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.
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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.
Dear My Car Doc,
My tires seem to be low all of a sudden. Did my ex have anything to do with this?
—Restraining Order Next?
As the temperatures have dropped, many of you have probably noticed that the your tires seem to be a bit low lately too. Or, if you have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) that lights up when your tires are low, that light is probably bugging you a lot more lately, right?
So what gives?
It’s science and it’s cool. Here’s the deal: As temperature drops, the air around us condenses a little. We don’t notice it because it’s all around us. However, the air in our tires is trapped in there. (If it’s not, then you have a leaky tire and THAT’S why your tire is low lol.) So what happens when we trap that air and then drop the temperature? Well, the same thing; as it condenses, the air doesn’t fill up as much space as it used to when the temperature was warmer. This makes the pressure in the tire to go down, which makes the tire to be underinflated.
Think about it like this: blow up a balloon, then put it in the freezer. Take it out a day later and what happened to that balloon? It’s much smaller with barely any air in it now (or so it seems). So what happened to the air you put in there? It’s still there, just under a lot less pressure when it’s 20 degrees in that balloon instead of the 98 degree air you blew into it.
So what do we do? That part is pretty simple. Just monitor your tire pressure. Every ten degrees or so, you should recheck your tire pressure and add a little as necessary. This doesn’t mean every time Paul Poteet says we have a cold spell coming you should rush to add air, but take it on average. If it’s in the 40s this week and the 30s next week and the 20s the week after (ugh!), then you should check it out in a week or two to make sure you’re still safe.
And that’s all there is to it, nothing fancy, nothing expensive but something to watch to keep you safe and make sure your four wheeled friends can handle the road they way they’re meant to. This has been another Auto 101 Tip from 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
Wanting to know more about hybrid cars? Tired of your neighbor giving you that smug look when he brags that he fills up twice a year? Stay tuned, next week My Car Doc will be answering your questions about hybrid cars. I’ll be reviewing, test driving, and reporting back to you my honest opinion about the hybrids on the market. Stick with me, it’ll be fun!
—John Cannon, owner of My Car Doc
Are you disgusted with the mileage your current vehicle is getting and thinking of buying a new hybrid? Would you like to know more about hybrid cars without being forced to listen to a salesperson try to sell you one? Well then stay tuned! My Car Doc is on your side! Next week I’ll be reviewing hybrid cars, answering your questions and getting to the nitty gritty of green cars!
John Cannon, owner of My Car Doc