Knowledge Base

10 Signs You Need to Get to the Mechanic

take-to-mechanic

There are two types of people in this world–those who will drive immediately to the mechanic at the first sight of a problem and those who’ll happily put some black tape over the check engine light.

In general, it is never a good idea to ignore internal issues with your vehicle. Car problems have a way of getting worse over time. They almost never correct themselves.

Here is a list of ten problems that should have you headed to the mechanic right away. Remember that a small expense now will be a major expense later if left untreated.

1. Warning lights

All modern vehicles are equipped with warning lights that tell you when something is wrong internally. Some cars indicate the need for an oil change with a specific oil change light, others use the more general “check engine” light. Either way, if you see one of these lights, get your vehicle to a shop ASAP.

2. Oil smell

If you’ve smelled it once, you’ll never forget it. The smell of oil burning is a noxious, overpowering odor that tends to stick with you all day. If oil is burning, that means it’s leaking. If it’s leaking, you’ve got a problem. Take it in.

3. Vibrating on Flat Surfaces

Your car is designed to ride smooth over most road surfaces. If it vibrates while riding over smooth roadways, that indicates a problem with the wheels or the suspension. The best case scenario is that you’re in need of a tire balancing. Worst case scenario would be some bad bushings. Have it looked at.

4. Stalling out

If your vehicle starts stalling while you’re driving, it could be any number of problems. Cross your fingers it’s something as small as a loose spark plug or clogged fuel filter. These are small, easy-to-fix problems. However, stalling could indicate a much more significant problem.

5. Black oil on the dipstick

Even when it’s been driven on for a few thousand miles, your engine oil should be relatively transparent and gold-to-brown on the dipstick. Dark brown, black or opaque oil means that the oil is burning or it is being contaminated with dirt or grime. This can lead to major problems. Don’t ignore it.

6. Overheating

Modern cars rarely overheat. With all the advancements in coolants and diagnostic technology, if a car’s engine is getting too hot it’s a sign of a significant problem.

Most often, this arises from having too little oil or too little oil pressure in the engine. This means the parts aren’t properly lubricated and therefore generate lots of heat and friction.

7. Slow to start

If your engine is having a hard time “turning over” when you try to start it, this usually signals the need for a new battery. Usually you’ll see the dash lights flickering on and off as you try to start. This is because the battery is connected and has some “juice” left in it, but not enough to start the car.

Ask your mechanic to find the perfect battery for your vehicle.

8. Smoke from the exhaust

Contemporary cars will not blow smoke out of the exhaust. On a cold day you might see water vapor coming out of the tailpipe.

However, if you see actual smoke coming out of the exhaust, it’s a sign something is burning in the engine. This is usually oil and it means you have an oil leak somewhere. Don’t wait for it to get worse.

9. “Shift flares” or slow shifting

You should never have trouble shifting if you drive an automatic. Automatic transmissions are designed to shift at the optimal point in the torque curve.

Sometimes cars experience “shift flares” where they don’t shift as they are supposed to. This is when the car revs up to a very high RPM before actually shifting.

This could mean that you need a transmission fluid change or have a much more serious problem. Have it looked at by your mechanic right away.

10. Noisy engine

You should be well aware of what your engine sounds like normally. If it sounds noisier than its supposed to, you have a problem. Often this is the result of low oil and parts not being properly lubed as a result.

This can be tremendously damaging to your vehicle. Make sure you get it seen by a mechanic.  


It really does pay to stay on top of your maintenance. It might be a good idea to keep a separate fund for car maintenance, so that you can keep up with it as regularly and immediately as possible.

If you’re buying a new car, consider an extended maintenance plan. Paying for all your services up front will mean you’ll be less hesitant to take it in when it needs it.

Whatever you do, take care of your car and it will take care of you. For more tips and advice, keep up with the Strutmasters blog, filled with wonderful information and updated weekly.

How Often You Need a Transmission Fluid Change (and How Much You Should Pay for It)

transmission-fluid-strutmasters

At Strutmasters we are serious about fluid maintenance. The fluids in your car keep everything running smooth. Without them, you’d break down almost immediately.

Likewise, your car’s automatic transmission is what allows it to change gears and keep the engine running in its optimal gear for the speed and road conditions. So, it should go without saying that it is important to stay on top of your transmission fluid maintenance.

How Often Should I Change the Fluid?



This is another one of those that we just don’t have a standard answer for. The answer here is really, “it depends.” It can range anywhere from every 15,000 miles to “never.”

Most manufacturers recommend you first change your automatic transmission fluid between 60,000-100,000 miles and at intervals of 30,000 miles after that. This is one of those times you unfortunately do need to do a bit of reading.

Automatic transmissions are built in many different ways. Your manufacturer has put your vehicle through rigorous testing and should have a good answer that is specific to your vehicle.


How Much Is It Gonna Cost Me?



While the answer to anything transmission-related might seem like “how much ‘ya got?” regular maintenance isn’t going to break the bank.

When changing the transmission fluid, you will also need to change the transmission fluid filter. This typically runs about one-and-a-half to two hours worth of labor, which should cost you between $120-$160 in most places. The fluid and filter should cost around $50 purchased at retail prices.

All in all, you’re looking at a total cost of around $150-$215. It’s not cheap, but a quick google search of replacement transmissions for your vehicle should be plenty to motivate you to just bite the bullet and get it serviced regularly.


Is It Something I Can Do at Home?



Again, it depends.

This isn’t one of those maintenance projects you use to dip your toes into DIY auto repair. There is a decent amount of disassembly that needs to be done. This means you’ll need proper tools and a good working environment. If you’ve changed your oil before, you’re halfway there. Changing the transmission fluid is a little trickier just due to where the components tend to be located.

Also, unlike the motor oil, most transmission fluid reservoirs don’t have a drain plug. This means you’re in for a messy couple of hours.

It’s not an impossible task, and there are many great Youtube tutorials like this one to help you.

Just be aware of what you’re signing yourself up for before you bust out those wrenches.


With the manufacturing quality and technology what it is today, your automatic transmission should have a long and productive life with proper maintenance. Regular monitoring and care of your transmission fluid will save you thousands of dollars down the road.

For more great car care tips, stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog.

Leave It To The Mechanic: Car Maintenance You Should Never DIY

If you’re a fan of Strutmasters or a regular reader of the blog, we don’t need to tell you how much we love DIYers. In fact, our entire business model is based around saving customers money. We do this by making a product you can safely and easily install at home without being a professional mechanic. 


However, there are simply just some car jobs that should always be left to the professionals. Many problems require specific machines to diagnose or repair. Many simply require a professional lift and shop-grade tools. Some jobs require a kind of technical knowledge of “under the hood” that you won’t have unless you are a trained mechanic.

Here are some of those items.


1. Tire rotate and balance



You can absolutely put your car up on a jack and rotate your wheels. If you know how to change a tire, you can do this part with relative ease. However, one of the most important parts of this service is the balancing, which requires special equipment to do.

Unbalanced tires can lead to all sorts of problems from reduced gas mileage to additional wear and tear on the suspension to reduced maneuverability and handling. Add to that the fact that a tire mechanic can do the same job in a fraction of the time and it clearly makes more sense to just take it in.

Many companies offer free rotations and balances for the lifetime of the tires if you bought them from that company. Others offer lifetime balance and rotation plans for less than $100. This is a good investment.


2. Inside the engine repairs



The old saying that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” probably applies to cars more than almost anything else. It wasn’t that long ago that some basic mechanical knowledge would allow one to pop the hood, take an engine apart and fix whatever was wrong.

 

Nowadays, however, engines have gotten more sophisticated and more computer-driven. It takes a mechanic with intricate knowledge of systems and very expensive diagnostic equipment to fix.

When you try to fix internal issues yourself, you run the risk of tripping or accidentally disabling a number of sensors that help diagnose issues with your vehicle. This could lead to expensive false positives or problems going unrecognized in your car.

3. Filling up the A/C



Your air conditioner is acting up again. Just grab a can of freon and go to work, right? Wrong.

Your car’s A/C unit is a closed system, which means if you’re low on freon you have a leak. At the very best, adding freon to the system will just mean you’ll need to add more soon. At worst, your A/C unit’s compressor may also be leaking lube and a jump start of the compressor would burn it out very quickly.

Take your car to your mechanic to examine your A/C and repair it properly.


4. “Check Engine” light



More than likely, the problem is not simply with the light itself (although, if it is, celebrate cause you got lucky!). Though it may be tempting to reach under the hood and pull a few wires to turn off the light, resist the urge. A check engine light is no joke.

Modern auto shops have precise diagnostic tools that can read the codes coming out of your car’s computer and find the exact problem. Whereas in the past you may have had to pay for a mechanic to dig around and find a problem, that diagnostic can now be done with precision in a matter of minutes.

Your car will not pass an inspection with the check engine light on, nor will it pass an inspection if the light has been disabled. The earlier you get your check engine problem worked on, the cheaper it will be to fix it.


5. Air suspensions



Air suspensions, as we’ve covered, ride great until they don’t. Then they’re a hotbed of mechanical issues.

Air ride suspensions are complex systems that rely on computers to get the job done. Though the most common problem in an air suspension is a leaky air bag, even those are very difficult to repair or replace well.

Your car’s suspension is one of its primary safety features. You don’t want to risk driving on an improperly mounted or aligned suspension.

This is one of the many, many reasons we do what we do here at Strutmasters. Not only are standard coilover suspensions more reliable than air suspensions, they are also simple enough to work on and install at home.

 

If you’re experiencing problems with your air suspension and are handy with a wrench, a Strutmasters conversion kit is the best possible move you can make. You’ll save yourself thousands of dollars and countless headaches.


At Strutmasters, we’re from the old school. We like to change our own oil and do the basic car maintenance many folks leave up to their dealer or mechanic. But it’s important to recognize when you’re doing more harm than good tooling around under the hood of your car. Know when to hand a job off to a professional and you’ll enjoy the DIY repairs you DO choose to do much more.

For more car care advice and tips, check the always-useful Strutmasters blog.

Boost Your Gas Mileage With These Easy Tricks

The price of gas is going up again which means getting the most out of your gas mileage is becoming more important. You could go out and buy a more fuel efficient vehicle, but that’s not realistic for most people. There are several simple ways you can increase your MPG with the car you currently own.

Here are some of the best tips we’ve found so far:

1. Remove weight



If you’re like us, you probably have some things rolling around in your trunk from months or even years ago. Take it out if you don’t need it!

Additional weight means the car needs more power to get to and maintain highway speeds. If you can lighten your load by even a hundred or so pounds, you’ll notice a difference in your wallet almost immediately. 

2. Reduce braking and accelerating



This is one of those times where it’s helpful to understand a little physics. It takes far less energy to keep something rolling than it does to start it or stop it. When you apply that to your car, it makes sense why maintaining a steady speed saves you a lot of gas over braking and accelerating.

Constant braking and accelerating is a hard habit to break for many drivers. This is especially true for those with any amount of road anxiety. Do your best to allow your car to maintain a steady speed. Consider using the cruise control when you’re on the highway.

3. Cut down on wind resistance



It sure is nice to cruise around with the windows down or sunroof open and enjoy a beautiful day, but it can seriously eat into your fuel economy.

Cars are engineered to be aerodynamic. This means they create as little wind resistance as possible to decrease the amount of power needed to keep moving forward. When you open the windows or sunroof, it “breaks the seal” of the car and allows air to flow into the car and provide resistance.

By all means, enjoy that sunny afternoon drive in the fresh air, but know that there is a tradeoff between that and optimal gas mileage.

4. Take a look at your tires



Believe it or not, your tires can be one of the biggest contributors to your fuel efficiency. Underinflated tires, especially, can severely reduce your gas mileage. Just think about when you were a kid and got a flat tire on your bike how much more effort it took to get it rolling. That’s how your engine feels when your tires are low.

Tires that are not balanced also reduce gas mileage, among other things. As we’ve mentioned before, tire maintenance is one of the simplest ways to ensure the longevity and performance of your vehicle. Pay close attention.

5. Plan your route



If you live outside an urban area, chances are you’re flogging all over town on one of those errand days. While this isn’t necessarily the fuel efficiency of your car we’re dealing with, driving fewer miles will certainly save on your fuel costs.

If you have multiple stops to make while you’re out, take a few minutes to plan your journey before heading out. There are now many apps for both iOS and Android phones that can help. They allow you to plug in a series of addresses and get an optimized route with directions.

You’d be surprised how quickly saving that 5-10 miles a week adds up in fuel savings.


Being efficient with your gas not only saves you money, it benefits everyone around you. None of these tips will cause any dramatic changes to your lifestyle or driving habits. In fact, most of them are just plain common sense and will improve your overall experience in addition to saving you money.

For more money-saving car care tips and practical guides, stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog.

What Bats Have to Do With Your Car’s Parking Sensor

Parallel parking has long been one of the more frustrating aspects of driving a car. With the advent of parking sensors in the early 2000s, however, the job got a lot easier. No longer are drivers forced to twist their necks and make an educated guess at the distance between them and the car or wall behind them.

Countless bumpers have been saved over the last decade and a half since the parking sensor went mainstream, but how do they work?


The answer has something to do with bats.

The Ultrasonic Parking Sensor



It is common for engineers to look to nature for inspiration. Velcro, for example, was invented when a Swiss engineer took a closer look at the seeds of a burdock plant, known around our way as “hitchhikers.” He noticed the hook structure and then replicated it using nylon to create what we know today as Velcro.

So, when engineers were trying to develop a system that would help drivers locate something they can’t see, like the front bumper of a car behind them, they looked to an animal that needs to navigate without the benefit of sight–the bat.

Bats use a system called echolocation to navigate their worlds, since they are effectively blind and often move around in the dark. They emit high-frequency sounds and then use the time it takes to reverberate back into their ears to determine how far away they are from an obstacle.

Ultrasonic parking sensors work in almost exactly the same way. They emit high-frequency sound waves which are inaudible to the human ear. Then, a sensor detects how quickly those waves take to get back to the car. It also detects any changes in the sound wave. The sensor then triggers an audible alarm to alert the driver to the distance.

The Electromagnetic Parking Sensor


More and more, manufacturers are moving to electromagnetic parking sensors. They are not dissimilar to ultrasonic sensors, but they emit electromagnetic waves rather than sound waves. This has an advantage over ultrasonic sensors in that they can better moving objects–an important feature for backing out of parking spaces in bigger lots where cars may suddenly appear behind you.

What Does the Future Hold?



The future of parking–and really of all driving–is full automation. Already vehicles like BMW’s i3 feature fully-automated parking, with 360-degree cameras, sensors, and even lasers that guide the vehicle into a parking space.

As we move towards self-driving cars, however, parking will become fully automated. Beyond that, it may become a thing of the past altogether. Some futurists believe that once cars become fully automated we may move away from private ownership and towards an on-demand model. Imagine that all cars were Ubers and far less expensive. Since they would continually drive around picking up passengers and taking them to their destination, there would be no need to park at all except to refuel or recharge. So many exciting possibilities.

For more car knowledge, stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog.

Clever Car Cleaning Hacks You Need In Your Life

Keeping your car clean doesn’t just keep it looking nice, it protects your paint and interior, helping it hold its value.

The car cleaning industry is huge. There are thousands upon thousands of products made especially for car care and you can spend limitless amounts of money on them. But at Strutmasters we are all about saving our customers time and money with the right solutions. So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite family car care secrets.

The power of WD-40



A wise man once said that one only needs two tools in their toolbox, WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and it shouldn’t, use duct tape.

Now that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but WD-40 is some pretty useful stuff. But did you know it makes an excellent cleaning solvent?

Though it’s exact composition is a closely-guarded secret, WD-40 is mineral oil-based. Mineral oil is a common ingredient in many household cleaners for things like wood or metals. This is because it keeps these surfaces moisturized, reducing how abrasive the other ingredients in the cleaner are.

You can use WD-40 to clean almost any hard surface in your car. It works great on plastic, vinyl or even leather. You can even use it on your car’s exterior because it doesn’t strip paint.

So go ahead and stock up on those blue cans. Now you know even more uses for that miracle stuff.

Finally get those cupholders clean



Nasty, grubby cupholders. Everyone has them. Whether it’s coffee or Mountain Dew you’re spilling, it always ends up getting gummy, gross and hard to clean.

Fear not! This tried and true method makes cleaning them easier than ever.


Simply take an old sock and put it around the bottom of a glass or mug that fits in your cup holder. Then, apply something like Goo Gone or the aforementioned WD-40 to the sock. Set the sock and cup down into the cupholder and twist it around a few times.


Now your cupholders are ready for their next spills!

Cleaning headlamps with toothpaste



At your local superstore or auto parts store you’ll see any number of “headlight restoration kits.” These definitely work but they also definitely cost way more than you need to spend.

Simply take an old rag–terry cloth rags work the best because they are mildly abrasive–and apply a large dab of toothpaste. Scrub the toothpaste onto the headlights, using a little muscle and a circular motion.

Allow the toothpaste to sit on the headlights for a few minutes. Then, use some warm water and a clean rag to wipe it off. Repeat if necessary and save yourself from spending money on one of those fancy headlight restoration kits.



Removing pet evidence



We love our furry friends. Life is just better with them. However, we’re not as in love with the things they leave behind in our car, namely their odor and their hair.

While there are lots of companies who will gladly sell you specialty products, you can take care of both of these issues with things you may already have.

Before you do anything, give your upholstery a once-over with a vacuum. If you don’t have a a battery-powered vacuum for your car, or one that can be plugged into your car’s power adapter, consider it. They’re not very expensive and often small enough to just stow away under the seat or in the corner of the trunk.

To get rid of pet odors from your upholstery, you’ll need to dip into your liquor cabinet. Not for a drink, mind you, but to act as a solvent for cleaning. Fill a spray bottle with three parts water to one part vodka.

Open all the doors of the car and spray the seats with the solution. Next, while it’s still damp, use a squeegee like you’d use on your windshield, and press down into the cushion dragging the squeegee along. This will roll the pet hair up into a little ball.

Afterwards, vacuum the upholstery again. You may need to repeat this once or twice.

Be sure to let your car air out sufficiently before driving, as having it reek of alcohol will probably get you the wrong type of attention from the authorities should you be pulled over.



Find more money-saving car care tips like these on the Strutmasters blog.

The Motor Oil FAQs – Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

At some point while learning to drive, you certainly had the importance of your car’s motor oil drilled into your head.

These days, between digital monitoring systems, computer records at your mechanic and the extended life of advanced oils, it’s not something we think about regularly anymore. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t good to be up to snuff on some good general knowledge.

Here is a list of FAQs about motor oil:

Q: How can I tell if my motor oil is still good?

Many modern vehicles have monitoring systems in place that tell you when the oil needs changing. However, it’s always good to know how to check these things yourself. Every vehicle will still have a dipstick that you can use to check the oil level and quality.

Pull the dipstick out and look for the fill line. The oil will leave residue to indicate whether it is full enough (or too full!). You can check the quality of the oil by looking at the color and feeling it. Healthy oil will be a clear reddish gold and feel smooth. Oil that needs changing will be darker brown to black and feel grainy to the touch.

Q: Should I be worried if my oil is black?

While it’s probably time for an oil change, this isn’t something to panic about. Black engine oil just means that it is doing what it is designed to do–keep your engine components lubed and clean.

However, just as you wouldn’t want to wash dishes with dirty water, dirty oil won’t do as good of a job as clean oil.

Q: How often should I change my oil?

The answer used to be pretty standard–every 3,000 miles. Over the last few decades, though, advances in engine and oil technology has changed that.

Depending on your car and the type of oil you are buying, you can now go 5,000 to even 15,000 miles without an oil change. The packaging on the oil you buy and your owner’s manual should provide all the answers you need about suggested timing.

There is no replacement for regular observation and maintenance, however. Changes in seasons or road conditions may significantly shorten the lifespan of certain motor oils. Be sure to check your own oil regularly.

Q: Can I change my own oil at home?

Yes! A thousand times yes! It wasn’t that long ago that it was common for people to change their own oil. It is some of the most basic, regular maintenance you can do and it will bring you closer to your vehicle.

If you are generally handy and have a few tools, the job shouldn’t take you more than an hour. Just be careful to make sure you are using the correct oil for your car (consult your owner’s manual), you’re not cross-threading any parts when replacing them, and that you follow all state and local laws regarding disposal of the old oil.

All that said, it is also relatively inexpensive to get an oil change these days. There is never a bad time to check in with your mechanic and ask him to look over your car. An oil change is a great opportunity to ask while they’ve already got the hood open.


Q: Does motor oil in the bottle go bad?

The short answer is “yes, but it probably hasn’t.”

Engine oil typically has a shelf life of up to five years. In all honesty, it can probably go much longer than that. If the bottle is stored in extreme temperatures or extreme humidity, it may experience a noticeable drop in quality.

A good rule of thumb is that if you remember buying the oil, it’s probably still fine. Most bottles have a “best if used by” date stamp on them, too.

Q: Where should I get my oil changed?

If you’ve decided to get your oil changed by a professional, you can choose pretty much anywhere that does any kind of car service. There are several chains that offer quick walk-in oil change services. These are mostly very professional and inexpensive.

You may want to consider going to a local mechanic or your dealer’s service shop. The oil change is a great opportunity to look over the car since you’ve already got the car in the repair bay. The better your mechanic knows you and your vehicle, the better they can serve you and help save you money in the long run.

For more car care tips and knowledge, visit the Strutmasters blog.

Be Prepared: Pack the Ultimate Road Trip Kit

With the frost finally lifting for the season it’s time to get out and see the country. There is no more iconic way to explore this beautiful land than the classic American road trip. With a national network of scenic highways and byways, the journey is often also the destination.

The road is a great place to travel but a pretty awful place to run into problems. A well-prepared emergency kit can help keep you and your passengers safe and headed towards your destination. Here are some of the essentials you should pack for your trip:

First Aid kit
A basic First Aid kit can be found at pretty much any convenience store or supermarket. Make sure to have at least bandages, sterile gauze, and rubbing alcohol.

 

Basic tool kit
Pack pliers, screwdrivers to fit all the screw heads used in your car, an adjustable wrench and some sort of sharp blade.

Blankets
The “space blankets” used by emergency response teams are great because they pack down small and work really well to hold in heat.

Jumper cables
Even better, you can now buy rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with jumper cables. Charged properly, you should be able to jump your car without another vehicle. These batteries can also charge your other devices.

Motor oil
Bring at least a quart of motor oil in case you need to top up.

Coolant
Especially if you are driving long stretches of desert highway or other hot, dry areas. Bring at least a gallon just in case.

Tire sealant
Fix-a-Flat and other brands of emergency tire sealant can be a lifesaver. Flat tires are the number one reason for roadside assistance calls. Many of these flats can be fixed with these tire repair kits.

Food and water
Pack at least two bottles of water for each person in the car. Make sure to pack nutrient and calorie-dense food that doesn’t spoil easy, like granola or fitness bars.

 

Pen and paper
You may need to write down a phone number or something else when your phone’s battery life is at a premium. Writing things down on paper ensures you’ll have that information when you need it.

 

Most car manufacturers offer their own roadside assistance programs these days which you can purchase from the dealer. There are also third-party options like AAA. These services are always worth the money. They are often less than $100 per year. If you need towing even once during the year, it pays for itself. Plus, it is hard to put a price on peace of mind.

With tips like these and others you’ll find on the Strutmasters blog, you’ll be sure to have a safe, happy and fun road trip season.

How to Choose the Right Battery For Your Car

You go out to your car in the morning, cup of coffee in hand, ready to conquer the day. You put the key in the ignition and…nothing. Maybe a little whine. Maybe a rather pathetic attempt to turn over. Maybe just the indicator lights coming on.

Your battery is dead. Time to replace it, probably.

Not all car batteries are created equal. Here are a few steps to determining first, whether you need a new battery and if so, choosing the best possible option for your car.

1. Test your current battery



You may not actually need a new battery just yet. There are many reasons why your current one wouldn’t respond while it still has plenty of “juice” left in it. Maybe there’s a loose connection. Maybe it just powered down because a cabin light or headlight was left on and it just needs a jump.

Most auto parts stores offer free battery testing, but that does you very little good if you’re stuck with a car that won’t start. These days, battery testing gizmos are readily and cheaply available. It’s one of those things that’s just good to keep around, especially if your car or battery is getting on in years.

If your battery tester tells you it’s time for a new one, move on to step two.

2. Get your numbers correct



There are a vast number of different batteries made to fit different cars. Some are more standard than others.

The battery itself should display the size and voltage, but your best bet is to consult your owner’s manual. If you don’t have your owner’s manual, a quick search of your vehicle’s make and model should tell you what you need. Likewise, many auto parts stores have a digital and print catalog of what parts fit your specific car.

Note that sometimes different engine sizes in the same line of models use different batteries. Make sure that you buy the correct one for your vehicle. The wrong size or voltage can fry your vehicle’s electronics, which would cost you a lot more than just a new battery to repair.

3. Do your research



With search engines and infinite information at our fingertips, there is no excuse not to do your research these days. Try entering “best battery for [make, model, year]” into your favorite search engine and see what pops up.

Beware that much of the content online, especially around consumer products, is sponsored. Make sure to get a second opinion from someone who isn’t trying to sell you something. Ask your mechanic what they would use, or hit online forums dedicated to owners of cars like yours.

The right battery will last significantly longer than one that is made of cheaper materials, so consider whether it’s more economical to buy a cheaper one now that you may have to replace 2-3 years earlier than one that is more expensive.

4. Warranties are good



Many batteries carry a warranty. These often vary in length. Consider buying the battery with the longest warranty if they are relatively the same in other factors. This will ensure that if anything happens, you won’t be stuck shelling out another $100-$200 sooner than expected.

5. Replace it (correctly)


Replacing a car battery yourself is one of the easier DIY auto repair tasks. If you know how to take off and put on the terminals, you can replace a battery.

Note that batteries are far, far heavier than they appear. Be prepared to lift about 10-15 pounds without a very secure grip. Always wear gloves.

It is highly advisable to clean the area around the battery thoroughly while you have the space to do so. In most cases, a simple wipe-down with a clean rag will get all the grease and grime from around the housing. This will help keep the new terminals clean and the connection solid.

Here’s a short video to help you if you want to try and install it yourself:


The install is also a quick and easy job for a mechanic, and you shouldn’t have to pay for more than half an hour of labor to do so. Consider going to a mechanic and having them look over the car while you’re there.

 


Maintaining your car’s battery is essential to keeping its electronic system healthy. It is always better to replace it before it needs a new one than after. Keeping a strong, healthy battery in your car will bring you peace of mind and ensure that you make it where you need to be on time–no morning surprises!



For more car care advice and maintenance tips, check out the Strutmasters blog.