Monthly Archives: June 2017

What You Need to Know About Brake Pads

Subject to tremendous friction and heat, brake pads wear down and must be replaced as part of a car’s regular maintenance. In disc-brake systems, the brake pads are the friction material the caliper squeezes against the rotating disc, or rotor, to slow the wheel’s rotation and stop the car. In drum brakes, the pads are called shoes.

How Do I Know When to Change My Brake Pads and Rotors?
Squeaks, squeals and metal-to-metal grinding noises are typical signs you’re past due for new brake pads and/or rotors. Other signs include longer stopping distances and more pedal travel before you feel significant braking force. If it’s been more than two years since your brake parts were replaced, it’s a good idea to have the brakes checked at every oil change or every six months. Brakes wear gradually, so it can be hard to tell by feel or sound when it’s time for new pads or rotors.

How Often Should I Replace Them?
Brake life depends mainly on the amount and kind of driving you do, such as city versus highway, and your driving style. Some drivers just use the brakes more than others. For that reason, it’s hard to recommend time or mileage guidelines. On any car more than 2 years old, it’s a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the brakes at every oil change, or twice a year. Repair shops can measure pad thickness, check the condition of the rotors, calipers and other hardware, and estimate how much brake life remains.

Why Do I Need to Change My Pads and Rotors?
Brake pads and rotors are “wear” items that require periodic replacement. If they aren’t replaced, they’ll eventually wear down to the metal backing plates to which they’re mounted. Rotors can warp, wear unevenly or be damaged beyond repair if the pads are worn down to the backing plate. How long pads and rotors last depends on how many miles you drive and how often you use the brakes. The only guarantee is that they won’t last forever.

How Much Should I Pay?
The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car’s year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We’ll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.

Store Your Car for Winter

From washing and waxing to detailing the interior, people baby their cars in all sorts of ways. But it’s equally important to take care of your car before you put it into storage. Here are a few tips to make sure your car is ready to go when you are.

The Final Detail
Thoroughly clean your car, inside and out, before storage. The last thing you want to do is put a car cover on a dirty car. Give your ride a good handwash, polish up that chrome and apply a coat of wax to the paint. Make sure to get rid of any tree-sap drops, too.

If there are unpainted metal places under your car that are prone to rust, buy a can of rubberized undercoating and spray on a protective coat, keeping in mind that it needs to be reapplied yearly. Be careful not to spray this coating near any exhaust components that can get hot because products like this can be very flammable. For collectors, if you’re worried about keeping your car in original condition, a coat of WD-40 will also work. You can also stuff a sock in the exhaust pipe so that small animals won’t find a new place to set up camp, but be sure to remove it before you start the car again.

Throw out food wrappers, soda cans and any other trash that may have accumulated in the cabin. If you plan on steam-cleaning the carpet, do that far enough in advance of (or after) storing the car to avoid moisture buildup and mold. For added interior protection, you can buy a set of seat covers. To soak up cabin moisture, purchase a few packs of desiccant from your local dollar store or convenience store to place on the floor.

Mice and other small animals can create trouble if they get inside your car. Even though there isn’t a surefire way to protect your car from mice, there are steps you can take to make your car less appealing to them. “I usually go to the dollar store and buy the cheapest drier sheets I can find, and put those inside my vehicles,” said Davin Reckow, parts specialist for Hagerty Collector Car Insurance. You can also place mothballs in socks and set them both inside and around the car, but you’ll probably need to air out the cabin to get rid of that distinctive smell. Mousetraps work well outside the car, but never put them in your car. The last thing you want to find is a dead mouse on your passenger seat, especially months later. If you are storing your car in your own garage at home, remember that pest poison traps can be hazardous to your pets.

The Big Story When I Bought My First Car

Whether you’re a young adult entering college or a city dweller finally giving up on public transit, buying your first car represents a new chapter in life. But being a newbie to the car-owning world can lead to some costly maintenance mistakes if you don’t do your homework.

When I bought my first car, a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt, I had no idea what I was doing, but I’ve learned a lot over the past few years about how to maintain a vehicle. Now, as my beloved first car approaches its 10th birthday, I wonder if it would be aging more … gracefully had I been prepared to maintain it when I first bought it.

Below are six maintenance truths that I wish I’d known when I bought my first car:

t seems like everything has a healthier alternative these days. Do you like white rice? Well, brown rice is better for you. Yogurt? Greek is better. With all the healthy-alternative-facts out there, it’s easy to assume there’s a better version of gasoline that will make your car run better for longer.

Many young drivers like me have experienced the pull toward premium, but in reality, using premium gasoline in an engine that recommends regular does not provide any significant boost in acceleration or fuel economy.

Some high-performance vehicles require or recommend premium gas, but unless that’s the case with yours, you’re better off saving the money and reaching for good ol’ regular unleaded.

2. Recalls Are to be Taken Seriously
Upon hearing that I drive a Chevy Cobalt, someone recently responded with, “Wait, isn’t that the car where the key falls out of the ignition?”

Yes, yes it is.

The Cobalt has had several recalls over the years — some for a faulty ignition — that I was unaware of until recently. Luckily, my car is in the clear, but I should have done my due diligence.

While deciding on your first car, you’re probably looking for affordability and fuel economy — but failing to research recalls could lead to big regrets down the line. Once you buy your first car, be sure to keep an eye out for new recalls, and take them seriously.

3. Driving on Empty Can Damage Your Engine
The day I splurged and treated myself to a full tank of gas was a special day. During the first few years of owning my car, I tended to put $10 worth in and hope it lasted all week, which meant spending a lot of time testing the limits of “empty.”

What I didn’t know then was that, according to Consumer Reports, gas acts as a coolant for the electric motor of the fuel pump that moves fuel from the gas tank to the engine. If you’re running on fumes, especially on a hot day, the pump’s motor can overheat. If your fuel pump burns out, replacement costs could hurt you.

Replacing a fried fuel pump costs a whole lot more than a tank of gas, so nowadays I fill up instead of questioning the authority of the “low fuel” warning light.

Replacement Brakes From My Automaker

You don’t have to buy any replacement parts from the original manufacturer when it comes to so-called “wear” items such as brake pads, windshield wiper blades, air filters and the like. Several companies make replacement parts that meet or exceed specifications set by the manufacturer, and these are the parts you’re most likely to get when you have your car serviced at a repair shop that’s not affiliated with a dealership.

Are these replacement parts as good as the ones that come with the vehicle manufacturer’s name on the box that you’d get at a dealership? In many cases, yes, and some may even be of higher quality. On the flip side, there are also a lot of cheap, knockoff replacement parts that are inferior to original equipment, so beware of parts you find online or in stores that are priced way below the going rate elsewhere. You’ll definitely get what you pay for.

If you’re concerned about what parts a repair shop is putting in your car, ask them to detail the parts before you give them the go-ahead to perform any work, and ask your mechanics why they’re using that particular brand. Reputable repair shops use reputable parts. Some repair shops that advertise low prices for services such as brake-pad replacement may save money by using lower-quality parts. Better parts also tend to come with longer warranties, so ask about that.

Keep in mind that vehicle manufacturers don’t make most of the parts that go into their vehicles, including brake pads and rotors. They buy them from suppliers that make them to a manufacturer’s technical and quality requirements. Replacement parts may come from the same supplier that made the original equipment parts but have a different name on the box.

Dealerships often promote their service departments by advertising that they sell and install “genuine” manufacturer replacement parts. Because that ensures they’ll fit properly and meet all performance standards, that’s a good thing.