Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does it matter where you buy gasoline?

Buy gasoline at busy stations to ensure you don't get a "bad load" that has been sitting too long in a tank. Also, don't buy gas at a station at the same time you see a delivery truck filling an underground tank--and stirring up impurities in the fuel in that tank.

Does putting extra air in the tires help a car cope with carrying extra weight?

Definitely. When tires are cold, add five pounds to the pressures recommended by your car's manufacturer. But don't overload the car because excessive loads and sharp impacts can cause tire cord breaks and create damaging heat buildup because of abnormal sidewall flexing.

What should you do if the engine temperature gauge begins rising during rush-hour traffic?

Don't panic. Give the car a little gas to let it rid itself of some engine heat. Turn on the heater, which will draw heat from the engine. If the gauge is firmly in the danger zone, pull to the side of the road and let the motor cool. Most cars shouldn't overheat--so have the cooling system checked. The problem could be anything from a clogged radiator core to low engine coolant to an inoperable radiator fan.

How do you know how much air to put in tires?

Inflate tires according to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure found in the owner's manual or on places such as the door post and glove box door. As the Tire Industry Safety Council puts it: "Just because the speedometer in your vehicle measures speeds up to 120 m.p.h. doesn't mean the manufacturer is suggesting 120 as a recommended cruising speed. The same applies to air pressure limits stamped on the sidewall of your tires." Unless you load your vehicle to its maximum carrying capacity, using the maximum pressure listed on the tires will result in a terribly hard ride and may adversely affect steering control.

Can spark plugs really go 100,000 miles before being changed?

I have heard of spark plugs found seized in cylinder heads of vehicles with as little as 60,000 miles. It took over four hours' labor just to remove the plugs. There are documented cases where it was necessary to remove cylinder heads just to get the plugs out. Experienced mechanics suggest that to maintain peak performance, spark plugs should not be run longer than 30,000 miles, even though they continue to fire. Car buyers should take those "100,000-miles" marketing claims of manufacturers with a grain of salt.

What maintenance should be done during long car trips?

Check the oil level when you stop for gasoline on long trips, where autos are likelier to use more oil. Pull over immediately and call for help from a mechanic if the oil pressure light goes on; otherwise, the engine could be destroyed. If the car begins overheating, check for coolant leaks or broken belts. If there are no such problems, switch off the air-conditioner and turn on the heater to maximum to bleed some heat from the engine. Then drive to the nearest service station while keeping an eye on the temperature gauge.