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Ailing Auto?

Don't let lapsed maintenance put you in park


March 5, 2010
By Kelly Oldach

Ailing AutoDoes your vehicle have squeaky brakes, turn signals that don’t work or under-inflated tires? Are your wipers not wiping much of anything? Does the pick-up feel sluggish?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, now’s the time to get your ailing auto back to being a healthy ride. April is National Car Care month, as recognized by CarCare.org. Here are a few things to have checked out:

Lubricants & fluids
These liquids help keep your vehicle and its parts clean, cool, greased and protected. Low or dirty fluids can damage the car’s innards and affect the driving performance, so be sure to change these regularly. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations.

Exhaust
Your vehicle’s exhaust system routes dangerous exhaust gas and harmful pollutants away from you while driving. It also reduces noise from the engine. If you hear loud noises or a rattling when you start the car, accelerate or decelerate, you may need an exhaust system repair or replacement.

Filters
Filters are the mechanical gatekeepers of your car—they keep all the dirty stuff out. But, these normal wear-n-tear items require regular replacement. Old or dirty filters can affect vehicle life, gas mileage and acceleration, so make sure to replace them with clean ones often. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Wiper blades
Wiper blades are more than a convenience—they’re a necessity. If yours are leaving streaks on the glass or chattering against the windshield, don’t wait to replace them. It will make driving easier and, more importantly, safer.

Brakes
Brakes are one of the most important safety features of your vehicle. Warning signs of brakes in need of service include grinding, screeching or chirping when you slow down, or a brake pedal that is pulsating or that has less resistance than usual. Have your brakes checked regularly by a professional.

Belts & hoses
Belts and hoses are essential to the cooling system, air conditioning, charging system and engine. If there’s a squealing sound when you start or accelerate your vehicle or if it’s leaking, the problem could be a belt or hose. These should be checked at each oil change.

Battery & cables
The battery and cables are part of an important system that starts and charges your vehicle. Signs that you might need a new battery include the car not starting or headlights or dashboards lights that are dim. A check engine light that’s on might also be a sign of a weak battery.

Spark plugs
Spark plugs ignite the air and fuel mixture inside each of the engine’s cylinders. If your engine is misfiring, the check engine light is on or your vehicle fails an emissions test, you might need one or more new spark plugs.

Lights & signals
Don’t let other drivers get confused by lights or turn signals that are inoperative. After all, they’re the main form of communication between you and others on the road. If they start to dim or blink rapidly, have them checked out. (Dimming dash lights could also be a sign of a bad alternator.)

Tires
No one wants to hear they need new tires. But, good tires are an important safety feature of your car. They should always be properly inflated and have adequate tread to avoid hydroplaning or slipping on icy roads and


Kelly Oldach, a brand communications specialist for Erie Insurance, is a recent college grad who is about to buy her first car. Safety and maintenance costs are at the top of her research list.

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