Car maintenance for dummies

  • #1
Math Is Hard
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Main Question or Discussion Point

OK, so I need to put air in my front tires tomorrow, but I know from past experience I am hopelessly inept. There seems to be a trick to getting more air into the tires than one is letting out, and I have not mastered it.

Also, I am not sure when to stop. Isn't there some kind of quick method of sticking a dime into the treads to measure this? or do I need to buy one of those fancy gauges?

Once I have learned this skill, maybe we could move on to rudiments of oil checking? A thousand pardons - I grew up in the era of full-serve service stations.

I much appreciate any advice. :!!)

-MIH
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Math Is Hard said:
OK, so I need to put air in my front tires tomorrow, but I know from past experience I am hopelessly inept. There seems to be a trick to getting more air into the tires than one is letting out, and I have not mastered it.
Ok, where to start. First of all, you need to have compressed air avaliable to you. I seriously doubt that you do so i recomend that you go to your local auto repair center and have them do it for a small fee, if any at all.

Also, I am not sure when to stop. Isn't there some kind of quick method of sticking a dime into the treads to measure this? or do I need to buy one of those fancy gauges?
Well, to be honest, there is no way to really know when to stop. Just put air in the tire and periodically check your progress with a gauge. If you do decide to do it yourself, just put air in for about five or six seconds at a time to keep it slow. also, air pressure gauges are not expensive. you can pick one up at your local parts store for under $5.

Once I have learned this skill, maybe we could move on to rudiments of oil checking? A thousand pardons - I grew up in the era of full-serve service stations.

I much appreciate any advice. :!!)

-MIH
Oil checking is quite easy, but locating the oil dipstick is often the hardest part. What kind of car do you drive?
 
  • #3
Math Is Hard
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Hi dm,
Thanks for your reply.
I have an airhose at the gas station down the street so no prob there. I had my car in the shop last month and I asked them to check the tires and put air in, but I can still tell they are a bit low. I'm not sure they did anything. Anyway, I'm hoping I can learn to do that myself.
I have a 1999 Mazda Protege.
 
  • #4
Pengwuino
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Your owners manual should tell you where the oil... stick... thing... is
 
  • #5
Math Is Hard
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Look, I know where the stick is - I just don't know what to do with it! :grumpy:

(oh, cripes, that didn't sound good, did it?)
:redface:
 
  • #6
Pengwuino
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Math Is Hard said:
Look, I know where the stick is - I just don't know what to do with it! :grumpy:
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

I think theres a line on there that will show you what the oil level should be up to. Plus, the manual should tell you what to do wtih the stick too.

pervert
 
  • #7
Moonbear
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MIH, don't be sure they are low. A lot of people are so used to seeing overinflated tires that they think they are low when they are properly inflated. Anyway, you will need a gauge, but the air hoses at most gas stations already have one (though sometimes of uncertain accuracy). If you use the one attached to the air hose, it won't take a reading until you stop holding the lever to inflate, so just stop every so often and take a reading. If the correct pressure range isn't stamped right on your tires, check for a sticker inside one of the doors that may have that information. Otherwise, call whoever sold you the tires for the correct inflation pressure (it's usually somewhere between 28 and 32 psi, but will depend on the type of tire).

You can pick one of those gauges up in any auto parts store, or places like Sears (and probably a lot more places than that). They aren't very expensive or anything (though mine was given to me as a gift, so I don't really know how much they cost).

As for getting the air hose to inflate rather than deflate the tire, it's just a matter of keeping the hose pressed to the tire valve firmly, same with taking the tire pressure, push the gauge on firmly or you won't get an accurate reading.

It would be ridiculously silly to pay someone just to put air in the tires. You'll definitely be able to do this on your own.

As for checking the oil, do you have the manual that came with your car? It should have information of which dipstick is for the oil. There are some other dipsticks under the hood, so you want to be sure you're reading the right one. If you're not sure, next time you bring in your car for an oil change, ask to be shown so you can check the oil between visits. Once you know which is the dipstick, pull it out, wipe it off with a paper towel or rag, reinsert it completely, and pull it out again to take the reading. There will be a hatched area with arrows pointing to it to indicate where "full" is. Good, clean oil is fairly clear, maybe only a tad darker than cooking oil, if the oil on your dipstick is dark or black, get an oil change ASAP. If it's clean and just needs to be topped up, again, refer to your manual to make sure you add the oil to the right place...there is probably a symbol on the cap to let you know it's the one for oil, but double check so you don't do something silly like put oil in your brake fluid or windshield washer reservoir (or if you use one of those 15 min oil change type places, most of them will top up the oil for free if you need it before you've reached your 3000 mile recommended time for changes).
 
  • #8
Moonbear
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Math Is Hard said:
Look, I know where the stick is - I just don't know what to do with it! :grumpy:

(oh, cripes, that didn't sound good, did it?)
:redface:
:rofl: I think you just need a man! :biggrin:
 
  • #9
Math Is Hard
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Thanks, y'all. I appreciate the advice! I am pretty sure the front tires are low, and I even asked a neighbor and he said they looked low also. Well, I am going to give it a go tomorrow. At least if I flatten the tires I have triple-A membership now!
 
  • #10
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Moonbear said:
:rofl: I think you just need a man! :biggrin:
Sad, isn't it!!! :rofl: I am going to start dating mechanics. I'm just having a hard time getting past the dirty fingernails. <shudder!>
 
  • #11
Moonbear
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Math Is Hard said:
Sad, isn't it!!! :rofl: I am going to start dating mechanics. I'm just having a hard time getting past the dirty fingernails. <shudder!>
Liquid laundry detergent gets the grease off hands pretty well. You'll want to know this too if you start monkeying around under the hood. There is other stuff you can get to clean grease off hands too, but if you're only occassionally doing some oil checks, the laundry detergent is probably more readily available to you.
 
  • #12
honestrosewater
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Ooh, try the orange hand cleaners for dirty, greasy hands. You can probably find them anywhere that sells car stuff. They work and smell great. I used to help my mom's boyfriend in the shop, and that's about all I remember - the orange hand cleaner. :rolleyes:
 
  • #13
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Yeah, first thing you do is check the side of the tire untill you find where it says the psi. Mine are something like 35psi.

When you get to the gas station where the air pump is, park with your car pointed right at the pump, and as close to it as you can get while still being able to walk around the front of it. This position allow you to get to all four tires with the hose.

Before you put money in the pump (usually 50¢) unscrew all the caps off the little air imput tubes on the tires, and don't lose them. Doing this now saves time so you don't run out of air time while you're actually putting the air in, which could happen if you are really low in any tires.

When you push the air hose onto the air imput thingy, the gage will automatically come out of the nozzle and tell you where about you are with air pressure.

You squeeze some air in, stop, see how high the gage went, then keep doing that till you get up to where your tires are supposed to be.

Were you to accidently over-inflate a tire, you can stick something like the tip of a pen in and push the little pin in the center of the imput tube down, which will let air out.

Put all the caps back on when you're done, and drive away. If your front tires were actually low before, you will now feel like you have a new car, it will be so much easier to steer.
 
  • #14
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Checking the oil:

Pul the dipstick out and wipe it off with paper towels.

Down toward the end you should see lines inscribed in the metal, and they usually will say something like max and min. On some dipsticks there is cross hatching between the maximum and minimim marks. These marks are usually about an inch apart or so.

Put the dipstick back all the way in, making sure it has gone as far as it will go. then pull it out again, and look at the marks. There should be a visible film of oil that goes from the end of the stick to somewhere between these two marks. If the end of the stick is wet but the line doesn't reach the min mark, you're WAY low, and must add oil immediately.

If the wet line is between the two max and min marks, you're OK. If it's too close to the min mark, you want to add oil, but not TOO much. You never want to exceed the amount of oil your engine calls for. This can damage the engine because the oil is forced around in there under pressure. In most cars the rule of thumb is that it takes a quart of oil to bring the dipstick level from the min line to the max line. Half a quart will take it half the way, and so forth.

The oil goes in a different hole, of course. You don't pour it down the dipstick tube. The cap for the oil filler hole usually says "oil" or "Oil Fill" on it, but some don't.
 
  • #15
Ivan Seeking
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Then add air to the tires until the dip stick pops out.
 
  • #16
Pengwuino
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Ivan Seeking said:
Then add air to the tires until the dip stick pops out.
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
 
  • #17
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ha, a mechanic with dirty hands? The only time i get my hands dirty is if my glove tears and i dont realise it.
 
  • #18
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I also use mechanics gloves, my hands are hardly ever dirty.
 
  • #19
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it posted twice ..opps :surprised
 
  • #20
Math Is Hard
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Zooby, thanks for those detailed instructions! That made me think of things I am likely to forget - like quarters for the airhose! And I should probably wear something with a pocket so don't lose the little caps. :smile:

Ivan, I am going to pass on your advice - thanks, anyway! :rofl:

I cut my nails, I got some of that orange hand cleaner stuff, and I've got something to wear that I don't mind getting dirty. I would really like to find some of those gloves that Hypatia and Andy mentioned.

I went down to the gas station and found the airhose, but it had no gauge. Then I went to another gas station, and that airhose also had no gauge. (This must be a California thing?) So, anyhoo, I went and bought a cute little dial gauge to try out. I noticed that the instructions said to only check cool tires, and it's blazing hot outside, so maybe I should wait a little while?
 
  • #21
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The problem with under inflated or over inflated tires is that you get uneven wear. Over inflated tires will wear in the middle faster than on the outside and an under inflated tire will wear on the outside faster then the inside. Uneven wear means you will have to replace your tires sooner which is expensive and very wasteful. You also need to consider gas mileage and traction. An over inflated tire will give you better milage at the expense of traction where as a slightly under inflated tire will tend to increase traction a bit and also use more gas. For best overall performance try to keep your tires to within at least 5 psi of the MANUFACTURER'S recommended tire pressure. Do not go by what is printed on the side wall of the tire as that is not always correct for your vehicle.

Another important gas and tire saver is your alignment...make sure your vehicle does not pull to the right or left. If it does, get it fixed ASAP.

There is no real trick to getting the air hose to seal over the valve stem properly, it just takes practice.

Also, your oil can be black as midnight and still be good. Go by your milage and the type of oil you use, not the color of the oil. If you are driving a new car and use a synthetic or semi-synthetic you can safely go for up to 5000 miles between oil changes. For best performance and cost savings I would recommend you follow what the owner manual recommends for oil types and oil change intervals.

If you are driving and automatic, please follow the AT fluid change recommendations for you car as well.

In other words, read the manual and understand the periodic maintenance requirements for your vehicle and follow them. :smile:
 
  • #22
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Math Is Hard said:
I went down to the gas station and found the airhose, but it had no gauge. Then I went to another gas station, and that airhose also had no gauge. (This must be a California thing?) So, anyhoo, I went and bought a cute little dial gauge to try out. I noticed that the instructions said to only check cool tires, and it's blazing hot outside, so maybe I should wait a little while?
You should check your tires in the morning before you do any driving at all. If it is under inflated note by how much and then increase pressure by about that much when you put air into your tires at the gas station. Next morning you might be slightly over inflated but you can easily adjust the pressure to the correct amount.
 
  • #23
Pengwuino
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Damn it!

My car stopped working!

We think its the starter. I wonder if anyone here would know what it definitely might be.

What happens is basically, put the key in, turn the key a bit and all the lights and radio will come on. Once you turn it to where you'd start starting the engine, all you hear is a single click. The car hasnt had any problems at all starting up lately although in the past, the starter has had a tendency to stick. Anyone think they know whats wrong? :(.
 
  • #24
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Pengwuino said:
Damn it!

My car stopped working!

We think its the starter. I wonder if anyone here would know what it definitely might be.

What happens is basically, put the key in, turn the key a bit and all the lights and radio will come on. Once you turn it to where you'd start starting the engine, all you hear is a single click. The car hasnt had any problems at all starting up lately although in the past, the starter has had a tendency to stick. Anyone think they know whats wrong? :(.
It is the starter solenoid....newer cars have the solenoid right on the starter. To start the car all you have to do is turn the key to the on position and they take a screw driver and short the two post of the solenoid. That will get the starter to spin and start the car. But I would recommend you just remove and replace the starter. :smile:

Warning: what I just said poses some obvious risk. Make sure the car is NOT in gear and you do not have lose clothing that may be caught in moving engine parts... Use common sense when working on your car!!!!! Oh, and I don't recommend anyone try this and I am not responsible for any accidents or injuries caused by this.
 
  • #25
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Pengwuino said:
Damn it!

My car stopped working!

We think its the starter. I wonder if anyone here would know what it definitely might be.

What happens is basically, put the key in, turn the key a bit and all the lights and radio will come on. Once you turn it to where you'd start starting the engine, all you hear is a single click. The car hasnt had any problems at all starting up lately although in the past, the starter has had a tendency to stick. Anyone think they know whats wrong? :(.
Without knowing the specifics of your situation one can make no accurate prediction of your problem. The click might come from an underhood relay used to activate the starter solenoid(Fords used this until the early 90's while other automakers abandoned it in leu of a all-in-one starter/solenoid combination). Whithout knowing the specifics or even being able to look at the wiring(layers of corrosion on connectors can cause the problem you've described) it's hard to say what the problem is. Heck, a bad battery can cause the problem you've described. A little more info may lead to an accurate diagnosis.
 

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