As with software (and hardware) every now and again, it’s necessary to do an update. Same goes for automotive knowledge. Maybe a better term would be conventional wisdom. Things change – and new things come along.
A lot of people still assume that 28-32 pounds of air in a tire is about right. It was about right… 20 years ago. And while there are still vehicles that have tires that want 28-32 pounds of air in them (most of these are trucks with M/S-rated tires) it is very common for car tire pressures to be in the 40-45 psi range nowadays. 32-ish pounds would be grossly under-inflated, in that case. The tires will wear faster (as well as unevenly) the car will not stop as quickly, handling will become sloppier – and rolling resistance will increase, meaning poorer fuel economy. And your tire pressure monitor – if your car is equipped with this – may not let you know until the tires are really low on air. Even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system, it’s important – if you care about tire longevity, braking distances, handling and fuel economy – to manually check the air pressure in all four tires at least once a month. And if they’re down, inflate them to the specified pressure – not what you remember from the ’70s as being “about right.”
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Intermittent wipers are murder on wiper blades. Sounds silly, right? Wouldn’t intermittent wipers – which cycle less often – reduce wear on the wiper blades? Sure. Except when you have one cycle left in the system before you shut down for the night – on a cold winter night.
Let me explain.
You’ve just rolled to a stop in the driveway and are about to shut the engine off and head inside. But you haven’t turned off the wipers first – and let them complete their cycle – before you kill the ignition. Next morning when you go to start the car – and there’s a frozen film (or ice and snow) on the windshield – the next thing that will happen after you turn the key (or push the start button) is the wiper motor will try to cycle the blades… which may be frozen to the windshield. This places extreme strain on the electric motor that drives the windshield wipers, as well as extreme wear on the wiper blade edges, as they’re literally torn loose (or jerked hard trying to break loose). And if the blades cycle back and forth a few times over ice/snow-encrusted windshield glass, they’ll lose their edge real quick – and smear more than clear.
To avoid this – and to get the most life out of not-cheap windshield wiper blades – turn the wipers off (and let them cycle to the “down” position) before you turn off the car’s engine and shut her down for the night. Next morning, scrape clean the windshield before you turn on the wipers.
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Topping off – you know, squeezing in as much fuel into the tank as you possibly can after the automatic pump shuts off – it’s probably not a good idea. If your car was made after about 1990, anyhow. Reason? Pushing additional fuel into the tank beyond “full” may cause problems with a late-model car’s evaporative emissions control system – and trigger a “check engine” trouble code that you’ll have to get cleared by someone with an OBD (on board diagnostics) scan tool.
Too much gas in the tank – in the filler neck, especially – is the problem. The evaporative emissions system – which includes the gas cap – is designed to contain raw gas and gasoline vapors, to prevent either from escaping or being vented into the air. By manually cycling the gas pump after it clicks “full” on its own, you are asking for trouble. And for what? You might manage to dribble in an extra quarter to half a gallon or so beyond “full.”
How much farther is that going to get you?
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An ever-diminishing number of new cars come with old-school keys. Instead they have fobs. Little plastic transmitters you keep in your pocket or purse. The upside is you don’t have to fumble for keys – or mess with locks. The doors unlock automatically when the car senses its owner’s proximity – and to start the engine all you (usually) need to do is push a button.
But there are downsides – including what happens when you run one of these fobs through the wash because you forgot to take it out of your pocket. This will not hurt an old-school key, which is just a piece of metal after all. But electric gadgets do not like water – or the spin cycle. Sometimes, you can dry them out and they’re ok. Other times, not – and you may have to buy a new transmitter fob. Which can be a lot more expensive than having a new key cut at the hardware store.
Also, like any battery-powered gadget, the batteries eventually run low. When they do, the car might not open up for you – or start. This happened to me recently with a new Nissan I was test driving. Luckily, I was near a Lowes – and able to get a new battery.
Some advice: When negotiating the purchase of an new car, make sure they give you at least three fobs rather than the usual two. That way, you’ll have a spare when one goes through the wash – and you won’t have to spend $150 at the dealer for it, either. And – change the battery in each fob once a year, whether you think you need to or not. Better to do this pre-emptively, when it’s convenient for you, than to wait until the day it’s not convenient.
PS: Some transmitter fobs have a secret (hidden inside the fob) old school emergency key for just in case. Look for a little catch on the transmitter fob case – or read your owner’s manual to find out how to find (and get at) the emergency key.
And do it before there’s an emergency!
Throw it in the Woods?