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Talk the talk if you don't want to walk. Use this handy log
Every auto manufacturer suggests a maintenance schedule in the owner's manual. Following that schedule is really pretty simple, and regular "check-ups" will keep your car expenses and your money under control.
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If you drive, you have the power to stop people from having asthma attacks – sort of. Cars dirty up the air with several types of pollution that worsen asthma.
If you keep your car tuned-up, it produces less pollution, and that helps clean up the air.
In Wisconsin, the two biggest auto-related air pollutants are ground-level ozone (smog) and particulate matter. Both attack people's respiratory systems and can trigger asthma attacks.
Even people who don't have asthma are susceptible to air pollutants, especially older people, young children (kids breathe more air than adults do in relation to their body weight), and people who work or exercise outdoors. Human health isn't the only issue – these pollutants hurt plants, animals and entire ecosystems.
Ground-level ozone forms when fumes from cars, paint, factories, lawn mowers, boats, and other sources sizzle in the hot summer sun. Two kinds of chemicals make up ground-level ozone: NOx, or nitrogen oxides (combinations of nitrogen and oxygen) and VOCs, or volatile organic compounds – hydrocarbons of hydrogen and carbon created mostly by cars, other engines, and industries that burn fossil fuels for heat or electricity, such as a coal-burning power plant.
Naturally-occurring ozone in the stratosphere (the layer of the atmosphere six to 20 miles above the Earth) protects us from harmful UV (ultraviolet) radiation. But when ozone forms unnaturally down below in our breathing space, it stops protecting and starts causing damage. Ozone will break down rubber, plant tissue and lung tissue.
Burning any fuel – gas in a car, diesel in a truck, leaves in a pile or garbage in a barrel – releases sooty particles. The particles can be large or small, some so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. When you breathe in these fine particles, they clog your lungs. The smaller the particle, the more harmful it is because it can creep deeper into your lungs.
Two other auto emissions worth mentioning are carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). Burning gasoline, wood or oil produces CO2. Incomplete combustion produces CO as well. Both are greenhouse gases, which means they contribute to global warming. Carbon monoxide is also a deadly poison.
So keep your vehicle in tune, because air pollution doesn't stay where it's formed. It drifts over other towns and regions, even blows into other countries. Air pollution is everybody's problem.
|Burn it right|
Seeing a dentist on a regular schedule can prevent small cavities from developing into more serious problems. It works the same way for your car. By regularly checking your car's fuel economy, you can often uncover small problems before they become major repairs. Another good way to check your car's health is to have an emission test. In southeast Wisconsin, these checks are required once every two years.
On older cars, the Wisconsin emission test directly measures the amounts of hydrocarbon (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the car's exhaust. Newer cars rely on a computer scan of the car's on-board computer to determine similar results. The pollutants measured are compared to the amounts that a "clean" car of similar age would be expected to produce. Cars that fail emission tests are wasting fuel and emitting more harmful pollutants. Cars that pass the test are burning fuel efficiently and emitting fewer harmful pollutants.
An emission test may also include checking the gas cap to make sure it seals properly and keeps gasoline vapors in the tank where fumes can be used, not wasted.
Blink. Hey! Your car is talking to you. The light on your dashboard may say "check engine," or "service engine soon," but it's your car's way of telling you something is wrong.
Cars built since 1986 have been equipped with on-board computers ("on-board diagnostic" or "OBD" systems) designed to alert you to the first sign of trouble.
OBD systems monitor your vehicle's operation and performance, and give you advance warning to perform maintenance.
Sometimes the warning light (called the MIL – Malfunction Indicator Lamp) comes on for something simple, like a loose gas cap.
Still, any time this warning light comes on, seek professional help. don't wait for your normal maintenance time. If the MIL light comes on, see a qualified mechanic or service technician NOW.
Today's cars are factory-equipped with computer systems that have more intelligence than the spacecraft NASA sent to the moon. From 1986 to 1995, cars were equipped with first-generation on-board diagnostic (OBD-1) systems. Since 1996, cars have been equipped with second-generation OBD-2 systems. Due to several key changes between OBD-1 and OBD-2, today's technician must be specifically trained and equipped for OBD-2 technology to avoid potential costly errors in diagnosing your car's trouble codes and making appropriate repairs.
Like a high-tech nervous system, an OBD-2 system is a complex network of sensors and controllers that continually monitors operation and performance to keep your car running cleanly and efficiently. When the "check engine" or warning light (also called a MIL, or Malfunction Indicator Lamp) on your dashboard comes on, your car's central computer records an internal diagnostic trouble code, or DTC.
The DTC gives a properly trained technician a starting point to begin further testing to diagnose, pinpoint and repair the root cause of the malfunction. There's a modern-day myth among consumers that all a technician needs to do to find a car problem is to plug into the computer. This is miles from reality!
The diagnostic code is only the first step in the process. To extract the code, a technician must attach an OBD-2 scan tool to a data link connector, which is usually mounted on the bottom of the dashboard to the left of the steering column. Beginning January 1, 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mandated OBD-2 scan testing for all vehicles made after 1996 in all areas across the nation that have an emissions testing program.
Small backyard or "shade-tree mechanics" have become a fading image of our automotive past. To effectively service and repair today's high-tech cars, the professional automotive technician must have training and experience in a diverse range of subjects including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics, chemistry, physics, metallurgy, plumbing, safety engineering, welding and metal fabricating, lubricating and hazardous waste handling.
Today's automotive technician is likely to offer specialized services. Some common automotive specialty areas include:
Depending on the problem, it makes good sense to choose your auto technician according to his or her specialty. So, for an auto emission problem, visit an emissions specialist. A professional automotive emissions systems specialist will have:
Certain items on your car are going to need regular replacement no matter how careful you are. Brakes wear out. So do tires, exhaust systems and lights. Although there is no way to avoid these expenses, you should inspect the items that can wear while your car receives regular maintenance.
You don't need to change all the light bulbs in your car every four years, but you should probably change both headlights when one burns out. It's also a lot easier on your wallet to stagger replacement of those items that will wear out.
Use the seasons as a guide. For example, have your air conditioning system serviced in the spring, and have your engine coolant serviced in the fall.
Maybe you've just purchased a used car. It's in good condition, and you bought it for a fair price. You've taken it to your repair technician, who checks it thoroughly and pulls out a laundry list of suggested repairs. You can't afford to do them all at once. So how do you choose which ones to do first?
If you've asked the right questions, this shouldn't be a problem. A qualified technician will be more than willing to work with you to develop a repair plan that meets your budget and will help you rank which repairs truly need to be made first.
At the top of any list are items directly related to your safety and the safety of those who share the road with you. don't put off these repairs until later. Someone whose car has bad brakes, but has decided to fix them "in a few months" is the last person you would want behind you on the freeway during rush hour. Other safety related items include:
Many repairs can be done more economically if they are done in combination. Grouping certain repairs saves extra labor costs that would come from doing them separately. For example:
Finally, there are some repairs that could be saved until later and combined with another repair:
A good automotive technician appreciates a good customer. You play an important role in quality repair. Providing more complete information means your technician will have an easier time diagnosing the problem and repairing it economically. Quality repairs result from effective communication:
Explain problems clearly to the repair technician. Helpful information for your technician may include:
Make sure the technician listens to your complaints and understands what you want. Ask questions about:
Finally, listen to the treatment that the technician recommends, and follow through. With effective communication between you and your technician, your car will have fewer emissions, operate more economically, and have a long useful life.
Your car provides great freedom and great enjoyment, but you need to be prepared when it needs repair. As you've read here, the process is pretty easy if you've kept good records. Print out this sample log, follow the basic steps to fill it out as necessary, and keep it in your car. Voila! You'll have a record readily available.
To order printed copies of the complete Auto Log, e-mail DNR Air Education requesting publication number CE-271. Include your name, address (no PO box please) and number of copies desired.