Tips & Tricks


Besides helping the environment, a properly maintained and operated vehicle will run more efficiently, will be safer, and will last up to 50% longer. The environment and your pocketbook will be “greener” if these simple recommendations on automotive maintenance and driving habits are followed.

Build a Relationship With Your Repair Shop. Every vehicle on the road needs regular servicing as well as occasional repairs but people are uneasy when it comes to finding an automotive repair shop. Most full service automotive repair shops have discounted their oil services to compete with the drive thru oil change type businesses. When you need an oil service use that as an opportunity to try out a repair shop and get a feel for their standards. Once you find a shop you like stick with it! Over time the shop builds a relationship with your vehicle. It is far less likely you will be sold anything that was unnecessary because they will have the records or history of the vehicle. Items that need attention are monitored and you have the opportunity to budget the repairs rather than have emergency expenses. In the long run it is much cheaper to have a trustworthy shop that you use for routine maintenance than to deal with the loss of time and the expense of towing and emergency repairs.

Maintain Tire Pressures and Monitor Tread Condition. Every vehicle serviced by Joe’s Foreign Automotive gets a courtesy tire pressure check and adjustment if needed. Underinflated tires waste fuel. They have increased rolling resistance and require more horsepower from the engine to achieve the same speed on the highway. They can also seriously affect the handling when making sharp turns. If your car tends to drift left or right and requires a firm hand on the steering wheel to keep the vehicle straight it could indicate a front suspension alignment problem. When the tires are not in alignment the engine has to work harder to push the car straight against the action of the tires wanting to make the car turn. Holding the steering wheel against the pull of the tires scrubs rubber off the tire producing uneven tire wear which shows up as less tread on the inside or outside of the tire. This not only reduces fuel mileage but also requires more frequent tire replacement.

Check Level and Condition of Oil. Low engine crankcase oil levels of one or two quarts below full can cause the engine to run hotter than normal. Engine oil not only lubricates internal engine components but also provides cooling for hot engine parts. An oil level that is below 80% of crankcase capacity can lead to major loss of oil pressure and damage to engine bearings requiring a major engine overhaul. Most engine oil pressure warning lights will not indicate when the oil pressure has dropped below a safe level. Waiting for the light to come on to add engine oil is waiting for engine disaster. The engine oil level should be checked when the engine is shut off. Wait at least five minutes to allow the oil from the top of the engine to drain into the crankcase. Remove the dipstick and wipe off the engine oil accumulated on it. Reinsert the dipstick and retract to get an accurate gauge of the oil in the crankcase. Consult your owner’s manual as to the correct viscosity and grade of engine oil to add. You can improve your gas mileage by 1–2% by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil.

Low Coolant Can Cause the Engine to Overheat. Dirty coolant indicates the anti-corrosion capability of the coolant has failed allowing rust to occur in the cooling system. Rust can clog the radiator core and create leaks at engine “freeze plugs”. We have also seen water pump impellers rusted away causing the engine to overheat.

Dirty Brake Fluid Can Indicate Moisture Accumulation in the Brake Fluid. Moisture in the brake fluid causes metal corrosion of brake parts. Antilock Brake System valve bodies can fail because of dirty brake fluid. This could drain your pocketbook of about $1500 to $2000 in repairs. Moisture in the brake fluid can also cause the fluid to boil under heavy brake applications. This creates air pockets in the fluid which will cause the pedal to feel spongy and require excessive force to stop the vehicle. Excessively low brake fluid can allow air to be sucked into the brake master cylinder creating the same problem. On most vehicles, the recommended service interval for brake fluid is every 2 years.

Avoid Excessive Idling.Shut the engine off if the vehicle is stopped for an extended period of time. Today’s fuel injected vehicles are designed to “warm up” fast so those five minute engine warm ups on cold winter mornings are no longer required.

De-Junk Your Trunk. Less weight means better gas mileage. Remove excessive items from the vehicle, added weight makes your vehicle work harder and reduces fuel economy. The EPA estimates that for every additional 100 lbs you carry around you lose 2% in fuel economy. Smaller vehicles are affected more by additional weight than larger vehicles.

Drive Gently.Avoid driving aggressively. Try to travel when traffic conditions are light to prevent stop and go conditions. Speeding, rapid accelerating and hard braking wastes fuel. The EPA estimates, it can reduce your gas mileage by up to 33% at highway speed and up to 5% in the city. If the vehicle is equipped with cruise control engage it on the open highway to keep engine speed as steady as possible. Assuming fuel cost $3.75 per gallon you will spend an additional $0.26 per gallon for every 5 mph over 50 mph you drive. The time you saved by speeding to your destination will be spent refueling your vehicle!