Motorist Tips & Tricks
Useful tips and tricks for the maintenance and care of your car, money-saving tips for motorists.
  • Overheated car. When caught in traffic, if the needle on the indicator moves up, or the red light comes on, the car can probably make it to the next service station if these steps are followed: (1) Turn off air conditioner. (2) Turn on heater to draw heat away from engine, (3) Put transmission into neutral (when stopped) and race engine slightly; Note: Check water level as soon as possible. If it's adequate, thermostat may be malfunctioning.
  • Testing new car for leaks: Put some clean white paper (shelf paper is good) under the whole car at night. Don't worry about clear spots, which are likely to be moisture which has condensed around the air conditioner. Oily pink leaks are likely to be transmission fluid. Dark leaks are engine oil. Dry pink leaks are gasoline. Engine coolants leaks depend on what color the coolant is either yellow-green or pink.
  • Fanbelt adjustment test: Press your thumb down on the belt at the midpoint between the pulleys. You should be able to press the belt in about a half-inch by pressing down moderately. (If more or less, an adjustment is necessary.) Also, always carry an extra belt in the trunk.
  • Synthetic lubricants can be a better buy in the long run than natural products. Advantages: Better reduction of friction and absorption of engine contaminants. Users report as much as 50,000 miles driving between oil changes. And there is little evidence of wear on engines that have logged 250,000 miles.
  • Sell your old car yourself rather than trade it in. Auto dealers usually only allow wholesale value on the car, sometimes less.
  • Lengthen the life of old windshield-wiper blades by rubbing the edges with a knife or the striking part of a matchbook cover. This exposes the softer material underneath and improves wiping ability.
  • Preserve the car's finish by washing it with cold or lukewarm water. But never wash the finish with hot water, which may damage the finish in some way.
  • Run the air conditioner at least 10 minutes every week, even in the winter. This procedure will maintain coolant pressure and avoid costly air conditioner breakdowns.
  • When you stop for service at a station you are unfamiliar with, get out of the car and watch gas station attendants carefully. When the oil is checked, make sure the dipstick is inserted all the way, Reason: Some attendants may show you a dipstick that indicates oil is low, then use an empty can and pretend to add a quart of oil.
  • Never fill up while a gasoline station is getting a delivery of fuel, Reason: When gas is pumped in, it stirs up sediment that has settled on the bottom of the dealer's tanks.
  • Bargain tires marked "blems" are perfectly serviceable except for minor cosmetic blemishes on the sidewalls.
  • Clean corrosion off battery terminals. Use a wire brush or steel wool to scrape battery posts and cable clamps. Clean the top surface with a mild solution of baking soda and water, (Don't let it seep under cell caps.)
  • Diesel fuel and gasoline shouldn't be mixed. Despite the advice of some diesel-car manufacturers, recent evidence shows that this practice is dangerous.
  • Don't turn your wheels while waiting for traffic to clear before making a turn. Recommended: Keep the wheels pointing forward until you actually begin to move into the turn. Reason: If your car is hit from behind, it will go straight ahead rather than into the path of oncoming vehicles.
 
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