Simmons Auto Paint and Body Shop

Car Care

Maintaining Your Wipers and Washer Fluid
By Deanna Sclar from Auto Repair For Dummies, 2nd Edition

  • Under the hood of your vehicle is a plastic container that contains the fluid for your windshield wipers. Is it full of liquid? If not, you can fill it with any one of a variety of windshield washer solutions — you can even use a home window cleaner. Just don’t use detergent, which can leave a residue that can plug up your lines. Plus, it isn’t easy to drive with suds all over your windshield!
  • Pay attention to the kind of windshield washer fluid you use. Some are concentrated, which means that you need to mix them with water before adding them to the reservoir. If you live in an area that gets cold in the winter, consider a premixed washer solution that contains antifreeze. This solution comes in quart and gallon sizes and keeps your windshield clean while preventing the liquid from freezing up in cold weather.
  • If your wipers have been making a mess of your windshield, buy new blades or new inserts for them. The rubber wiper inserts are inexpensive and usually just slide into place. The metal blades into which the inserts fit are a little more expensive, but if your old ones look corroded or generally aren’t in good shape, you should replace them as well. Consult your owner’s manual or auto parts store for the type and size of blades you need and for instructions on inserting the blades if you can’t figure out the instructions on the package. Be aware that some vehicles have different-sized wipers for the driver and passenger sides and that other vehicles have only one wiper. If your vehicle has a rear window wiper, don’t forget to check that, too.
  • To avoid being caught in a downpour with no visibility, change your blades after a hot summer, before an annual rainy season, or at least twice a year.

How to Tell Whether Your Vehicle Needs a Tune-up
By Deanna Sclar from Auto Repair For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Tune-up intervals vary from one vehicle to another. Most older vehicles with non-electronic ignitions should be tuned every 10,000 to 12,000 miles or every year, whichever comes first. Newer cars with electronic ignition and fuel injection systems are scheduled to go from 25,000 miles to as many as 100,000 miles without needing a major tune-up. Refer to your owner’s manual for recommended tune-up intervals, but be aware that even if it says that the vehicle doesn’t require scheduled tune-ups very often, it’s in your best interest to check periodically that your vehicle is working at peak efficiency. If you do a lot of stop-and-go driving or pull heavy loads (like a camper or boat), your ignition system may need to be tuned more often. Here are a couple of symptoms that tell you that your electronic ignition system may need to be tuned or adjusted:

  • The car stalls a lot. The spark plugs may be fouled or worn, the gap between the spark plug electrodes may need adjusting, or an electronic sensing device may need to be adjusted.
    If you’re having trouble pinpointing why your vehicle is stalling, you can help your automotive technician diagnose the problem by paying attention to whether the engine stalls when it’s hot or cold or when the air conditioner is on.
  • The engine is running roughly when idling or when you accelerate. Chances are the vehicle needs a tune-up.
  • The car gets harder to start. The problem can be in the starting system (for example, a weakbattery), in the fuel system (for example, a weak fuel pump), or in the ignition system, or can be due to a faulty electronic component, such as the electronic control unit (ECU).

What to Carry in Your Car Toolbox
By Deanna Sclar from Auto Repair For Dummies, 2nd Edition

If you plan to do your own car maintenance and repairs, you need a toolbox to keep tools clean, in good shape, and all in one place. Look for a lightweight, plastic toolbox that fits easily into the trunk of your vehicle and fill it with these tools:

Screwdrivers: The difference between a standard screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver is the shape of the head, as shown here.

Standard (a) and Phillips (b) drivers and their screws.

Offset screwdrivers are handy because they make it easy to get to screws that have little clearance over the head. Offset screwdrivers come in both standard and Phillips styles and some have one of each type of head at either end.

An offset screwdriver.

• Screwholders: Instead of holding a screw in place with the fingers of one hand while wielding the screwdriver with your other hand, you fit the screw into the screwholder and use it to insert and tighten the screw.

A screwholder helps you get into hard-to-reach places.

Wrenches: Wrenches are probably the most basic tools for auto repair. Most wrenches are available in both standard — also known as SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) — and metric measurements. Today, most American vehicles have a mix of SAE and metric nuts and bolts. Foreign vehicles or foreign components used on American vehicles (a practice that’s becoming quite common) use metric nuts and bolts — even the inch-based British.

A socket wrench set.

• Socket wrenches: Socket wrenches come in sets for a wide variety of prices, depending on quality and how many wrenches are in the set.
You need at least one ratchet handle; most sets have two or three handles with at least one adapter.
Socket extenders are indispensable items to help you reach those almost-unreachable nuts and bolts.
A spark-plug socket (a), a ratchet handle (b), and an extension bar (c).

• Combination wrenches: Combination wrenches have one open end and one boxed end. These wrenches come in sets of several sizes, and each wrench is made to fit a nut of a specific size, whichever end you use.
• Torque wrenches: These wrenches are designed to tighten a nut, bolt, or screw to an exact degree to avoid under-tightening or over-tightening.

A dial torque wrench (a) and a deflecting beam torque wrench (b).

• Adjustable wrenches: You probably already have a crescent wrench in the house, and you can adjust the jaws to fit a variety of nuts and bolts simply by turning the wheel.
Pliers: If you have to buy pliers, the very best kind to get are combination slip-joint pliers. You can adjust this general-purpose tool to several widths with a sliding pin.

Needle-nosed pliers (a) and combination slip-joint pliers (b).

Gauges: Several tools are available to help you determine when enough oil, fluid, air, pressure, or whatever is enough. The gauges here are the most useful:

Wire feeler gauges.

• Tire pressure gauges: If you never check anything else on your vehicle, make a habit of regularly checking the tire pressure; it’s critical both for safety and good fuel economy.
• Wire and taper feeler gauges: You use wire and taper feeler gauges for “gapping” spark plugs.
• Compression gauges: You use compression gauges to check the pressure that builds up in each cylinder as your engine runs.

In addition to these basics, you might want a work light. Fluorescent work lights can draw power from the car’s battery or cigarette lighter or plug into a wall socket. They also come with changeable batteries, like flashlights. And if your car didn’t come with a jack, you’ll want to be sure you get one of those, and jack stands too!

How do I care for my new paint job?

We recommend that you follow these simple precautions in the first few months of your new finish’s life:

In the first 90 days…

  • Do not wax or polish the vehicle — this will allow the finish to dry and harden completely. (Do not use silicone containing waxes or polishes).

In the first 30 days…

  • Do not use a commercial car wash. Stiff brushes or sponges could mar the finish and damage the surface. Was the vehicle by hand with cool water and a very mild car was solution. Be sure to use a soft cloth or sponge.
  • Wash the vehicle in the shade — never in the sun.
  • Do not “dry wipe” the vehicle — always use clean water. Dry wiping could scratch the finish.
    extreme heat and cold are to be avoided. Keep the vehicle parked in the shade whenever possible.
  • Do not drive on gravel roads. Chipping the finish is easily done in the first 30 days.
  • Do not park under trees which drop sap or near factories with heavy smoke fallout. Sap and industrial fallout mar or spot a freshly painted surface.
  • Do not spill gasoline, oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid or windshield solvent on the new finish. If you do…IMMEDIATELY rinse off with water. DO NOT WIPE!
  • Do not scrape ice or snow from the surface. Your snow scraper can act like a paint scrape if the finish is new. Brush off the loose material with a soft snow brush.
  • Because of the acid content of bird droppings, you should wash it off as soon as possible. It will damage a fresh paint job