Sunday, December 14, 2008

Defensive and efficient driving: A roadtripper’s key to road Zen

Defensive and fuel efficient driving are the ultimate keys to road safety and the optimum operation of your car’s system for a long time. By being a defensive and fuel efficient driver, you’ll also add up more on savings from frequent gas ups. Follow these simple and easy steps to become a defensive and fuel efficient driver.

Become a Defensive driver

1. Before starting your car, be sure that you have buckled up everyone, including children and pets (if any)

2. Stay in the speed limit. In some areas, (especially highly urbanized zones) driving too fast or too slow will increase your chance of a collision.

3. Be cautious of changing situations on the road and be prepared to respond quickly. If you notice a car that’s straddling, weaving, making wide turns, stopping suddenly or not responding to traffic signals, then know that the driver may be impaired or distracted. Probable causes could be alcohol, distraction or on the phone.

4. Stay away from impaired drivers. Slow down a bit to increase following distance. If the driver is behind you, turn at the nearest corner. Always remember to never let or encourage an impaired driver pass you. If a vehicle crosses over into your lane, pull over the roadside. Sound your horn or flash lights to attract attention.

5. Maintain presence of mind to quickly respond to any situation. Never drink and drive. Never use your mobile phone while on the road.

5. Always follow traffic rules and regulations. Never contest right of way or engage racing on busy roads.

6. Always observe courtesy and respect for other drivers.

Drive Efficiently

1. Regularly tune-up your gasoline / diesel engine to keep it in top fuel efficiency condition.

2. Start and keep your engine running at the normal idling speed. Running more than the recommended “warm up” will affect your fuel burn.

3. When driving, always keep within the speed of 70 to 90 kph. Driving below or higher than this bracket will result in less kph traveled for the same amount of fuel.

4. Plan your trips ahead in order to maximize the load factor of your car.

5. Always be aware of alternate routes in your trip to avoid traffic hassles.

6. Always keep in mind when to shift to a higher gear. This will avoid stress on your engine.

7. Fill your tank early in the morning will result in your being able to load 3-6% more fuel than filling it at noon when the temperature is much higher.

8. Never overfill your tank. Always see to it to keep your fuel cap tight to prevent spillage or evaporation.

9. If you tune up the operation of your car at close to sea level, it will be less fuel efficient when you’ll get to a higher elevation and vice versa due to the difference in density altitude.

10. Always maintain gradual acceleration. This will save you as much as 1 kilometer to the liter compared with rapid acceleration.

11. Minimize your load. Unnecessary weight in your car will add up to as much as 10% in your car’s fuel consumption.

Practice these basics and you’re off to a safe and smooth ride.

Buckle up.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Knowing the Blood and Lifeline of your Car’s System - Brake, Power Steering, Battery and Radiator Coolant Fluids

Now that you’ve known the other car care basics, perhaps it’s time we take a look at the fluid essentials that are literally the life giving blood of your car.

1. Brake Fluid- Is a type of hydraulic fluid that is used in hydraulic brake applications of your car, motorcycles and trucks. This type of fluid is used to transfer force under pressure from its point of origin among hydraulic lines to the braking mechanism close to the wheels.

Most brake fluids today are composed of glycol-ether but several types with mineral oil and silicone composites are also out in the market. This type of fluid should meet stringent requirements set by organizations such as SAE and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) - hence you get ratings on labels such as SAE or DOT 3 and 4 compliance.

As a rule of thumb, brake fluid should always be replenished if the levels in its container decrease with every drive. Fluid level in the master cyclinder will drop as the linings, brake pads and shoes wear and the calipers extend further to compensate. Brake fluid level may also be low because of leaking, which can lead to loss of hydraulic pressure and the most dangerous- brake loss.

It is very important to constantly monitor your brake fluid levels to ensure safe driving and fill according to the set level. Flush and change your brake fluid every 1-2 years to further ensure reliability and take note to never mix brake fluids with different DOT ratings as this can result to poor fluid performance.

2. Power Steering – Is another type of hydraulic fluid that transmits the power steering system of cars, trucks and other modes of transportation.
This is the fluid that guards your power-steering pump and rack from wear and tear. It requires constant monitoring and refilling from time to time according to the required level in its cylinder.

A way to notice that your steering system is about to have a problem or that your power steering fluid is running low is when you turn the steering wheel and you hear whining noises. Have your car checked when this occurs to prevent serious damages to your power- steering system.

Note: There are products out in the market today that contain the combined properties of Power Steering and Automatic Transmission Fluids (ATF). Use any of these products to save and be protected more.

3. Battery Fluid- Is the electrolyte fluid found inside the cells of your battery. If you are using the regular type of battery and not the maintenance free one, then you are required to refill your battery cells from time to time with electrolyte fluid.

Standard battery for cars is 12V and usually has 6 individual cells inside it. To refill, simply remove the vent caps that can either be found on top or on the sides of the battery. Check and fill the electrolyte fluid inside.

Note: There are some brands of maintenance free batteries out in the market today that can run on dual power- meaning they also have vent caps for electrolyte fluids in case their power supply run out. Although this type of battery may not come cheap, it would be best for you to use it.

4. Radiator Coolant- Is a mixture of anti-freeze fluid and water designed to protect the radiator and cooling system all year round. Using one will protect your engine from overheating. Most coolant products out in the market today come with various additives that can further help you against rust and other forms of corrosion, lubricate or increase the cooling efficiency of your cooling system.

Simply pour out the contents of your coolant to the radiator reservoir. Add water to the set level and you’re done.

For maintenance, it is very important for you to drain and flush your coolant once a year (or depending on the product recommendations) and replace it with a new one.

Note: Never mix different types of coolant together as this can lead to damage or a reduction of your car’s cooling system. Before changing to another brand, be sure to drain and flush your cooling system of the old one.

See to it that the reservoirs of these fluids are in constant levels and refill when they’re not enough. Properly maintaining them will help ensure your safety and prolong the life of your car.

Buckle up and drive safely.

Read more money saving car care and maintenance tips @:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The truth about Lemon cars and how to avoid buying one

No, were not talking about the green, refreshing fruit we’ve all come to love- but of a defective car. The term “Lemon” has been coined for new or used cars which after purchase, has been found by the buyer to have defects not readily apparent before it was bought. Defects could range from simple design flaws to life threatening flaws due to parts installed incorrectly during manufacture.

The term nowadays, is also associated with any product which has major defects that make it useless for its purpose.

New and used lemons

In perception, brand new cars may contain technical defects or workmanship errors. This could be due to incorrect design or errors during the assembly process at the factories. Parts and wiring may have been installed incorrectly or cars may have hidden defects under the hood.

Used cars on the other hand, become lemons once they are not used according to the set standards, abused or poorly maintained, repaired or worse, has been unprofessionally rebuilt after meeting an accident. A common practice of fraudulent dealerships is the tampering of lemon vehicles to manipulate high mileage, technical and mechanical defects, corrosion and more.

The used line up may also encounter the same problems as that of their brand new counter parts, but the problems are way much worse.

A form of lemon known as “Cut and shut” a type of car body collision repair where a wrecked portion of a car is sawed off and is replaced with a section from a matching car. A car that is cut and shut is very dangerous as it will surely come apart under strenuous conditions, high speeds and road mishaps. Usually, cars that have been cut and shut are the ones that were salvaged after a serious collision.

Poorly repaired collision-damaged vehicles are also bound to be a risk with Unibody problems. A Unibody by the way, is the type of construction used in motor vehicles where parts such as the floor, roof, and panels are wielded together to produce a unit. This process has been employed in the manufacture of vehicles since 1987. It eliminates the need to construct a separate frame for every vehicle produced.

Car weight may be reduced, but its unibody parts are prone to bending as they were designed to absorb the impact of g-forces or damage in severe accidents which may cause the car not to work properly when it is still driven (even with stringent repairs) after a grave blow.

Protect yourself from lemons

As a consumer, there are legislative measures that protect you against lemons and manufacturers nowadays are very vigilant about their products that they would be willing to give you back your money, buy back the defective vehicle or exchange it for a new one right away once it has undergone multiple repair attempts yet the problems still persist or when defects caused your new vehicle to be out of service over a long period of time because of repairs.

In buying new or used cars, please take note of the following:

1. Do a research on the manufacturer or find out from the authorities if there has been a recall on your model.

2. Be in the know of your model’s safety recall and maintenance history through consumer safety groups, auto magazines, newspaper articles and website reviews.

3. Ask car shops and mechanics how often your model shows up in their shops for repairs.

4. Do a survey among other owners of your model if they are satisfied with their cars.

5. For used vehicles, always get a vehicle history report to make sure that the car you’re buying is clean with no major wrecks or any illegal activity in history.

6. Be suspicious of a model that’s being sold at a very cheap price. Ask around why the price is so. Be warned of dealers / sellers who try to close a deal too quickly.

7. Buying from an owner? Always see to it to have a trusted mechanic inspect the car. Avoid cars that have been in an accident or have frame damage.

Drive safely.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to choose the right kind of battery for your car

A battery may count as a bit small, but in reality, it is one of the most crucial components of your car as it is the one that gives power to all electronic gadgets, components and the startup of your engine.

No matter how well maintained your car is, once you power it up with a low performance battery, it will eventually be left lifeless on the road. It is therefore important to outfit your car with the best battery around.

Recent developments of the vehicle industry has produced upgrades or modifications allowing batteries to keep up with the advanced features of models from various makers. Competition among the battery manufacturers also provides consumers with lower prices, improved battery life and more advanced features. All batteries now can be installed DIY!

Below are the simple how to’s to help you select the right battery for your car.

Finding a new battery

When looking for a new battery, always take note that prices may vary because of brand, features, quality and capacity.

If you’re looking for a brand that’s reliable, simply do a research online for the most popular or ask other car owners for the brands that they’re using.

The availability of new batteries is not a question nowadays; you can get hold of them at most car shops, service centers and auto supplies from urban areas up to the farthest countryside. Prices may vary but most shops provide discounts for customers who turn in their old batteries.

Provided you have the budget, see to it not to buy cheap batteries! You might think that you’re getting a bargain now but sooner or later, you will suffer as cheap batteries are poor in quality and will surely never last long.

Check your car manual or battery referral guides in automotive shops for factors such as group size, cold-cranking amps and cranking amps to properly guide you in your selection.

Group size- Refers to battery volume with the location of terminals (positive + and negative -) your manual indicates the group size required by your car’s model.

Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) - Refers to a battery’s ability in cold weather conditions. It is in situations such as these that the engine oil becomes thicker thereby making ignition difficult. You can tell how much electrical power your battery can provide to your car at zero degrees (F) by looking at its CCA rating.

Cranking Amps (CA) – Is the indicator of a battery’s power-capability.

Now that you know what to look for, it is then time for you to consider buying a battery based on preference leads such as:


You can select from maintenance free or a regular battery. I’d say go for the maintenance free type as you will not go through the hassles of constantly checking and refilling the battery electrolyte fluids.

Country climate and driving conditions

Select the battery that fits your country climate and driving condition. If you are living in a country with high temperatures, it is appropriate for you to select the battery type for a long life. Look for a tough housing that will protect the plates from easily corroding and provides protection against fluid evaporation.

Display date

Select the ones that are displayed fresh on the counter with no more than 6 months from their manufacture date.

Battery handles

For easy installation and pullout, select a battery that has a handle on it. You wouldn’t want to carry a 4-5 kilo box just by holding on to its sides now would you?

Follow these tips to land the perfect power for your ride. Drive safely.

For proper battery care and maintenance,
Read: Maintaining the peak performance of your car's battery

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rev and Bootstraps: Optimizing your car’s looks and performance

Getting bored with driving your car lately? Perhaps it’s time to consider accessory additions or replacements. Here’s a few tips to help you rev up your ride:

The Interior

To give comfort and flair to your ride, you can load up on new aftermarket accessories readily available at your local car shop from various makers with impressive and stylish designs. Common updates for the interior include:

Carpets/ floor mats, Seat covers, Headrests, Moon light, Strobe lighting, Neon lights, Mobile phone and drink holders, Seat belt harness and pads, CD Organizers, Cockpit films, Dash kits, Door guards, Gauge facers, Pedal pads, Shift pads, Steering wheels, Steering wheel covers, Steering wheel accessories and Sunshades.

Let’s discuss some of the most important upgrades mentioned above. Carpets and mats are very important for your car as they help protect the floor against the entry of dust, rust and moisture which can easily eat up your floor without you knowing it. Seat covers on the other hand will help protect your seats while making them look more stylish. You can even have your covers as the highlight of your planned theme for the interior!

Steering wheels or steering wheel covers will provide you better grip and handling on the wheel. Shift knobs look trendy while providing an improved grip. Pedal pads ensure better grip while adding accent to your cockpit. Seat belt harness and pads may not only look pleasing to the eyes but will help ensure that you and your passengers are safely and comfortably held to the seats when needed. Steering wheel accessories allow you to integrate important triggers and buttons into your steering wheel for ease and convenience. A Custom dash kit is one great way to compliment your interior theme and it usually comes in numerous finishes such as wood veneer and carbon fiber.

The Exterior
Now that we’re done with the interior, we will now give your exterior a make over. Consider the following upgrades the next time you visit the auto shop:

Paint, grille, billet door handles, wings, spoilers, headlights, tail lights and rims. For a really enhanced look, you can also go for a whole new body kit installation.

In a summary, select the best type of paint (Acrylic or Urethane) and finish your car in a color that’s trendy or in tune with your taste and personality. Look for an aftermarket grille which is an upgraded version from your car’s brand or something that is custom designed. Spoilers will improve your car’s aerodynamics while giving it a fuller edge and design. A change in your headlight, tail light casing and bulb colors will also make your car attractive, not to mention improve your view. An upgrade in Mags/ Rims will definitely enhance your car’s profile as well as its grip on the road. Select from various finishes such as chrome, stainless-steel and alloy, that suit your taste. Always remember to compliment a rim change with the appropriate tires. Body kit installations are available at specialized car shops, look for one in your area that caters to quality personalized designs or is the town popular so you’re really getting your money’s worth.

Under the hood Engine – Have your engine overhauled to bring it back to pristine condition or consider installing a performance chip to boost it even further. Chips can easily be fitted with fuel injection and an Electronic Control Unit (ECU). Installing one often results with a 10-15% power boost in regular engines and a 10% horsepower increase in turbo engines.

Brakes- You need to improve your brakes for better handling and safety. Install performance pads and upgrade performance discs. Performance brake pads enhance your braking power and can withstand much more abuse than their regular counterparts.

Air Filter- Replace your air filter or the filter element in the air filter. For fuel injection engines, enhance the airflow by removing the original box containing the air filter and hoses and then put an induction kit in place. It looks like a cone filter that can be attached directly to the air flow meter, making a more direct and smooth airflow to the engine.

Exhaust – Always see to it that nothing blocks the way of gases on their way out for greater power. You can replace the original exhaust with aftermarket assortments out in car shops. Simply select one that fits your taste.

Suspension- You might want to lower your springs for a leaner look and get a better grip for your car. Springs reduce roll when taking corners and will give your tires better contact with the road. Although you might encounter slight problems when driving over small bumps, these springs will come in handy as they will stiffen and reduce roll when you take on corners. You can also employ shock absorbers and up-rated bushes to upgrade your suspension.

Simply follow these simple tips and you’ll be zooming off to a brand new ride. Just don’t forget to buckle up while you’re at it.

Jovir Amatong

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Maintaining the peak performance of your car’s battery

For those of you who are first time DIYs, the battery is one of the integral components of your car; it is rechargeable and is the power source of the ignition system and other electrical devices in your car.

Initially there’s the maintenance free and low-maintenance types to choose from. A maintenance free battery is sealed and will not require replenishing the battery fluids over a long period of time while the low-maintenance type requires constant check up and replenishing once a drop in battery fluid levels can be seen. Battery fluid (Alkaline) can easily be bought at local gas stations and car yards or you can use distilled water as a substitute.

In layman’s terms the battery is the heart of your car but is often times the most neglected simply because nowadays it’s bought “maintenance free.”

Recent trends and technological advancements have made maintenance free batteries a standard on every vehicle out in the market today.

Don’t get the impression that since you’ve read on the label that it’s maintenance free, you will just simply put it in its place and forget about it. Your car’s battery is not entirely that. Just like any other sensitive equipment of your car, it also requires your constant care and attention for it to function well.

Here are the basic maintenance tips that will certainly save you a lot of trouble and will not leave you clueless by the roadside while on a very important trip.

As a rule before doing maintenance checks, always see to it to disconnect the clamps off the terminals to avoid untoward injuries from shock.

1. Check the cell casing and cover

Run an ocular inspection on the battery cell casing, box and cover for signs of moisture and pungent acidic smell. These are indicators that your battery is leaking and it needs to be fixed or replaced right away.
Maintain caution when handling leaking batteries for hazardous chemicals are present.

2. Clean terminals, clamps and cables

When you happened to see white powdery specks or see colorful substances around the terminals, they are signs of corrosion and needs to be cleaned right away. Make a baking soda solution (1 tablespoon baking soda immersed in 1 cup of water) and with an old toothbrush, clean the terminals, clamps and cables. Also clean the battery cover for accumulated grime and dust.

3. Make sure everything is dry

Make it a point to have everything dry before going further with your check up. With a dry rag, wipe off the remaining dew and moisture from the battery and terminals.

4. Check the wiring and connection

Run a check on the wires and clamps for strips or corrosion. If you have stripped cables, patch the affected part with a good electrical tape or have them replaced by a mechanic. Make sure that the battery is placed securely in its place. If your battery is equipped with a hold down bar, be sure to replace it.

5. Lubricate the terminals

With a lubricant (Petroleum jelly) place a small dab on the terminals. This will keep your cables clean and free of corrosion longer, while making it easier for you to put the cables back on the battery terminal.

6. Change your battery

Change your battery at the maximum of 3 to 3.5 years or after reaching the warranty period. For accidental battery drain (Such as leaving the lights on or stereo on) a lot of auto technicians would just recommend re-charging.

Car battery maintenance is that easy! Do it frequently to extend the life of your battery.

Safe driving.

Jovir Amatong

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Money saving car care and maintenance tips

There are loads of stuff that you can employ to assure that your vehicle is always in tip top shape, while easing on the budget and saving precious time. Instead of always going to the car shop whenever conks are heard under the hood, why not fix minor car problems on your own?

You’re not only giving yourself a favor by not going thru the hassle of the long wait to have your car fixed at the local car shop, but you’re also protecting yourself from unscrupulous mechanics who might take advantage of your predicament.

Here are a few tips to get you worry free on the road.

1. Read your car repair manual and other Do it yourself (DIY) books

It wouldn’t hurt for you to take some time off to read and study the ins and outs of your car. You’ll be familiar with the specifications and the proper maintenance of your vehicle. DIY books also abound, providing you the basic and advanced techniques which could save you hundreds perhaps thousands of dollars on repairs.

By reading, you’ll have the ample knowledge to get the job done yourself whenever unpleasant situations arise. Like a bible is to a clergyman, always see to it to have a book or two beside you for quick reference in emergencies.

2. Keep the right tools in your toolbox

It is very important that you use the right tool for the right job because if you use the wrong one, you might end up with broken nuts and bolts or worse, have them worn out.

Here’s a rundown of the basic tool must-haves for your toolbox.

A. Jack and Jack Stands – Conventional for changing tires and fixes under the chassis. Remember to never rely on the jack whenever lifting your car. Always have jack stands on hand for support and safety.

B. Philips and Flat tip screwdrivers- Always have a pair handy for turning loose screws and replacing worn out ones. You can also use these to poke and reach things fallen among tiny and hard to reach corners.

C. Standard and Long nose Pliers- It never pays to have a pair of these handy for gripping and the easy removal of bolts and nuts. These can also be used to hold or clip wires when you’re working on wiring connections.

D. Wrench or Spanner set - Always keep a set to turn bolts, nuts and other hard to turn items. Select the appropriate wrench size and number to that of the bolt and nut you will turn.

E. Wire strippers and cutters- Must-haves for fixing and replacing old worn out wires or stripping them.

F. Standard Tire Wrench/ Iron- A must-have for tire replacement.

G. Towing Cable- Very helpful when you need to be securely towed away in an emergency.

H. A roll of Electrical tape (Preferably fire retardant) – Handy in times of replacing and insulating stripped or worn out wires. Select the fire retardant type as it provides maximum protection and adheres better than the regular type.

I. Spare bulbs- It surely pays to have a spare bulb on hand for sudden shutdowns in important beacons such as signal, safety, break and head lights while driving down dark roads at night.

J. Work light / Flashlight – Very useful to lighten dark nooks and crannies that you’re working on. A work light can either just be a regular flashlight or the kind with nodes that you can tap to the positive and negative terminals of your car’s battery.

K. Tire Inflator – Though this tool may not fit your toolbox, but having one beside it in your baggage is very helpful for mending flat tires while travelling in areas where car shops and gas stations are scarce.

3. Driving routine check ups

Before hitting the ignition keys, a short round up check is helpful to ensure hassle-free and safe driving. A routine check up may be time consuming, but it can save your life and of those you’re travelling with.

A. Check for Water, Break, Steering and Transmission fluid levels. This is to avoid overheating, steering problems or worse, break loss while travelling. Fill up to recommended levels only.

B. Check the Tire pressure. Remember that unequal pressure among your tires will greatly dampen speed and stamina, thereby increasing your car’s fuel consumption.

C. Check the lights. For those who frequently travel at night, a check on all signals and lights is a must. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what dangers await you, driving down that dark road with busted lights!

Relax and safe driving.

When the going gets tough, the tough drive compact

As the global problem with the scarcity of fossil fuels runs deeper with each passing day, prices of oil and its by-products soar to levels that burn holes right through consumers’ pockets.

Everywhere these days, driving huge Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV)- for leisure and lifestyle enthusiasts, Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPV) for work and business – even luxury cars (For those who consider maximum comfort) for travelling in and around cities has now become a wasteful indulgence! Purpose and design has become irrelevant because of one thing – rising fuel cost.

Driving around in gas-guzzlers just doesn’t make sense anymore. Good thing car manufacturers are boosting the production of their compact, subcompact and even mini lines to meet this growing need.

Come to think of it, why would you choose to drive a compact in the first place? If you had asked that question a couple years back, the answer would’ve been laughable. Compacts were never taken seriously back then – as affordable as they are, they held true to their name where the values of safety, space and comfort is seen as compromised. While compacts may not come as comfortable as large vehicles for the car aficionado, owning one offers some big advantages: convenient parking, the much needed fuel economy and, of course, the cheeky look!

With recent trends however, engineers and designers have come up with design changes to accommodate the hip and younger market segments and even the older markets through added safety and security features. Engines have been redesigned for improved fuel economy. Car prices are made more competitive and a host of payment options are now offered to attract budget conscious buyers.

Major brands and car manufacturers worldwide now offer compact and subcompact model lines suited to individual or family needs and varied lifestyles. Stiff competition among the brands open even more opportunities up the highway for consumers.

For choices, one can always go for the brand new models, the advantages of which are: assurance of quality, getting the latest models and technologies, and excellent payment and financing schemes. The thrifty on the other hand, can always go for used models readily available online or through local dealerships which sometimes offer great financing schemes as well! A lot of compact models from the past still remain popular on the road to this day. Some are even available with improved features, proving they pack the kick and stamina like their bigger competitors. A few market favorites from the past decade include:

A. European

1. Volkswagen- Golf, Touran
2. Renault- Scenic
3. Opel- Zafira
4. Fiat- Multipla

B. United Kingdom

1. Renault- Megane
2. Vauxhall- Astra
3. Citroen- C4

C. American Tops

1. Ford- Focus
2. Chevrolet- Cobalt

D. Japanese

1. Nissan- Sentra, Micra / March
2. Honda- City, Civic, Fitz/ Jazz
3. Toyota- Corolla, Yaris, Vitz/ Echo
4. Mitsubishi- Lancer

E. Korean

1. Hyundai- Elantra, Accent
2. Kia- Avella, Rio
3. Daewoo- Racer, Matiz

The disadvantages are common to just about every used car, meaning: outdated models, greater mileage and decreased vehicle road worthiness. Fortunately, parts centers that cater to the used car market are largely flourishing these days and in the case of hard to find parts and accessories, (allowing for the patience needed to wait for shipment deliveries) one can always browse and order thru hundreds of parts dealers online.

Dubbed as “econocars,” compact and subcompact lines are now benchmarks for customer taste.