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Basic Tools

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On: Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 1:24PM | By: Peter C Sessler

Basic Tools

Over the years, I found that there are some inexpensive, yet almost indispensable, tools you should have available, assuming, of course, that you want to save money. Let's take a look at some:

Tire Pressure Gauge
This simple devise measures how much air pressure is in your tires. You can get real fancy here—for example, there are some that have a dial-type gauge; these are nice to have, but the simple pen-type works just as well and cost a lot less. The importance of correct tire air pressure is critical to the life span of your tires. Most tires have the maximum pressure listed on the sidewall which is usually around 35 psi. Keeping the pressure at the maximum reduces tire rolling resistance so fuel economy is maximized, and allows you to load up your car with all the passengers and weight that it was designed to carry. The only drawback is the higher the air pressure, the harder the ride, especially over bumps. Conversely, you can let some air out for a smoother ride, but I wouldn't go below 30 psi.

The key thing here is to get into the habit of checking your tires regularly. All tires lose air—some more than others. The result is uneven tire wear. In addition, something as simple as low air pressure can make it seem like your car has bigger problems. For example, a rear tire that has less pressure that the other tires will make your car pull to one side, leading you to believe that you need front-end work or an alignment. Finally, always make sure that your spare tire is at the maximum setting.

Battery Brush
This handy brush is a must. It is used to clean the battery terminals and battery posts so that electricity flows unhindered. I learned this lesson very early on, when my car refused to turn over one day. Luckily, this happened in a parking lot which was next to a repair shop. I asked the mechanic there to help me out and all he did was to clean the terminals—and this was enough to start the car—without a jump or a charge.

Battery Cables
No matter how much you know about cars, you should always carry a set of battery cables in your car. You don’t known when these will save you from a tight spot, and you’ll be able to help others.

Anti-Freeze Tester
This gadget resembles an eye dropper with three or four balls in it. It works very simply, too. All you do is to take some fluid from your radiator, and, by the number of balls that float, you can tell how good your anti-freeze is. If your system needs to be flushed, you can do it yourself or your local garage can, but at least you'll know if your system really needs it or not.

Your Senses
There are lots of other testers and tools available, particularly those that test your car's electrical system as well as its various computers. These are just too expensive to consider; however, you already have some very special "testers" of your own—your senses.

These are free and all that is required is the desire to use them on a regular basis. Let's start with your eyes. With your eyes you can check how your tires are wearing—all it requires that you bend down beneath the bumper so that you can a view of all of the tread area. A little more inconvenient is to look underneath the car. How's your muffler and exhaust system? Do your shock absorbers leak oil? Are there stains behind the brake discs (indicating leaking brake cylinders)? Do brake hoses look frayed? Is there a wet stain around your gas tank? Do the same thing in the engine compartment. Who knows what you'll find!

With your nose, you'll be able to tell how your transmission is doing. If your transmission fluid has a brownish color and has a decidedly burnt smell to it, it's time to change it, but it already might be too late. Does your engine compartment smell of anti-freeze? Sometimes it's difficult to spot leaks but you can smell them.

With your hands, you can tell a lot about what's going on in your car, simply by holding the steering wheel. Is it harder to turn the steering wheel to the right than to the left? This could indicate a bad steering rack. Does your steering wheel shimmy back and forth at high speeds? This could be front-end trouble or, more likely, cheap tires that have taken too many bumps. With your ears, you can hear a strange noise that you've never heard before. Does the front end of your car "click" when you go around turns? Sounds like bad CV joints.

And so forth. Remember, your car is always talking to you. Just take the time to listen and you won't get a nasty surprise.



pinal | 7:29AM (Tue, Aug 30, 2016)

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