Have that pesky car question that's been bothering you? Or want to know more about how to keep the wheels spinning on your car for years to come?
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Submissions by My Car Doc friends & fans!
I'm here to help answer your car questions or if you want to know anything about the man behind MCD. :) Every weekday we post a car article at 10 am, an auto tip at 2pm, and fun stuff in between.
If you like what you see here, you can also find us on twitter and facebook.
It has happened to everyone: you left your lights on by accident and now you have to get a jumpstart. As simple as it seems, there are people that have never had to do it or simply don’t know how. That’s why I’m here to help!
- After arranging the vehicles nose-to-nose (don’t allow them to touch), lift both hoods.
- You’re going to connect one of the clamps to the BLACK (NEGATIVE) post on the good battery first. This is important because the black post is the ground. If anything goes wrong, you want to be grounded.
- Then connect the other black clamp to the other black post on the dead battery. You can also connect it to an unpainted, stong, solid piece of bare metal like an engine mount or engine block.
- Now, connect the corresponding RED clamps to the RED (POSITIVE) battery terminals. At this point, you should have red to red and black to black.
- Make sure the cables are not in danger of getting caught by any moving parts when the engines start.
- Start the vehicle with the good battery. Allow to run 1-4 minutes.
- Try starting the vehicle w/the dead battery. If the vehicle doesn’t start after 4 minutes of charging, there is probably a secondary issue that needs to be addressed. Do NOT attempt to keep restarting, this could lead to damaging the starter.
- Keep the newly revived car running at least 30 minutes to give the alternator adeuquate time to recharge the battery. This would be an ideal time to have the alternator and battery tested.
Winter is super hard on batteries. A battery is a box full of chemicals that produce electrons. The chemical reactions inside of batteries take place more slowly when the battery is cold, so the battery produces fewer electrons. The starter motor therefore has less energy to work with when it tries to start the engine, and this causes the engine to crank slowly.
What can you do to help prevent battery problems? Best answers:
- keep the battery warm by keeping the vehicle in the garage in a parking garage as much as possible,
- use an engine warmer like this one,
- have the battery tested to make sure it has enough cold cranking amps to keep you starting time after time this winter.
Junk in the trunk can be a good thing! Hey gang, when driving this winter, keep a bag of sand or kitty litter in your trunk. The rear end of your car is very light; most of the weight is in the front with the driver and engine. What does this mean? With less weight in the back pushing the tires down, there’s less friction of the tires against the road. Less friction means less traction. Less traction means possible spinouts and “uh oh, honey did we send in the car insurance check last month?”
So, if you have cats, get a couple of 25 pound bags of cat litter to keep in the back this winter. Then, in the spring, use them for the cats. It’s a win/win. If you don’t have cats, get potting soil, sand or topsoil. Then, in the spring, use it in your yard. Again, win/win. :)
Dear My Car Doc,
My friend says that last year her fuel lines froze in the winter and it left her stranded. I told her that gas is like alcohol and doesn’t freeze and that there must have been something else wrong. Can you settle a bet at the office?
—Cosmopolitans on Friday Riding On This
It’s cold out there, folks. One of the biggest challenges your car faces in weather like this is freezing fuel lines. Fuel lines that feed the fuel from the tank to your engine are made of metal that gets cold really quickly. To top it off, they’re very thin (see bottom for picture). As you know, thin amounts of liquid freeze faster than thick amounts. And while water freezes much faster than gasoline, fuel can still freeze if left in sub-freezing temperatures long enough. What happens when fuel lines freeze? Car no go.
So how can you fight freezing fuel lines? I’m so glad you asked!
- Keep at least 1/4 tank in your car at all times. This is the number 1 thing you can do to prevent fuel freezing. It’s harder for mother nature to freeze large amounts of fuel.
- Use high octane fuel. That’s right, I know it’s pricey, but harder to freeze fuel that’s more potent.
- Keep it inside. Even in a non-heated garage, your house will trap enough heat in the garage to help prevent freezing issues.
- Add heet. No, I did not misspell that. Heet is a fuel additive that you can add to your fuel tank that will help keep it from freezing.
That’s about it. Just keep fuel in your vehicle and keeping it in the garage as much as possible will go a LONG way to help prevent fuel line freeze-up this winter.
So the real question is….where are we drinkin’ this friday and who is buying the drinks?
Dear My Car Doc,
I’ve heard whispers about Secret Warranties. Is there a secret club I need to be in or a decoder ring I need to order? What is this all about?
—Waiting by the mailbox
Nope, no decoder ring, secret knock, secret handshake, or private club to join….but there ARE secret warranties.
Here’s the scoop: When a part has a high failure rate, a car manufacturer will sometimes notify its dealers that it will pay for certain repairs even after the original warranty expires. However, manufacturers do not notify car owners about these secret warranties, sometimes called goodwill adjustments, service campaigns or other names. To find out about secret warranties or technical service bulletins that might apply to your vehicle, contact the Center for Auto Safety. Call (202) 328-7700 or send a letter with a self- addressed, stamped envelope to: Center for Auto Safety, Suite 410, 2001 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20009-1160. Be sure to list the make, model and year of your car and describe the specific problem you are experiencing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has information about recalls and technical service bulletins, which you can obtain by calling their hotline at 800-424-9393, or visiting NHTSA’s website.
As soon as your car starts acting up you need to do three things:
- Check with a professional who may have experience with that problem,
- If your check engine light comes on, have it scanned ASAP for free by Advance Auto Parts, Autozone or O’Reilly Auto Parts,
- Google the symptoms.
The more information you have, the faster you can accurately get your vehicle’s problem diagnosed, get your patient treated by the doctor and get back on the road again.
One of the best ways to make sure your car lasts a long time is to keep good spark plugs in your engine. This does a couple of things for you and you’ll see the results in your pocketbook:
- Good, clean spark plugs will keep the engine running more efficiently, increasing your gas mileage, and
- good spark plugs keep the engine running more efficiently, increasing the life of your car, which keeps you out of the dealership!
How often should you change your plugs? Well, that’s a bit more complicated. This table will help:
- GM vehicles made after 2000 usually have double platinum plugs that last for 100K miles
- copper plugs should be replaced every 30K miles
- single platinum plugs should be replaced every 50K miles.
If you haven’t replaced your plugs in the last three years, then we should probably take a look at them for you. We’re even offering a tune-up special!
Four cylinder engines; tuneups are only $59.99 plus plugs. Six or eight cylinder engines require additional costs.
—John Cannon, owner of My Car Doc
The Nissan Leaf is an all-electric that gets a lot of hype, but I’d hold off on buying one just yet. I think it’s a new generation of automobiles, but I’d let the industry work the kinks out before jumping on that bandwagon.
I like that SUVs are trying to be more economical by offering hybrid versions, but very few are actually successful at making an impact on your wallet. In fact, some studies show that hybrid vehicles are the worst of both worlds; leaving a carbon footprint AND causing a lot of waste w/the special batteries when the vehicle gets trashed at the end of it’s lifespan. I think ultimately, there will be a few categories of vehicles that survive:
- bio-diesels that serve as public transportation and cargo transportation (semis, buses, et cetera)
- all-electric tiny passenger vehicles (that will eventually get a little bigger when technology catches up & we learn how to install solar panels on the roof to keep them charged more efficiently)
- and then there will be hybrid, mid-sized vehicles (SUVs and luxury vehicles) that will probably run off of gasoline until natural gas conversions become more economical or bio-diesel gets more popular.
This has been another Auto 101 tip from My Car Doc. Click here to follow us on twitter for even more fun!
—John Cannon, owner of My Car Doc
Is a hybrid car REALLY worth it? Is the mileage really as great as they say? Want to know the truth? STAY TUNED! All next week My Car Doc will be getting to the bottom of the hybrid hype. I’ll answer your questions, take test drives, and give reviews of the leading hybrid cars. Everything you wanted to know about hybrids but were afraid to ask!
—John Cannon, owner of My Car Doc
This may not be exactly what you had in mind when your spouse said “Honey, we should really start working on being more green.”
It’s okay, stay tuned! Next week I’ll be discussing HYBRID cars, how they work, answering your questions and giving reports on how you can go green….w/out having to mow your car.
John Cannon, owner of My Car Doc
Ask yourself: What have I done to promote my business in the last hour? How have I moved forward toward making more money, becoming more successful. Did you schedule social media updates with tips and information? Did you sponsor a public event to get more name recognition and branding? Did you get some billing done to get the money rolling in? Answer emails to prospective clients?
Set a 60 minute timer on your desk, iPhone, or laptop. Every hour when that chime goes off, take a moment to reflect what you just did. If you didn’t move forward, you weren’t moving at all. Now, take a moment to wonder what your competition did. Did they move forward while you were spinning your wheels?