November 12, 2015
You don’t have to be an auto mechanic or read your car’s manual from cover to cover in order to take good care of your vehicle (although the latter would help). But there are a few things, besides the basic controls in your car, that every car owner should know about their vehicle. Most of them you can find in your owner’s manual, or you could always stop by one of the 4 Hillmuth locations, and our Maryland auto repair technicians will be happy to help!
Recommended Tire Size and Pressure
If you are doing any sort of tire maintenance on your own, such as checking pressure or replacing worn tires, it’s important to do it right. Filling your tires with too much or too little air may lead to premature tire wear, decreased gas mileage and poor vehicle handling. Each car typically has a placard with technical specifications in regard to the tire size, pressure and other parameters. It can often be found inside the driver-side door or inside the glove box. If you can’t find it anywhere, check the manual. Most importantly, don’t rely on the tire pressure or radius listed on your current tires. If someone else installed them before you, you don’t know if they put on the wrong tire size by mistake. As for the pressure listed on tires, it’s the maximum pressure which is different from the recommended pressure.
You probably know that it’s important to put the right fuel in your car, whether it’s diesel or unleaded gasoline. But what you might not know is that fueling your car with higher octane gasoline (plus or premium) doesn’t necessarily lead to better engine performance. The rating of gasoline, in fact, has nothing to do with its quality—it simply measures how fuel responds to combustion. Engines that produce a lot of heat and pressure usually need higher-octane fuel to function effectively. Therefore, plus and premium fuel is typically reserved for high-performance vehicles. Check the owner’s manual for the recommended fuel type for your car to avoid wasting money on premium gasoline or undermining the performance of your high-end engine by using low-octane fuel.
How to Jump-Start a Car
It happens to the best of us: we get distracted and forget to turn off the lights, and the next thing we know the car won’t start. A dead battery is pretty easy to diagnose and is also relatively easy to fix if you know what you are doing. All you need is a pair of jumper cables and someone else’s working car. Simply connect the two batteries (+) to (+) and (–) to (–), having the cables stretch from the working battery to the dead one. Do this when both of the cars are off! Then start the cars—the working one first and then the dead one. If everything is going well, you can disconnect the cables and continue going about your day. Your battery will charge as you drive.
Recommended Oil and How to Check it
The type of oil recommended by your manufacturer is also in your owner’s manual, as well as the recommended intervals for changing the oil. It’s important to periodically check the oil both for its level and color. Very dark oil means that it’s time for an oil change, while a low level of oil means you may need to top up. Keep a quart of oil in your car for this purpose. The oil reservoir in your vehicle has a dipstick that can be easily pulled out to evaluate the oil. It should also say in your manual when the best time to check the oil is. Traditionally, oil is checked when the engine is cold, but many manufacturers have adapted their dipsticks to read the warm oil as well. Be sure to wipe the dipstick clean before reinserting it to avoid introducing any contaminants in the oil.
Where to Take Your Car for Service and Repair
Have you been taking advantage of all those Groupon offers for oil changes and tire rotation? You may be saving a few dollars here and there, but you could be losing in the grand scheme of things. By using different Maryland auto repair shops every time you need your car serviced or repaired, you are missing out on building a relationship with a mechanic you can trust. Having an auto repair tech who knows you and your vehicle has some benefits. First of all, it will make it easier for the mechanic to diagnose and repair a car they’ve worked on for years. Second of all, it may earn you some loyalty points, discounts and all sorts of special treatment, because every respected auto repair shop values loyal customers and wants to reward them.
Feel free to schedule an appointment at any of our four Maryland locations in Columbia, Clarksville, Glenwood or Gaithersburg, or call us if you have any further questions about auto maintenance or repair.