(BPT) - Warming up his car for a few minutes before heading to work is a winter morning routine for Steve Bailey. “I hate getting into a cold car, so letting it warm up for five minutes is as important for me as for the vehicle,” says Bailey, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“My car is parked outside and I think it runs better after idling for a while, especially on below-zero mornings,” he says.
Plenty of cold-climate folks share Bailey’s winter car-care philosophy. But advancements in engine technology is reducing the need to idle, even in colder temperatures. According to many auto industry experts, the efficiency of today’s fuel-injected engines makes winter idling nearly unnecessary for most cars. U.S. Department of Energy experts report driving a gas-powered vehicle warms it twice as fast as idling it, and most auto manufacturers recommend starting your car, then driving slowly after only about 30 seconds of idling.
Excessive idling also wastes fuel and adds harmful emissions to the atmosphere. Many states and municipalities have enacted idling restrictions to curb auto emissions and minimize human exposure to carbon monoxide and other noxious exhaust gases.
Instead of warming your car each morning this winter, you’ll be better off taking time now to winterize your vehicle. AAA recommends checking these five key areas:
1. Consider an oil change. “Motor oil is one of the most important fluids in a car, so it’s important to go into winter knowing you’ve got clean, high-quality oil to keep the engine lubricated, even in frigid temperatures,” says Andrew Hamilton, technical services manager for Cenex brand lubricants.
Deciding whether to change your car’s oil type before temperatures plunge depends on the number of miles you drive and the type of motor oil you use. “Traditional mineral-based oils tend to thicken in cold temperatures, which can cause unnecessary engine wear,” says Hamilton. “They also need to be changed more often than newer synthetic-blend or full-synthetic oils. Full synthetic oils, like Cenex Maxtron 5W-30, flow better at low temperatures, for easier cold startups, and they provide longer performance, taking most cars up to 10,000 miles between oil changes.”
Not sure which oil to buy? Hamilton recommends using the online vehicle and equipment lookup tool found at Cenex.com. “Find your vehicle’s make and model, and the tool will give you engine oil recommendations that match its maintenance needs.”
2. Check tire pressure. Properly inflated tires maximize traction on wet or icy roads and help protect against wheel damage from potholes.
3. Test your battery. Batteries usually give little notice before dying. Since cold temperatures can reduce power by up to 50 percent, batteries that have been used for three years or more should be tested. Make sure posts and connections are free of corrosion. Remove any corrosion with a solution of baking soda and water, using a small wire brush.
4. Top off antifreeze. Make sure your car’s radiator contains the proper amount of a 50/50 mix of coolant and water. You can check the composition of radiator fluid using an inexpensive tester, available at auto parts stores. Be sure to check the antifreeze label to see if the product you are buying is premixed.
5. Inspect wipers and fluid level. Shorter days and precipitation ranging from snow and ice to sleet and rain pose visibility challenges in winter. Make sure wiper blades are in good condition and replace them if they’re more than a year old. Be sure the windshield washer fluid reservoir is filled with no-freeze washer fluid.
For additional automotive maintenance tips and an opportunity to nominate someone for free fuel this winter, visit Cenex.com.
(BPT) - Buying a new car to reduce your carbon footprint seems logical. But surprisingly, keeping the vehicle already in your garage, or replacing it with a more fuel efficient used car may be a greener choice. That’s because it takes a lot of energy and raw materials to manufacture a new vehicle. "It varies between models, but it is reasonable to estimate building a new $30,000 midsize car will generate greenhouse gases that are the equivalent of 14 metric tons of CO2," says RockAuto.com Vice President, Tom Taylor.
The average car on the road is about 11 years old. EPA data shows that vehicles (cars and trucks) built in 2005, on average, emit 447 grams of CO2 per mile. A 2016 vehicle is expected to generate about 90 grams less than that every mile. Producing less CO2 is good, but it would take more than 150,000 miles of driving for that 90 grams in CO2 savings to add up and compensate for the 14,000 kg (14 metric tons of CO2) it took to build the new car. Especially for someone who does not drive a lot, it could be greener to just keep a well maintained older vehicle than to build a new one.
How much do you save with an electric car?
Electric cars do not have tailpipes, but an electric car is still on the hook for "upstream CO2" emitted by the utility which provides the electricity for the car. The EPA estimates upstream CO2 is around 100 grams per mile for most electric vehicles. That is a whopping 347 grams less than what is produced by the average vehicle built in 2005, but it would still take over 40,000 miles of driving before the electric car saved enough CO2 to cover the greenhouse gas cost of building it in the first place.
The environmental cost of servicing older cars
What about the CO2 equivalent discharged while making parts to fix an older car? Brake pads, struts, tires and other parts wear out as the miles pile up. Fortunately, unless the vehicle is involved in an accident, the structure that makes up most of a car will never need to be replaced.
Many smaller parts like alternators and major parts like engines and transmissions can be remanufactured. Remanufacturing means only the components that experience wear are replaced. Metal housings and other major pieces can be cleaned, refinished and reused. "Remanufacturing saves more than 80 percent of the energy and raw materials required to build a new part from scratch," Taylor says. Less energy and materials means less CO2.
Car manufacturers are using more recycled materials and updating factories to use less energy. Government mandates require future vehicles become increasingly more fuel efficient. "Upstream CO2" may decline as utility companies find new, greener ways to generate electricity. Nevertheless, keeping your current car well maintained or buying a more fuel efficient used car are currently great choices if you want to be green.
(BPT) - You can find a large number of alarming videos on the Internet showing cars crashing on snowy roads. We can see from these videos that driving too fast on snow or ice covered roads is risky and leaves you vulnerable to crashes. However, it's not just fast driving that causes accidents, but also failure to take proper care in these types of conditions.
If we want safe roads during the winter months, two things are needed. First, it is necessary (but not sufficient) that if we are driving on winter roads, we should slow down and take more care than we would on those same roads on a bright summer day. Second, we need our highway agencies to take actions that improve the road conditions, removing any snow and ice that may be on the roads so they get back to those "summer day" conditions as quickly as possible.
The safety issue is a substantial one. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show there are about 115,000 people injured every year on snowy, slushy or icy pavements. More than 1,000 people are killed each year on winter roads. Those are troubling statistics.
The good news is that highway agencies have a variety of tools they use very effectively to restore our roads to a safe condition quickly. Studies show a good winter maintenance program that uses road salt reduces accidents on winter roads by about 88 percent.
The science of winter road maintenance
Highway agencies are not resting on their laurels when it comes to their winter maintenance activities. A key goal for many agencies is tracking in great detail what they are doing during their winter maintenance actions, and ensuring their actions are optimized to meet their goal of safe roads for the driving public. In Idaho for example, new salt spreading units allow them to track how much salt they apply to the road, and other sensors allow them to check that the road is responding as expected to the salt application and is not getting slippery. That gives them two benefits - reduced costs (they've seen a 29 percent reduction in their annual winter maintenance costs since introducing the new technology) and improved safety to the tune of a 27 percent reduction in accidents on winter roads.
The flip side of safety is mobility. Obviously if nobody drives on the roads there will be no accidents, but we have come as a society to rely on our highway network for commerce and quality of life. Other studies show the cost of having that network closed down is substantial - between $300 and $700 million a day for a state in direct and indirect earnings. So keeping those roads open (maintaining our mobility if you will) in a safe and sustainable manner is an extremely important benefit of winter maintenance. One study suggested that the costs of maintaining the road system during a winter storm are completely recovered in the first 25 minutes of winter maintenance activities because of the improvements in safety and mobility that the improved road conditions bring about.
The responsibility for safety and mobility on winter roads is not just in the hands of the highway agencies. We, as road users, have a responsibility to drive at an appropriate speed, and be prepared for the worst case scenario. Many agencies present hints on what you should have in your car on a winter trip. For example, Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) suggests having a flashlight, batteries, a blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots and a first aid kit, as well as a few other steps we can take to add to our safety.
We now have more tools than ever at our disposal to allow us to see what conditions the roads are really in. Some DOTs provide up-to-date photos from their snow plows so you can actually see what the snow plow is seeing as it goes about making the road safe for you. And in the future there will no doubt be even smarter technology out there to help us in winter driving. But as the winter moves on, we might want to think on those crash videos on the web, and resolve that we will not be starring in one any time soon.
(BPT) - A growing number of children are not content to keep all their efforts inside the classroom or play video games. They seek out different outlets like sports — especially soccer, which makes the largest youth sports organization in America — in order to learn, socialize and have fun. According to data from the U.S. Census, nearly six out of 10 children between the ages of 6 and 17 are involved in at least one after school extra-curricular activity. Children are stepping out to stay active, but they need some help to get there – literally. Even world-class soccer players on English Premier League champion Chelsea FC once needed parents to drive them around.
However, before kids can even hit the soccer field, the vehicles that get them there need to run smoothly, especially the tires. “With all the soccer practices and games, parents are putting a lot of extra miles on their tires,” says Pat Keating, senior manager, technical engineering for Yokohama Tire Corporation, manufacturer of a variety of tires for passenger cars, SUVs, buses and trucks. “Taking just five minutes a month to check your tires can make a world of difference in how well they perform.”
“The reason to check your tires monthly is to make sure they are properly inflated and the tread depth is still good. For example, the Rubber Manufacturers Association reports a car can lose up to 2 pounds per-square-inch (psi) each month under normal driving conditions, and up to 2 psi for every 10 degrees F temperature drop. A tire that is underinflated by only 8 psi can reduce fuel economy by up to 2 percent, which means higher gas bill at the pump and fewer funds for soccer league fees, new equipment or jerseys.”
It’s best to check your tires when they are cold, which means at least four hours since the vehicle was driven. Use a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve is free of debris and water. The correct tire pressure is actually specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the tire manufacturer. You can find the proper inflation levels on a placard on the inside of the car door or in the owner’s manual.
Keating offers more tips for parents so they can get the most out of their tires year-round:
* Check your tread depth by placing a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tire’s tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires.
* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit). It's best to replace them before they reach 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets).
* Rotating your tires regularly promotes even wear of the tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
* Check your alignment at least once a year or sooner, especially if the vehicle is pulling to one side. This will help avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.
“Tires influence braking, steering, comfort, handling and even fuel efficiency,” adds Keating.” You can’t play soccer without a ball, and you can’t drive without tires. They are the only part of a vehicle that actually touches the road so maintaining them well is essential.”
Having the right tires is also as important as having the right equipment in sports, Keating reports. “Certain tires offer specific benefits, so it’s imperative to find the tire that fits your car’s requirements. Case in point would be the GEOLANDAR A/T G015, a new tire that’s coming out soon. It’s specifically engineered for SUVs, crossovers, vans and pick-up trucks with its increased durability and ability to perform well on a variety of road surfaces.”
Help your kids kick off their season right by giving your tires some extra care. Tire maintenance is one extra-curricular activity you can't afford to miss.
For more tire information, care and safety tips visit www.yokohamatire.com/tires-101 or www.rma.org.
(BPT) - When it comes to driving in the rain, windshield wipers, headlights and brakes will only get you so far. More than 1 million car crashes occur each year as a result of weather conditions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Most of them have to do with wet roadways, and many of them could likely be prevented by the right set of tires.
As El Nino looms in the West, and the inevitable April showers approach elsewhere, drivers across the United States should turn their attention to the rubber that meets the proverbial - and also very literal - wet road.
Nearly a quarter of all car crashes are caused by weather, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Of those, nearly three quarters can be attributed to wet pavement. When roadways are slick, dangers such as skidding and hydroplaning quickly become concerns. Tires can be the best defense against such hazards, as a healthy, reliable set of tires will give your vehicle the traction it needs to safely stop and corner on slick roadways. Before the tires can do their job, drivers will need to take a few steps of their own.
Before you hit the road, know what to look for on your tires.
Tire tread helps to channel rainwater safely between your tires and the road - but only if there's enough tread available to do so. When new, tire tread runs 9/32 of an inch deep. Tires are legally worn out with just 2/32 of an inch of tread remaining, but this doesn't leave enough depth in wet conditions.
Tire Rack, America's largest independent tire tester and consumer-direct source for tires, makes an even safer recommendation. "When rain is a concern, as it will be for much of the U.S. throughout the spring, drivers should replace their tires when they reach 4/32 of an inch of remaining tread depth," says Woody Rogers, product information specialist at Tire Rack. "By the time you reach 2/32 of an inch, your tires won't have enough tread to avoid hydroplaning."
To make sure that your tread is deep enough to keep your tires firmly rooted on the surface of the road, Tire Rack recommends a simple quarter test. Place a quarter upside down into the grooves on your tires. If some part of George Washington's head is covered by tread, then you have at least 4/32 of an inch left. "The difference between 2/32 of an inch and 4/32 is admittedly very small," Rogers says, "but the impact on safety is quite large."
If hydroplaning occurs, coast carefully.
Hydroplaning happens when water on a roadway and vehicle speed combine to cause one or more of your tires to lift from the surface of the road. When this happens, the vehicle's steering wheel will likely jerk, and the vehicle could pull abruptly toward the puddle.
"Slowing down in rainy conditions is always a good idea, but it may not be enough for the surprise waiting up ahead. Having the appropriate tread depth is a must for preventing hydroplaning," Rogers says. "If you do hydroplane, grasp the steering wheel firmly and avoid slamming on the brakes. Braking could end up worsening the skid, causing you to lose even more control of the vehicle."
Driving in the rain is never fun, but with the right tires, it can at least be safer. When the rubber meets the road, make sure it's up for the job. Tire Rack offers more expert tips and finds the right tires for your vehicle at www.tirerack.com.
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