Nothing says 'vehicle maintenance' like falling leaves and jack-o-lanterns, right?!
It's October, National Car Care Month, not just the month for candy love, but a time for a little car love too. Get ready for those cold, snowy days ahead with some basic vehicle maintenance. Simple checks and service can ensure your safety and keep your car running and you out of the cold.
The not-for-profit Car Care Council recommends the following basic fall maintenance:
- Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
- Check the hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.
- Check the battery and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.
- Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.
- Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.
- Check engine performance to make sure it is delivering the best balance of power and fuel economy and producing the lowest level of emissions.
- Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting.
- Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.
- Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
- Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a free copy of the council's popular Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.
Imagine your surprise, and frustration, when you take your vehicle for its periodic emissions inspection and the inspector tells you she can't test your vehicle because it's "not ready." Or, you already had an inspection but your vehicle failed. You had repairs done and have now returned to the inspection station for the retest but the inspector tells you he can't test it because it's "not ready."
What?! The engine starts, the vehicle is drivable, what does "not ready" mean?
It basically means that the computer in the vehicle that monitors the emissions control systems is "not ready" to be tested because it has been recently disconnected or reset.
Newer vehicles - less than 12 years old - now require an OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) inspection. The OBD inspection is a "plug-in" computer test rather than the road simulation test that is given to vehicles that are 12 years and older.
Vehicles equipped with OBD systems continuously self-test their emissions control systems using various monitors. These tests are commonly referred to as "readiness monitors." These monitors identify whether a vehicle's computer has completed the required "self-tests" while the vehicle is being driven. Basically a continuous on-road inspection.
If a self-test has been completed, the system will be reported as "ready." An incomplete self-test will be reported as "not ready." A vehicle with "not ready" status cannot be inspected until all of the self-tests are completed and the monitors are set to "ready." This generally means driving for a while to complete at least one full drive cycle, sometimes more, and then returning to an Air Care station for an reinspection.
WHAT CAUSES A "NOT READY" DESIGNATION?
- Recent vehicle repairs in which diagnostic trouble codes have been cleared with an OBD scan tool
- The battery was recently disconnected or replaced
- The vehicle's computer requires a software upgrade
- A pending problem has not yet illuminated the "check engine" light
To allow the vehicle's monitors to become "ready" it must be driven so that the self-tests can be completed and the monitors can be reset to "ready." To do this, the vehicle must run through its specific drive cycle, which depends on the vehicle make and model and which monitor(s) need to be reset. In most cases, two drive cycles are required to reset the monitors.
HOW DO I KNOW HOW LONG TO DRIVE TO RESET THE MONITORS TO "READY?"
A drive cycle generally requires combined city and highway driving and includes cool periods. You can drive the vehicle as directed in the owner's manual (look under OBD), or consult with your repair technician who should be able to tell you to complete a vehicle or monitor specific drive cycle.
If your vehicle failed the inspection, be sure to complete the drive cycle and return within 10 days to get a free reinspection.