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Car maintenance for dummies

  1. Aug 27, 2005 #1

    Math Is Hard

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    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
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2005 #2
    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.

    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.

    Oil checking is quite easy, but locating the oil dipstick is often the hardest part. What kind of car do you drive?
     
  4. Aug 27, 2005 #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.
     
  5. Aug 27, 2005 #4

    Pengwuino

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    Your owners manual should tell you where the oil... stick... thing... is
     
  6. Aug 28, 2005 #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:
     
  7. Aug 28, 2005 #6

    Pengwuino

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    :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
     
  8. Aug 28, 2005 #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).
     
  9. Aug 28, 2005 #8

    Moonbear

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    :rofl: I think you just need a man! :biggrin:
     
  10. Aug 28, 2005 #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!
     
  11. Aug 28, 2005 #10

    Math Is Hard

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    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!>
     
  12. Aug 28, 2005 #11

    Moonbear

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    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.
     
  13. Aug 28, 2005 #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:
     
  14. Aug 28, 2005 #13
    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.
     
  15. Aug 28, 2005 #14
    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.
     
  16. Aug 28, 2005 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    Then add air to the tires until the dip stick pops out.
     
  17. Aug 28, 2005 #16

    Pengwuino

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    :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
     
  18. Aug 28, 2005 #17
    ha, a mechanic with dirty hands? The only time i get my hands dirty is if my glove tears and i dont realise it.
     
  19. Aug 28, 2005 #18
    I also use mechanics gloves, my hands are hardly ever dirty.
     
  20. Aug 28, 2005 #19
    it posted twice ..opps :surprised
     
  21. Aug 28, 2005 #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?
     
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