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Knowing When To Replace Your Brake Pads

brake descriptionJust as your gas mileage will vary depending on where and how you drive, so it goes with the life of brake pads (or linings), the friction material that gets pressed against a metal disc or drum to stop your vehicle.

If you drive only 8,000 miles a year but it’s mainly in a crowded urban area such as Chicago, Boston or Washington, D.C., you will need to replace brake pads more often than someone who drives 28,000 miles a year across the flatlands of Nebraska. You use your brakes a lot more in urban driving than on a rural highway.

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut schedule that tells you when it’s time to replace the brakes, so you need to rely on your ears and the advice of an experienced automotive technician. Most vehicles should have their tires rotated at least every six months, and that is a good time to have the brakes inspected, as well. A mechanic can check the thickness of the pads and the condition of the brake hardware to spot wear.

Many cars have built-in wear sensors that scrape against a brake disc when the linings needed replacing. The driver will hear an annoying screeching sound when they apply the brakes (or when the brakes are released on some vehicles).

Those sensors aren’t on every vehicle, so drivers should listen for squeaks, squeals, grinding (often a sign that brake pads are entirely gone) and other noises that indicate wear. Some minor noises can be eliminated by cleaning the brakes, but persistent, prominent noises usually mean parts are worn. Other signs are pulsations through the brake pedal, longer stopping distances, or when you apply the brakes your foot goes down further, closer to the floor. Because brake linings wear gradually, you may not notice the demise in performance, so that’s where the experienced eye of a mechanic can help.

All cars have a brake warning light that comes on for a few seconds every time you start your car. If it comes on while driving, that probably means your brake system is low on fluid because of a leak or a problem with the brake master cylinder. Note that this is not the same warning light that comes on when you apply the hand- or foot-operated parking brake.

All cars and light trucks also have front disc brakes. Most have rear discs, as well, though some lower-priced cars still come with rear drum brakes. With discs, it has been common practice to just replace the brake pads and resurface the rotors on a lathe if needed so the surface is even and smooth.

In recent years, however, more automakers have switched to rotors that are lighter and thinner to reduce weight and save money. Discs used to last through two or three resurfacings, but don’t be surprised if when it’s time to replace the pads you’re told you also need new rotors. The current ones may not have enough material to be shaved off in resurfacing and may not be as durable as those from, say, 10 or more years ago.

By Rick P.

cars.com

 

 

 

By John Hoffner • May 2, 2013 • 4:31 pm • Leave a comment

Child Seat Anchors Overlooked by Parents

Baby Seat Belt

Baby Seat Belt

According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an important safety feature for child seats is being overlooked by parents and caregivers. All vehicles and car seats made from 2002 onward come with an anchor and strap to keep a car seat from tipping forward, and according to the report, the safety feature is being used just a little more than half the time. In the survey, IIHS examined 479 vehicles that have a forward-facing child restraint installed. The institute found that the top tether and anchor was only used in 56 percent of the vehicles. According to the parents that didn’t use the top tether or anchor, 22 percent weren’t even aware that it was there, 15 percent didn’t know how to use it while 13 percent didn’t have enough time to connect it. Ten percent believed that it wasn’t important or necessary and 9 percent were unsure of where to attach it. Lastly, 8 percent of those surveyed didn’t know they even had an anchor. The top tether is part of the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. The lower anchors are typically used more often while the top anchor is often ignored as evident in the study. Perhaps what’s even worse, in 31 percent of the instances that the top anchor was used, the child seat was improperly installed.

[Source: Consumer Reports]
By John Hoffner • • 11:27 am • Leave a comment

Maintain Current Vehicle to Keep New Car Costs at Bay

Buying a new car might sound good in theory, but these days, a new car purchase is out of reach for many Americans, according to a recent CNBC report. With the average cost of a new vehicle higher than ever at $30,500, spending a fraction of that money on making your current vehicle last longer makes good financial sense, says the Car Care Council.

“Hanging on to your current vehicle allows you to redirect money you would spend on a new car to pay off credit card debt, college loans and other bills, beef up savings or even take a road trip vacation,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “By simply budgeting the equivalent of just one new car payment, consumers could cover an entire year’s worth of basic maintenance.”

Even if serious engine trouble strikes, keeping your current vehicle is the sensible economic decision. For the cost of an average down payment on a new car or truck, a vehicle can be repowered with a remanufactured/rebuilt engine and gain years of reliable service without monthly car payments and higher insurance rates.

“In the early 1970s, you could buy a house for $30,000, and the average vehicle cost $3,900 but didn’t last anywhere near as long as cars do today. Now, the average age of passenger vehicles is 10.8 years, the oldest ever,” said White. “With proper routine maintenance, the typical vehicle should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable, efficient and enjoyable performance.”

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.

By Amanda Cox • March 29, 2013 • 8:48 am • Leave a comment

This Week In Automotive History: VW Bus Enters Production

20130304_vw-bus_612mz

On March 8, 1950, the iconic Volkswagen Bus began production. Officially called the Volkswagen Type 2 — and the Microbus, Splitscreen, or Splittie by modern fans of the vehicle — it remained on the market in the US and in Europe until 1967.

The Type 2 was, as the name implies, the second car produced by Volkswagen, coming after production of the Volkswagen Type 1, which was the much more boring name for the Beetle. At first, the Bus was powered by the same engine as the Beetle — a 1100 Volkswagen, an air-cooled flat-four-cylinder “boxer” engine mounted in the rear. The engine was upgraded in 1953 to the bigger 1200.

Credit for the concept of the Type 2 is generally given to Dutch businessman Ben Pon. Pon had visited Germany intending to buy Type 1s. He instead had a realization that there could be a market for vans, which could easily be produced using the Type 1’s basic architecture. He sketched out a design for the Bus in 1947 and was able to get VW on board to start production by 1950.

After it had been on the market for some time, the Bus became especially popular in the United States during the counterculture movement of the 1960s, leading to another nickname for the T2: The “Hippie Van.” In present popular culture, in fact, the VW Bus is still often used to designate characters as of the Hippie Type (think Disney’s “Cars”).

Today, VW Buses are rare, especially in the United States, and are relished by collectors. Despite the lack of real world examples of the Type 2, it continues to live on in replications, concepts and in pop culture.

By Amanda Cox • • 8:45 am • Leave a comment

Trip Inspection

North Americans love their cars. And nothing goes with cars better than the road trip. Freedom from daily schedules, new sights and the open road – it’s great! But there’s nothing like car trouble to bring the fun to a grinding halt.

Now you can’t always avoid problems, but you can take steps to reduce the probability of getting sidelined on your trip. The first step is to look at your trip plan from your vehicle’s perspective. What kind of roads will you be traveling – winding byways or super-highways? Mountains or plains? What weather conditions are you likely to encounter? How many miles will you travel? How much weight will you be hauling – passengers and luggage? Lugging a trailer or roof top carrier? Will it be dusty?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you can start a trip inspection to help you prepare your Houston vehicle for your big adventure. A lot of our Houston customers prefer to go through this exercise with an automotive service advisor at Mobile Tune Up and Repair to get their input and make sure they haven’t left anything out.

A great place to start is with the tires. Inspect them for tread wear and proper inflation. Is it time to rotate your tires? Replace them? Are they up to the job – you wouldn’t want to drive regular highway tires on a muddy off-road adventure.

Shocks and struts play a major role in both driving comfort and safety. If they need to be replaced, you’ll really be glad you did once you hit the road. Is it time for a wheel alignment? Fighting a car that’s pulling to one side all day can be tiring and dangerous.

And don’t forget your brakes. Any strange noises, grabbing, soft or hard peddle feel? If there is any doubt, get a brake inspection before you leave.

Moving under the hood, have your belts and hoses inspected. If something is excessively worn or near failure, the stress of a long road trip might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Your engine air filter will be important. For every gallon of gas you burn, your car will filter and use 12,000 gallons of air. If the filter needs to be changed, you’ll notice the fuel savings on your trip.

How close are you to your next oil change? Will you be able to complete your trip before it’s due? If not, just get it taken care of before you go so that you don’t need to interrupt your trip. In fact, a full service oil change is a great idea because they will top off all your fluids and check to see if any other maintenance items are due, such as transmission or cooling system service.

Do you notice any unusual odors in your vehicle? If so, it could as harmless as a dirty cabin air filter. But if it’s an exhaust leak it could be fatal on a long trip. Of course you’ll want to be comfortable, so get an air conditioning service if you aren’t getting the cold air you used to.

Are you wiper blades still working well? If not, that is quick and inexpensive to fix. Headlamps are often overlooked when planning for a trip. If you haven’t changed the bulb in six months or so, replacement bulbs will really light up the night on your trip.

All the items mentioned are part of any good vehicle maintenance plan. These are things that you want to take care of anyway, but they all come into focus as you plan for your trip.

They will always save you money in the long run and may prevent inconvenient delays on your trip. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the world’s largest ball of string, would you?

By Amanda Cox • February 26, 2013 • 7:27 pm • Leave a comment
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