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Dad (and the manual) was right

Common advice about cars becomes common for a reason. Here's some you'll be glad you followed

Published June 14, 2013

There certainly are many tips when it comes to cars. Your technician, your owner’s manual, friends and family all have advice about your vehicle. But have you ever wondered why you should, do certain things? Here are the reasons for some:

Don’t top off your gas tank

When filling up, don’t go beyond the point when the pump first clicks off. Your vehicle contains a charcoal canister — just as it sounds, a small container filled with charcoal — that collects stray fuel vapour and periodically sends it back to the engine to be used up, so it isn’t released to the outside air. Overfilling your tank can potentially send liquid fuel into the canister, which can damage it.

Check your tire pressure

When tires are low on air, they use more fuel, have reduced handling ability and run hotter, which can shorten their lifespan. They can slowly lose air through normal driving and should be checked once a month. Fill them to the pressure recommended in your owner’s manual, or on the label inside the door jamb, not the number moulded into the tire (that’s the maximum it can hold).

Change your oil

Motor oil lubricates your engine’s moving parts, and transfers heat to help cool it. Without oil, these parts would seize (it could take less than a minute) and ruin the engine. Oil also suspends dirt, such as carbon from combustion and deposits from gasoline residue. But it does break down over time, reducing its efficiency. Changing this dirty oil according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended interval helps prevent premature engine wear.

Don’t ignore a “check engine” light

This indicates a problem with the vehicle’s emissions systems. It could be something as simple as a fuel cap that wasn’t tightened, but it could also be something more serious.

Follow your maintenance schedule

It’s not just there to make money for the shop. Changing the fluids in your transmission and cooling system when recommended will help them last longer, and having your wheels aligned will reduce wear on suspension components and tires.

Change the timing belt

Engines use valves to let fuel in and exhaust out, and their operation is “timed” to the movement of the pistons with a timing chain or timing belt. Most use chains, which are pretty much maintenance-free, but if your engine has a belt, it will eventually wear out and should be changed at the recommended interval as a preventative measure.

If it breaks, it could irreparably damage your engine. Check your owner’s manual or ask your shop if you have a belt or chain, since it’s behind a cover and not visible. The rubber belt you see when you open the hood is not the timing belt.

Sit back from the steering wheel

It’s recommended that you sit at least 25 cm. (10 inches) away from the wheel. That’s because it contains an airbag, which can deploy at up to 300 km/h in a collision.

Tilt the steering wheel toward your chest, not your face, and never drive with your arm over the centre of the wheel (or worse, turn a corner by “hooking” the wheel with your palm facing you). A deploying airbag will break your arm. Keep your hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock position, where they won’t be slammed back into your face in a crash.

Wear the seat belt properly

The shoulder portion should go over your collarbone and lie flat on your chest, and the lap portion goes over your hips, not your stomach. You risk internal injuries if the belt isn’t over these strong bones. Never ride with the seat belt under your arm, where it can break your ribs in a crash.

wheels@thestar.ca

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