Category Archives: automotive tips and ideas

how check power steering fluid

Power Steering Fluid: How to Check + Flush Yourself – DIY Video

What is power steering fluid, and how do you check it? Most people rarely think twice about the power steering unit they have in their vehicle, mainly because it’s not a maintenance issue that commonly gets brought up. However, power steering might be one of the most important functions of your car, because if you’re not able to successfully navigate the wheel quickly, your car is an accident waiting to happen.

How to check power steering fluid:

If you can’t see inside to examine your fluid, a good way to check is to use a turkey baster and look at the fluid that you pull out from inside the baster.

If the fluid is lighter in color and doesn’t give off a burnt smell, then you probably just need to add more fluid to what you already have. As long as the fluid isn’t dirty and isn’t burnt, it’s usually still good to use.

If your fluid is a darker brown or black color and smells like something that was pulled from a fire, however, that’s when you might need to flush your power steering fluid. One common way to replace your fluid is to simply remove the contaminated fluid with the turkey baster and replace it with newer fluid. If you’re only somewhat savvy when it comes to cars, this method of replacement rather than a full flush is a much safer way for you to handle your car’s maintenance.

How to FLUSH power steering fluid:

If you know what you’re doing when it comes to cars, however, a full power steering flush makes sense. The best way to do a proper flush requires the help of a friend who you can trust to start the car while you examine the fluid.

  • Disconnect the main low-pressure hose from the steering pump, allowing the contaminated fluid to drip out of the bottom.
  • Add enough new fluid to fill the system to the halfway mark, making sure that you’ve filled the steering system to the halfway point before starting the vehicle.
  • Once you have the system at the halfway point, have your friend start the vehicle to get the power steering pump engaged.
  • For best results, you’ll want your friend to turn the steering wheel back and forth to help get the new fluid pumping through the system.
  • As this is happening, you’ll notice the old fluid coming out of the back to be replaced by the new fluid. What you need to watch for when you replace power steering fluid is the color of the fluid that’s coming out of the system.
  • Once the color that comes out matches what you know is new fluid, then this part of the job is done and it’s time to get the hoses reattached.

Power steering change cost

For some people, the average power steering fluid change cost of $115 isn’t something that bothers them, but if you’re the type that doesn’t mind getting your hands dirty, it’s a relatively simple process that can lead to some moderate savings.

In fact, you can check the monthly flyer of stores like Advance Auto Parts to see if they have any on sale in-store. If you’re lucky, one of their mechanics might even check it for free at your local store.

The first thing to know about a power steering fluid change is that it’s not always necessary to go for a full flush. In order to know if a full flush is necessary, it’s a good idea to take a look at the existing fluid that’s already in your power steering system.

Test your power steering

However, don’t make the mistake of assuming that the job is done and getting right back on the road immediately after you complete a power steering fluid change. Once you think you’ve removed all of the contaminated fluid from the system, it’s time to put the cap back on and test the steering with the car in a safe area.

Make sure that the wheel turns smoothly in each direction. When you operate the wheel, it should be easy to turn, with no difficulty in changing direction. If you find yourself getting stuck making a turn and having to use incredible force to complete it, that’s a sign that you might have a bigger steering problem.

Checking & flushing your power steering fluid is an important habit!

When you really think about it, the decision to replace power steering fluid is mostly about common sense. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a very straightforward maintenance procedure that you can do at home. If you can read a dipstick and determine how much fluid to add, managing your power steering fluid and keeping yourself and others safe on the road won’t be a difficult task at all!

how long do car brakes last

How Long Do Car Brakes Last? Maybe An Extra 20k Miles w/ These Tips

You know that you can’t afford to have unreliable brakes, but this begs a very important question: how long do brakes last?

Automotive engineers have not defined a firm lifespan for our brakes, presumably because there are a lot of variables involved.

Evidence of this frustratingly vague guidance is evident in a study from Toyota, estimating their brake pads can last anywhere from 25,000 miles to 70,000 miles, with an average lifespan of 30,000 to 60,000 miles.

*Thanks a lot. That 30k difference between the low and high estimate is more than the circumference of the Earth!

However, how long your brakes last depend on the type of car you drive and how you drive as well. Maybe you can’t trade in your jalopy for a new Mercedes, but there are plenty of things you can do on your own to improve the lifespan of your brakes.

Specific brands and makes of brakes will reveal more specific estimates for how long they will last, but a lot of it has to do with the driver. In fact, some motorists have made their 30k+ mile brakes last for 90,000 miles and more with conscientious driving highlighted in the following tips and tricks!

Make Your Brakes Last Longer: Slow Down

speedometerAttention: your need for speed is killing your brake pads! 

The higher your speed, the shorter your reaction time, and the longer it takes to fully stop your car. Not only is speeding dangerous, but it puts massive of wear and tear on your brake pads.

The physics behind our brakes shows that car brakes turn their kinetic (motion) energy into heat. So, when you stop your car at high speeds, your brakes expend more heat energy, wearing down your brake pads more.

Try these tips for easing up on the road:

  • Stay within the speed limit (*Not to mention that a single speeding ticket can cost you more than new brakes!) 
  • Coast when you can, especially downhill
  • Don’t tailgate: Keep a safe distance between yourself and other cars to avoid any sudden braking. Tailgating is murder on your brakes, as you’re giving yourself very little reaction time to slow down or stop
  • Refrain from road rage. If you are out of control, your car will suffer too!
  • Look ahead and anticipate upcoming traffic lights: This is a great time to coast to a smooth stop

how long brakes last cheap car

Remove Any Excess Weight From Your Car

How long do brakes last for heavy cars? Well, not as long as lighter cars! The heavier your car is, the more stress is put on your brakes.

You learned that your car and brakes operate on kinetic energy, which is simply energy derived from motion.

The amount of kinetic energy is dictated by the overall weight of your vehicle, so, the more excess weight your car has the more kinetic energy it needs to generate to function properly. In layman’s terms: the heavier your car is, the the shorter your brakes will last.

This weight only puts more pressure on your brakes and brake pads, and that wear and tear is worsened with continuous speeding or reckless driving.

Check your car to see if you’re lugging around extra weight you don’t need, such as exercise equipment, gallons of water, power tools, and other heavy items. The extra weight is straining your fuel efficiency, too!

Don’t Use Your LEFT Foot for the Brake Pedal!

This is something you need to make a habit of.

When you break with your left foot, you’re more inclined to have pressure on both pedals at the same time. Even if your right foot is just lightly resting on the accelerator while you brake, you’re fighting against your braking system.

It’s like having the AC and the heat on at the same time in your house, and this just turns up the pressure even more on your car and brake pads.

brakes last harsh weather

How Long Do Brakes Last in Harsh Weather?

Not as long as in good weather! If you live somewhere with long winters, you’re probably looking at the lower end of the estimate for how long your brakes will last. Extreme temperatures are hard on your brakes, and the salt on winter roads is brutal on brake pads and drums, and rotors, shortening their lifespan.

You can’t mess around with driving in bad weather. You need a reliable car to last through blizzards, icy roads, and trips to the mountains. The money you are saving by trying to stretch out your tires or brake pads is nothing compared to the cost of a single accident.

When driving up and over snowy hills, make sure your car is in the right gear for safe incline driving while periodically putting minor pressure on your brake pads.

Another important thing to remember is to fill and flush your brake fluid periodically to extend the life of your brakes.

When your brakes create too much heat energy, it depletes your brake fluid supply. On the flip side, if you don’t change your brake fluid enough, it will eventually dilute with moisture and lose its effectiveness.

Also, if you notice that your brake pedal feel “spongy,” or soft, it means there’s air in the line, and needs attention. “Bleeding” the brakes / brake fluid change costs about $80-100, but it will fix both of these issues, and will extend the life of your brakes.

Don’t Try to Save a Buck & Get Cheap Brakes

If you’re trying to decide between Wearever Gold brakes and something made in China that has a blurry photo of Michael Jackson on the packaging, you need to stop being stingy.

Spend the extra money on a trusted brand name, and consider researching reviews and ratings from trusted sites like Consumer Reports.

If you do want to save money, get the good brakes, and use a coupon at these top auto parts stores:

Also, doing your own brake check-ups, or getting them done for free at a local Advance Auto Parts or AutoZone is all you need to make sure they’re operating and stopping properly all year round. Follow these simple tips to keep your brakes working longer and your time in the car safer.

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emergency prepare kit car noah

Make a DIY Roadside Car Emergency Kit: Prep Like a Suburban Noah

jumper cables carIt wasn’t Raining when Noah Built the Ark: Out here in Pennsylvania we’ve been blessed with some great weather lately; so nice that it made me forget how awful last winter was. (Can you say, “polar vortex”?) However, check out this recent headline:

The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts that this winter will be another arctic blast with above-normal snowfall throughout much of the nation. The extreme weather will continue into the Summer.”

try imagining a few scenarios that you might face unexpectedly in your car, like being stranded roadside, or stuck in gridlock traffic in various weather. If it happened tomorrow, would you be prepared?

While Noah had a pretty big task set before him, the good news is that yours will be simple. (And no animals needed!) While this list may be altered due to the season, your geographic location, or whether you travel with kids or others, here is a basic list of what you should have for an emergency kit for your car:

noah ark prep car

other drives won’t be so lucky

  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Jumper cables and/or a charged jump starter
  • Extra fuses (often fix electrical problems)
  • wool blanket
  • first aid kit
  • Road flares
  • rain poncho / umbrella
  • auto fire extinguisher
  • Ice scraper (seasonal)
  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable snacks (like granola or energy bars)
  • Paper and pen (to make a sign, or write down information)

Many of the items above will fit into a backpack or plastic storage bin, and not take up too much room in your car. You can certainly add to this list, and the emergency lists can get pretty long and intimidating. You can grab most of these items at your local Advance Auto Parts (click for coupons) Walmart, or AutoZone. Personally, I think some of the recommendations from Consumer Reports and Edmunds can get a little intense; like quarts of motor oil, antifreeze, tire chains, etc.

*Tip: Know how to jump start a car!

A better alternative might be to join AAA for 24 hour roadside assistance for auto / mechanical problems. Unless you have an inner-MacGyver, you might just want to get towed to the nearest service station.

car emergency kit winter

Shoes: If you do a lot of driving in heels or fancy dress shoes, also consider having some backup shoes or rain boots in case you need to do any walking in bad weather. (*see for great footwear coupons)

Kitty litter: I thought you said, “no animals?!” True, but you can pour kitty litter under your tires if you are stuck in icy weather for traction. It’s a nice winter addition to the list, and more practical than tire chains.

Also, please consider these tips:

  • Don’t drive your car on “empty” – Keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car
  • Check your car battery – Have your battery checked free at Advance Auto Parts to see if you need a new one
  • Keep up with oil changes (at least every 5000 miles or so)
  • Check your tires – Have them rotated when you get your oil changed, and check your tire pressure
  • Consider joining AAA, or have a premium roadside assistance program in place. It costs a lot to call them and join when you are stranded!
  • Keep your cell phone charged, and have a car charger
  • Know how to jump start your car
  • Keep an emergency $20 bill in your glove compartment – Lots of reasons that might make sense. And if the power is out, you might need it!

While driving in remote, rural areas or extreme conditions may present more potential for emergencies, the list above will greatly prepare most suburban drivers and commuters for the most common suburban emergencies. The good thing is that you can always find coupons for at least 20% off your order at Advance Auto Parts, and you can even pick them up for free in 30 minutes from your nearest store.

Think you have nothing to worry about? Remember the Chinese proverb, “when men speak of the future, the gods laugh.” Hey, if Noah can build an ark bigger than a football field at age 600 to prep, you can do this! Not only did I make a car emergency kit, I got a backup generator installed in my house as well! (I’ve already been through a 3-day power outage with three kids once)

If you think it might be helpful to a friend, please share this post!

car maintenance tips

Car Maintenance Checklist: Here’s How to Avoid Common Repairs

Prevent the expense of common and costly repairs with car maintenance: 95% of American households own a car. And the average American household spends 1.5% of their annual income on auto repairs.

That’s a ridiculous amount! But prevention is better than cure so help cut your repair bills with this car maintenance checklist!

Avoid engine misfires with regular engine tuning.

Your spark plugs are timed to fire to deliver power from the engine. It’s a precise operation, but if it doesn’t fire at the right time (or at all) it’s a misfire.

Engine misfires are a common problem, but they’re easy enough to avoid if you follow a car maintenance checklist.

They can be caused by;

  • bad spark plugs
  • problems around poorly performing fuel delivery
  • vacuum leaks
  • faults in your spark plug wires
  • potential issues with head gaskets and valves.

To do: Keep the engine tuned according to the factory specs. Follow your maintenance manual. Have a yearly trouble code scan to uncover potential problems.

Pre-empt problems with your EVAP system

evap system car

EVAP, you say? No, it’s not a new, trendy way to smoke, it’s an important part of your car. The EVAP control system is made up of the fuel tank, a separator to keep liquid gasoline out of the system, vapor lines, and an EVAP canister.

This canister is full of activated carbon, and it traps the fumes. Periodically, the purge valve sucks in fresh air. This forces the fumes back into the engine where they can be burned up.

If the vapor lines are corroded, or the canister is faulty, then your computer will show the “EVAP Leak” code.

To do: Screw the gas cap on tightly after you refuel. And always use a good application of rust protection.

If you need any parts, you can get a 25% discount with our Autozone coupons.

Keep track of your mileage

The Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) emissions system on your car is designed to help cut down on pollution. With each household having 1.8 vehicles, that’s a lot of noxious gasses being produced.

The system lowers the temperature of the combustion chamber to reduce the formation of NOx (Oxides of Nitrogen) gas.

But because it deals with exhaust gas, it can be blocked by a buildup of unburned gas. Its valves also suffer from general wear and tear.

To do: Make a note of your mileage. The fuel system should be cleaned every 30,000 miles. This will help keep the emission systems working efficiently.

And keep an eye on that check engine light.

routine car maintenance tips

Give your catalytic converter some love

Speaking of pollution, your catalytic converter should burn up any gas that remains in your car’s exhaust. It’s another way of being environmentally conscious.

But too much carbon can build up and block the converter. Then rust and corrosion can cause leakages.

Also make sure that you keep up with your engine maintenance. Carbon buildup might also point to problems with the fuel delivery.

Add the check engine light to your car maintenance checklist.

The onboard performance computer can detect a range of issues before they ever become a problem.

That can include broken engine caskets, faulty sensors, and issues with the vacuum line or cylinder head.

Any of these can trigger the check engine light, or the ‘System too lean’

Car maintenance Tips:

Hopefully, these tips will help keep your car up and running smoothly. And if you do find you need auto parts, then don’t forget your 30% discount with our coupons!

penny test worn tire treads

5 Ways To Tell If You Need New Tires: Try the Penny Test

How can you tell if you need new tires? Tires are one of those important things that you don’t really think about much until something is wrong; kind of like the foundation of your house. However, it’s a good idea not to let potential problems with your tires develop if you can avoid it. Here’s one way to save money with coupons for Advance Auto, and 5 ways to tell whether you need new tires:

1.) Tire tread depth:

Madonna once said, “Get into the groove, boy you’ve got to prove your love to me,” and I believe she was referring to her tires. The tread on your tires should never be less than 1/16 of an inch, and if you are driving on wet surfaces, you should have closer to 1/8 on an inch.

The penny test: How can you measure the tread? One simple way is to put a penny between the treads, with Abe Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can still see all of Abe’s head, you honestly need new tires.

3:) Increased Vibration:

Cyndi Lauper once said, “I’ve been thinking of a new sensation, I’m picking up a good vibration. Oop, She bop!” Even though that song apparently alludes to female masturbation, it always reminds me of driving on worn tires. If you notice that your tires have gotten loud, or that your car shimmies when you drive, it might be that your tires need attention. That vibration could mean that your tires aren’t properly aligned or balanced. (Or, it could mean that you need to turn the bass down on your stereo while playing that Sir Mix-a-lot CD!)

tire cracked sidewalls4.) Cracked Sidewalls:

One of the more easy ways to tell whether you need new tires involves visual inspection of the sidewalls. If you see cracks developing cracks or grooves, it’s a good indication that your tires need replacing.

5.) A bulge or blisters on your tires:

If you see a bulge on the side of any of your tires, that’s the internal air pushing out on a weak spot. Get this taken care of immediately, as it might lead to a blowout.

tire wear indicator bars2.) Tread Wear Indicator Bars on tires:

For your convenience, many new tires include tread wear indicators in the form of little bars that appear as your tires get worn. As your automobile’s tires wear down, these little bars appear perpendicular to the actual tread of the tires, and can be seen in the wet tracks that your old tires leave after you drive through a puddle.

How many miles do tires usually last?

That’s an important question, and the quick answer is “between 40,000 and 80,000 miles.” Although tires get a lot better mileage than they used to, the answer still depends on a few important factors. First, tires are rated for tread life expectancy, and the better ones usually last longer.

Here are a few tips to extend the life of your tires:

  • Maintain recommended tire pressure, which may fluctuate seasonally (in winter tires often lose air pressure)
  • Rotate your tires every time you get an oil change
  • Don’t pair new tires with old or mismatched ones
  • Drive responsibly and watch out for pot holes, especially in late Winter!

If you’re still not sure, get the opinion of a someone from a trusted local service station or auto parts store. Although checking whether you need new tires isn’t one of the listed free services from Advance Auto Parts or AutoZone, one of their ASE certified professionals would be happy to give you their professional opinion as to whether you need new tires.

There same auto parts stores don’t usually sell actual tires, but you can get everything you need to maintain and repair your tires and wheels in-store or online. For the best price, be sure to use a coupon for a 30% discount (check out the featured promotional code above) or more!