Q: Why do brakes squeak?

Today’s cars are equipped with front wheel disc brakes; some models even have 4 wheel disc brake systems. Disc brakes work much like a modern bicycle’s brakes. Brake squealing and noises are common with various causes. Most often it is caused by dust and high frequency vibrations of the brake pads, much like the way a cricket makes noises by rubbing its legs together. Worn brake linings also tend to be noisy. Brake systems should be checked regularly and worn parts replaced before ruining expensive calipers and rotors.

Q: I hit a curb. Should I have the alignment checked?

Yes, often a little bump like that gets forgotten, especially if the car handles the same. Today’s cars are lighter with fewer and smaller suspension components and therefore less forgiving. If damage goes unnoticed, new tires may be needed. Look closely at the tread for uneven wear patterns or bald spots. Checking tire pressures helps tires last longer, improves handling and fuel economy. It’s important to set tire pressures at or just below the maximum rating on the tire.

Q: Does brake fluid really need to be changed?

The average driver uses their brakes 75,000 times per year and takes for granted that they’ll work every time. Today’s brake systems are hydraulic and use brake fluid which is hydrophilic, meaning it can absorb moisture from the air. Once the hydraulic system has moisture in it, corrosion takes place and brake components fail. Brake fluid should be flushed periodically to keep corrosion under control. This procedure is not expensive and is included in many preventative maintenance schedules. Brake fluid should be handled with care. It will melt plastics and remove paint.

Q: Should I have my car checked before a long trip?

Summer outings should be enjoyable and not spent in a roadside repair shop with someone named Gomer under the hood. Have your car serviced and fluid levels checked before any long road trip and don’t forget the windshield washers and wipers. Radiator hoses and fan belts are one of the main causes for breakdowns. Hoses deteriorate from the inside out so looks can be deceiving. Wheel bearings should be packed and correct tire pressures will give a smoother ride and better fuel economy. A little preventative maintenance can help insure you won’t get to know Gomer.

Q: Does my car have to go back to the dealer for all services?

Preventative health care is important for peak performance and longevity. Preventative maintenance for today’s hi-tech cars helps keep small problems from becoming large expensive ones. Most new car warranties are affected by scheduled preventative maintenance, meaning that maintenance must be done in order to keep the factory warranties in affect. New car dealers would like you to believe that they are they only facilities that can perform these services. This is not true. Anyone can perform the required services, as long as the parts used are Original Equipment quality and all maintenance is performed on time per the manufacturers recommended schedule.

Q: How often should antifreeze be replaced?

Antifreeze should be replaced every two years due to oxidation and deterioration of important additives. These additives lubricate the water pump and protect metal parts from rust and oxidation. They also help keep coolant hoses soft and flexible. Today we can recycle and clean old antifreeze, replacing the additives. Antifreeze is very toxic and not environmentally friendly so recycling makes good sense. The engine's thermostat should also be replaced every 2 years to keep the engine operating temperatures in the proper range.

Q: Is Windshield washer fluid just soap and water?

Windshield washer solvent has a toxic alcohol base to keep it from freezing. The solvent should never be used in concentrated form because it can harm the car's painted and waxed surfaces. Mix the solvent to the manufacturers recommendations for the freeze point you feel is safe for your area. Some brands, usually sold in gallon containers, come diluted but may not protect to a low enough freeze point, which is important, due to the cost of the windshield washer reservoir and other components.

Q: Why can’t I use plain water in my radiator?

Your car's engine makes enough heat to destroy itself so a cooling system is needed. Antifreeze mixed with water at a 50/50 ratio provides freeze and boiling protection. Too much antifreeze can cause heat transfer problems which can result in overheating. If you experience overheating, turn the a/c off and the heater on to help remove heat from the coolant. If the engine temperature light comes on or the gauge goes into the red zone, the engine should be turned off quickly and allowed to cool down to avoid costly engine damage. Plain water will start a rust process that is almost impossible to stop. Rust particles deteriorate the entire cooling system, water pump, radiator, hoses, thermostat etc.

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