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.

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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.

Are Your Brakes Trying to Tell You Something?

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If your brakes are trying to tell you something, you should pay attention. A properly operating brake system helps ensure safe vehicle control and operation and it should be checked immediately if you suspect any problems, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

“While an annual brake inspection is a good way to ensure brake safety, motorists should not ignore signs that their brakes need attention,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Knowing the key warning signs that your brakes may need maintenance will go a long way toward keeping you and others safe on the road.”

The Car Care Council reminds motorists to look for the following warning signs that their brakes need to be inspected:

  • Noise: screeching, grinding or clicking noises when applying the brakes.
  • Pulling: vehicle pulls to one side while braking.
  • Low Pedal: brake pedal nearly touches the floor before engaging.
  • Hard Pedal: must apply extreme pressure to the pedal before brakes engage.
  • Grabbing: brakes grab at the slightest touch to the pedal.
  • Vibration: brake pedal vibrates or pulses, even under normal braking conditions.
  • Light: brake light is illuminated on your vehicle’s dashboard.

Because brakes are a normal wear item on any vehicle, they will eventually need to be replaced. Factors that can affect brake wear include driving habits, operating conditions, vehicle type and the quality of the brake lining material. Be sure to avoid letting brakes get to the ‘metal-to-metal’ point as that can mean expensive rotor or drum replacement.

The Car Care Council offers a free custom service schedule and email reminder service to help car owners remember to have their brakes inspected and take better care of their vehicles. It is an easy-to-use resource designed to help motorists drive smart, save money and make informed decisions.

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.

11 innovative car keys taking driving to a whole new level

The BMW 7-series’ key has a full-color touch screen.

The BMW 7-series' key has a full-color touch screen.

BMW

It’s only suiting that a car as high-tech as the BMW 7-series would come with a key fob to match it.

It comes with four buttons to lock and unlock the car, pop open the trunk, and panic. But it also comes with a full-color 2.2-inch touch screen that lets you swipe to see information like whether all the doors are locked and your current fuel range.

You can also use the key to control the climate in the car and toggle the lights. But by far the coolest part is that you can use it to park the car remotely.

Tesla’s Model S key can be used to summon the car.

Tesla's Model S key can be used to summon the car.

AP/Carlos Osorio

Tesla’s key fob was actually designed to look like a mini Tesla Model S

In addition to locking and unlocking the car doors, the Tesla key can be used to tell the car to pull forward and backward, all from a semi-remote distance and without anyone inside of the car.

Koenigsegg’s shield fob looks like something a superhero would carry.

Koenigsegg's shield fob looks like something a superhero would carry.

Koenigsegg

When locking and unlocking the doors of a Koenigsegg, you’ll need something that can make as big of a statement as the car itself.

Koenigsegg’s metal shield key doesn’t have any hugely crazy special features, but what it can give you is the sense of authority and a firm reminder that you drive an insane Swedish supercar.

If driving one of these insane supercars doesn’t give you the thrill or feel of power you were looking for, holding this awesome shield key fob just might.

This Ferrari key may not have any tech-savvy features, but the design is stunning.

This Ferrari key may not have any tech-savvy features, but the design is stunning.

Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

First of all, it’s a key with some weight to it. It’s smooth and big enough that it’s enjoyable to hold without being too clunky. Its functional purpose is hidden on the back, where there are three buttons to lock and unlock the doors as well as pop open the trunk.

To start the car, you stick the key in the ignition and then press a separate button on the steering wheel. In that regard, the key really only has an aesthetic purpose. But hey, with the classic prancing horse and deep red color, it’s not something I would mind lugging around.

Unfortunately, the key only comes with older Ferrari models like the FF. Even Ferrari has given up the traditional key or a fob, but this one is still among our favorites.

Aston Martin’s key fob is topped off with a crystal.

Aston Martin's key fob is topped off with a crystal.

Aston Martin

Though it can only really handle the tasks of an average key fob, the aesthetics of this key make it much more special than most others out there.

Inserting this crystal key into the center of an Aston Martin’s dashboard never gets old.

McLaren’s key reminds you lightness is key.

If crystals aren’t really your thing, maybe lightweight carbon fiber is.

McLaren’s key has three buttons and is backed with a carbon fiber rear.

Because you can never have too much carbon fiber.

Never.

Maserati’s key flips out of a compact fob like a switch blade.

It’s a fob with the best of both worlds.

On one had, it has this really neat, smooth packaging so it fits squarely in your palm. It also offers all of the traditional functions of a fob, like the ability to lock, unlock, and pop open the trunk of the car.

But on the other hand, in the fob is still a good ol’ fashion key that swings out.

It’s a fun mix of old and new.

Pagani’s aluminum key does more than just look good.

Though Porsche and Tesla have similar offerings, Pagani’s key fob is the one that truly stands out.

First, it’s the perfect cool looking desk ornament.

Second, it’s also a USB flash drive.

Third, it’s still a key.

How’s that for multi-functional?

Corvette has a great, matte black box of a key.

Most automakers stick to a rounded shape for their key fobs, but Corvette’s black box fits the vibe of the souped-up muscle car.

In addition to the typical fob functions, it also lets you remote start the car.

The Jaguar F-Pace Activity Key is the key to have if you hate using keys.

The Jaguar F-Pace Activity Key is the key to have if you hate using keys.

Jaguar

With the F-Pace’s Activity Key, by holding your wrist up to the Jaguar badge on the rear of the car, you can lock or unlock the vehicle. And it’s waterproof!

The Activity Key is available as a $400 option.

But if you hate even what we consider the crème de la crème of car keys, there’s good news: Volvo is going to start getting rid of keys altogether.

But if you hate even what we consider the crème de la crème of car keys, there's good news: Volvo is going to start getting rid of keys altogether.

Volvo Car Group

Volvo will start selling cars that come with a Bluetooth-enabled digital key that lives on your smartphone. The digital key can lock, unlock, start, and drive the car.

Business Insider’s Aaron Brown wrote a previous version of this article.

Four Easy Ways to Go Green with Your Car

Looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly with your car? Motorists can help protect the environment by following four simple steps from the non-profit Car Care Council.

  1. Follow a vehicle service schedule including steps like checking engine performance, keeping tires properly inflated, replacing air filters regularly, changing oil regularly and checking your gas cap. Routine maintenance helps reduce emissions and fuel consumption, saving money at the pump.
  1. Keep your current vehicle longer and limit the number of new cars you buy over the course of a lifetime. Extending vehicle life is as simple as taking care of your vehicle properly. You’ll gain years of reliable service without monthly car payments and higher insurance rates.Recycle oil MM
  1. Recycle or properly dispose motor oil, tires, batteries, fluids and other vehicle components to help protect the planet when performing vehicle maintenance or repairs.
  1. Repower your engine when faced with serious engine trouble. A remanufactured/rebuilt engine can give your vehicle new life and make it more fuel efficient for about the cost of an average down payment on a new car.

“Being car care aware and performing basic vehicle maintenance go a long way toward protecting the environment and improving fuel economy,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “The Car Care Council’s free customized service schedule and email reminder service makes it easy to stay on schedule and keep your car running efficiently.”

To help motorists “go green,” the Car Care Council’s newly redesigned Car Care Guide features fuel economy and environmental awareness tips to help motorists “go green.” Available in English and Spanish, the 80-page Car Care Guide uses easy-to-understand language rather than technical automotive jargon, fits easily in a glove box and can be ordered free-of-charge at www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

To learn more about how auto care can protect the environment, visit the Car Care Council website at http://www.carcare.org/go-green/.

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.

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