Weekly auto rail, with easy-to-do maintenance tips, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.


 

Tip of the Week


After their homes, most Americans' largest financial investment is their vehicle, so helping it stay in good working order for as long as possible is a high priority. In fact, the average age of a passenger car in North America has grown to more than nine years, according to R.L. Polk and Co., which indicates that motorists are looking for ways to help extend the life of their vehicle. Even so, today's tight budgets leave some motorists reluctant to spend on services or maintenance that they think can be delayed, at least for the short term. However, compared to the cost of engine repair, spending a little today on the right maintenance routine performed by trusted service technicians using quality products makes sense. Mark Ferner, Pennzoil technical specialist and ASE-certified master mechanic, offers some simple, cost-effective tips for helping to protect the performance and longevity of your vehicle:


- Replace dirty air filters. A dirty air filter will restrict airflow to the engine, which may reduce power output. If the filter fails, it will allow unfiltered air into the engine, which can be abrasive inside an engine. To avoid these issues and help promote long engine life, check your engine's air filter regularly and change it when it is dirty.


- Use high-quality fuel. Several automotive manufacturers (BMW, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi) have published technical service bulletins recommending the use of top-tier fuel. Top-tier fuel contains more additives than is required by the industry's Lowest Additive Content (LAC) treat rate. Regular use of fuel that only meets LAC requirements may cause deposits to form on engine intake valves and fuel injectors.  


- Change your oil. Regular oil changes are one of the most important steps to maximize the life of a vehicle. Oil change intervals vary by vehicle and driving conditions, so follow the interval and oil specifications found in the owner's manual.


-- ARA


The List


Motor Trend recently named its Sport/Utility of the Year, and the Subaru Outback was declared the winner. Here are the runners-up:


- Acura ZDX


- Audi Q5


- Cadillac SRX


- Chevrolet Equinox


For more information, go to www.motortrend.com.


Did You Know


The 2010 auto show season kicks into gear in Detroit with the North American International Auto Show, which is open to the public from Jan. 16 to 24. Find more information at www.naias.com.


Car Q&A


Question: I own a 2005 Ford Escape all-wheel drive. When traveling on the highway 65-70 mph, the ABS light comes on and occasionally the 4x4 light will come on. Are either a major concern?


Answer: I would suggest that you take the vehicle to a local shop and have them scan the computer for both brake and transmission trouble codes. This has to be done with a high-end scan tool in a vehicle specific mode, not in a generic mode that most big auto stores use. When the ABS light is on, the ABS system is not operational. As for the transmission light blinking, something in the electronic system is picking up a problem and should be checked before it could become a big problem.


-- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist


GateHouse News Service