Knowledge Base

How to Stop Worrying and Love Your High Mileage Car

You may not know the name Irv Gordon, but you will certainly want to listen to some of his advice. The retired schoolteacher was driving in Alaska in 2013 when his 1966 Volvo P1800s hit the 3 million mile mark. Yes, in case you were wondering if you read that wrong, that’s 3 million.

Gordon’s number one piece of advice? Read the manual.

 

“Do what the manual calls for, not what the dealer calls for,” Gordon said in an interview. “People who built the car wrote the manual.”

That’s some pretty sound logic. It’s also something we harp on constantly. Cars are not designed to be disposable. They are an investment and something you want to protect.

If you’re driving a high mileage vehicle, you’ll want to pay attention to Gordon’s advice. You may not be trying to push your car to 3 million miles, but if you’re like us, you’d love to keep that old friend running as long as possible.

Here are some of the steps recommended to keeping your car running well well into its golden years.



1. Stay on schedule



Your owner’s manual recommends having different services performed at specific intervals. These are decided on by your car’s engineers. Regular service will keep everything in tip-top shape and allow your mechanic to spot small problems before they become big ones.

2. Love your tires



If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a thousand times: your tires are (hopefully) your car’s only point of contact with the road. They are incredibly important.

Your owner’s manual and the driver’s side door jamb will tell you the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Keeping your tires at the recommended pressure ensures you will get optimal gas mileage and steering response from your car.

In contrast, driving on underinflated tires especially puts unnecessary strain on everything in your car from the suspension to the engine.

3. Change that oil



You will find loads of competing information about how often to change your car’s oil. Disregard anything anyone but the manual tells you when it comes to your car.
While advancements in fluid and engine technology have improved oil longevity, the old standby advice of “every 3,000 miles” still holds true. In fact, Gordon said that changing your oil at that interval is still, “your best insurance policy.”

Rest assured that you cannot possibly change your car’s oil too often. Once you’ve gone over the 75,000 mile mark make sure you change that oil every 3,000 or less!

 

4. Clean it regularly



While this might seem more visual than functional, keeping your car clean without a doubt will increase its longevity.

Dirt and grime work their way into paint and will eventually cause the car to rust. This makes the body of the car fragile and what’s inside a lot more susceptible to damage.

Particles on the inside of your car can get into the seats and dash materials and create holes and tears in fabrics, vinyl and leather alike.

Chances are, if you keep the outside of your car looking nice you’ll be paying attention to the inside as well.


5. Drive responsibly


We all know some driver who loves to stomp the pedals. While that can be great for a race car driver, it is absolutely devastating on your car.

Driving a car is a big game of physics. Your car can use only use and withstand so much energy over its lifetime. It takes a lot of energy to get a car up to speed, and lots to slow it down.

Maintaining a steady, consistent pace keeps your car running efficiently. Newer cars have gas mileage information on the dash screen that lets you see this in real time.

That fuel efficiency translates into how often your car is purring along and how often it has to grunt and strain to get the job done.

The lifetime of your car is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you don’t overdo it when you don’t have to.


Stay tuned to the Strutmasters blog for more tips that save you time and money!

 

What’s Up With my A/C? Common Reasons Why Your Car Won’t Cool

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With summer now in full swing, the A/C in your car is about as necessary as the brakes. In many parts of the country, heat waves aren’t just a comfort issue, they’re a health risk too.

So when you find that your A/C is no longer cooling your vehicle down, it is important to figure out why and then how to fix it. Here are a few tips on where to look for trouble.



A bad fuse or other electrical system problem



Your car’s A/C needs electrical power to get and keep the compressor running. Many things can lead to electrical failure. It can happen from corrosion of wires, a bad fuse or even from just being overloaded.

Use your owner’s manual to determine where the correct fuse for the A/C unit is. This video will demonstrate how to inspect a fuse to see if its blown.

If this is your only problem, consider yourself lucky. It’s a cheap and easy fix to do at home, or more accurately, in the parking lot of the auto parts store.



A broken compressor clutch



The compressor clutch is part of your A/C’s compressor assembly. It is responsible for pressurizing the air and keeping the refrigerant moving through the system.

Every time you use your A/C, the compressor clutch goes through on/off cycles. This means it is prone to wearing down eventually. When the compressor clutch is broken, you will notice warm air blowing from the vents.

Unless you are very handy with small mechanical repairs, this fix is best left to the pros.



A leak within the A/C system



This is, by far, the most common ailment of an A/C system.

Leaks in the air conditioning system are often caused by a mixture of the refrigerant used in your A/C and moisture. This reacts to create an acid that can corrode valves, hoses and seals within the system.

Therefore, this will cause warm air to come out of the vents in your car because there isn’t enough refrigerant going through the system.

If you’re handy with a wrench, follow this video to inspect your A/C system for leaks and replace any parts that have been corroded.

 

A weak expansion valve



The expansion valve in your A/C system is what regulates the amount of refrigerant that goes into the compressor. Too much or too little can cause problems with the entire unit.

If the flow of refrigerant is blocked going into the compressor it could cause parts of the assembly to get so cold that ice or frost can form around or even inside the system. This will cause further restriction of refrigerant and failure of the compressor.

Too much refrigerant passing through can flood your compressor and also prevent it from pushing out cool air.

 

Even if you can’t fix the problems with your A/C yourself, knowing specifically what is wrong will help your mechanic diagnose and understand the problem quickly. It will also demonstrate that you know a thing or two about cars and their air conditioners.

As always, knowledge is power and knowing your stuff will keep you from being overcharged or having unnecessary services performed.

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

Why You Should Never Let Your Gas Tank Run Low

One of the many great car debates has to do with your gas tank. In short, is it better to let it run low or to always keep it full?

While there are points to be made on either side, there is a definitive answer on what the best strategy is.

The pros of letting your tank run low


Truthfully, there is one major advantage to letting your fuel tank run low. That is gas mileage. How does how much gas you have affect your gas mileage? The answer is weight.

A car with less fuel in it weighs less and thus will require less power from the engine to move it the same distance. However, while this is true there is something important to consider:

Gas weighs just over six pounds per gallon. That means the difference between a full tank and empty tank is somewhere between 70 and 95 pounds, less than the weight of an average person or a few travel bags.

The only other benefit of leaving your tank run low is some sort of thrill seeking. This was illustrated perfectly in the Seinfeld episode “The Dealership.” Suffice it to say there are better ways to get your kicks.

 


Why you shouldn’t let your tank run low


“Peace of mind” is the first reason to keep your tank on the full side. The road is already an anxious and stressful place. Therefore anything you can do to keep yourself calm and relaxed is a good thing. Not worrying about how much further you can drive before you need to gas up will help you focus on the road and enjoy your ride a little more.

But the main reason lies with the fuel pump. Your car’s fuel pump is located inside the gas tank. In order to function properly, it needs to be completely submerged in gasoline. Typically, this means you need at least ¼ of a tank to keep it submerged.

Long-term exposure to air can lead to early deterioration of the fuel pump. This is not a cheap or easy fix. When properly used and maintained, a fuel pump should last at least 100,000 miles if not the lifetime of your vehicle.

Leaving it constantly exposed to air can cause the pump to suck in air and generate heat. This can reduce the working life of your fuel pump significantly.

Allowing your tank to run low can also make room for sediment to build up in your tank.

Think about coffee in a pot. There is always some sediment at the bottom. Your first few pours won’t pick up any of the sediment and transfer it to your cup, but that last cup usually does have a bit of sediment in it.

Your fuel tank works much the same way. The last ¼ of your tank may pick up sediment, which will be absorbed by the fuel filter and clog it. This can lead to reduced performance of your vehicle and require early replacement of the filter.

How to tell if you’ve got a bad fuel pump


So maybe you’re a daredevil like Kramer and you’ve been driving around on E for a while. That doesn’t guarantee that you’ve run your fuel pump into the ground, but it does mean it’s a possibility.

Here are a few trouble signs to look for with your fuel pump:

 

  • Your gas mileage is going down. This could be a sign that your fuel pump isn’t operating efficiently.
  • The engine starts to “sputter” at high speeds. This means your car is having trouble delivering fuel to the engine.
  • Fuel pressure is low. This is a common symptom of a failed fuel pump. Any fuel pressure warning light should be attended to immediately.
  • Temperature is high. This doesn’t always indicate something wrong with the fuel pump, but it certainly can be a sign it needs attention.
  • The car surges. This typically indicates that the fuel pump is functioning irregularly and needs to be serviced or replaced.

 

A fuel pump is an issue that should be looked at by a professional. If you notice any irregularities with your fuel pump, take care of it right away before it affects other components in your vehicle.


Stay on top of your maintenance and get more awesome tips with the Strutmasters blog.

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

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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

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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.