Friday, October 21, 2011

Car care advice from some guy at AAA features car care advice from John Paul at AAA New England. It's nice that features solid car care tips, but I've learned first hand over the years to question some of the modern logic out there pertaining to cars.  So has John, but we still differ in some respects.

Here, created a "best of" slideshow and I just couldn't help picking some of his points apart.  Many of the slides feature good, common sense measures to save on gas, and simply be a safer driver; others I disagree with wholeheartedly.

For example:

"Putting the wipers up and away from the windshield certainly makes it easier to clean the windshield if it snows. It also eliminates the chance of the wipers freezing to the windshield. My concern is that by doing this you are putting stress on the spring that holds the wiper arm against the windshield. I don't do it on my car."

I don't understand this tip as I've never had springs on my wipers break due to heavy snow or ice.  Most cars have the springs tucked away well enough and flush with the windshield such that it would be damn near impossible for the springs to break - in fact, the concern here is ice and snow bending the wiper backward until it snaps.

My problem with this tip is it doesn't account for probabilities and cost.  Would you rather *definitely* replace your wiper blades after a few snow storms, as leaving them on the windshield will cause the rubber to become nearly unusable if you don't store them up & away from the glass during storms? Or would you rather take the small chance that a blizzard of immense proportion will come and bury your car in so much snow that the strong metal springs holding your wipers against the glass will snap off? 

One last point on this one - spring for the orange Rain-X ice-melt stuff, not the crappy gas station "ice melt".  Shell tends to carry the Rain-X stuff but most auto supply stores will also carry it.  It's by far the best brand of ice and snow melt washer fluid and I keep it in year-round on both vehicles.

"In my opinion, warming up a car wastes gas and adds to air pollution. Certainly there are times when it makes sense to let your car warm up. One example may be that the windshield is frozen and warming up the car is necessary to scrape all the ice off the windows."

I love the 'air pollution' argument. We all contribute to air pollution when we drive. What's another minute on idle? If you're penny pinching to save on gas to that degree, re-evaluate your commute.

What John Paul doesn't say is that it's plain dangerous to drive in a freezing cold car for any length of time. People who don't allow the defrosters to kick in and drive with windows fogged up until 10 or 15 minutes into their commute lower their own visibility on the roads. I've nearly been killed by some of these bozos.

He also talks about headlights and making sure they retain brightness and don't wait for them to burn out before replacing them; check them out & ensure they're not weak.  This is a fantastic tip but he doesn't take it far enough - how about some recommendations?  For me, there's no better place to go than the source - a guy who consults for the US DOT - Daniel Stern.  

Further into the slideshow, Mr. Paul talks about how it's perfectly fine to switch between synthetic and regular oil, but that synthetic oil is more likely to find leaks.  I don't understand this advice.  Who would recommend such an approach?  No mechanic I've ever spoken to.  While it may not kill the engine to do this, why would you switch between regular & synthetic oil?  Stick with one and your engine will love you back for a longer period of time.

I hate to pick on this guy and his readers, but there's also his mailbag.  Are there really people who still take the car to a $tealership to fix a couple scratches?

Observe here & below:

Q. I was cleaning sap off my car and used “Goof Off” but also used a straight-edge razor to get some of the stubborn sap off. When I did this I nicked and scratched the paint on the car. It is a 2009 Toyota Camry. I spoke to my dealer and they said to bring it in but I am afraid of what it will cost. I’m on a budget and every penny counts. Can I touch it up myself?
Really?  I'm amazed at how few people know how to use Google for simple car care tips.  You might even run into this blog if you search for the right thing...

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