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Is Your A/C Ready for Summer? Hot Tips for a Cool Car

air-conditioner-strutmasters

This summer is on the books to be one of the hottest in recent memory, meaning you’ll be asking a lot of your car’s air conditioner.

There are many things that can go wrong with your air conditioner, but the effect is consistent. The car will not cool down as its supposed to.

Below is a readiness test that you can use at home to determine whether or not your air conditioner is up to the task this summer, or if it needs some service.


1. Road test the air conditioner in car

This, of course, may seem like a no-brainer, but it is an important step. Take your car out and take note of how the air conditioner behaves. Is it running but not cold? Is it not pushing out enough air? Try to be detailed in your notes.

2. Check the cabin filter

Sometimes there may simply be something stuck in the cabin filter, or it’s time to replace it. Like any air filter, your car’s air conditioner operates best when the filter is clean and free of obstructions. This is a cheap and easy fix so it’s good to check this first.

3. Check the hoses

The hoses which carry cold air into the car are often made of high-grade rubber. Under abnormal stress, these can tear or break and allow air to escape. This will prevent your air conditioner from operating effectively.

Make note of the leaks and use good, strong tape to cover them while you source some new ones or take it to the dealer.

4. Refresh the refrigerant

This is one of those things you can easily do at home that would cost you a fortune at a mechanic. A kit like this one will make the job easy.

Here’s a great video to demonstrate how to refresh your refrigerant using these products.

5. Check the compressor

Note: This step is a little more advanced. Use caution or take it to a pro if you’re not comfortable.

The air conditioner in your car uses a compressor to generate the air needed to cool your car. This compressor is a complex little motor that can have lots of little, hard-to-solve problems. Fortunately, troubleshooting those problems isn’t too difficult.

This video does a great job of explaining how to test your car’s A/C compressor.

 

Going through this checklist will eliminate any air conditioner issues that you may be able to solve yourself, saving your the money and trouble of going to a mechanic. One of the silver linings of A/C problems is that you will know immediately whether or not you’ve sufficiently repaired it.

Stay cool this summer and stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog for more great car care advice.

 

How That Trip to the Beach Affects Your Car

beach-car-strutmasters

The sound of the ocean and gulls, the smell of sunscreen and saltwater in the air, the feeling of the sun on your skin; yes, beach season is upon us! But before you pack your cooler and the family into the car, it’s worth knowing a thing or two about how a trip to the beach can affect your vehicle.

Here are some of the ways your car may be affected by time down at the coast and how you can prevent too much damage from occurring.

External damage

You may notice that houses at the beach, even if they are relatively new, can look pretty weathered. This is because saltwater in the air is very corrosive.

Salt in the air and seaspray acts like those microbeads in your toothpaste or body wash. Tiny, gritty little particles being pushed along by the ocean breeze can scratch and wear down paint very quickly.

There is also a bit of chemistry involved. On its own, salt doesn’t affect metal very much. But when combined with water, it becomes an excellent conductor and leads to rapid oxidation–known commonly as rust.

So in effect, salty moist air can, over time, strip the paint from your vehicle and then cause the exposed metals to rust very quickly. Not good.

If you’re just headed down for a week or so washing your car after your trip will suffice. If you plan on spending an extended time near the coast, make sure to wash your car at least twice a month to keep your paint in tact.

Internal damage

While it may seem like a nice idea to bring the beach home with you, it can be detrimental to your car.

Driving on the beach presents an opportunity for sand to get under the hood of your vehicle. Your tires can pick up sand in the treads and then kick that back up into the chassis. Salt is incredibly abrasive, especially when it combines with any kind of fluid or oil.

Your car’s interior may also suffer from people bringing sand in. More than just an annoyance, sand can scrape and destroy fabric and leather seats, seriously diminishing the resale value of your car.

Avoid driving on the beach when possible. It sure is fun, but it’s bad for the beach and bad for your car. If you do need to drive on the beach, see if you can use a hose to rinse off everything under the hood after you get back.

 

Sun damage

Usually the sun is nothing to worry about. Sure, it will fade your paint and dash over time but that’s just the way of life for a car. Unless you plan on moving to northern England, there just isn’t much you can do about it.

Where sun really does some damage, however, is at the beach. Sunlight and heat cause the pores in your car’s paint to expand. While this isn’t a problem on its own, it means that salty air has an easier time working its way into the paint. This will lead to more rapid corrosion.

Try to park your car in a garage or under the house if its on stilts. Also, as mentioned previously, make sure to wash your car after your trip.


With a bit of prevention and some after-care you should be able to enjoy some time at the coast worry-free. As always, the first and most important step is awareness.

For more helpful tips and advice, head to the Strutmasters blog.


Father’s Day Gift Guide: For the Car Guy Dad in Your Life

So you haven’t gotten the Dad in your life a gift yet. Don’t worry! There’s still time.

This year, forget the cheesy ties or button-down shirts. If Dad is a car guy, here are a few things that can make this Father’s Day a memorable one for him.


Accessories

Car accessories make a fantastic gift–something someone might want but might be hesitant to buy themselves. Father’s Day is a great opportunity to get that knick-knack he’s been eyeing or surprise him with something he didn’t know he wanted.

These days, there are a million and one gadgets you can get for your car that serve many useful purposes.

Personally, we’re big fans of this portable jump starter. It’s just one less thing to worry about when you’re driving off into the wilderness.

Here’s a nice list of today’s hottest gadgets if you’re having trouble thinking of something.

Proper cleaning

A clean car is one of the best possible gifts you can get for Dad. Look no further than a professional detailing to really make his ride sparkle.

Are they a “type A” that is a little on obsessive side about keeping their car clean? Then they’ll appreciate the attention to detail and a professional cleaning job. Messier dads may see how their car looks clean and never want to go back to a dirty car filled with junk ever again!

Look on discount sites like Groupon where you should find several inexpensive options for a detail. You may also find mobile detailing services which come to you. This may be an added bonus as there’s less coordination and time needed on dad’s part to get the job done.

Maintenance packages

Many companies like Discount Tire offer tire protection or road hazard protection packages. These plans are a type of insurance that you pay for once and will replace or repair your tires for free if they are damaged under normal conditions. Many of them come with free lifetime balance and rotations as part of the deal.

You may also be able to find deals like oil change, cleaning or brake maintenance packages, too. Dad will love being able to cross anything off his list of worries.

Car club membership

Car clubs, the most notable being AAA, have a lot to offer their members. From trip planning to travel and accommodation discounts, there many reasons to join.

One of the biggest perks from these memberships, though, is the free towing. Many memberships offer at least 100 miles of free towing, if not unlimited. If used just once, the membership will have paid for itself several times over.


Quality time on the road with Dad

This is probably the best gift you can give. Has the dad in your life mentioned some place they’d like to go? Have they been interested in food or attractions that aren’t available in your town?

Consider planning out a road trip for you and him, whether it’s just a few towns over or a few days away. It’s a great opportunity for him to spend time with his car and his loved ones in one place!

In the information age when we’re all moving at light speed, finding quality time to spend together is difficult. More than anything, this will show him how much you care about him and want to spend time with him.

There are loads of great resources online to help with road trip planning. Roadtrippers.com is one of our personal favorites. If you are a AAA member you can also stop by one of their offices for free planning help.


Whatever you decide to do for Dad this Father’s Day, make sure it’s from the heart. For most dads, spending some quality time over a meal or just sitting around the living room is valuable, especially as kids get older and move away. Whether it’s a new dash cam or simply a card, make sure to let him know you care this year.

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

Keeping Your Cool: Protecting Your Car From the Summer Heat

So you’ve made it through the winter with your vehicle unscathed. That means it’s time to relax until November, right?

Wrong. Summer, unfortunately, comes with its own hazards for automobiles. The heat and, depending on where you live, humidity can wreak havoc on your battery, fluids and other components.

Follow these tips to ensure your car stays in summer shape through to fall.

1. Replace old coolant



It says it right there in the name. The main challenge you’ll face in summer temperatures is keeping your engine from overheating. That is the sole function of coolant.

Coolant is inexpensive, found everywhere and easy to replace at home. It is vital to your engine’s health. Here’s a nice, easy instructional video to help you change out your coolant.

2. Check those tires!



Yes, checking your tires pops up again and again in the Strutmasters blog, but we still can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take care of them.

When your car is operating normally, the tires are the only part of the car that actually touches the road. This should clue you in to how important they are.

Dramatic temperature changes, like the ones that happen between summer days and summer nights, can significantly alter your tire pressure. Driving on tires that are improperly inflated will cause them to wear unevenly and not perform as they are supposed to. Not only is this bad for your vehicle in the long term, it can also reduce your ability safely stop or maneuver your care immediately.

3. Pay attention to your battery



Your battery is one of the most likely components to feel the effects of the summer sun. High temperatures can speed up the corrosion of your battery, cause water to evaporate out of its fluid and can actually drain the battery of its charge.

To combat this, carefully look over your battery every so often. Inspect for any spots where it might have a crack, a leak or be bulged out or misshapen. If you notice any of these issues, replace the battery ASAP.

Use a toothbrush or kitchen scouring pad to clean the battery terminals and the areas immediately around them. The oxidation should come off fairly easily, but be sure to brush away from your body and double-check to make sure the car is completely off before you do it.

4. Give your belts, hoses and wires a regular once-over



Any time you pop the hood on your car is a good time to look over your belts, hoses and wires to see if anything is frayed or broken. Excessive heat can lead to a more rapid breakdown of these components. This quick visual check shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two and can save you a lot of grief in the future.

Next time you get your oil changed, ask your mechanic to spend some time looking everything over in more detail. This is a great chance to spot a small problem before it becomes a big one.

5. Keep an eye on your oil



Too much heat, which is exactly what you get in summer, can cause your car to go through oil more quickly than normal. Low oil in the summer can be devastating on an engine.

Keep an eye on your oil pressure as well as the temperature to make sure it doesn’t get too low or too hot. Take a minute whenever you fill up to check the dipstick to check the level and quality of the oil. If it starts to appear too dark, ignore the regular interval and go get your oil changed right away.

6. Keep your engine free of junk



Needless to say, a lot of stuff falls out of the trees during spring and early summer. No matter how well they designed your car, some of that junk will find its way into your engine block.

Any foreign object, especially flammable ones, are a risk to your car’s performance and longevity. Take a minute whenever you fill up to pick out any leaves or other debris that might have found its way under your hood.  


Summer is a great time to drive a car. With extra hours of daylight and a country filled with wonderful vacation destinations, it’s worth waiting all year for. Keeping your car healthy throughout the year will mean you’ve got one less thing standing between you and your perfect road trip or vacation.

For more car care tips, check the Strutmasters blog.

Has Your Car Been Recalled? How to Find Out Now

Did you know that some or all of your car may be recalled? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 51 million recalls of cars in 2015 alone! People in the automobile industry expect this number to continue to rise as government regulators get more aggressive and as public complaints get easier to lodge with the internet and social media.

How does a recall happen?



Ideally, the manufacturer notices a problem before it becomes too widespread and issues an immediate recall of the affected vehicles.

In some cases, however, consumer groups have had to petition the NHTSA to pressure manufacturers into issuing a recall when the company has tried to ignore complaints.

In either case, it is best to stay on top of potential recall news, especially if you suspect there might be a problem with your vehicles.

How do I know if my car has been recalled?



Car manufacturers are required by law to report any and all claims to both the government and owners of the vehicles affected. However, past history has shown that auto manufacturers can be slow or negligent to report these issues.

Beyond that, with all the junk mail and email people get these days, notice of recall may not even reach the car owner even if the manufacturer does their due diligence reporting a recall.

So how do you know if your vehicle has been recalled? Sometimes a simple web search provides a satisfying, immediate answer. Other times, you might end up more confused than you were when you started.

Fortunately, the NHTSA has provided two easy-to-use online tools to help you find out if your car has been recalled.

 

Recalls Look-up by VIN tool – Check to see if your car has a problem that falls under a safety recall over the last 15 years and has not been repaired.


Recalls and defects page – Stay on top of current recall news. This site also offers a feature that allows you to receive news alerts on up to five vehicles.


At Strutmasters, we are committed to helping people get more out of their cars. With the Strutmasters blog, we offer a wide variety of maintenance tips, general knowledge and driving advice to help keep your car running great for as long as possible.

Emergency! What to Do If Your Engine Overheats

One of the scariest possible moments for a driver that doesn’t involve a collision is when an engine overheats. While an engine overheating is certainly dangerous and can absolutely ruin a car, following some basic safety precautions and keeping a level head will keep anyone safe.

What to do if your car overheats:


1. Leave the car running and turn off the A/C and any non-essential electronics like the radio. This will allow the radiator to cool the engine properly.

2. If you see flames or suspect that there may be a fire under the hood, do not open it. The additional air will spread the fire rapidly and you could be severely burned before you have time to react.

3. The car may take up to 30 minutes to properly cool down. If you suspect that the car has cooled down, touch the hood with the back of your hand lightly to get a sense for the temperature. Once it feels cool, it should be safe to open the hood.

4. Only when the engine has cooled, look to see if there is any coolant left in the tank. If there is enough to get you to the next gas station or store, you should be able to drive the car without issue. If not, do not drive your vehicle as you may damage it further. Call for a tow.


Keep calm and don’t be in a rush to drive your car after it overheats. It is likely that your vehicle will recover and be fine. Put the safety of you and your passengers first, then worry about the car.

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

How to Save Gas Money on Your Summer Road Trip

Gas is on the way up with no sign of it going back down any time soon. As we move into peak summer road trip season, gas is climbing up to nearly $3 a gallon in many places. This means fuel efficiency is becoming more important.

Tips like these are especially important for families, who don’t have the luxury of driving a tiny fuel-efficient car. Here’s just a few ways to save gas and money on your road trip this summer:

Use the A/C



The age-old debate of which is less fuel-efficient: windows down or A/C on. It has been a subject of heated discussions on countless road trips. Now, the science is in.

While your A/C does reduce your fuel efficiency a bit, it’s nowhere near as much of a drag as leaving your windows open. Modern cars are extremely aerodynamic and opening the windows pretty much ruins that.

Drive Gently



Most cars now come with live fuel-efficiency readings. This is a great way to see how your driving habits are affecting your fuel economy.

In general, maintaining speed takes far less energy than gaining speed. This means it’s best to try and maintain a steady speed, especially on the highway. That means easy on the gas, easy on the brakes. For long road trips, applying the cruise control will help tremendously.

Poor driving habits–applying gas and brakes too often and too harshly-can reduce your gas mileage by as much as 35 percent. Learn to drive more gently and it won’t take long before you notice the difference at the pump.

Keep Those Tires Pumped



Ever try pushing a wheelbarrow with a flat tire? It’s pretty much impossible. Now, imagine that wheelbarrow is a car that weighs thousands of pounds. Maybe now you understand why it’s important to keep your tires properly inflated.

The proper PSI for your tires will be listed on a sticker inside the door jamb on the driver’s side. Keep a tire gauge in your car or make use of the ones at nearly every gas station. Tires that are under inflated by even just a few PSI will see a dramatic decrease in fuel efficiency.

Rotate and Balance



Having tires and wheels properly rotated and balanced is also a major contributor to fuel efficiency.

Uneven wear on tires and unbalanced wheels means that some of the energy that could be driving the wheels will be used just to keep the car rolling straight. Think about how obnoxious it is when you get a grocery cart with a shaky wheel. That’s how your car feels when you don’t balance your wheels or rotate your tires.

Get a Tune Up



There’s really never a bad time to get a tune up, but shortly before you set off on a long road trip might be the best time.

You’d be surprised how much your air filter, for example, affects your gas mileage. Having it replaced will make a huge difference. Plus, a tune-up is a great opportunity to have your mechanic look everything over.

Don’t Fill Up Too Often



Many people like keeping their tanks at least half-full (or half-empty, depending on your disposition). While it’s comforting knowing you’ve got hundreds of miles left on the tank, filling up too often can be a real drain on your fuel economy.

For starters, every stop for gas means driving a little out of the way. It also means shutting the engine off and turning it back on again. This is when your fuel efficiency is the lowest.

In addition, an emptier tank weighs less than one that’s full. If you allow the tank to get down to ¼ full, you’ll be pulling less weight and therefore see a small uptick in gas mileage.



While no single one of these tips is going to change your financial life forever, they will certainly add up, especially if you are putting a few hundred (or thousand, if you’re really lucky) miles on the car this summer!

As always, we are big believers in making things last and saving money. For more articles about how to keep your car running in tip-top shape, follow the Strutmasters blog.

De-Coded: What Your Engine’s Error Codes Mean

The dreaded “check engine” light. You’ve seen it, and now there’s no pretending it’s not there. You’ve got no choice but to take it in, right?

Well, that’d be wise, but maybe not!

In a very wise move, the Society of Automotive Engineers agreed on some standardization of their OBD II codes for vehicles in the 1990s. This meant that with some relatively simple diagnostic equipment, mechanics could get a computer readout of what a car’s problem might be.

Since then, these codes have become indispensable for mechanics. But did you know that you don’t need to take your car to the mechanic to have the OBD II code read? You can do it for free at your local auto parts store!

That’s right. While the equipment to read these codes was once prohibitively expensive, they’re now widely available to shops and retail customers alike. You can even buy your own to make reading those codes even more convenient. Here’s a link to a large selection of these readers online:
https://www.amazon.com/Code-Readers-Scan-Tools/b?ie=UTF8&node=15707381

But the question still remains, what do those codes mean?



While some of the codes are specific to makes, models or regions, some of them are universal. The categories of these codes are as follows:

P – Powertrain (engine, emissions, transmission)
B – Body (airbags, lighting, climate control, etc.)
C – Chassis (ABS, stability controls, steering, electronic suspension, etc.)
U – Network communications (only in vehicles made after 2006)

There are many, many specific “trouble codes” for your vehicle. After reading the code, a simple web search of the code using natural language like “what does OBD II code PXXXX mean?” should yield results.

This website also has a very thorough and well-indexed listing of hundreds of common error codes.

It is important to remember that these codes are just an initial diagnostic tool designed to narrow down the search for a problem. After understanding what the code is referring to, it is important to run an “old-fashioned” diagnostic on the part or parts involved. Basically, opening up the hood and watching things run.

While you might not be able to fix your vehicle yourself after getting the code read, you should have a good idea of how immediate or severe the problem is. While it’s ideal to take your vehicle to a mechanic anytime you see a warning light, there are certainly some problems that can wait longer than others to be fixed. If money’s tight, you may benefit from knowing you can wait a few hundred miles until that next check clears.

For more cost-saving tips and general auto advice, check the Strutmasters blog early and often!

6 Habits That Are Totally Destroying Your Car

bad-habits

We all have bad habits. Some people pick their nose in public. Others might not signal properly when changing lanes. Whatever yours may be, some habits can be devastating to your car.

Here is a list of some habits that wreak havoc on your vehicle. If you find yourself being guilty of any of these, do your best to change them today!



1. Harsh driving habits


You know the type. Accelerates hard and brakes even harder, seemingly at every intersection or light. They take turns too fast and would rather break the speed limit than let you onto the interstate.

Rest assured that driving will come back to haunt them in the form of degraded brakes, a worn out suspension, and decreased fuel efficiency.

If you think you might fit this description, ease up on the gas and brakes. Give yourself plenty of time to stop and try to maintain a steady speed.

 

Also, let people onto the interstate. It’s too dangerous to be competitive.


2. Ignoring your fluids


Your vehicle employs a variety of fluids to keep everything running as efficiently as possible. These are very easy to ignore since you won’t really notice them until something’s wrong.

Your car’s manual will have very specific information about how often to check and change your fluids. We’ve also written a handy guide on fluid maintenance for your vehicle. Getting into good fluid maintenance habits will significantly increase the lifespan and performance of your car.


3. Being careless with your tires


Your tires are your car’s first and, hopefully, only contact with the road. This fact alone should convince you that you need to take your tires seriously.

Proper tire maintenance habits include checking air pressure whenever you gas up, getting your tires regularly balanced and rotated and buying new tires when they’ve worn out.

Tires that are less than ideal create a ripple effect that impacts your entire vehicle.

4. Skipping regular services


Your car’s manufacturer suggests certain services at specific intervals for a reason. A car is made up of thousands of parts, many of which are moving parts. This means they will need to be serviced every now and again.

Even the best manufactured cars in the world still need regular maintenance and tune-ups. Things come loose or overheat. Uneven wear on your tires could be putting a lot of strain on one side of the vehicle.

Take the opportunity to have a professional assess and correct that. You’ll be glad you did when your vehicle is still in great shape years later.

 

5. Not washing your car


While this may seem like a purely visual choice, leaving dirt, grime and especially salt from sea air on your paint can lead to permanent damage to your vehicle.

Pollutants in the air can seriously degrade your paint and lead to rust on the body of your car. Not only does this look bad, it will cause a huge drop in your car’s value.

In addition, leaving your windshields and windows dirty can reduce visibility and cause a dangerous driving situation.


6. Dismissing the check engine light


No, it’s probably not just the light itself. While we all feel a sense of dread when see it, the check engine light is your car telling you it’s in pain. If you see this light, your vehicle needs attention.

Make sure to take your vehicle to a mechanic with the proper diagnostic equipment. Modern cars generate error codes that can be read with the right computer. These codes will tell your mechanic what’s wrong with the car in specific.

Ignoring this light is one of the worst habits you can have. While it might seem like you’re saving money by skipping out on the mechanic, a small problem that might be a few hundred to fix now could cost thousands later as your engine breaks down. Don’t ignore it.


Many of these habits are simply a matter of biting the bullet and doing what’s needed when it’s needed. If you’re the type that hates spending money, consider learning to DIY some of your auto maintenance. It’s one of those rare hobbies that saves you more money than it costs, and it will help you get to know how cars work in general.

Stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog for more great car care advice.