Back-to-School Safe Driving Tips

Already?!

Already?!

Kids are back to school on Monday, August 24—a big adjustment not only for children and parents but also for drivers on Amarillo roads. Traffic gets a little bit crazy during the school year, especially in the first few weeks as everyone gets used to buses everywhere, kids on bikes, and harried parents trying to drop their kids off before work.

When children are present, particularly before and after school, drivers must slow down and pay attention. Here are some more tips for driving safely during the back-to-school season and beyond.

Dropping Kids Off at School

Most schools have specific drop-off procedures for the school year. Make sure you know the rules for your child’s school and observe them for the safety of all kids. The following rules apply to all school zones:

  • Don’t double park (it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles).
  • Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school.
  • Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.

Sharing the Road with Young Pedestrians

According to the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, and they’re on foot—they are hit by the bus or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus. Here are precautions to keep young pedestrians safe:

  • Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you (this could put them in the path of moving traffic).
  • In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection.
  • Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.
  • Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas.
  • Don’t honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way.
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.
  • Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way.

Sharing the Road with School Buses

Watch for school buses starting Monday

Watch for school buses starting Monday

If you’re driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped to load to unload children. Here are some other guidelines for sharing the road with school buses:

  • Never pass a bus from behind (or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road) if it is stopped to load or unload children.
  • If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.
  • The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children (stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus).
  • Be alert at all times, as children are often unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.

Please follow these tips for a safe school year, and call Aardvark Automotive when you need auto repairs and maintenance!

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6 fall and early winter car care tips from an ASE Master Technician

Wintery conditions put extra stress on your car.

Wintery conditions put extra stress on your car.

While you should keep your car up-to-date on maintenance year-round, November is a particularly important month because all the prep you do now will set your car up for impending harsh winter weather.

Nobody wants to be stranded on the way to a holiday party or family dinner, so do yourself and anyone who rides in your car a favor by following this checklist of fall care tips.

Car Care 101: Read your owner’s manual and follow the recommended maintenance schedule

While it may seem obvious to read your owner’s manual, many of us admittedly don’t. Your owner’s manual will let you know when you need to check your car’s tires, brakes, filters, and fluids. If you’re still confused, just visit us! We have recommendations for the best time and mileage intervals.

Oil and air filter changes are especially important for keeping your MPG high and your engine humming along. Most modern vehicles only need an oil change every 5,000 miles, while older vehicles may need an oil change every 3,000 miles.

Ensure your tires are in good condition

The weather here in Amarillo changes in the blink of an eye, especially in the fall and winter. We might get snow one day and 80-degree weather the next. As a result, our tires literally weather a lot.

In order for your car to survive an Amarillo winter, you will have to make sure your tires can take the chill. When tires are cool, check their pressure as well as the pressure of the spare. See if your jack is in good working condition.

Keep your tires properly inflated, since underinflated tires will make the engine work harder and eat up more gas. They will also be susceptible to road hazards (which increase in winter) and heat damage.

Simply look at the sticker on your door jamb to see the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.

If you come to the shop, have a tire tread depth inspection done with each oil change or before winter hits.

Have your battery tested and correct engine performance problems

Battery

Have you ever trudged through snow to your car on a dark winter morning, only to turn the key and feel your heart drop as you hear the dreaded click click click? Very hot summer weather can damage a battery, but this damage will not be noticeable until a big temperature change occurs. Because of this, the cooler months are the source of many a dead battery. Have a technician check your battery’s health during the fall. Your technician may clean away corrosion and re-tighten connections.

Engine Performance

Just as you’re more likely to get sick during the winter, cold weather can cause and aggravate engine problems. Correct drivability problems like stalling and idling at the shop. Fixing engine problems will give you better fuel mileage along with more reliability.

Keep your gas tank filled

Ice crystals look gorgeous outdoors, but are less desirable when they’re in your fuel. To ensure you don’t end up with a fuel popsicle, keep your gas tank filled.

Make sure your cooling and heating systems are running smoothly

Cooling

Check the condition, level, and concentration of your coolant.

We recommend a BG Cooling System Service every 2 years or 30,000 miles. At our shop we check the coolant level with every oil change, as well as your belts and hoses.

Heating

Get your heater checked in the fall so you can avoid the long lines of people waiting to get their heaters fixed in the winter. After all, the heater will be one of your most prized possessions when it’s 17 degrees outside and you still have an hour to go before you get home.

Extra Tip: Don’t forget an emergency kit!

Make an uncomfortable situation a bit more bearable by packing necessities like a flashlight, tire chains, boots, blankets, a shovel, gloves, and snacks.

 

Wishing you and your family a safe fall and a wonderful holiday season,

Robert

Aardvark Automotive owner and ASE-certified Master Technician

For more driving tips or questions about your car, feel free to contact us at (806) 242-1073 or visit our website.

How to transition your car from winter to spring

Car tips

With winter in your rearview mirror, it’s time to start thinking about how to transition your car into spring. These repair tips are meant to complement a preventative maintenance schedule, and we recommend taking your car to the shop for a simple checkup each time the seasons change.

By inspecting your vehicle and making a few minor adjustments, you’ll be pampering your car with some simple spring cleaning – and you’ll be aware of what to tell your mechanic once you visit the shop.

  1. Check your engine air filter, cabin air filter, and cooling system

Engine air filters

Imagine covering your mouth with a thick, dirty cloth as you run. You would get a lot less oxygen and probably wouldn’t perform as well, tiring out quickly. The same thing happens to your car. Unclean engine air filters force your engine to work harder and eat up more gas.

Here in the Texas Panhandle, engine air filters need to be changed relatively often since we have so much dust in the air. While a clogged air filter typically does not cause serious engine damage, a torn air filter allows unfiltered air into the engine, which wreaks havoc on the engine since dirt isn’t exactly a lubricant.

If your engine air filter is not changed often, the electronic components that manage the engine’s fuel system can become damaged. This means the computer will receive erroneous data and will not adjust the fuel mixture properly, causing fuel mileage and performance problems.

Cabin air filters

Whereas clean cabin air filters ensure you get nice, filtered air in the right volume, clogged air filters reduce the amount of air coming into the car for heating and AC. The heater and AC will also not work as well. And if your air filter tears, you will breathe the full fury of pollutants from cars’ tail pipes and industrial activity.

Consider purchasing an activated carbon air filter, which absorbs the fumes from cars’ tail pipes and removes allergens – so no more holding your breath when you drive behind a big truck. Some cars come equipped with these carbon impregnated paper filters, but many others aren’t so fortunate. Then there are vehicles that have both plain paper filters and carbon impregnated filters so the big junk gets filtered out first, followed by the fumes.

Cooling system

Turn on your AC to make sure it’s functioning properly, and then test your climate control. The climate control system is sometimes called the heater, ventilation, & air conditioning system (HVAC). And don’t think that you don’t need to check your AC after winter because you haven’t been using it. During the winter, your car actually uses AC to dry the air so your windshield doesn’t fog up. As such, your AC should be checked periodically throughout the year, no matter what season it is.

  1. Check your belts and hoses

A good rule of thumb is to replace your belts and hoses every four years. As spring starts, inspect your fan belt (the serpentine belt that drives all accessory motors, including the power brakes and power steering pumps). Examine the grooved side of the belt for cracks and fraying. If the belt has 10 cracks per inch then it needs to be replaced.

Pull on your belts – if they’re loose, bring your car to the shop. When the engine is warm, give the radiator hose a gentle squeeze. If you smell coolant, find leaks, or feel that your hose is overly soft, it’s time to have your cooling system checked out.

  1. Know when to change your oil

During the winter acid builds up in motor oil, especially when you don’t drive your car for a long time. This acid build-up dirties your oil, wearing out engine parts faster. Thus, it’s vital for the longevity of your car to get a timely oil change. Don’t wait things out thinking it’s no big deal – we’ve had people come to us who have driven 15,000 miles without an oil change, forcing us to scrape dirty sludge out of the oil pan.

In the winter, lightweight oils help the engine crank over better, but getting into spring and summer heavier weight oils are easier on your engine. Why? Old conventional motor oils only had one viscosity, and would thin out when heated. In the winter, the oil would become too thick, so the pumps couldn’t lubricate the engine properly. In the summer, the oil would break down too quickly in the heat.

Luckily, these days you have a choice of what kind of oil to put in your car. Newer engines run at higher temperatures, so oil weight really matters if you have a modern car. Consult your owner’s manual to see what oil weight you need.

Aardvark Tip: There is no such thing as “lifetime” transmission fluid. If a product advertises this, just remember that “lifetime” means for the life of the fluid, not for your lifetime. We recommend transmission oil be changed every 80,000 miles.

4. Make sure your antifreeze is in good shape

Did you know your engine coolant, or antifreeze, can conduct electricity? As you can imagine, this spells bad news for everything under the hood. As your antifreeze ages, the freeze protection remains, but the anti-corrosion protection starts degrading. So the older your antifreeze, the more it conducts electricity in the cooling system, eroding metal and plastic. Your coolant will erode the radiator, engine, and hoses, causing the whole system stress. So make sure you change your antifreeze every couple of years!

Since the engine cooling system can also affect the HVAC system, you should inspect your engine cooling system and then check the antifreeze.

Aardvark Tip: Just because your antifreeze looks clean doesn’t mean it’s in good condition. Only your shop technician will know if it’s past its expiration date.

  1. Tires

Tires should be checked for proper inflation as per the sticker on your car’s door, body post, or owner’s manual every few weeks. Proper tire pressure gives you better fuel economy as well as longer-lasting tires.

Good tread depth is important for better traction and stability in rainy conditions as well as in snow. When there is a possibility of ice forming, slow down to safely arrive at your destination.

  1. Change spark plugs

With vehicle technology ever evolving, spark plugs on today’s cars can last 100,000 miles. While 100,000 miles is the standard point as per car manufacturer at which you should replace your spark plugs, you may have to change them out sooner if you are experiencing performance problems.  Aardvark recommends changing by 80,000 as a maintenance item.

Performance issues like bad gas mileage and slow pickup can indicate a poor spark plug. Inspect the spark plugs insulator and electrode for damage. Since mechanical problems in the engine (such as the piston rings wearing out, letting oil in) can deter a spark plugs performance, removing and checking the plugs can let you know if they need replacement.

For more car tips and to get more info on Aardvark Automotive, check out our website.