How Can I Tell If My Radiator Is Leaking?

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When the temperature gauge on your dashboard reads high or a temperature warning light comes on, you have a cooling system problem that may be caused by a leak — be it in the radiator itself or some other component.

First, make sure it’s coolant that’s leaking, not another fluid. (Coolant is often referred to as antifreeze, but technically coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.) You can easily check the coolant level in your see-through overflow tank. If it’s empty or low, the next step should be to check the coolant level in the radiator, but that should be done only when the engine is cool.

Once you know you’re losing coolant, the radiator is a good place to start. Some radiator leaks will be easy to spot — such as a puddle underneath the radiator — but others not so much. It’s best to check the radiator from every angle, not just from above, and pay particular attention to seams and the bottom. Corrosion inside the radiator or holes from road debris also can cause leaks.

Antifreeze comes in different colors — green, yellow and pinkish-red, for example — feels like slimy water and usually has a sweet smell. If you can’t see coolant dripping or seeping, look for rust, tracks or stains on the radiator. Those are telltale signs of where it has leaked.

If the radiator appears to be OK, the cooling system offers several possibilities for leaks, including the hoses from the radiator to the engine, the radiator cap, water pump, engine block, thermostat, overflow tank, heat exchanger (a small radiator that circulates hot coolant into the dashboard for cabin heating) and others. A blown gasket between the cylinder head and engine block is another possibility, allowing coolant inside the combustion chambers — a problem that must be addressed immediately by a mechanic.

If you can’t find a leak, have it checked by a professional. Coolant has a way of escaping only under pressure when the car is running — possibly in the form of steam, which may not leave a trace.

Rainy Day Refresher

It’s perhaps surprising, but true: Driving on a rainy day is more dangerous than driving pexels-photo-125510on a snowy one. When the rain starts to fall and pavement is wet, your likelihood of a crash is higher than during wintry conditions like snow, sleet and ice, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

After averaging 10 years of statistics, NHTSA researchers found that 46 percent of weather-related crashes happened during rainfall, but just 17 percent while it was snowing or sleeting. Those statistics are partially explained, of course, by the fact that many drivers have the good sense to stay home during a bad snowstorm, says Debbie Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, which offers defensive driving courses. But the statistics also reflect a sobering truth, she says: Drivers often do not respect the rain, and fail to adjust their driving habits to hazardous conditions.

Here is how to reduce the chances of being a rainy day statistic, according to safety experts.

Get Your Car Rain-Ready: Tire tread is key, says Bill Van Tassel, Ph.D., manager of driver training programs for the AAA national office in Orlando, Florida. Dig out a quarter (forget the old advice about Lincoln’s head on a penny, as some researchers have found the quarter test more accurate). Insert it upside down into your tire tread. “If part of Washington’s head is always covered by the tread, your tires have more than 4/32 of an inch of tread remaining. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed at any point, you should replace the tires.”

According to NHTSA, tires with 2/32 of an inch of tread are unsafe. However, you may want to replace tires before they get this worn, depending on driving conditions.

  • Tire pressure is important, too, he says. You should check the pressure once a month, using a tire gauge. NHTSA offers many other tire safety facts.
  • Check your windshield wipers to be sure they’re up to the task. If they need replacing and you’re doing it yourself, you can check online guides to be sure you’re doing it correctly.
  • Check headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals to be sure all are working properly. When you’re driving, turn on your headlights to boost your visibility. Some states require the use of headlights when windshield wipers are in use.

Slow down: Driving too fast for conditions is especially dangerous on wet pavement because your tires lose traction with the precipitation, Van Tassel says. “When roadways are wet, the friction is reduced between the tire and the road,” Hersman adds. No friction is a bad thing. Tires are meant to grip the roads, not slide on them.

How much does traction decline in wet weather? “You might lose about one-third of your traction,” Van Tassel says. And that figure is why this recommendation makes sense: Reduce your speed by about a third when it’s wet or rainy. If the speed limit is 55 mph, aim for under 40 mph. “That is not a hard statistic but a rule of thumb,” he says.

When, Where, How and Why to Change Your Vehicle’s Oil

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The Car Care Council reminds motorists that basic vehicle maintenance is an easy, inexpensive way to prolong the life of vehicles and avoid costly repairs down the road.

“When thinking about vehicle maintenance, regular oil changes likely come to mind first,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “A quick review of the why, when, where and how of changing your vehicle’s oil is a good way to see the value of basic auto care.”

Why

Motor oil lubricates the moving parts in your engine, preventing wear by keeping the engine clean, removing contaminants and regulating engine temperature to prevent overheating. Neglecting to check and change your vehicle’s oil can lead to expensive repairs, including engine failure.

When

Check your vehicle owner’s manual; most will recommend changing the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. However, other factors such as harsh weather conditions, driving in stop-and-go traffic or on dusty/dirt roads, towing a trailer, driving at high speeds and the age of your vehicle can all bring down this time interval, making it a safe bet to have the oil checked at the lower end of the recommended interval.

Where

An oil change performed by a professional technician is a quick, low-cost vehicle service. When taking your car in for maintenance or repairs, be sure that the shop employs ASE-certified technicians. ASE certification means that the technicians take their training seriously and have passed tests to demonstrate their skills.

How

Do-it-yourselfers can access the Car Care Council’s website for an instructional video by DriverSide on how to change your vehicle’s oil.

To help drivers “be car care aware,” the Car Care Council has many free tools available at www.carcare.org, including a free 80-page Car Care Guide and a customized service schedule with email reminders to make it easy to follow a routine auto care program.


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. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.

Roadside Emergency Kit a Perfect Gift for the College Bound

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School is almost back in session and students across the country will soon be packing up their cars and heading off to college. If you are searching for that perfect gift for the college-bound kid in your life, the Car Care Council suggests putting together a roadside emergency kit.

“A roadside kit is easy to assemble, not too expensive and extremely useful, plus it could be a life saver in the event of an emergency,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “While it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected while on the road, the best option is to avoid breakdowns and car trouble wherever possible. Performing basic maintenance and observing a regular service schedule can help avoid unforeseen road emergencies.”

Roadside emergency items can fit into a small duffle bag or rubber storage tote and include the following:

  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Blankets and extra clothes
  • Non-perishable snacks and bottled water
  • First aid kit, including essential medications
  • Portable USB charger to keep the cell phone running even if the car is not
  • Ice scraper, snow brush and small shovel for winter driving
  • The Car Care Guide, available free of charge at carcare.org

Visit the Car Care Council’s website to access a number of tips and resources for vehicle maintenance, including a free custom service schedule.

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. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.

How Much Does it Cost to Drive?

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AAA’s analysis covers vehicles equipped with standard features and optional equipment including automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, antilock brakes and cruise control, to name a few.

Fuel: Fuel costs were based on $2.139 per gallon, the late-2015 U.S. price from AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, www.FuelGaugeReport.com. Fuel mileage is based on Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings weighted 60 percent city and 40 percent highway driving.

Maintenance: Costs include retail parts and labor for normal, routine maintenance as specified by the vehicle manufacturer. They also include the price of a comprehensive extended warranty with one warranty claim deductible of $100 and other wear-and-tear items that can be expected to require service during five years of operating the vehicle. Sales tax is included on a national average basis.

Tires: Costs are based on the price of one set of replacement tires of the same quality, size and rating as those that came with the vehicle. Mounting, balancing and sales tax also are included.

Insurance: AAA based its insurance costs on a full-coverage policy for a married 47-year-old male with a good driving record, living in a small city and commuting three to 10 miles daily to work. The policy includes $100,000/$300,000 coverage with a $500 deductible for collision and a $100 deductible for comprehensive coverage.

License, Registration and Taxes: Costs include all governmental taxes and fees payable at time of purchase, as well as fees due each year to keep the vehicle licensed and registered. Costs are computed on a national average basis.

Depreciation: Depreciation is based on the difference between new-vehicle purchase price and estimated trade-in value at the end of five years.

Finance: Costs are based on a five-year loan, with 10 percent down, at the national average interest rate for five credit rating categories weighted by market share. The loan amount includes taxes and the first year’s license fees, both computed on a national average basis.

Figuring Your Costs

To figure your fuel cost, begin with a full tank of fuel and write down the odometer reading. Each time you fill up, note the number of gallons, how much you pay and the odometer reading. These figures can then be used to calculate average miles per gallon and cost of fuel per mile. For example

Auto Body Repair for Classic Cars

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When you buy a classic car, you will almost certainly need to have some kind of auto body work done to restore the car to its former glory. Although it can be very satisfying to restore a classic car yourself, it can be hard work, and you may not be able to get the same quality as a professional repair.Many rare or classic cars appreciate in value depending on the condition or what has been done to the vehicle. Any alterations or repairs can affect a classic car’s value, so it’s best to leave the auto body repair to the professionals to protect your investment.

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