Car Care Tips



  • Spare tire - Don't forget to make sure it is properly inflate the next time you stop for gas!
  • Tire jack and tire iron
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Battery Operated Air Pump
  • Flat Board
  • Cat Litter
  • Blankets
  • Bottled water
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight and spare Batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Basic Tool Kit


While all of us may need roadside assistance at one time on another, a little advanced planning can help minimize the aggravation. Below is a checklist of items that you should carry in your glove box or trunk for emergencies.


  • Owner's manual
  • Insurance card
  • Vehicle Registration
  • AAA (or other roadside assistance provider) phone number & account number


According to recent study by the National Transportation and Safety Administration, available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/, more than 25% of all passenger cars and more than 33% of all light trucks have under inflated tires.

What does this mean to you?

  • Lower gas mileage - Lower tire pressure means lower gas mileage. For each pound of under inflation, your gas mileage can drop up to 1 percent!
  • Tire failure - Under inflation is the leading cause of tire failure.
  • Faster tread wear - Lower tire pressure also causes the tread to wear out faster and forces premature replacement.
  • Poor handling - The point where the tire meets the road is a crucial element in determining the ride control of your vehicle.  Under inflation prevents your ride control system from functioning properly.


While there is a lot of information available in the market, the best way to determine this is refer to your owner's manual. Each vehicle is designed by the manufacturer with a specific tire and tire pressure in mind. Some things to keep in mind:

  • The proper tire pressure is available to you in a number of locations in the owner's manual or on the door jam or door post. Many vehicles now also have sticker on the interior of the gas cap.
  • The pressure listed on the exterior of the tire is the maximum pressure that the tire should be inflated to, not necessarily the ideal pressure.
  • Always take the tire ' s pressure when the tires are cold driven less than one mile.
  • Tires will lose about one pound per square inch (PSI) for every 10-degree drop in the temperature.
  • Tires will also lose pressure over time about 1 PSI per month.
  • To improve the life of your tires, rotate them on a regular basis - every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Every other oil change is a good rule of thumb.


The Car Care Council, sponsors April as National Car Care Month. Hopefully you are one of the few individuals listening to your mechanics advice and following the guidelines set by the manufacturer and outlined in your owners manual. If so, April is just another month in the calendar to you. For the rest of us, October is the perfect time to get current with our maintenance schedules and have our vehicles inspected for upcoming winter months.
This is a prime time to review your vehicles performance just before the onslaught of winter. Major changes in the temperature are one of the primary factors in automotive systems component failure. And before you think, this i s no t going to happen to me, review some of the results of the 2000 National Car Care Month Check Lanes Survey.
This survey is conducted nation wide each April at thousands of participating businesses and offers the consumer a no cost visual inspection of several key vehicle components, along with tips on how to better maintain their vehicle. Here are some of the key findings by category.
Overall 8 7% of all vehicles inspected demonstrated some form of component failure.


Engine Oil 22%
Transmission 18%
Power Steering 9%
Brake Fluid 12%
Coolant 20%
Twenty-two percent failed the inspection due to low or dirty motor oil. Transmission, power steering and brake fluid failure levels were 18%, 9% and 12% respectively. Low fluid levels can effect the safe driving performance of the vehicle and damage internal parts if not properly maintained. Brake fluid can be ineffective if low and/or contaminated. Among driving emergencies, people fear brake failure the most.
Twenty percent of the vehicles had inadequate cooling system protection. The cooling system protects against damage by keeping the engine operating within the correct temperature range. Flushing the coolant every year or two protects the system from rust, dirt and mineral deposits.


Washer Fluid 10%
Windshield Wipers 19%
Rear Wiper/Washer 2%
Horn 4%
Windshield wiper failures increased from last year to 19% with 10% of the vehicles needing washer fluid. Past surveys have shown that when told, motorists have needed maintenance or repairs performed. Wiper blades had the highest replacement rate, probably due to easy do-it-yourself installation and low cost.
Coolant 20%
Air Filter 10%
Belts 16%
Hoses 12%


Cables/Clamps/Term. 13%
Carrier/Hold Down 8%
Test Eye 3%
Fluid: Low/Sealed 2%
Ten percent of the vehicles checked needed new air filters. The air filter keeps abrasive dust, dirt, bugs and other foreign matter out of the fuel system air intake. A dirty filter can decrease gas mileage and increase emissions.  Belts were reported as unsatisfactory in 16% of the vehicles and 12% required new hoses. Roadside breakdowns can be avoided by motorists periodically checking their belts and hoses and replacing them when worn.  Battery cable/clamps/terminals were found to need maintenance in 13% of the vehicles and 8% of the batteries were not properly held down.


Tire Pressure 13%
Tread Depth 6%
Thirteen percent of the vehicles were found to have low tire pressure and 6% had worn tread. Low tire pressure decreases gas mileage and tire life. Vehicles traveling with worn tread are at greater risk of losing traction on wet or snowy roads.


Backup/License 10%
Brake Lights 7%
Side Lights 3%
Turn Signals 3%
Headlights 1%
Parking Lights 2%

Vehicle lighting provides a means of communication among drivers... except when they aren't working. How do you know if the car driving in front of you intends to make a turn if his turn signals don't work? Or that he's making a panic stop if his brake lights are out of order? Daytime running lights, which are becoming more common, have been used with success in other countries. In Canada, there was a 28% reduction in crashes involving cars approaching from front or side angles.


All vehicles contain a unique VIN number. Here is some information and helpful hints for you. The Vehicle Identification Number, sometimes referred to as VIN, the Chassis Number Format, or the Vehicle Serial Number, is comparable to that of a DNA system.
In the mid 1950s, American automobile producers began casting and stamping identification numbers on vehicles and their parts for purposes of accurately describing vehicles when large quantities of production were beginning to rise. Study shows that earlier VIN numbers relied on the manufacturer and they varied significantly. Vehicles prior to 1980 have 10 digit numbers and the 1980 vehicles contain 10 digits and an A . Because of the differentiation, in the early 1980s the U.S. Department of Transportation decided that all vehicles on the road contain a 17 character VIN, which is the system now used in most major vehicle manufacturers. A vehicle is like the DNA system when it rolls off the production line, it has its own identification number!
In addition to the VIN differing by manufacturer, the form and location may vary. The form could be in:

  1. Plate (Aluminum)
  2. Label Form
  3. Bar Code
  4. Cast or Stamped

Common locations for a VIN are:

  • Firewall of the Vehicle
  • Left Hand Inner Wheel Arch
  • Steering Column
  • Radiator Support Bracket
  • Dash by the Windshield
  • Driver ' s Door
  • Door Jam Frame
  • Passenger Side Door
  • Maintenance Book
  • Vehicle Documentation
  • Machined Pad on the Front of the Engine

Let's examine a vehicle with the following VIN -1ZWFT61L8X5617537. It is broken down as follows:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
1 Z W F T 6 1 L 8 X 5 6 1 7 5 3 7

1: The first character identifies the country in which the vehicle was manufactured (i.e., U.S.A. (1 or 4), Canada (2), Mexico (3), Japan (J), Korea (K), England (S), Germany (W), Italy (Z). This car was manufactured in the U.S.A.
Z: The second character identifies the manufacturer (i.e., Audi (A), BMW (B), Buick (4), Cadillac (6), Chevrolet (1), Chrysler (C), Dodge (B), Ford (F), GM Canada (7), General Motors (G), Honda (H), Jaguar (A), Lincoln (L), Mercedes Benz (D), Mercury (M or Z), Nissan (N), Oldsmobile (3), Pontiac (2 or 5), Plymouth (P), Saturn (8), Toyota (T), VW (V), Volvo (V). Th e manufacturer of this car is Mercury.
W: The third character identifies the vehicle type or manufacturing division. Th e type of this car is Cougar.
FT61L: The fourth through eighth characters identifies the features as in the body style, engine, type, model, series, etc . This car is a 2D Coupe, Mid-size car with 2.5L V6 SMPI DOHC 24V.
8: The ninth character identifies the VIN accuracy as check digit.
X: The tenth character identifies the model year (i.e., 1988 (J), 1989 (K), 1990 (L), 1991 (M), 1992 (N), 1993 (P), 1994 (R), 1995 (S), 1996 (T), 1997 (V), 1998 (W), 1999 (X), 2000 (Y), 2001 (1), 2002 (2), 2003 (3). Th e model of this year is 1999.
5: The eleventh character identifies the production plant.
617537: The twelfth to seventeenth characters identifies the sequence of the vehicle as it rolled off the manufacturer assembly line.


The 'Be Car Care Aware' campaign is a marketing and public relations consumer education campaign to increase the motorists' awareness about vehicle care, Maintenance and repair. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) is spearheading the campaign on behalf of the industry. The Car Care Council serves as the brand and information source for the campaign.

National Car Care Month

National Car Care Month is a nationwide effort by businesses, civic groups, the government and the media to focus motorists attention on the need to maintain and repair their cars. It is generally celebrated in April, however, events are held throughout the year since good Maintenance and repair should be practiced regularly.

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