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Automotive 101

Owning a motor vehicle can be one of life's greatest pleasures or a source of frustration, whether it is just out of the showroom or an old clunker that has been around the block a few times there are certain things that one should be aware of. Some of us enjoy maintenance and repairs, others do it because they have no choice on the side of the road, this is not fun and can be prevented. Minor tune-ups, tire pressure and fluid checks as well as washing and waxing are all things that can be done by just about anybody. Buying a used car can be a nightmare when things go wrong, find out how to take steps to avoid common pitfalls and get the best value for your money.

History - Buying - How to Wash a Car - Tires


If one had to guess who invented the motor car names such as Ford, Daimler, Duryea and Cugnot would all be valid choices. If the first person to patent a motor vehicle is considered the inventor that would be George Seldon.

Seldon applied for a patent on the "Road Engine" in 1879, by 1895 when the patent was issued a young automobile industry was taking off in the USA. Under threat of suit many of the manufacturers took out a license from him and most of their cars for the next ten to fifteen years sported a small brass plaque reading "Manufactured under Seldon Patent.

Henry Ford refused to go along with this and fought it out in court, finally winning one year before the patent expired.

Seldon was a patent attorney, not a manufacturer, he built his one and only car during the course of the suit with Ford. The car managed to stagger along under its own power briefly, even so he made well in excess of 10 million dollars from royalities.

Seldon Patent

Seldon Patent Print available at Vintage Internet Patents


Before Going to the Dealer

Check out the car online if it is a used vehicle, take note of any problems that are known with that particular model or year of vehicle. You should also get an idea of what the car is worth comparing ads. Prices of private deals will be cheaper than at a dealer, however there are advantages of purchasing through a dealer such as mechanical inspections, needed repairs and professional detailing.

Check loan rates with your bank if you need financing so you can compare to dealers rates.

Before Taking the Test Drive

The first part of a test drive is not the driving, it is a chance to check out sitting, with seat belt fastened, in each of the vehicle's seats, adjusting the seats, and checking the interior comforts of the vehicle.
Do you feel comfortable behind the wheel? Are there any blind spots?

Other things to check include:

Trunk or cargo space.
Lights, including brake lights and signals.
Storage compartments and accessories.
Overall comfort and convenience.
If it is a used car check for body damage, dents, scratches, rust, etc. and tire tread.

Taking the Test Drive

You should also let any additional family members or others who may be driving the vehicle to get some time behind the wheel. Also, bring children, along with their car seatsto see how they fit.

The actual driving part of a test drive should be a brief but thorough test of the car's engine, suspension, steering and cornering, and on-board amenities, including heat and air-conditioning. A test drive should include both stop-and-go street driving, and highway time.

When you are on the streets, pay particular attention to the car's steering ability as you take a couple of right and left turns. This will also give you a sense of the brakes, transmission, and idle engine behavior.

If you are getting on a highway, go ahead and check the vehicle's acceleration. You should also make note of the vehicle's driving feel, and whether it affords a smooth and steady ride. Also make note of the noise from the engine or exhaust system.

After some highway driving, you should turn back toward the seller's location, and preferably get some more street driving in to ensure the vehicle will not run hot or rough after freeway driving. You may also want to find a vacant parking lot or other open area of roadway to hit the brakes hard to check the car's stopping power.

Be sure to take a long enough drive to warm the engine to regular operating temperature. The street and highway driving should include running in all gears, including reverse at some point.

Run the heat to ensure it emits hot air, and check the air conditioning for cool air. Run the air-conditioning for longer, and check its impact on the engine and temperature. You can do these things toward the end of the test drive, when you should turn the car off, wait a few seconds, and start it back up. You may even want to shut it off and on again, waiting longer in between to check the vehicle's charging and starting capability. Regardless, you should have the car idle for at least five minutes after a drive to ensure it does not run hot or rough after or during driving.

Take advantage of your test drive and try to come up with any questions or additional information about a vehicle or its performance. Your post-drive inspection should include a thorough look for body, frame, or other damage or defects, and a look under the engine to see if any fluids are leaking or dripping.

You should feel comfortable that you have thoroughly checked out a vehicle before buying it, and a test drive is the best way to do it.

Under the Hood

A test drive should also include a fairly thorough investigation of the vehicle's engine. Check fluids, looking not only at the level on dipsticks or container gauges, but the cleanliness of fluids.

Motor oil should be at nearly full and does not have to be pure amber in color, but should not be completely black. Transmission fluid should be red to pink, and again, not dark in overall color. Other fluids to check include power steering and brakes, clutch, and coolant, which should be light green and not just water, even though a mix of half coolant, half water is usually acceptable.

It is a good idea to look under the hood and under the car, including an inspection of the exhaust system from muffler to tailpipe, before it is heated up from the test drive. Also check the axles and joints. Beware of any vehicle seller who is reluctant to show you the engine, trunk, or other part of a vehicle.

For used cars, it is also becoming increasingly important to look for evidence of flooding, as some vehicles are taken far from the disaster-affected area and sold to unwitting buyers. Look for water lines on the inside of the vehicle body, in the trunk, or even the interior. Any mildew or moisture in the interior of a vehicle should be avoided.

If you feel you are unable or unqualified to assess the vehicle's mechanical merit, it may be worth your while to have an independent mechanic you trust check the engine for you. This is a service most reputable mechanics provide for a relatively inexpensive fee.

The bottom line is to envision owning the vehicle, and whether the price or payments would be worth having that vehicle to drive.

How to Wash a Car

You Need

Car Wash Liquid: don't use dishwashing liquid, make sure it's for automotive use. Some brands have a gloss enhancer built in, others have wax.

A bucket: only use it for washing your car.

A quality sponge or wash mit: wash mitts slip over your handand are less likely to fall to the ground and collect abrasive dirt you just rinsed off your car.

Bug and Tar Remover: need for this is obvious.

Chamois or Towels for Drying :always 100% cotton if you are going to go the towel root. Synthetic chamoisare great for drying a car after washing.

The Process

Work in a cool area out of direct sunlight. Wet down the entire vehicle, paying special attention to wheel wells and under the car to knock off large pieces of dirt and road grime where possible.

Next spray bug and tar remover on the surfaces which have bugs and tar, usually the front grill, fronts of the side mirror housings and behind the wheels. The idea is to soften the bugs or tar with the bug and tar remover and get it off quickly it can damage the finish of your car if left on too long, scrub off the bugs and tar with car wash liquid before moving on to washing the rest of the car.

Begin washing entire car, start at the top of the car and work in sections. Try to keep the entire car wet as you move along, to avoid water spots. Do the roof, then hood, rear trunk lid,rear bumper, front bumper, doors then finally fenders. Always rinse your sponge or wash mit off before putting it back in to the wash bucket, your wash solution should be as clean when you finish, as when you started.

Once you have everything washed, give it one final rinse and start drying. Again working from the top down.


Difference between All Season and Winter Tires


Although all-season tires offer traction in a variety of different weather conditions, winter tires surpass them when it comes to traction in snow and ice. They are a compromise made to function under both wet and dry conditions, the rubber is designed to run under dry conditions so is not as soft as a winter tire which will wear out quickly under dry contitions.


Winter tire provide, better braking in snowy and icy conditions, the tread design is designed specifically for ice, snow and other severe winter conditions. The rubber is formulated to stay flexible at low temperatures.
Most drivers find that winter tires provide a sense of confidence and control in severe winter weather conditions.

Do I have to change all the tires at once?

Two wheel drive vehicles don't necessarily need to have all four tires replaced at once, two at a time is sufficient. But all-wheel-drive systems do require all four tires to be replaced at one time.

In vehicles with all-wheel-drive systems, the differential and the computer work together to send the right amount of torque to each wheel to minimize slippage and maximize control. If one of the tires is a different size than the others the computer will take an incorrect reading and the differential will work too hard burning out the drivetrain.

There are exceptions, even for AWD vehicles. If the tires only have a couple thousand miles on them and one needs to be replaced, that's okay . If you need to use the small spare to limp to the nearest repair shop, that's probably not far enough to do any serious damage.

Always replace your tires with the proper style and size recommended for your vehicle.

How to Read a Tire:

P215/65R15 89H

This is what the numbers and letters mean:

"P" stands for passenger,
"215" represents the width of the tire in millimeters;
"65" is the ratio of height to width;
"H" is the speed rating;
"R" means radial; and
"15" is the diameter of the wheel in inches.

Tire Pressure

It is important to run your tires at the correct tire pressure, this may be found in the operators manual included with your vehicle. Recommended pressures are also usually listed somewhere on the vehicle, check the drivers door pillar, or inside the gas cap door.

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