In a Vehicle Emergency? These Household Items Can Save the Day

SUV on the side of the road

Source | Jon Flobrant/Unsplash

We all face car trouble eventually. Whether it’s a vehicle that won’t start or a door that’s been frozen shut, issues crop up. Proper maintenance can prevent a lot of problems, but if you end up in a sticky situation, it’s important to know what you can and can’t use to get unstuck. Here are some simple hacks all drivers should know.

The car won’t start…

We’ve all been there—stranded in a parking lot far from home. Whether it’s because of poor battery maintenance, cold weather, or simply a dead or low battery, it can be a real headache. Luckily, there are a few things you can do on your own to help get things going again, before you go looking for a jumpstart.

A can of coke

First, pop your hood and take a look at the battery. If the terminals are really corroded you can use a can of Coke to clean them. Seriously. Coke. The reason? It’s got a relatively low pH, carbonic acid, citric acid, and phosphoric acid, as well as carbonation. When combined, they can break down the corrosion (as well as rust, tarnish, and, if you aren’t careful, your car’s paint). It will make things a bit sticky, but it will remove the corrosion and help make a better connection between the terminals and the battery clamps. Remember, this is only a temporary fix. You should invest in the right tools to clean your battery terminals, including battery cleaner spray and a wire brush.

Once you’ve cleaned the terminals, check the battery connections. More often than not the terminals have come loose and need to be readjusted. Tread carefully when doing this, though. A crossed wire can cause a fire or worse, an explosion.

Try the car again. If it doesn’t start, it’s time to think about getting a jump. You should always have jumper cables, like these from Energizer, or even a small, portable jump starter. If you do decide you need a jump, be sure to follow instructions on your jump starter, exactly. If you’re jumping a car using a fellow good samaritan’s car, follow these steps to stay safe.

The best option, as always, is to be prepared and have the right tools for the job. Do proper battery maintenance (especially if you live in a place with harsh winters) and make sure that your battery is fully charged before long road trips.

Frozen bits and pieces…

If you live anywhere in the snowbelt, you know how troublesome ice and cold weather can be. Whether you have frozen locks, doors, or get stuck on an icy patch, there are a few small hacks you can use to get sorted.

Hand sanitizer

For frozen locks, hand sanitizer is your answer. Apply a small amount on the troublesome locks, and the rubbing alcohol in it will melt the ice. Be careful around rubber seals, plastic trim, and paint, as the rubbing alcohol can affect these items.

Cooking spray

If your doors freeze shut, you probably have a small leak somewhere along your door seals or gaskets. It’s best to troubleshoot the issue before it becomes a problem. You can pick up replacement gaskets and seals at your local Advance Auto Parts store.

That said, the hack-y way to prevent doors from freezing shut when you can’t make it to Advance is to use cooking spray on the gasket. Spray down the entire ring of the doors that you want to keep from freezing and then wipe down with a paper towel. When the icy weather comes your doors should easily open.

Kitty litter

If you find yourself stuck in an icy patch and unable to move, there are a few options you have before asking someone to tow you out. First, turn off the traction control. While it seems counterintuitive, traction control tends to cut power to wheels that slip. When you’re stuck on ice, your wheels are slipping, so you need to shut it off. If that doesn’t help get you out, you can also resort to using kitty litter under your wheels. Be sure not to use the lightweight stuff, as it’s often made of paper and it won’t do much for your grip situation. The heavy, standard stuff is a better option. Pour a bit of kitty litter under your wheels in the direction you’ll be heading out. The little bit of grit should help you get some grip and get out of your icy jail.

In all these wintry situations it pays to be prepared. Always have items like an ice and snow scraper on hand to clear your car on snowy days. If you live in a place that is particularly snowy, it may even make sense to have a small snow shovel on hand.

You’re stuck in a ditch…

Rope

If you get stuck in a ditch or snow bank, it makes sense to know a little bit about physics, according to a recent story over at Wired.

Have a rope handy, and tie your car to a nearby tree. By pulling on the rope at a perpendicular angle, halfway between the car and the tree, you can exert enough leverage to pull your car out of a ditch. The story explains the fascinating physics of it in depth, if you’re interested in the why.

Lit vehicle headlight

Source | Sai Kiran Anagani/Unsplash

Your headlights are foggy…

Say you’re driving home late one night and you realize that while your headlights are on, you can’t see a thing. It’s time for a quick hack to clean those foggy lamps up.

Toothpaste

Grab a tube of toothpaste, an old towel or rag, and a bit of water to rinse. Put some toothpaste on the towel or rag, and put your elbow grease to work. Be careful not to scratch the chrome or the paint around the lights and stick to the headlight housing. Rinse and repeat if necessary!

Toothpaste is just a temporary fix. To clean your headlights the proper way, pick up a headlight-restoration kit. The cleaning agents will do a better job of defogging your headlights and, in general, are less messy than toothpaste.

A quick bumper hack…

Boiling water

Plastic bumpers that have just been pushed in can be fixed by pouring boiling water over the dent. The heat will expand the plastic and pop the dent out. It won’t always be perfect, but it will be a lot better than it was.

Got any hacks we don’t know about it? Share the knowledge and leave a comment! And remember: Hacks can be a life-saver, but they’re only temporary. Proper maintenance and the right tools are essential when you do get stuck. As always, it’s crucial to have an emergency roadside kit on hand, just in case.

Everything You Need to Know About Tie Rod Ends

tie rod end of a vehicle

Source | Craig Howell/Flickr

You might be thinking it’s time to replace your tie rod ends, or maybe your mechanic laid down the law. Either way, it’s time to first understand the basics, like what is a tie rod end, as well as the symptoms of a failing tie rod end. While failing tie rods can be a serious issue, there are some easy solutions to the troubles you may have with them. Here’s a complete look at everything you need to know about tie rod ends.

What is a tie rod end, and what does it do

Tie rod ends are simple parts that connect the steering rack to the steering knuckle on each front wheel. An adjusting sleeve sits between the inner and outer tire rod ends. When you turn the steering wheel, it transmits that movement through various steering components until the tie rod ends push or pull the wheel and make the wheels turn. Having the ability to turn corners is pretty important, so tie rod ends play a large role in any vehicle’s safety.

Deceptively simple looking, the outer tie rod end hides some internal parts. Here’s a breakdown of the different pieces:

  • The long shaft body passes steering movement to the ball stud
  • The rounded part houses several bearings that give you proper steering movement even while compensating for bumpy roads
  • There’s usually a grease fitting on the back allowing the bearings to spin freely inside the housing
  • The bushing is there to keep road grit out of sensitive internal parts
  • The threaded bolt end goes into the steering knuckle
  • The inner tie rod end straight body connects to a bearing housing. It’s all covered by a rubber protective dust boot
Outer_tie_rod_end

Outer tie rod end, Source | MOOG

 

Inner_tie_rod_end

Inner tie rod end, Source | MOOG

 

Symptoms of failing tie rod ends

  • Uneven tire wear. If the inside or outside tread of your front tires are wearing early compared to the rest of the tread, it can be a sign that the wheel camber is incorrect.
  • Squealing sound from the front when turning. This sounds different from the squeal/groan the power steering makes when low on fluid. A failing tie rod end has more of a brief, high-pitched shriek. This could just be a bad ball joint, so take a look to be sure.
  • Loose steering feel. Also described as clunky or shaky steering, this will feel like a slight disconnect between steering movement and the associated movement in the wheel/tire.
  • Tie rod failure. This is the most severe sign. A broken tie rod causes steering loss, which could lead to an accident. This is why manufacturers take these components seriously and recall a vehicle if there’s a chance they were misassembled at the factory.

How to tell if tie rods are bad

Fortunately, it’s simple to check if the tie rods are bad. Jack up the front of vehicle, using an appropriate weight jack and rated jack stands. Once the wheel is entirely off the ground, check for play by placing your hands at nine o’clock and three o’clock positions (the midpoint of the left and right sides of the tire). Press with left, then right, alternating a push/pull movement on each side. If there is play or slop, it’s worth investigating further. The front is already jacked up, so take off the wheel and have a look underneath.

Right behind the brake rotor and hub, you should be able to see the tie rod end. Inspect it for any damage. If the bushing is torn, odds are road grit has accumulated inside and destroyed it, so you will need to replace the tie rod. If the bushing is solid, reach up and grasp the outer tie rod firmly, and give it a good shake. If it easily moves from side to side, it’s time for replacement.

Preventative maintenance is key

At every oil change, grease the tie rod ends. Look for a grease fitting on the outer edge by the bushing. Clean it off, and use a grease gun filled with the proper grease. The new grease pushes out the old, as well as any collected contaminants and road grit. Sure, it’s an extra step when changing the oil, but tie rod maintenance will delay the need for a tie rod replacement.

If it’s time to replace your tie rods, there is some good news. Since they are wear items that are meant to be replaced, they are easy to find online or in your local Advance Auto Parts store, and they’re affordable and easy to replace. You’d probably want adjustable tie rod ends in your souped-up classic, but the standard replacement parts are rock solid for daily driver duty.

Have any additional tips on tie rod ends? Drop a comment below.

Fast Fixes for Foggy, Leaky, or Cracked Windshields and Windows

frosted windshield on a car

Source | Steinar Engeland/Unsplash

A small crack, a rock chip, a tiny leak around the edge of the door, a foggy scene when things get steamy—we’ve all been faced with a windshield issue at the most inopportune time. But when it happens, don’t panic. In an effort to make troubleshooting your misbehaving windshield as easy as possible, we’ve put together a short list of things you can pick up at your local Advance Auto Parts store to quickly and affordably get back on your way.

What to do when your windshield has a chip or crack

As far as problems go, a chipped windshield may seem like a small one. Usually these things happen when you’re on a long-haul road trip and have been riding behind a big semi-truck or a seemingly empty pick-up truck. It can happen when you’re driving under an overpass, too, or in bad weather when maintenance crews are laying down sand and gravel. Windshield chips are pretty much inevitable, but they can be a real problem if left alone.

The rule of thumb when dealing with these sometimes-nasty little buggers is, if a dollar bill can cover it, it can be repaired. Anything larger than that, and you are likely going to need to have the entire windshield replaced by professionals. The same goes if there are three or more cracks in the windshield or the chip or crack is in the driver’s direct line of sight. On average, calling in the professionals to fix a windshield crack is going to cost you upward of $100, not to mention time with your insurance company.

If your chip or crack, uh, fits the bill, and you want to save the cash, the best thing to do is to head to your auto store. For as little as $15, you can pick up a do-it-yourself windshield-repair kit that will make airtight repairs on most laminated windshields. It cures in daylight and doesn’t require any mixing, so the fix will be quick and easy to do. Better yet, it can help prevent a small crack from spreading further and becoming an even more expensive problem down the road.

What to do when your windshield (or rear window) won’t defrost

There’s a basic rule of thumb for successful defrosting of a windshield or windows—bring the humidity down and bring the temperature inside the car more in line with the temperature outside of the car.

For a quick fix to those foggy windows in cold weather:

Crack a window or direct cold air toward your windshield. Don’t turn on the heat, as it will cause the windows to fog. If, however, you want to stay warm while defrosting your windshield, blow warm air at the window, while turning off the recirculate function in your car (it’s often the button with arrows flowing in a circle). That way the system will draw in dry external air and keep the foggy situation to a minimum.

If it’s warm out and you’re faced with a fogged windshield:

Use the wipers to get the condensation off the outside and the heat to get the inside of the car to warm up closer to the outside temperature. The same rule applies for the recirculation function—keep it turned off.

A few more ideas:

The other trick to keeping your windows clear is to keep them clean both inside and out. Part of that task comes down to having the right tools. Items like squeegees and sponges are helpful. It also pays to invest in the right cleaners for your environment. You can check out a few, here.

Also, be sure to get the right windshield-washing fluid based on where you live. Some have additives that help keep them liquid in really cold weather, others help with ice melting, and some help get the bugs off.

It’s also really vital to be sure you have the right windshield wipers installed on your vehicle. For a quick reminder, check out our article on the topic.

If these fixes don’t help and your defroster appears to be busted:

It’s time to take it a step further. There are two kinds of defrosting systems in most cars. One system directs air off the HVAC system to the windshield, while others use small wires embedded in the glass to remove the fog. Which one you’re dealing with can affect how you troubleshoot. It pays to Google your car and see what common issues might come up. You can also consult your owners manual. More often than not, you can fix them yourself .

Defroster systems can be tricky. Depending on the year make and model of your car, you’ll find spare parts and replacement systems at your local store. Be sure to put in your car’s details so you’re getting the right pieces, as each year, make, and model may require different parts. As always, someone at Advance can help if you get stuck.

What to do when your window seals leak

Nobody likes to get dripped on while they’re in their car, and water inside can lead to plenty of strange smells and mildew problems down the road. There are some great, easy-to-use options on the market to fix those leaky windows.

Simple sealers work well, until you can get a better fix in place. These products come in tape or gel form. Be sure to read all the instructions before performing the fix yourself, as they can be messy. You’ll also have to wait until the car is dry, since they won’t stick to wet surfaces.

A leak can also be the result of a door seal gone bad. Sometimes chasing down a bad seal can be tricky, but once you have it narrowed down, it’s simple to replace.

Follow these tips, and you’re sure to find quick, affordable ways to repair your troublesome windshield without spending a lot of dough.

Do you have a windshield-fix story? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

How to Clean an Engine Bay the Right Way

Source | Gerard McGovern/Flickr

Do you clean your vehicle? The answer’s probably yes. But do you clean your engine bay? If not, that’s like taking a shower but never brushing your teeth. Don’t be that person; wash your engine, too.

Now you might be thinking that no one sees your engine bay except you and the occasional mechanic, so who cares, right? Well, like with the rest of your vehicle, cleaning prevents damage and keeps resale value high. A car engine bay covered in oil and grit is allowing premature wear in the pulleys and bearings, or hiding serious issues like gasket leaks. A clean engine bay allows the engine to stay cooler, operate efficiently, and keep your value high.

Difficulty

Good for beginners — A new DIYer will be able to complete the project

Time Required

1 hour

What you’ll need

 

Step-by-step guide on how to clean an engine bay

Hose it down

A quick pre-rinse does several things. It knocks off any of the loose dust and grit, makes it easier for the engine degreaser to spread around, and prevents spots from the soap quickly drying out. In short, a pre-rinse is essential.

Step 1: Wait until the engine is cool. It doesn’t need to be cold though—you just don’t want to introduce a bunch of cold water to hot parts. Pop the hood and let it cool for an hour. This is when you’ll put down the drip pans and absorbent pads to stop the chemicals and gunk from going down the gutters.

Pro Tip: Find a local recycling center that accepts both the used pads and the oily water from the drip tray.

Step 2: Disconnect the negative battery terminal or cover the battery with a plastic bag. Water conducts electricity, and you don’t want it to connect and make new temporary circuits. If you have a classic ride, cover the alternator, carburetor, and distributor with plastic bags. On a modern ride, cover the alternator and go easy with the water around the coil packs and fuse box.

Pro Tip: If you are using a power washer, use the low-pressure setting and rinse everything in the engine bay. Low pressure is better than high pressure here, as you want to clean off the crud, not blast it into the small crevices between components.

Spray it up

Step 3: Now it’s time to spray a liberal application of engine degreaser. Why use a degreaser instead of regular car soap? Your average car-wash soap is fine for grit and dirt but just won’t cut it on oil and grime. Go heavy on the engine degreaser on the typically nasty parts, like the starter and oil pan and anything else oily. Follow the directions on the bottle, but usually you will let it sit for a few minutes to get the most grime-lifting action. You can use a wash brush here for the seriously filthy areas. It has soft bristles that won’t scratch the paint or plastic.

Step 4: Rinse with low-pressure water again and take a look at your progress. Some engines that have never been cleaned in 300,000 miles will need the degreaser again. If not, it’s time to get busy with the automotive soap.

Step 5: Use an automotive car-wash soap to finish cleaning the engine bay the same way you would clean the exterior. Use an automotive wash mitt, get it soapy in the bucket, and scrub up the engine bay just like you would a rear quarter panel, then rinse.

Sweat the details

Step 6: Rinse with low pressure again and remove the plastic bags over the sensitive parts. If they need cleaning, professional detailers will remove the plastic fuse box cover or distributor cap and clean it by hand, where the electronics won’t be affected. Once clean and dry, just bolt them back on.

Step 7: Use a dedicated plastic cleaner to polish out fine scratches and restore shine to the engine bay plastics. Apply with a terry cloth and wipe off with a clean microfiber cloth. For the metal bits, a metal polish will brighten them up. They are all a bit different, but in general, grind a bit into the metal surface until the polish starts to turn darker, then wipe off with a clean cloth.

Now step back and enjoy your work.

Any detailing experts around? Let us know your engine bay cleaning tips and tricks!

How to Change Spark Plugs

Keep your engine in good working order. Here’s how to change spark plugs.

To some, a car’s engine may seem like an impossibly complicated hunk of mystical machinery. While that’s not too far from the truth for many modern engines, there are still some easily serviceable items on even the most high-tech cars. Spark plugs, especially, are among the easiest parts to replace in any given engine. All it requires is carefully following some basic steps and a handful of basic tools.

Before we dive into the step-by-step process, you might be wondering how often you need to change your spark plugs, what sort of spark plugs you should use, or whether you need to upgrade your spark-plug wires or other ignition components. Fortunately, these questions are easy to answer. And don’t forget, you may need to replace your spark plug wires every time you change your spark plugs depending on your driving style.

But chances are, if you’re here, it’s because you know it’s time to change your spark plugs. So let’s get started.

Holding spark plugs

Difficulty

Good for beginners: A new DIYer will be able to complete the project

Estimated Time Required

One hour

What You’ll Need to Change Spark Plugs

Remember, you can always rent tools from us.

 

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Once you’ve gathered all of the tools you need, as well as the correct spark plugs for your car and spark plug wires (if necessary), you may want to drape an old blanket or towel over the fenders of your car so that you won’t mar the paint as you lean into the engine bay. It’s also good practice to disconnect the positive terminal on your car battery when working on anything electrical.

Pro Tip: Be sure to let your car’s engine cool thoroughly before replacing your spark plugs, and keep any flammable blankets, towels, or shop cloths away from any surfaces that may still be warm. This will also ensure the new spark plugs are tightened correctly (heat expands the engine threads and limits torque).

Step 2: Thoroughly clean the area around your spark plugs. Once you remove the spark plug, you’ll have an open hole directly into the inside of your engine, and any dirt or debris around the spark plug can fall straight in and cause serious wear or damage to your engine—something that should be avoided, for obvious reasons.

You can use compressed air to blow the area clean, and/or a cleaner/degreaser spray and shop towels to loosen and remove any gunk around the spark plug. Be sure to wear eye protection if you’ll be using compressed air or a spray cleaner.

Once you have the area around each spark plug clear of any oil, dirt, or other debris, it’s time to start the actual replacement process.

Step 3: Keep everything in order by removing a single spark plug wire from one spark plug at a time. This prevents you from reconnecting the wrong wire to the wrong plug when it’s time to button everything back up.

Step 4: Once you’ve removed the first spark plug wire, fit the necessary combination of extensions and swivels to the spark-plug socket to comfortably fit the tool to the spark plug.

Turn the spark plug counterclockwise until it comes free.

Even though you cleaned around the spark plug thoroughly before beginning, take care not to knock any previously unseen debris into the now-open hole into your engine’s interior.

Step 5: Once the spark plug is out, take the new spark plug and use the spark plug gap tool to check that there is a proper gap between the outer (hook-shaped) ground electrode and the center electrode. Most modern spark plugs are properly gapped from the factory, but shipping and handling can result in this small but crucial gap being tweaked, so it’s always good to ensure the gap is correct before installing.

If any adjustment is needed, gently open or close the gap until the tool just fits at the correct gap (which should be specified in your owner’s manual).

Step 6: With the gap verified, carefully insert the plug into the open hole by hand. If your spark plug isn’t factory treated with anti-seize, you can rub a small drop of anti-seize lubricant on the spark plug thread so it doesn’t lock up from the heat. Gently start screwing the plug in with a clockwise rotation, ensuring the threads are properly mated.

Pro Tip: Be careful to avoid cross-threading the spark plug when re-installing, as any damage to the spark-plug threads could require costly repairs to your car’s cylinder head.

Once the spark plug is carefully started into the threads, continue tightening the plug down with the spark plug socket and ratchet/extension combination. Be very careful not to over-tighten your spark plugs! Just tighten it down until the spark plug’s washer is firmly in contact with the shoulder of the threaded hole and the washer is slightly compressed.

Step 7: With the spark plug securely re-installed, reattach the plug wire by twisting slightly as you push the boot back down onto the exposed tip of the plug until you hear and feel a firm click. That means you’ve properly seated the plug wire. You can put a drop of dielectric grease inside the plug boot for better heat dissipation.

Step 8: Repeat the process in Steps 2 through 7 for each of your remaining spark plugs until you’ve replaced them all. If you’re also replacing your spark plug wires, go back and do each one in the same order, one at a time. You’ll notice that the spark plug wires vary in length according to their proper installation position, so be sure to match each wire up to the existing wire before removing the old one and replacing with the new wire. Repeat until all the wires are replaced.

You’re done! Before you celebrate, however, be sure to mark down the car’s current mileage in your maintenance notebook, so you’ll know when you need to change your spark plugs again.

Halloween Hacks for Getting the Gross out of Your Ride

pile of pumpkins

If you find your car covered in blood and mysterious goo this month, don’t rush to call CSI. It’s the witching hour, or—ahem—Halloween ‘season,’ and that means your vehicle has seen some action as a creepy carriage for costumed critters or as a target for cloaked pranksters. As spooky as their appearance may be, the mess they leave can be even more disturbing. Here’s a look at how to remove the Halloween from your car.

The Sarcophagus (aka Car Exterior)

If you’re a dentist giving out toothbrushes instead of candy, you’ll be looking at how to remove egg yolk from your car’s exterior, which is no simple task if the yolk has dried. Ideally, you should fix the issue while the egg is still wet. This solution only requires water and mild soap. Spray the mess down, quickly scrub with soap, rinse, and you’re done. If the egg is as dry as a mummy, it is likely stuck to the paint. Use hot, soapy water to loosen the egg, and slowly attack it with a microfiber towel. Use an automotive soap, as it is mild but effective. Silly string and shaving cream also follow the same rules, so just try and get the majority cleaned off while still wet. And, next year, remember to give out the good candy.

Some pranksters take it a bit further, writing on the windows or tires with white shoe polish. This is water resistant, so you can’t just hose it off. Automotive soap is a good bet, but so are dedicated glass cleaners or tire wash. Follow the directions, and just one application should do it.

The Guts (aka Car Interior)

The interior of your ride may need a bit more work. First, start by removing any leftover trash the ghouls leave behind. Candy wrappers and crumbs can be removed by hand, but a vacuum makes the job much faster. Use a car vacuum or the small nozzle on a shop vac to get glitter out of the carpet and crevices in the dash and between seats. This is also a great option for wigs or fur left over from transporting witches, celebrities, and werewolves.

Your presidential candidates, zombies, and princesses could also get a little loose with the colored hairspray, fake blood, or makeup on the upholstery. Use a carpet and upholstery cleaner to spray the mess, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe up using a damp cloth.

Adults are no better this time of year, as we overdress for fall weather and dump pumpkin spice into everything. When your friend spills his or her pumpkin-spice latte on your seats, it will probably leave a stain. Grab a dedicated upholstery cleaner and spray it, giving it several minutes to soak. Also use a cleaning agent with enzymes that breaks down food for the best results, and wipe with a clean cloth.

Then wrap up all your hard work with a new scented air freshener. Halloween is over, so it may be time for a winter theme.

Do you have any other tips on how to survive messy monsters? Let us know in the comments!

Tuxlee Shares His Oil Change Tips

oil change tips

Hey, Tuxlee here. I’ve traveled to tons of Advance stores and automotive events, and one thing people always ask me about is changing their own oil. (My parents say I’ve done so many oil changes since I was a puppy that it turned my fur jet black—it’s a small badge of honor to me actually). I also hang out with some pretty knowledgeable people, and I’ve picked up a few tips over the years that will make your next DIY oil change a breeze, whether it’s your first time or if you’re on your 70th bottle.

My first tip is to buy a good pair of latex or nitrile gloves to keep your paws hands nice and clean. With the oil type, you have a few options on whether to go conventional, synthetic blend, or full synthetic (there’s also high mileage varations). I suggest you first stick with your car’s recommended oil viscosity—this is usually printed on your engine’s oil cap, or if not then in your owner’s manual—and then go from there. Conventional oil gets the job done, but synthetic oil lasts longer and performs better under heat and cold. I like both types, so you can read more about it here to see what works better for you.

Oil Change Tools and Supplies

Alright, you have your oil. You’ll need a few other supplies, all of which are sold at your local Advance store. P.S. You can get awesome deals on oil filters when you buy one of our oil change specials!

While you’re in the store, grab a free reminder decal to record the date and mileage of your next expected oil change. Or write it down in your car maintenance journal like I do.

•Oil filter
(Regular filters go with conventional oil, heavier duty filters pair better with synthetic oil)

•Oil filter wrench
(Some can get by using their hands or an old belt, but this is good to have)

•Oil drain plug gasket or crush washer
(Keeps leaky drips away)

•Oil drain pan
(So your oil doesn’t end up all over the driveway)

•Wrench for drain plug
(Look in your owner’s manual to find the size you need)

•Funnel
(For a smooth, no-mess pour. Trust me you’re going to need this)

•Rags
(To wipe off old oil and keep things neat)

•Safety glasses
(I don’t like barking out orders, but safety first!)

•Gloves
(Unless you want to look like a black Yorkipoo)

Oil Change Steps

Now you’re ready to give your car some tender love and oil!

1. Securely raise your vehicle on ramps or jack-stands (use a jack lift for the latter). Makes sure to put blocks behind your tires. If you can safely get under your vehicle without needing to raise it, then go for it.

oil change tips2. Warm up the engine for a couple minutes to get the oil warm (but not too long or the oil will be hot). Raise your hood and open the oil cap on top of your engine to let the old oil drain faster.

3. Get under the car and position your drain pan under the oil plug (account for the initial stream of oil shooting out further than directly under the plug).

4. Using your wrench, loosen the plug a few turns. Then finish loosening the plug with your hand, quickly pulling it away when the oil is starting to drain out. Be careful of hot motor oil (gloves help in this case).

5. Wipe the drain plug while the oil drains and inspect it for bent or broken threads. Replace the sealing washer if cracked or worn, or use a new metal crush washer if needed.

6. After the oil has drained (give it 10-30 minutes for a good drain if you have the time), wipe away oil residue from the oil pan and put the drain plug back in. Tighten it firmly, but don’t overdo it. Your owner’s manual will have the exact torque required.

Do me (and other animals) a favor, clean up oil leaks and don’t dispose of oil in your yard, streams, or waste-water drains. Your favorite Advance store will safely dispose of your used oil for free! Available at most of our 3,500 stores (unless prohibited by law).

7. Reposition your drain pan by the oil filter and remove it using your oil filter wrench (or hand if it will budge). Some wrenches work from the end, while others wrap around the filter.

8. If your filter still won’t budge, puncture it with a screwdriver at its lowest point to drain, then use the same screwdriver to spin off the filter. A little more oil will come out when you spin off the filter, so have your rags handy.

9. Apply a film of clean oil to the top of the new filter gasket. Then spin the filter on using only your hand. Go ¾ of a turn after you feel the gasket make contact with the engine after spinning it on.

oil change tips10. Double check the filter and drain plug for tightness, then fill your engine with the recommended viscosity and amount of motor oil. (Again, your owner’s manual will provide this).

11. Determine your oil level using the dipstick, then check for any leaks. Start the engine and check for leaks again. Bring used motor oils to Advance for proper disposal or recycling.

Well, that’s a wrap. You can now safely do your own oil change or you learned some tips. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?!

Find satisfaction in knowing you’re taking good care of your car. Your car will be sure to return the favor! For more oil change tips and a helpful video, click here

10 Tips on How and Why to Organize Your Trunk

Messy Car trunk picturesWhether you’re driving a sedan, SUV, pickup or wagon, chances are that its trunk or cargo area is in need of some serious organizing and TLC. For most drivers, these cargo areas get messy in a hurry and understandably so. Being out of sight and a somewhat expansive area, it’s a natural tendency for the trunk to become a catch all for items hurriedly placed in the vehicle, and then just as quickly forgotten.

There are undoubtedly some things that belong in every trunk, such as an emergency kit, and then a whole lot of other items that can probably be removed. It’s a new year and time to get organized, and even if organization isn’t one of your resolutions, just consider this top ten list of how and why to organize your trunk as a way to get a jump on spring cleaning.

1. Increase safety – when a vehicle stops short or is involved in a collision, its occupants are (hopefully) restrained thanks to safety belts. The same can’t be said for items lying loose in the vehicle. In an emergency situation, these items become airborne projectiles capable of inflicting serious injury on occupants and causing significant damage inside the vehicle, particularly if the loose items are heavy. This isn’t as much a concern when the items are contained in the trunk as compared to loose items in an SUV’s cargo area or a pickup truck bed. Loose items can also impact vehicle handling in unexpected ways. Heavy items rolling about can cause a loss of vehicle control during cornering because of the uneven weight distribution and sudden weight shift. Organizing items back there, removing unused cargo and securing what remains can greatly improve passenger safety.

2. Save money – the extra weight being carried around is having a negative impact on both fuel mileage and your wallet. Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing unnecessary cargo and increase your fuel mileage. A better organized cargo area also helps save money because you know what you have at a glance – such as windshield washer fluid, oil, deicer or bottled water – helping prevent the purchase and unnecessary expense of purchasing duplicate items.

3. Drive (or ride) happier – most vehicle owners aren’t fond of disorder, chaos, and clutter when it comes to their vehicle’s storage area, or any aspect of their environment. Organize your vehicle and be a happier, more efficient driver.

4. Remove everything – the first step in organizing the trunk is to remove everything so you’re starting with a clean slate (after you’ve vacuumed and shampooed the carpet, that is) and you can actually see what’s been lurking back there these past several months. Next, decide what’s staying and what’s going.

5. Get an organizer – there are numerous products on the market that will help you achieve an organized trunk or cargo area. It can be as simple as a device that prevents shopping bags from tipping over or cargo from rolling about, to a multi-compartment organizer that collapses when not being used. Only you know what works best for your lifestyle and trunk. The key to organization is knowing what you have, and having a designated place for it.

6. Keep it out of the trunk – one good way to keep your trunk or cargo area better organized is to not put stuff back there in the first place. Plastic or re-useable fabric grocery bags, your purse, or pretty much any bag with handles might be better off riding up front with you. These ingenious hooks slip over the headrest, providing a convenient and secure spot to hang a bag with handles. With the bags not being in the trunk, they won’t spill over and you won’t run the risk of forgetting they’re back there.

7. Bare necessities – in keeping with point number six, above, the less that’s in your trunk means the less you have to organize. That’s not to say the trunk should be empty. At the very least, there should be an emergency kit with jumper cables or a battery booster, first aid kit, tire inflation, flashlight, snacks and water, fresh batteries, flares and/or emergency warning triangles. If it’s winter and you’re driving in colder climates, also include a small snow shovel, blanket, and traction material

8. Use protection – whether its hauling bags of potting soil, sandbox sand, or water softener salt, or just muddy or snow-covered boots, things can get pretty dirty back there. That’s ok, because the cargo area is designed for this. That doesn’t mean, however, that the carpet or other items stored in the trunk have to suffer from damaging stains or moisture. Trunk and cargo-area liners are made to fit snugly in the area they’re protecting, feature a lip around the edge to contain spills, and are made from moisture proof rubber or plastic materials that make clean up a snap.

9. Stay clean – your vehicle’s exterior probably isn’t sparkling clean 100 percent of the time. And when it’s at its salt- or dirt-covered nastiest, you can be sure that’s the day you’ll need to lean over the back bumper to retrieve something out of the trunk. When you do, you can prevent getting your clothes dirty with this trunk protector that’s always in your trunk and attached to the carpet when you need it. Simply unroll it over the bumper and you’re leaning up against a clean surface.Car trunk organizer photo

10. Contain it – loose items and trunks, beds, and cargo areas aren’t a good combination because they’re guaranteed to deliver spills, damage, frustration and potential injury. The solution is simple – no matter what you’re driving and what you’re hauling, contain the cargo. Bars, tie-down straps, and pet and cargo barriers will help better protect you, your cargo and the vehicle.

 

Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts for your trunk storage and organizational needs. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Top Projects To Do While Your Car’s In Winter Storage

Classic car in a garageIt’s hard to put your pride and joy into winter storage. You know how it goes—you spend all winter waiting to drive the thing, and then it’s winter again before you know it. But winter car storage doesn’t have to mean total separation. The car’s right outside in the garage, you know; it’s not like you’ve sent it off to Siberia.

In fact, winter’s a great time to catch up on all the little projects you haven’t found the time for yet. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Paintless Dent Removal

Paintless dent removal guys really are artists, and they don’t close up shop just because there’s snow on the ground. Since your car’s sitting around all day anyway, why not do an inventory of all the dings and dents on the door and body panels, then have your local dent specialist come by and pop them out? If you take action now, a few hundred bucks at the most will buy you peace of mind come spring.

2. Full Hand Wash and Polish

This is definitely a DIY, and for some it’s an annual tradition. When it’s time to store the car, hose it down in the driveway to get the surface stuff off, and then roll up your sleeves and get down to business. All you need is a jug of Turtle Wax Car Wash solution, a nice big sponge and a lot of elbow grease.

You’ll want to go over every inch of the sheet metal with that sponge. Try to make it cleaner than it was on the first day of spring. Then wipe all the moisture off with a non-scratching water blade to avert streaks and water spots. For the grand finale, get a hold of an orbital polisher and some high-quality Meguiar’s polish. A whole winter is a long time for a car to sit still; it’s only proper to put it to bed with that like-new shine.

Pro Tip: Consider a one-step sealant to help prevent rust.

3. Clean and Deodorize Interior

There are countless approaches to cleaning your car’s interior, but when it’s time for winter storage, focus on two aspects: upholstery and odors. For upholstery, start with Lexol leather cleaning spray if you have leather seats. Let it dry for an hour, and then finish with plenty of conditioner. If you do that every year, your leather should be good till kingdom come.

As for odors, look, even if you’re careful about keeping food out of the car, things just start smelling musty over time. You can get in front of this problem by treating your interior with Eagle One E1 odor eliminator. They say the stuff actually changes the chemistry of odor molecules. However the science works, it keeps cars smelling fresh all winter long, and that’s all you need to know.

Pro Tip: Place a few dryer sheets in the cabin, and under the hood. This helps prevent mice from making their way into your car or engine bay and building nests over the winter.

4. Check your cooling system

Check your vehicle’s antifreeze to make sure it protects against even the coldest evenings. To help with this, pick up an antifreeze tester to ensure that your car’s cooling system does not freeze solid.  A cheap antifreeze tester may be the key to a smooth ride next spring.

5. Fix What Needs Fixing (and maybe some other stuff, too)      

Last but definitely not least, winter is the perfect time to bust out your tool kit and get your hands dirty. Hey, it’s not like you’re going to be busy driving the car, right? Think about all the time you’re saving by not getting behind the wheel—and devote a few of those hours here and there to DIY projects of your choosing.

Preventative maintenance

For instance, a lot of folks might put off replacing their spark plugs because the car’s running fine, but why wait for it to start getting rough? Get yourself one of these handy magnetic swivel sockets, if you don’t have one already, and give your engine a new spark for the spring. For those of you who have room to get a floor jack under there and raise your car up, there’s a bunch of sensible preventive maintenance you can do while you’re on your back, including fuel-filter replacement and retorquing all your suspension bolts to factory spec with a quality torque wrench.

Upholstery repair

A couple other projects worth considering are upholstery repair and chrome upkeep. For the upholstery repair, you’re gonna have to be handy with a sewing machine, but it’s not a terribly difficult job if you’ve got the time. Plan on spending a few days, though, if you have to remove the seat covers for re-stitching—and plan on rejuvenating the foam underneath, too, because if you’ve got rips, you’ve also got cushion compression from years of butts.

Make it shine

As for chrome upkeep, whether you’re talking about wheels, bumpers and tailpipes or headers and such under the hood, you’re gonna want a bottle of Mothers California Gold. Go after any tarnished surfaces with that stuff first. If they don’t get shiny enough for you, I would consider calling in a professional, but you can also get a DIY chrome kit and try to do the job yourself. Be careful, though, because the process involves an acid bath and some pretty freaky chemicals. It’s one you can definitely brag about to the boys if you pull it off.

Pro Tip: At the end of the day, you know better than anyone what kind of mechanical TLC your car could use this winter, and now’s the time to do those nagging repairs you’ve been putting off. Our suggestion? Make a list of priorities, and check ’em off one by one until it’s driving season again. Your future self will thank you next year when the car’s performing better than ever.

Spring’s around the corner!

Don’t let the chilly season get you down, my friends. Pass the time with some targeted DIY projects, and before you know it, it’ll be time to hit the road again. When you’re ready, here’s how to bring your car out of storage.

Any suggestions for some good projects this winter, by the way? Let us know in the comments.

Braking Fundamentals: Brake Pads, Rotors and Fluid

 

Wearever gold brake pads

You know something’s wrong with your brakes. Maybe it’s a grinding or scraping noise, pulling to one side when you slow down, or even a spongy brake pedal. The first step in diagnosing the source of the problem is understanding the main parts of a brake system and how they work together.

Brake pads and shims

When you push on the pedal for your car brakes, calipers clamp the brake pads onto the rotors to reduce speed and then stop the vehicle. Brake pads get the glory as the main component in stopping, but equally important are the rotors. Helping to reduce noise and vibration are the brake pad shims. Shims are made of metal or rubber and found on the back of brake pads, in between the pads and the calipers. In addition to reducing noise and vibration, shims manufactured from titanium also protect calipers and fluids from damage caused by excessive heat.

Troubleshooting brake pads

To do their job effectively, the pads must be able to absorb enough energy and heat. When there is too much wear or heat, brake pad efficiency is reduced, along with your stopping power. Car brake pad indicators are designed to emit a scraping sound when the pads are worn out. If you hear this or a grinding sound when you apply your brakes, the pads need replacing. Brake pads should be replaced in pairs.

Learn how to choose the right brake pads for your vehicle and how to replace brake pads yourself.

Brake rotors

Car brakesWhen you press the brake pedal, the calipers cause the brake pads to clamp down on the rotors (also called brake discs). When pressure is applied to the brake rotors, it prevents the wheel from spinning, which means that your brake rotors are as important as the pads when it comes to safety.

Most rotors are made from cast iron—more specifically, gray iron—because it disperses heat well, which is important to avoid overheating and brake fade. High performance vehicles use ceramic rotors, which are lighter and more stable at high speeds and all temperatures. They are, however, more expensive. Some rotors also come ‘painted‘ with a special, rust-inhibiting coating. This ensures that the rotors look good and last longer.

Troubleshooting brake rotors

Rotors will need to be replaced by 70,000 miles on most vehicles, but it depends on use. Rotors, like brake pads, should be replaced in pairs for even stopping performance. Your rotors may need to be replaced if you see or hear any of these signs:

  • Grooves worn into the rotor by the brake pads
  • Squealing, squeaking, or grinding sounds when braking
  • Vibration or wobbling when braking.

Learn how to choose rotors and how to replace rotors yourself.

Brake fluid

brake fluid designation sign

Source | Brian Snelson/Flickr

Brake fluid is “incompressible,” so that when the brake pedal is pushed, the fluid forces brake parts to work together to slow the wheel. Brake fluid also lubricates parts in the braking system. In the United States, there are four designations of brake fluid: DOT 3, DOT 4, DOT 5, and DOT 5.1. Each contains a mixture of chemicals with specified dry and wet boiling points. When your brake fluid has just been replaced, this is called the “dry” boiling point temperature. As water finds its way into the system, the “wet” boiling temperature is the benchmark you should use. To choose the best brake fluid for your vehicle, consult your owner’s manual.

Troubleshooting brake fluids

Because brake fluid is also hygroscopic (attracts water) it starts degrading the moment the bottle is opened, so it should be replaced every two years. A sure sign that your brake fluid is degrading is a ‘spongy’ brake pedal, or a pedal that continually creeps toward the floor. When this happens, it’s time to look at replacing your brake fluid, or bleeding air from the brake fluid lines.

Learn more about how to change brake fluids and how to bleed brake fluids.

For information about the brake parts offered by Advance Auto Parts, check out our buying guide. Are you diagnosing your own brake needs? Tell us about your brake project in the comments.