Friday, December 5, 2008

Knowing the blood and lifeline of your car’s system - Brake, Power Steering, Battery and Radiator Coolant Fluids

Now that you’ve known the other car care basics, perhaps it’s time we take a look at the fluid essentials that are literally the life giving blood of your car.

1. Brake Fluid - Is a type of hydraulic fluid that is used in hydraulic brake applications of your car, motorcycles and trucks. This type of fluid is used to transfer force under pressure from its point of origin among hydraulic lines to the braking mechanism close to the wheels.

Most brake fluids today are composed of glycol-ether but several types with mineral oil and silicone composites are also out in the market. This type of fluid should meet stringent requirements set by organizations such as SAE and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) - hence you get ratings on labels such as SAE or DOT 3 and 4 compliance.

As a rule of thumb, brake fluid should always be replenished if the levels in its container decrease with every drive. Fluid level in the master cyclinder will drop as the linings, brake pads and shoes wear and the calipers extend further to compensate. Brake fluid level may also be low because of leaking, which can lead to loss of hydraulic pressure and the most dangerous- brake loss.

It is very important to constantly monitor your brake fluid levels to ensure safe driving and fill according to the set level. Flush and change your brake fluid every 1-2 years to further ensure reliability and take note to never mix brake fluids with different DOT ratings as this can result to poor fluid performance.

2. Power Steering – Is another type of hydraulic fluid that transmits the power steering system of cars, trucks and other modes of transportation.

This is the fluid that guards your power-steering pump and rack from wear and tear. It requires constant monitoring and refilling from time to time according to the required level in its cylinder.

A way to notice that your steering system is about to have a problem or that your power steering fluid is running low is when you turn the steering wheel and you hear whining noises. Have your car checked when this occurs to prevent serious damages to your power- steering system.

Note: There are products out in the market today that contain the combined properties of Power Steering and Automatic Transmission Fluids (ATF). Use any of these products to save and be protected more.

3. Battery Fluid - Is the electrolyte fluid found inside the cells of your battery. If you are using the regular type of battery and not the maintenance free one, then you are required to refill your battery cells from time to time with electrolyte fluid.

Standard battery for cars is 12V and usually has 6 individual cells inside it. To refill, simply remove the vent caps that can either be found on top or on the sides of the battery. Check and fill the electrolyte fluid inside.

Note: There are some brands of maintenance free batteries out in the market today that can run on dual power- meaning they also have vent caps for electrolyte fluids in case their power supply run out. Although this type of battery may not come cheap, it would be best for you to use it.

4. Radiator Coolant- Is a mixture of anti-freeze fluid and water designed to protect the radiator and cooling system all year round. Using one will protect your engine from overheating. Most coolant products out in the market today come with various additives that can further help you against rust and other forms of corrosion, lubricate or increase the cooling efficiency of your cooling system.

Simply pour out the contents of your coolant to the radiator reservoir. Add water to the set level and you’re done.

For maintenance, it is very important for you to drain and flush your coolant once a year (or depending on the product recommendations) and replace it with a new one.

Note: Never mix different types of coolant together as this can lead to damage or a reduction of your car’s cooling system. Before changing to another brand, be sure to drain and flush your cooling system of the old one.

See to it that the reservoirs of these fluids are in constant levels and refill when they’re not enough. Properly maintaining them will help ensure your safety and prolong the life of your car.

Buckle up and drive safely.

by: Jovir Amatong

Test Drive Tips

Are you planning to buy a car? This can be exciting and puzzling, especially if it’s your first time. Cars nowadays can be bought just about anywhere. You can see them by the road, next door, online, or by the local dealerships. There are a great deal of sources to consider and a test drive is the best way to start. Here are some tips to help choose your perfect match wisely.

1. Bring a Friend.
- You’ll need a clear, objective perspective from a friend or relative who knows more about cars and your needs well. Their insights could help a lot especially if they have tried driving a similar model.

2. Take your time.
- It’s better to borrow the car for the day or evening. But if they refuse, make sure to spend a few hours with the vehicle alone. If you have enough flexibility to decide, use all the time you need. Don’t be in a hurry to buy without rethinking the pros and cons.

3. Familiarize yourself with the car’s controls before setting off.
- Once you’re doing the test drive, it’s recommended to maintain concentration and focus. Ask the dealer or sales person about the unusual symbols and buttons. Avoid switching and searching for buttons when driving; this can be very dangerous.

4. Get curious and keep asking questions.
- If you still need some clarification on the vehicle, don’t hesitate to ask. Face it, if this is the first time for you
to buy a car, you’d want to clear all the doubt and questions in your mind. It’s understandable to slightly annoy the dealer with questions about their merchandise; it’s really their job to satisfy you and customers are always right. Ask about the safety features, the mpg, after sales services and other important questions.

5. Choose a different driving route.
- Try the unfamiliar route or road less traveled. Through a different driving route you’ll get more clues and indications on the versatility and performance of the car.

6. Try sitting on the front and back seat.
- Let your relative or friend drive as well. You’ll discover some things from the passenger seat that you couldn’t see from the driver’s seat. That way, you’ll check the car from different perspectives.

7. Test and compare different makes.
- Test two similar models from similar makes or brands. If the dealer permits, you should take the time to try several models for comparison. Just like buying the perfect pair of shoes, look for the perfect fit.

8. Don’t be obliged to buy from the first dealer.
- The car might fit your needs and specifications, but that doesn’t mean you must buy it right away. Don’t let the dealer guilt you into buying it. Remember to check the credentials of the dealer and weigh your options as well.

by: Amalia Aviles

Petrol or diesel: What fuels your drive?

Before anything else, if you have only tried driving petrol powered vehicles and not a diesel or vice versa, you should try driving both first – and no, not simultaneously. And if it has been a while since you’ve driven one or the other, it would be wise to try again with the more current models; the technological changes might surprise you.

The choice between petrol and diesel always boils down to one’s personal preference yet very few people are undecided about the issue. Try asking your friend about which engine type is better and he’ll likely give you a very passionate opinion rather than a straightforward answer. If you want the objective truth, let me give you the facts so that you can decide for yourself.

Fuel Economy

With the rising oil prices, fuel economy is a crucial factor in choosing your next car. Diesel engines are inherently more fuel efficient and can save you money in the long run.

They are more efficient than petrol (per liter of fuel burned) because diesel fuel has a higher energy density. When engines run while the vehicle is at idle, a diesel engine will only consume about one third of what a petrol engine will. Diesel fuel is also generally priced lower than petrol, at least right now. All these potential savings from a diesel unit could substantially accumulate over the years, especially if you plan to rack up a lot of kilometers.

Maintenance Cost

In the short term, regular maintenance for diesel units will cost more as they need to be serviced more often, they have a larger volume of oil in the engine, and diesel replacement parts can become quite expensive.

On the other hand, diesel engines become cost effective in the long term because of their excellent durability. An average petrol unit can only run for about 200,000 kilometers before needing a major overhaul while an average diesel engine can go three times further – and while regularly pulling heavier loads.

Noise and Vibration

Engine noise reduction technology has rapidly improved during the last decade. But the fact remains that diesel engines are relatively louder and shakier than their petrol counterparts. The difference becomes more noticeable when the vehicle is at idle or when it is accelerating from low speeds.


If you want to know which type of fuel gives off more pollution, I’m afraid the answer is too long and complicated for me to coherently address in this article. Suffice it to say that only diesel engines emit significant amounts of Nitrous Oxide (NOx) and soot. While both diesel and petrol emit Carbon Dioxide (CO2), diesel emits slightly less for the same amount of energy output.

Speed and Power

Let’s not go down the long and winding “horsepower vs. torque” road. The more important thing to know is that diesel engines can always beat petrol when it comes to towing capacity and pulling force because they generally produce more torque. On the other hand, petrol engines can give you even more speed and acceleration while at high speeds because of the higher horsepower and RPM they can attain.

So, what’s the verdict?

Still undecided? You might want to consider the following: what you plan to use the vehicle for and what type of environment you are living in.

If you want a car that is quick and quiet for your everyday driving in paved and narrow roads, if you don’t plan to ferry a lot of people and haul heavy stuff, and if you plan to replace your vehicle before it reaches the 200,000 kilometer mark – get a petrol compact or sedan.

If you live in are where steep climbs and rough roads are the norm, if you are looking for a vehicle which is ideal for towing or hauling heavy loads, if you plan to take on a lot of passengers everyday, if you plan to get a lot of good mileage and long term fuel economy – get a diesel truck, van or SUV.

by: Edon Canada

The truth about Lemon cars and how to avoid buying one

No, were not talking about the green, refreshing fruit we’ve all come to love- but of a defective car. The term “Lemon” has been coined for new or used cars which after purchase, has been found by the buyer to have defects not readily apparent before it was bought. Defects could range from simple design flaws to life threatening flaws due to parts installed incorrectly during manufacture.

The term nowadays, is also associated with any product which has major defects that make it useless for its purpose.

New and used lemons

In perception, brand new cars may contain technical defects or workmanship errors. This could be due to incorrect design or errors during the assembly process at the factories. Parts and wiring may have been installed incorrectly or cars may have hidden defects under the hood.

Used cars on the other hand, become lemons once they are not used according to the set standards, abused or poorly maintained, repaired or worse, has been unprofessionally rebuilt after meeting an accident. A common practice of fraudulent dealerships is the tampering of lemon vehicles to manipulate high mileage, technical and mechanical defects, corrosion and more.

The used line up may also encounter the same problems as that of their brand new counter parts, but the problems are way much worse.

A form of lemon known as “Cut and shut” a type of car body collision repair where a wrecked portion of a car is sawed off and is replaced with a section from a matching car. A car that is cut and shut is very dangerous as it will surely come apart under strenuous conditions, high speeds and road mishaps. Usually, cars that have been cut and shut are the ones that were salvaged after a serious collision.

Poorly repaired collision-damaged vehicles are also bound to be a risk with Unibody problems. A Unibody by the way, is the type of construction used in motor vehicles where parts such as the floor, roof, and panels are wielded together to produce a unit. This process has been employed in the manufacture of vehicles since 1987. It eliminates the need to construct a separate frame for every vehicle produced.

Car weight may be reduced, but its unibody parts are prone to bending as they were designed to absorb the impact of g-forces or damage in severe accidents which may cause the car not to work properly when it is still driven (even with stringent repairs) after a grave blow.

Protect yourself from lemons

As a consumer, there are legislative measures that protect you against lemons and manufacturers nowadays are very vigilant about their products that they would be willing to give you back your money, buy back the defective vehicle or exchange it for a new one right away once it has undergone multiple repair attempts yet the problems still persist or when defects caused your new vehicle to be out of service over a long period of time because of repairs.

In buying new or used cars, please take note of the following:

1. Do a research on the manufacturer or find out from the authorities if there has been a recall on your model.
2. Be in the know of your model’s safety recall and maintenance history through consumer safety groups, auto magazines, newspaper articles and website reviews.
3. Ask car shops and mechanics how often your model shows up in their shops for repairs.
4. Do a survey among other owners of your model if they are satisfied with their cars.
5. For used vehicles, always get a vehicle history report to make sure that the car you’re buying is clean with no major wrecks or any illegal activity in history.
6. Be suspicious of a model that’s being sold at a very cheap price. Ask around why the price is so. Be warned of dealers / sellers who try to close a deal too quickly.
7. Buying from an owner? Always see to it to have a trusted mechanic inspect the car. Avoid cars that have been in an accident or have frame damage.

Drive safely.

by: Jovir Amatong