Loose gas caps, under inflated tires, faulty thermostats, worn spark
plugs, malfunctioning engine controls, poor wheel alignment and the
list goes on. These are among the conditions that daily cost consumers
millions of dollars in wasted fuel.|
"Something as innocuous as an improperly tightened gas cap, for
example, or one that's missing or defective, might seem a minor
factor," said Rich White of the Car Care Council. "But consider that 17
percent of the vehicles on U.S. highways have either misused or missing
gas caps, causing 147,000,000 gallons of gas per year to vaporize into
the atmosphere (source: Service Tech Magazine, September 2000).
"To the maxim 'waste not, want not,' we need to add 'be car care
aware,' because most drivers are unaware of the economic consequences
of neglected maintenance."
White said the nearly 150 million gallons of gas out of the filler cap
are literally a drop in the bucket of waste.
"Among the six worst offenders are under inflated tires and incorrect
wheel alignment, conditions which increase rolling resistance. Like
driving with the parking brake not fully released, it can cost a mile
or two per gallon on a car that normally delivers 20 miles per gallon.
"Among other gas guzzlers," said White, "are dirty oil, a mile per
gallon; a slipping automatic transmission, another mile per gallon and
as much as two mpg for a cooling system thermostat that causes the
engine to run too cold.
"Finally, there could be a malfunction of one or more components in the
fuel, ignition or emission control systems, especially critical in cold
weather driving. The fuel penalty for just one misfiring spark plug is
two or three miles per gallon.
"Combining all of these discrepancies into one vehicle, the cost of
wasted fuel easily could exceed recent increases in pump prices," said
White. "It's what being car care aware is all about."
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How to Shop For A Battery
If your car battery is dead or even weak, you're not going anywhere. It
is the leading cause of starting trouble, whether because of lights
left on, a charging system problem or other cause.
Sometimes it is just that the battery has outlived its usefulness. But
even at best, a healthy battery in 80-degree weather has only half of
its output when the thermometer dips to zero.
When shopping, remember that a battery is rated by cold cranking amps
(CCA), indicating its power and the reserve capacity rating (RC), which
indicates how long your car's accessories can run and still have enough
power to start the engine.
Since starting a car in cold weather can take up to twice as much
current to turn over a cold engine, cars in colder climates would
benefit from a higher CCA rating. Check your owner's manual for the
original equipment manufacturer's (OEM) minimum requirements needed for
your car and select the battery adequate for you needs. Buying one with
an excessive CCA rating may be a waste of money.
In every situation, more RC (reserve) is better, like a little extra in
the checking account. The size and number of plates in a battery
determine how many amps it can deliver. By having more and/or large
plates, you can increase the normal life of the battery. This is what
distinguishes a three-year from a five-year warranty battery.
Battery manufacturers build their products to an internationally
adopted Battery Council International (BCI) group number based on the
physical size, terminal placement (where you connect the cables to the
battery) and terminal polarity. BCI and the battery manufacturers offer
application guidelines that contain the OEM cranking amperage
requirements and group number replacement recommendations by make,
model and year of car and battery size, CCA and RC specifications
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Fuel Savings Tips
as Gas Prices Soar
Gas Prices Make it Perfect Time to "Be Car Care Aware"
With gas prices exceeding two dollars a gallon in many parts of the
country, the Car Care Council is offering gas-saving maintenance and
driving tips that really work.
"Millions of dollars worth of gasoline is wasted every day by
motorists, because simple and inexpensive vehicle maintenance is
neglected," said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care
Council. "Loose or missing gas caps, under-inflated tires, worn spark
plugs and dirty air filters all contribute to poor fuel economy."
The Car Care Council offers these
* Vehicle gas caps – About 17 percent of the
vehicles on the roads have gas caps that are either damaged, loose or
are missing altogether, causing 147 million gallons of gas to vaporize
* Under inflated tires – When tires aren't inflated
properly it's like driving with the parking brake on and can cost a
mile or two per gallon.
* Worn spark plugs – A vehicle can have either four,
six or eight spark plugs, which fire as many as 3 million times every
1,000 miles, resulting in a lot of heat and electrical and chemical
erosion. A dirty spark plug causes misfiring, which wastes fuel. Spark
plugs need to be replaced regularly.
* Dirty air filters – An air filter that is clogged
with dirt, dust and bugs chokes off the air and creates a "rich"
mixture – too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes
gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter
can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, saving about 15 cents
Fuel-saving driving tips include:
* Don't be an aggressive driver – Aggressive driving
can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5
percent on city streets, which results in 7 to 49 cents per gallon.
* Avoid excessive idling – Sitting idle gets zero
miles per gallon. Letting the vehicle warm up for one to two minutes is
* Observe the speed limit – Gas mileage decreases
rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each mph driven over 60 will result in
an additional 10 cents per gallon. To maintain a constant speed on the
highway, cruise control is recommended.
Some of the above statistics were gathered from a U.S. Department of
Energy Web site, www.fueleconomy.gov.
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The Road to a Long-Lasting Automobile
Auto technicians say the key to keeping vehicles running well, today
and down the road, is routine maintenance. Yet many drivers tend to
stall when it comes to keeping up with some everyday auto basics.
A recent survey by the Car Care Council found:
* 54 percent had low tire pressure
* 38 percent had low or dirty engine oil
* 28 percent had inadequate cooling protection
* 19 percent needed new belts
* 16 percent had dirty air filters
* 10 percent had low or contaminated brake fluid
The inspections include volunteers checking fluid levels, tires, lights
and other system components. After the inspections are complete,
volunteers and motorists review any problems that may have been found
and motorists receive information about proper vehicle maintenance and
The inspections are usually held in parking lots at shopping malls,
schools and businesses and they're generally sponsored by area repair
facilities and auto shops, as well as other businesses, civic groups
and radio stations.
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It's Time for the
21st Century Tune-up
Times are changing...cars are changing. One of the biggest changes in
today's automotive industry is the perception of a "tune-up." Ask 10
vehicle owners their definition of a tune-up and chances are there'll
be 10 different answers. The classic "tune-up" was once the heart of
the automotive business and contrary to some beliefs, today's modern
vehicles still need tune-ups to keep them performing at the most
The tune-up was historically associated with the routine replacement of
key ignition system parts like spark plugs and ignition points, along
with some basic adjustments to help "tune" the engine. Mounting
pressure for increased fuel economy and lower emissions drove the car
manufacturers to adopt electronics and to do away with ignition points
in the '70s, along with the carburetor in the middle '80s. This
eliminated the need for the replacement and adjustment of a growing
number of ignition and fuel system parts.
As the pace of technology quickened, the procedures required to perform
a traditional tune-up changed dramatically. Highly sophisticated
ignition and fuel systems are now the norm, using one or more onboard
computers to control critical engine and transmission management
functions. Things that were once handled mechanically are now
controlled electronically through the widespread use of onboard
Because vehicles have changed so much over the years, the Car Care
Council has introduced the 21st Century Tune-up. This program is
designed to help re-define and educate motorists as to what a tune-up
should consist of on today's modern vehicles.
"There is a misconception that today's modern vehicles don't need
tune-ups because they never break down, but that simply is not true,"
said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. "If you're
at work and your computer goes down, you can't get any more work done.
It's the same with your vehicle. If the vehicle isn't being properly
maintained, you're not going to get where you want to go."
As part of the 21st Century Tune-up on today's modern vehicles, the
following systems should be inspected:
* battery, charging and
* engine mechanical
* powertrain control
(including onboard diagnostic checks)
Vehicle owners ask for tune-ups for a variety of reasons, including
improving performance, maintaining reliability, planning a vacation,
preparing for winter/summer or because they're giving the car to a
friend or family member.
To help ensure good performance, fuel economy and emissions, the Car
Care Council also recommends that motorists take the time necessary to
become familiar with their vehicle from every aspect. Study the owner's
manual to become thoroughly acquainted with the operation of all
systems. Pay special attention to the indicator lights and instruments.
"The 'Be Car Care Aware' campaign is about helping motorists make
informed decisions about their vehicles' care and maintenance," said
White. "With the 21St Century Tune-up, we will continue to help vehicle
owners make great strides in reducing vehicle neglect."
A new brochure is available that familiarizes motorists with the
opportunities for preventive maintenance in and around their vehicle.
The brochure contains information about the "Be Car Care Aware"
campaign, a full-size schematic of vehicle parts, components and
maintenance recommendations. For more information, visit http://www.carcare.org/Industry/BCCA_brochure.shtml.
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Spend Your Tax Refund on One of Your
Present Vehicle May Be Key to Long-Term Financial Happiness
How will you spend your tax refund? Flat-screen TV? IPod? Clothes? The
Car Care Council has a better idea for your money: spend it on your
second biggest investment, your car.
"Whether it's an oil change, replacing brakes or new belts and hoses,
that periodic repair bill is a drop in the bucket compared to monthly
payments on a new car," said Rich White, executive director of the Car
Care Council. "The bottom line is that a properly maintained vehicle is
safer, more dependable, more fuel efficient, less polluting and more
valuable. The smartest way to get a solid return on investment is to
keep your car through what we call the 'Cinderella Era'. It's that
period of time after the payoff when your car is still in great shape
and needs only modest repairs."
The Car Care Council estimates that more than $62 billion in vehicle
maintenance and repair is not performed every year, evidence that there
is considerably more that consumers should be doing to protect their
"We advise our clients that if they want a 10-percent increase on their
investments every year they need to cut down on their expenses," said
Terry Mulcahy, vice president of investments for R. W. Baird in Mequon,
Wis. "A new automobile is for most people their second biggest
investment next to a home, so a great way to save money and increase
financial assets is to hang onto their current vehicle rather than buy
a new one every few years. Budgeting for and doing preventative
maintenance on your car is one of the best ways to cut your costs and
keep your car."
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