- How do I properly maintain my windshield wipers?
Windshield wipers are possibly the unsung hero of any car. Consider what they have to deal with: weather-induced grit and grime, residual dirt from the road or passers-by, or the occasional bird. They remain exposed day or night, winter or summer. The labour, depending on the circumstances, can occur for hours. There's the consistent switching between hot and cold, dry and wet. And they're made of only rubber: the same kind you might find on something as small as, say, an eyelash curler.
This kind of unrelenting effort obviously points to our windshield wipers' inevitable breakdown. Routine replacement is definitely necessary, but how often? And which parts? Factors like what the wipers are made of, what sort of weather they're contending with, and how often they're used must be considered. Plain rubber blades, for example, usually last the shortest; with silicone blades being the best investment on a long-term basis.
Though it seems like only a small part of your car, it's of utmost importance to keep them maintained. After all, they're the biggest contributors to your driving visibility and consequently, road safety.
Experts' rule of thumb is to replace them every six months to a year, though if you notice the following, it's high time to get them changed no matter how recently you've done so:
Streaking. This most commonly happens in colder temperatures. Freezing the rubber makes it hard and brittle. As a result, the material lacks the flexibility to make contact with the windshield and properly remove the dirt, leaving streaks.
Chattering noises. This occurs when the wipers are left exposed to very hot temperatures, which results in a similar hardening of the rubber through essentially 'baking' it.
Reduced effectiveness. For obvious reasons, wipers need to be replaced once they stop working as well. If extreme temperatures aren't an issue, simple dirt build-up can be the culprit. Dust and dirt that cling to the edge of the blades reduces the precision in which it removes debris. Water can also get under the blade, rendering the 'wiping' mechanism moot. You can't clean up with a dirty rag, so to speak.
It's also important to consider other factors that could also be contributing to the wipers' effectiveness:
Springs in the wiper arm, for example, are what adds pressure to the blade, giving the blade a firmer grip on the windshield. In that case, try pulling the arm away from the windshield. If it's easily done, it's time to replace them.
Incompatible blades. Check with your automaker to ensure you get the proper replacements for your car's model. Add-ons such as anti-wind lift or the extra claws result in a different design. If the wrong ones are chosen, your blade holders wouldn't be able to fit them in, resulting in ineffective wiping.
In tune with the upcoming winter, consider replacements that are specially designed for sub-zero temperatures! They contain an enclosed holder, making weather-induced damage less probable-and making them last longer for the season.
- When should I do my car alignment and what do I need to know?
To call the act of 'car alignment' is slightly misleading. Also known as breaking, tracking, or wheel alignment, the act essentially entails adjusting the angles of the wheels for even driving. Despite the wheels being the ones adjusted, however, what's truly being tinkered with is the suspension itself. Even the smallest bump-a pothole, curb, or the pesky garbage can at the end of the driveway-can alter the elements within the suspension, consequently affecting the angles of the wheels.
How can you tell when you car's wheels need to be aligned? There are a few ways-ones that are less obvious than you think:
Uneven tire wear. If one wheel seems more scruffed than the others, chances are that the weight isn't distributed evenly.
A vibrating steering wheel, indicating the wheel's tendency to drift towards a certain side.
Driving straight with a tilted steering wheel. Chances are, if your car and steering wheel aren't agreeing in direction, something's wrong.
There are different types of alignment, depending on which areas need to be adjusted and your car's suspension:
Four-wheel alignment is used primarily for all-wheel or front-wheel drives with adjustable or independent suspensions. Because of that, both the front and rear must be addressed in order to align all four wheels accordingly.
If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, then either the front-end alignment (for the front) or a thrust-angle alignment(for the rear) would be suited. In such cases, the wheels are adjusted depending on the alignment of either end, ensuring perpendicularity.
Because different car makes have different methods of handling, adjusting the wheels according to your specific model is of utmost importance. After all, no car drives the same; fine-tuning the positions of the wheels for the automaker's intended driving experience and handling characteristics will make for the safest and most enjoyable ride possible. This is particularly true for high-performance or sports vehicles, which market themselves on a more volatile experience than most! As a result, it should be something that's done every time you bring in your car for regular maintenance. This'll keep your tires in better shape for a longer period of time, not to mention better gas mileage due to less resistance.
- What are some things I need to know in case of an emergency during winter driving?
So we've addressed first thing for winter driving safety: tires. But getting the right wheels for the weather means nothing if you don't implement a few changes into your driving habits and routine. Here are some additional things to keep in mind before venturing out into less-than-optimal conditions.
Check everything else. When bringing your car into your service provider (preferably one that's automaker-appropriate) for winter tire changes, make sure to address other parts of your vehicle: battery, belts, hoses, radiator, oil, lights, brakes, tires, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers and ignition system. Ensuring that all those parts are working will increase your chances of a safer driving experience-and in case of something catastrophic, your chances of getting through it.
Washer fluid! Visibility is the number-one danger of driving in bad weather. Make sure you have one rated at a minimum of -40C. An extra bottle in the trunk would be handy, too.
Stock up on the tools. After all, the snow, ice and grit build-up isn't going to take care of itself. Trying times might even have you manually plowing through the roads for your car rather than the other way around. There should always be a snowbrush or ice-scraper, gas line antifreeze and a shovel in the trunk.
Have a survival kit. 'Survival' is a lofty word-though a completely probable concern when you're driving up to Chicoutimi for the holidays under frosty circumstances. In addition to the necessary tools above, having things like booster cables, a tow rope, first-aid kit, blankets, matches, and extra food and water could be an absolute lifesaver.
Handle with care. Having steady control of your vehicle in the wintertime takes more than just keeping your eyes on the road. In case of skidding, make sure to steer in the direction of the skid. If you are skidding in a straight line, step on the clutch or shift to neutral. Do not use cruise control when roads are wet; the automated acceleration will decrease your reaction time in cases of loss of control. And make sure you're aware of what the stopping distance is for your tires! If you're utilizing studded ones, for example, your stopping distance will be slightly shorter. Consult your chosen tire brand and type for more details.
- How do I clean and maintain my car's interior leather?
No one's exempt to judging a car by its exteriors, but far too often we forget just how important its insides are, too. After all, there's a reason why the word luxury often applies to the description of a car's leather interiors: an optimal driving experience, cushioned by a well-maintained hide, derives only from what's within the vehicle. A car can look great, but how it feels to be cooped up in there is what ultimately matters most.
There's definitely regular routine, tools, and methods as to how to keep your car's leather interiors looking good.
Firstly, moisturize. Leather, after all, is just cow skin; what keeps it looking so lovely are the oils from the cow. Once removed from the animal, it's up to you to keep it soft. And because it is skin, leather does have pores - thus trapping dirt, preventing moisture from being properly absorbed. That's why cleaning should precede any usage of lotion and cream, which leads us to…
Second, be gentle. Chemicals, in their harshness, are a no-no. Cleaners should be non-acidic. A spot test in a hidden area should be done prior to any usage. (If you're really careful, try using an old wallet or jacket-after all, leather is leather anywhere.) Make sure the cleaning agent has fully dried out prior to moisturizing, though. You don't rub in the cleaner.
Third, be quick. Unlike other types of cleaning, where marinating the dirt in the cleaning agent is advised, cleaning leather should be done as quickly as possible. Dab the cleaner on, then wipe it off quickly with either a cloth or soft brush, carefully working your way throughout the area. It's time-consuming, but you don't want to risk the cleaning agent remaining on the fabric for too long in case of staining.
And finally, get in the habit. Unfortunately, once leather cracks as a result of overt dryness, there's nothing to be done. That's why regular maintenance and moisturizing is so important. You want to prevent the cracks in times of temperature fluctuations, especially in the winter, and from spreading if they're already there. Four times a year is recommended.
- Automatic vs. manual car washes: What are some of the pros and cons?
Be yours and your car's environment the city or suburbs, getting dirty is an inherent part of the driving experience-and naturally, as is getting it clean again.
With the myriad of options now available, gone are the days of paying a reluctant teenager to scrub the mud off your wheels. There are exterior rollovers, self-service spots, full-service systems. There's waxing, rinsing, and a thousand types of soaps and chemicals. And with the suspicious convenience of automated systems, how would a car with a less durable exterior fare?
Different types of cars and grit require different methods of dealing with them; here's Drivers Recess' crash course on car-washing.
Automatic Wash 101
To begin, there are three primary cons of the automated car wash:
Harshness. Machines, though ever convenient, could cause swirl marks, particularly on darker coloured vehicles. The air blasts or towel-based systems used in drying the car after could also cause water spots.
Contaminants. The brushes and cloths in automated car washes are utilized by thousands of cars; thus the dirt from those thousands of cars can accumulate and scratch your vehicle's surface.
Size accommodation. The drive-in systems may be unable to properly suit the width of wider cars, increasing the chances of damaging problem spots.
Luckily, these are issues that can be skirted, baring in mind the different variations of the automatic car wash. Drive-in systems typically come in two types: the touchless system, which only uses high-powered water jets and soaps in order to clean the car, making swirl marks less probable. The cloth friction system, in contrast, does use soft cloths and scrubbers in order to eliminate truly stubborn spots. In both cases, chemicals in the pre-soak-to loosen particles-does carry the risk of surface damage.
With that said, the primary pros of the automated system are obvious. There's the convenience, dialing down an hour-long (or more!) manual session into ten minutes machined washing, drying and waxing in which your car re-emerges good as new. Hard-to-reach spots or extremely embedded particles are also defenseless against the thorough soaking of the entire car in a drive-in system.
Manual Wash 101
If you do choose to err on the side of caution and go for the manual wash instead, you'll certainly need:
A wash mitt made of microfiber or sheepskin, which would clean more gently and thoroughly than sponges or towels due to their ability to pick up dirt.
A drying cloth. Make sure it's absorbent with a waffle-weave; that type of fabric retains water best.
Soap, of course-designed specifically for washing cars. Other types of soap, such as dish detergent, can wear on a car's wax finish, leaving it dull. The anti-spotting chemicals in special car wash soaps can also help avoid staining.
Other things to keep in mind are:
Location, location, location. Direct sunlight can cause uneven drying, leaving the exposed areas spotty.
Wheels first. A proper wheel cleaner will be harsh enough, as this is likely the dirtiest part of your vehicle. An older, dirty mitt or sponge here will suffice. Also ensure that the wheels are cooled down before beginning, as heat can evaporate the cleaner, leaving the chemicals to spot or stain your wheels.
Soak the stains. Target and soak pesky areas caused by stickier substances before washing the rest of your car. Caustic rubbing can embed the dirt even further into the car's surface, making them harder to remove.
Clean your mitts in the process. Use two buckets-one for rinsing off the dirty mitts, the other for the soapy mixture made according to the product's instructions (don't forget to dilute!).
Dry fast. Immediate drying after the final rinse will avoid water spots. Make sure to open the car doors, hood and trunk to dry those edges to avoid water spots that can occur due to the excess water dripping and accumulating around those areas.