climbing a long hill, turn off the air conditioner or shift into a lower gear. This will allow you to get over the hill without additionally straining your engine.

Component Service

Automatic Transmission Fluid
Check your fluid level with the engine running and transmission in park. If low, add the type of automatic transmission fluid specified in the owner’s manual and/or on the dipstick. For maximum performance, change every two years or 24,000 miles, or as directed in owner’s manual.

Belt Check
Check V-belts and serpentine belts for looseness and condition. Replace when they are cracked, frayed, glazed or showing signs of excessive wear. Replace your timing belt per interval specified in the owner’s manual. Typically, this is 60,000 to 90,000 miles. Not replacing the belt as required could cause a breakdown or serious engine damage.

Cabin Air Filter
Replace annually or more often in areas with heavy airborne contaminants or whenever heating or cooling efficiency is reduced.

Check Engine Light On
If light comes on while driving or remains on, your vehicle may have an emissions or sensor problem and should be analyzed. If the light flashes, the condition is more severe and must be checked immediately to prevent catalytic converter damage.

Coolant (Antifreeze) 
Check the level in your reservoir. Never open a hot radiator cap. If low, add a 50/50 mix of approved antifreeze and distilled water. Coolant needs to be changed annually on most vehicles.

Windshield Washer Fluid
Check fluid level monthly. Some vehicles have two reservoirs. Do not use water. Use washer fluid only.

Fuel Filter
Inspect your filter during each oil change. Replace it if it is restricted, water contaminated or once a year on cars with carburetors. On cars with fuel injection, replace the filter every two years or 24,000 miles.

Lights
Replace the bulb immediately if light is out. Check your fuses first, though.

Power Steering Fluid
Check the fluid with the car warmed up. Add the correct type of fluid if levels are low. If frequent topping off is required, inspect for leaks and replace if contaminated.

Steering and Suspension
Have your system inspected annually, including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components. Replace if there are leaks, damages or if loose mounting hardware is found. Symptoms of worn suspension include uneven tire wear and excessive bouncing after bumps.

Battery and Cables
Batteries should be securely mounted. Battery connections should be clean, tight and corrosion-free. If the battery is three years old or more, it should be tested and replaced if necessary.

Brakes
Check the entire brake system every year, including brake linings, rotors and drums.

Chassis Lubrication
Many newer cars are lubed for life, but some still require this service. Check your owner’s manual. Replacement steering and suspension components may require periodic lubrication.

Cleaning and Polishing
To prevent stripping the vehicle’s wax finish, use only automotive car wash products, not dishwashing liquids. Polish at least twice a year to maintain and protect the finish.

Engine Air Filter
Have your filter inspected at each oil change. Replace it annually or when leaking, torn, water or oil soaked, dirty or showing other signs of wear.

Exhaust
Inspect for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.

Hoses
Inspect hoses at each oil change and replace if you notice leaking, brittle, cracked, rusted, swollen or restricted components.

Oxygen Sensor
Replace at the interval recommended in your owner’s manual or when other conditions dictate such as failing an emissions test. Some cars have an oxygen sensor replacement light that appears when oxygen sensor replacement is needed. 1996-model cars and newer have more than one oxygen sensor.

Spark Plugs
Typical replacement intervals range between 30,000 and 100,000 miles, depending on the vehicle and type of spark plug. Always consult your owner’s manual to see what you need for your specific vehicle.

Tire Inflation and Condition
Check the pressure of all tires, including the spare, at every oil change. Check the tread for uneven or irregular wear and cuts or bruises along the sidewalls. Inflate tires and maintain at the recommended pressure. Replace your tires if they are worn or damaged.

Items to Address Before Bringing In Your Vehicle

Make sure you have over half a tank of fuel for us to be able to complete diagnostics.

Remove all valuable items from your vehicle (money, jewelry, etc.).

Bring both sets of keys (on vehicles with immobilizers for no start).

Please describe the problem accurately and give us all the information you have!

  • Did the problem occur when it was hot or cold? Morning or Evening?
  • Is the problem primarily on startup or when the vehicle is fully warmed up?
  • What noise is it making if any?
  • What smells have you noticed if any?
  • What color fluid around the vehicle if any?
  • Has the vehicle been diagnosed at another facility?
  • If we are diagnosing a leak, please clean the car out.
  • The passenger cabin is to be cleaned.
  • The trunk is to be empty.

We are not to be held responsible if we need to move your items to gain access to any areas!

Milt’s Tips

Go to Milt’s Service Garage and change your motor oil to a viscosity appropriate for your local temperatures. The lower viscosity oils (noted on the container by number, e.g., 5W-30) flow better and will therefore offer more protection in lower temperatures.

Go to Milt’s Service Garage to have your cooling system drained and flushed. Refill the system with a fresh mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water. The antifreeze will keep the fluids from freezing up and thereby protect your engine and its moving parts in cold weather conditions.

Go to Milt’s Service Garage and ask for a safety inspection that includes belts, hoses, fluids, tires, lights and battery check. Replacing these low-cost parts before they are needed can often save you a much higher cost of inconvenience and repair in the event of a breakdown.

Go to Milt’s Service Garage to have your windshield wiper blades replaced and wiper fluid reservoir filled. These low-cost items can drastically improve your vision in winter conditions and thereby prevent accidents. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months because the rubber hardens over time and becomes ineffective.

In areas exposed to freezing temperatures, spray door locks with lubricant to prevent freeze-ups. You don’t want to be stuck on a freezing winter night not being able to unlock your door.

Things to have on hand, especially in the winter months, include:

  • Jumper cables
  • Windshield scrapers
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Emergency flares
  • Traction aids (i.e. chains, sand, gravel)

Don’t try to force a frozen lock. You can break the key off inside it. Instead, try one of these tricks:

  • Use another door
  • Use a cigarette lighter or match to heat up your key before inserting it into the lock
  • Spray commercial deicer into the key opening
  • Use a hair dryer to shoot warm heat at the lock

Helpful Tips for Traction

If the car moves even slightly, avoid applying too much power which can spin the tires in place. Spinning wheels offer less traction. Patiently move the car out of the area and back onto more solid ground.

If the wheels spin and the car is not moving, try “rocking” the car. Slowly give the car power to the point that the tires begin to spin then immediately release power. You will notice that the car slightly rocked forward then back. Do this repeatedly as you try to gain momentum in each rocking cycle. Just like a child pushing a swing, you synchronize the push (or gas) so that the rocking motion is increased. With a bit of timing and luck, you could rock just enough to regain traction. (In cars with automatic transmission, rocking requires shifting back and forth between forward and reverse. In a manual, simply engage and disengage the clutch while stepping on the gas.)

If your car is stuck with one wheel spinning while the other is not, try this trick: Engage the parking brake two or three clicks. Step on the gas slowly to get the car moving. As soon as the car starts to move, release the parking brake completely. Because spinning wheels don’t have traction, what you are doing by engaging the parking brake is allowing a clutch in the differentials to energize allowing the car to adjust for increased traction.

Helpful Tips for Tires

Increase tire life by making sure your wheels are in alignment. Wheels will go out of alignment under normal driving conditions, but this will be accelerated by excessively running into bumps and curbs. If you are experiencing uneven tire wear, go to a MechanicNet.com shop equipped to handle alignment problems and have your alignment adjusted.

Each tire wears differently because of its position on the car. For even wear on all tires, they must be “rotated” or their positions must be swapped regularly. Rule of thumb: You should rotate your tires every other oil change or approximately every 5,000-8,000 miles.

When tightening the lug nuts of a wheel, make sure to always use a star pattern. This ensures that the wheel is tightly secured and flush against its mount. In a five-nut wheel, tighten one nut, skip one, tighten the next nut and then skip the next. Continue this until all nuts are tight. On a four-nut wheel, tighten them in opposing pairs.

For the best performance and longest life, keep your tires properly inflated based on the manufacturers specifications (32 PSI on average). Over-inflation causes excessive wear down the center of the tread, while under-inflation causes excessive wear at the edges. You can usually find the proper inflation level on the inside of the driver’s side door of your car.

Helpful Tips for Starting

If you run out of gas before adding new gas, your car may need a little help in getting started. If you have a fuel injection system, turn the key on then off a few times without actually starting the car. This will pressurize the fuel system and assist in starting the car. If you have an old carburetor system, give the gas pedal a couple of pumps before turning the key.

Jumpstarting a car can get you out of tough situations, but it can also be quite dangerous. Follow precautions before doing so:

  • Do not smoke! Batteries produce gases that are explosive.
  • Remove loose clothing, jewelry, watches and necklaces as they might get caught in moving parts.
  • Do not attach the negative jumper cable to the negative post on the dead battery. The sparks given off could ignite the battery gasses and cause an explosion.

Helpful Tips for Smells

If your ventilation system is causing a musty odor, you might try this trick:

Turn the heater on full blast for a few minutes with the engine running. Then shut the car off and spray water from a garden hose into the air-intake vents (the vents on the outside of the car at the base of the windshield) to wash away the buildup. If this does not work, come see Milt’s Service Garage for an A/C system service.

Helpful Tips for Fluids

Dispose of used motor oil at a local auto-service facility or some retail car part stores. Never pour it down a drain, put it in the garbage or put it in your home’s heating oil tank. One quart of oil can contaminate 2 million gallons of water. It’s your responsibility not to poison the water supply.

It is often difficult to pour oil into the engine without spills. You can use an un-waxed paper cup as a funnel by poking a hole at the bottom and pouring the oil into the large opening of the cup.

If the oil light comes on, stop the car immediately. The loss of oil pressure can be caused by lack of oil or a failed oil pump. Running a car without oil pressure can destroy the engine within minutes.

Brake fluid is the most often overlooked safety item in a car. It can accumulate moisture, which contaminates the fluid and deteriorates the components. Have Milt’s Service Garage flush your brake fluid every 2 years or 30,000 miles.

Helpful Tips for General Automotive Care

Leave a piece of felt in your car to defrost windows. You can clean the frost off with the felt. It works immediately and effectively until your defroster catches up.

When replacing a battery, put a small layer of baking soda in the battery box or mount. The powder acts as a cushion, and absorbs any acids that leak from the battery. This helps prevent acid from eating through the battery box and damaging the body of the car.

Indications that you may need a tune up include: poor starting, engine knocking, engine stalling, loss of power, poor gas mileage, strange odors or rough running. Schedule an appointment with Milt’s Service Garage to get your car running smoothly again.

Helpful Tips for Fuel Economy

On long drives, use the cruise control to save gas. The gradual acceleration and deceleration improves your fuel efficiency.

Putting luggage and other items on top of your vehicle creates drag. To reduce these effects, put the luggage and other items inside a rooftop container or wrap them in a tarp secured by rope. This not only causes less drag but also protects your items from weather. Warming up your car in the morning is an old myth. As long as you are not putting the car under excessive loads right away, driving your car under normal conditions will naturally bring the car to optimum operating temperature. Idle warmup periods waste fuel and add to air pollution.

Keep your tires properly inflated to keep your gas mileage high. Driving with low tire pressure is like riding a bike with a flat. Besides wearing down your tires, it simply wastes energy. Proper inflation levels are determined by the manufacturer, but it’s typically about 32 PSI.

Helpful Tips for Engine Health

Your timing belt coordinates various functions in your engine. If it breaks, your engine stops.

You should prevent this by changing your timing belt at 60,000- to 90,000-mile service intervals. Depending on your manufacturer’s specifications, you may even need to change it sooner.

If your car has a timing chain, the breakage could cause engine damage. Have your MechanicNet.com mechanic check to see if your timing belt or chain needs replacement.

Helpful Tips for Pedals

Don’t “ride the clutch” by keeping your foot on the clutch pedal. This causes excessive friction and accelerated wear.

To keep your clutch working longer, follow these simple “dos and don’ts”:

  • Do pause for a second or two between gears; this allows better transmission synchronization.
  • Don’t use the clutch to hold a position on a hill, use the brakes.
  • Don’t rev the engine excessively before releasing the clutch.
  • Do release your clutch smoothly when accelerating from a stop.

Service Intervals

service intervals chart

Are You Ready for the Road?

An average of 13,000 Americans are killed between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Some of these unfortunate accidents are the result of poor vehicle maintenance according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Each year, neglected maintenance leads to more than 2,600 deaths, nearly 100,000 disabling injuries and more than two billion dollars in lost wages, medical expenses and property damage.

Most mechanical failures can be traced to neglected maintenance. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports the leading cause of mechanical breakdown on our nation’s highways is overheating, a condition that is easily avoidable.

Other deficiencies that are simple to detect include low antifreeze/coolant, worn or loose drive belts and defective cooling system hoses.

Checking tire pressure and inflating a tire costs pennies, yet an average of 21 percent of cars inspected in check lanes during National Car Care Month have under-inflated tires. This can lead to a blowout and a serious accident.

Helpful tips to Do It Yourself

Work outdoors if you need to have your car running. Exhaust gases can be lethal if you are working inside your closed garage.

Don’t wear loose clothing or wear your hair long while working on a car. Not only will it get dirty, it could get caught on moving parts.

Work outdoors if you need to have your car running. Exhaust gases can be lethal if you are working inside your closed garage.

Don’t smoke while working on your car. There are many flammable substances that could ignite.

Don’t open the cap on the radiator when it’s hot (right after the car has been running for a while). The hot fluid inside is under tremendous pressure and can shoot out and burn you.

Use a jack stand or drive up ramps to support your car if you need to go underneath it. Factory jacks are only for changing tires.

Most fluids around a car are toxic. Keep kids and pets away while working to avoid accidental poisoning.

Electric cooling fans mounted on the radiator can turn on and off at any time. There’s actually a thermostat switch that controls the fan. Avoid the fan when working or disconnect the fan motor from the power source.