How to Properly Store your Car

car-storage

In the fall of 2004, my father went to my grandparents’ house to retrieve his ride for the winter, a 1991 BMW 318i. He gets in the car and starts the engine after some hesitation from the starter motor. He disengages the handbrake and proceeds to back out of the garage. But, the car doesn’t move. At all. The handbrake had seized completely shut.

It turns out, my father believed that storing a car for several months was akin to putting it in a safe place and leaving it there, just like any other day. To avoid repeating my dear ol’ Dad’s mistakes, here is how to appropriately store a vehicle for more than two months at a time.

Tires

One of the biggest misconceptions about storing a car these days is that the car has to be jacked up to avoid flat-spotting the tires. Not only has tire technology come a long way since the day that that may have been true, but leaving your car sitting on jacks for an extended period of time can both warp your car’s frame and damage the suspension. Suspension components are designed to be loaded (with the weight of the car), not fully extended. For tires, pump pressure about 10-15 pounds higher than recommended and you’ll be fine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise unless the tires are 40 years old, in which case they will have to be changed anyway.

Engine

Special precautions to the engine are few and far in between. Some diehards like to blow out the engine with Seafoam or other “engine cleaning” products, but a nice hard rip to redline on your final drive should take care of any carbon buildup before storage. It is also a good idea to keep your fuel stabilized if the car will be sitting for 5-6 months or more. Grab some fuel stabilizer at any Canadian Tire or auto parts store and fill up your fuel tank with fresh fuel. The amount needed will be on the bottle. If your area is prone to rodents and the like, some mothballs around the car will help, and blocking off the tail pipes and the intake pipes with a bag or something can help too.

Exterior/interior

This one kind of goes without saying, but a solid wash & wax is necessary if you don’t want contaminants on the paint to slowly erode at the car’s finish. If your interior is particularly dirty, an inside wash is good too. While a car cover is pretty much necessary if the car will be stored outdoors, if it is stored in a low-traffic area free from the dangers of playing children and mischievous pets, most covers do more harm than good.

Battery

One of the most overlooked and most important parts of storing a vehicle. If your vehicle has a dead battery, it is basically worthless. Make sure to either keep your battery on a charger at all times or remove the battery from the car and keep it in a room temperature place.

A few final notes

Remember the story about my Dad and his BMW? To avoid that, makes sure once the car is in its final resting place that the handbrake is disengaged completely. Board up the wheels with some wood or blocks to keep the car in place and leave it in gear (or park). Lastly, and most importantly, do not start the car at all during the storage period. This has to be without a doubt the biggest mistake one can make when storing a vehicle. If a car’s engine is not brought up to operating temperatures (which can only be accomplished with an extended drive, not idling the engine for 20 minutes), moisture and other nasty hydrocarbons can form inside and slowly erode the internals of the engine. Proper storage means that the car can be left until it needs to come out again on the other side. 

 

Finding a Mechanic You Can Trust

Let’s face it, auto mechanics are a lot like lawyers. They’re a necessary evil to most of us, but a good one can actually be worth their weight in gold. First off, you don’t want to hire one of those ambulance/tow truck chasers you see advertising on billboards and bus stop benches. Often you hear of good mechanics online or from their customers recommending them. Happy customers will gladly tell people about their experience with a particular mechanic, and unhappy customers will too – often more so. To get you on the road to comforting competent car care, here are a few tips on how to find a good mechanic.

1.        Ask Around

The absolute best way to find a reliable, experienced mechanic is to ask people you know. Friends, family, and co-workers are the best place to start. Nearly everyone with a car has used a mechanic at some point, and former customers can tell you first-hand what it’s like to deal with a particular auto mechanic. Ask if the repairs were performed correctly. Did they have any further problems with the car once it was repaired? How long did it take the mechanic to perform the repairs? How expensive were they? What did they like about the experience? And finally, ask the person if they would use that mechanic again?

 

If you’re new in town, or your friends, family, or co-workers don’t have any recommendations, don’t worry. Try asking a professional driver, such as a taxi driver, tow truck driver, or a limo driver. They have to keep their vehicles in good running order, and they’ll often tell you not only which auto mechanics are good, but also which ones aren’t.

2.        Look on the Internet

Some of the best places to find mechanic recommendations are in car-specific owner forums. A simple web search will give you many. For example, if you drive a Honda Accord, Googling “Honda Accord forum” will give you a list of numerous forums and clubs dedicated only to Honda Accord owners. Post your question(s) on various owner and club forums, and you’ll get answers from numerous people. “Car guys” tend to be really particular about their rides, and they’re usually glad to share their experiences.

 

Other good places to look are online classified ad websites. Again, a quick web search will supply you with several. It doesn’t matter if the mechanic has a website or not. If they’re a legal business, you’ll likely be able to find listings for them when you search online. It’s also a good idea to read what people have to say about different repair shops. Just because a mechanic has a high rating doesn’t mean all of his customers have been happy. To see what people are saying about mechanics in your area, type in something like “auto mechanic <your city / post code>”.

3.        Check Out the Shop

Once you’ve narrowed down a list of potential mechanics, go by and check out their shops in person. A good mechanic is a busy mechanic, so if their shop and lot are full of cars it’s a good sign. The shop itself should be relatively clean, organized, and buzzing with work being done. Next, tell the mechanic about your vehicle, ask them what they’d recommend, and how long it’ll take them to perform the repairs. If they tell you that it will be a few days before they can even get to it, don’t fret. A good mechanic is a busy mechanic, and a good one will be worth waiting on.

 

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Crossover Buying Guide

What Is a “Crossover”?

By definition, a crossover or CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) is a sport utility vehicle that sits on a car chassis instead of a truck chassis. (Quick note:  a frame is the main metal skeleton that everything is bolted to, while a chassis is that frame with the basic mechanical parts attached (wheels, axles, suspension, etc. – no body parts.) For example, the Toyota Highlander is more of a crossover than an SUV because it is based on a car chassis – the same front-wheel drive chassis as the Toyota Camry. By contrast, a traditional SUV like the Chevrolet Tahoe rides on a traditional, rear-wheel drive ladder frame chassis shared with other pickup trucks in the GM range.

Advantages of a Car-Based Crossover

Gas Mileage - A car chassis is lighter than a truck chassis, and most are designed to use more efficient 4- and 6-cylinder engines.

Driveability - A car chassis provides a lower center of gravity than a traditional SUV. This reduces that tipping-over feeling (called “bodyroll”), and allows the crossover to handle like the car on which it’s based. The front-wheel drive (FWD) arrangement provides confident handling and adequate grip in most situations. However, buyers who need maximum traction for winter driving may want a crossover with all-wheel drive (AWD). Many of the modern AWD systems now offer a Lock function, which keeps the power delivery split 50:50 between the front and rear axles.

Ride Quality - The body of a traditional SUV is typically bolted on top of a ladder frame, and this body-on-frame construction often results in a choppy ride and top-heavy handling. In a crossover, however, you won’t feel as much body movement (if you want to know the details, it’s because the body of the crossover uses integrated front and rear subframes). In addition, the lower center of gravity allows the springs and shocks to be tuned for a smoother ride.

More Interior Room - Many traditional rear-wheel drive (RWD) sport utility vehicles require front-to-rear floor tunnels to accommodate the driveshaft (the shaft running the length of the vehicle that translates the engine’s power into making the wheels turn). The rear cargo area often has protrusions to cover up suspension bits. Plus, the step-in height is typically quite high. This all takes away from your elbow (and leg, and foot…) room inside.

By contrast, a car-based CUV usually has a flat floor, which provides more room for passengers and cargo. The step-in height is about the same as a minivan, which is to say minimal. Its space-saving car chassis and suspension allows for a lower floor and more room in the cargo area. That extra cargo room can also be used for third row seating.

Disadvantages of a Car-Based Crossover

Reduced Off-Road Capability - A car-based CUV isn’t as capable off-road for several reasons:

  1.    Reduced Ground Clearance – A FWD car chassis typically sits low to the ground, reducing the clearance between the underside of the vehicle any obstacles that you’re trying to climb over. However, crossovers like the Subaru Outback and Jeep Cherokee are designed to provide enough ground clearance for “light” off-roading.
  2. Limited Wheel Articulation – This is a fancy term that means the crossover’s wheels can’t move as much as an SUV’s wheels, limiting its ability to clear those same pesky obstacles. On a FWD car chassis, the axles are connected to a subframe, which is bolted directly to the body. With nothing connecting the front and rear subframes, the body has to absorb the twisting and flexing forces that result as the wheels move up and down to clear obstacles. To protect the crossover’s structural integrity, most automakers have to limit a CUV’s wheel travel, which hampers its capability to clear obstacles.
  3. No Low Range – No low range means crossovers don’t have the low gears that are helpful for good off-road travel. A traditional four-wheel drive (4WD) SUV will have big axles with low gearing, multiple driveshafts, and a heavy transfer case to distribute the power. Since most crossovers are designed for on-road use, they’ll have higher gear ratios for better fuel economy. Additionally, there typically isn’t room in a car platform to mount a transfer case and other hardware. So most AWD crossovers use an AWD system that doesn’t have any sort of low range gearing that off-roaders sometimes need to deliver maximum torque in extreme conditions.
  4. Reduced Towing Capability - Without a sturdy steel frame to distribute the weight of a heavy trailer, most crossovers can only pull 2,000 – 5,000 lbs. (900 – 2250 kgs.).

Choosing the Right Crossover

Now that you know what a typical CUV can and can’t do, it’s time to decide which features are most important to you. If you need a vehicle that can tow a heavy trailer, or traverse big obstacles in the middle of nowhere, then you need to shop for a traditional body-on-frame SUV. But if your vehicle will spend most of its life crawling through the urban jungle, then a crossover utility vehicle might be right for you.

Important Considerations

Size – Today’s crossovers come in small, medium, large and extra-large, so you can literally find a CUV that’s perfectly sized for your needs. But remember, bigger crossovers are harder to park, and they drink more gas. So be honest about your needs, and choose a CUV based on what you‘ll do with it, not what it looks like.

Seating - Many crossovers are available with a third row of seats. However, that third-row seating arrangement is usually only suitable for children. Consider the size of your third-row passengers, and make sure that they’ll fit. The extra seat in CUVs like the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Rogue are too small for adults, but children under 12-14 years old will fit perfectly. If you need extra seats for adults or growing teenagers, then you might want to consider a large crossover like the Buick Enclave or Hyundai Santa Fe.

AWD or FWD – Since a crossover’s AWD system is only suitable for tackling inclement weather, snow, and muddy roads, you need consider how often you’ll actually encounter those conditions. Front-wheel drive will provide sufficient traction for most buyers, and it allows for better gas mileage, too.

Conclusion

A crossover combines the seating capacity and driving characteristics of a minivan with the cargo room and rugged looks of an SUV. This is an ideal combination for many buyers. With the sheer volume of new CUV models, most people can find a crossover that’ll meet both their needs and their taste. Take an honest evaluation of your needs and wants, and you’ll find a crossover that fits you perfectly for years of utility and enjoyment.

How to Change Your Oil

Aggiunta olio motore

Changing a car’s oil is one, if not the most important maintenance staple. Not correctly changing your oil at the recommended intervals could lead to such disasters as sludge, seizing your engine, or worse. A lot of people would like to be able to do their own changes, but either never have the time or are too afraid to break something. But, there is nothing like changing your own oil to make you feel truly empowered! Okay, maybe empowerment isn’t the goal here, but with any luck, this guide should keep you on the straight path to oil success.

Things you’ll need:

Why do you need your owner’s manual? Won’t this guide be enough? The answer is absolutely not. Every car is different in some way and you will need your owner’s manual to determine how much new oil you need to buy and what kind of oil filter to buy as well. Some manuals even contain their own oil change instructions. Make sure to get the right weight oil for your car as described in your manual. Do not use a different weight than recommended unless you really know what you’re doing. Head out to your favourite auto parts store and grab the consumables. Also recommended but not required on every oil change is to change the washer for the oil drain plug. Ask your auto parts store for help finding these and be sure to pick up a few for the future.

To start off, we want to get the old oil nice and warm so that it drains completely. Take the car for a five-minute drive or so and make sure the temperature gauge is in the normal driving range. Bring the car back to where you will be doing the work. This should preferably be on a flat surface and indoors if possible. Open up the oil filler cap on top of the engine and set it aside. I also like to remove the oil dipstick to allow for better flow when I remove the old oil.

2012 Oil Pan

Then, we need the car to be raised. Drive the car onto ramps or jack the car up from each side and place jack stands on either a major suspension component or structural part of the frame. Locate your oil drain plug. It is a smaller bolt usually at the bottom of a big tub hanging from the bottom of the engine, like the one pictured above. This is the car’s oil pan or reservoir. Place your collecting container underneath the drain plug. Find the appropriate socket size for the drain plug and begin to slowly loosen the plug. Stop using your ratchet to loosen the drain plug once it is free enough to loosen by hand. Slowly continue loosening it with your hand until oil starts to come out. Once a considerable amount has been drained, you can slowly remove the drain plug entirely, making sure not to drop it in your container.

Towards the end of the draining, locate and remove your oil filter. For some cars, this is easier said than done and might require a special tool called an oil filter wrench that hugs the oil filter in order to get it out. Be careful when taking it off as oil will probably fall out of it when you do. Dispose of the old filter.

Now that the draining is complete, wipe off the area around the drain hole, put on the new washer, and replace the drain plug, tightening with your ratchet only so that it is snug. Take your new oil filter, wipe off the mounting surface, and take some of the new oil onto your finger and apply some to the rim of the new oil filter. Screw the filter in by hand until it is snug; be careful not to over-tighten.

Now we can lower the car, which will be necessary if we want to add the appropriate amount of oil. Once lowered, take your funnel and put it in the oil filler hole. Take the appropriate amount of oil from the owners manual and add just a little bit less than that to start with. Replace the oil dipstick, remove it, wipe it, replace it again, remove it again, and check to see if the level is within the acceptable range. Add oil until it is. Make sure NOT to overfill the oil as you will have to lift the car and drain oil again. By this stage in the process, you will not want to do that.

Once you fell comfortable with the level, close everything up and start the engine. Look underneath the car and at the oil filter for any leaks. If everything checks out, go for a spin, and check the oil level again after the engine has sat for another ten minutes. And that’s it!

Please note that we are not responsible for any damage you may accidentaly cause to your vehicle following these instructions. These instructions are meant as a very general guideline and further research on your specific vehicle is always recommended before attempting any of your own work.

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Winter is Coming, Do You Know How to Install Your Snow Tires?

tire_change_heroThe ubiquitous season is about to be upon us, and that means winter tires. Alternatively, you hit a tree branch and now you’re on the side of the highway. Time to change tire(s)!

Unless you are a body builder with laser-precise torque vision, you’re going to need a few things. First and foremost, a tire mounted on some sort of wheel that matches your vehicle, a floor jack (or scissor jack) and some jack stands, a decent sized ratchet with the appropriate sized socket for your lug nuts (the things that keep the wheel on the hub threads), a ½ drive torque wrench, and some caulks or anything heavy enough to block off the car when it’s jacked. A pneumatic impact wrench is nice to have on a job like this, but not necessary.

Some people opt to mount different tires on one set of wheels. While this is a good way to keep your car looking good all-year round, this method requires a large machine to remove and replace tires on a wheel. Die-hards will note that this is also possible by hand, but it can be difficult and much more likely to damage your wheel – and patience. A nice cheap set of black steel wheels (“steelies”) is a great way to minimise risk and cut down on the time for this job.

06GTI_jacking_r_stand_loaded

Start by parking the car in your flat service area of choice and remove any hub caps/nut covers. Take your ratchet (an impact gun or a breaker bar is helpful) and loosen the lug nuts without removing them. Now, make sure the car is in park (or in gear) with the handbrake on and with the opposite tire blocked off. Start to jack up the car by the pinch welds under the bodywork. These are usually indicated by little slots at either end of the car and are very obvious. Check your manual for specifics if you get lost. Lift the car enough to clear the ground and the new tires.

Remove the lug nuts completely and remove the wheel, being careful not to bang on any brake components in the process (don’t lift with your back!). A dolly comes in handy at this point. Older cars with older lug nuts might be tough to get on with some corrosion and you may want to spread a tiny amount of anti-seize to the base of the lug nut (or new lug nuts), as long as you make sure the lug nut threads (studs) are completely clean and dry. A good wipe with an old rag should do it.

Once you’ve mounted the new wheel on the studs (again, not using your back!), screw the lug nuts in by hand. You can even give it a couple of turns with a ratchet to make sure it stays snug to the hub. Lower the car. With your torque wrench, complete the tightening of the lug nuts. Most cars take between 80 and 100 ft.lb of torque. If your car has a five or more lug configuration, you will want to do this in a “star” pattern, i.e. tightening the lug nut opposite of the one previous. Make sure NOT to do the final tightening with a breaker bar or an impact wrench, a common mistake. Check your tire pressures and that’s it! (Mostly) ready for winter driving.