Over the past year, Americans have significantly scaled back the number of miles they drive as gas prices have hit record levels. Cutting back the miles and parking the car, does not however mean that you should completely ignore some simple maintenance. While a car that's not accumulating miles doesn't need to have the oil or filters changed as frequently, if you plan on driving it occasionally there are things you should still do. A car that's sitting idle can still loose air from its tires, and get corrosion on the battery posts. Even if you only drive once or twice a week, go out and check your tire pressures every month to make sure they aren't under-inflated.

The battery should also be checked and if some of that puffy white corrosion is accumulating on the posts that can easily be addressed as well. Just mix some baking soda into a bowl of water and pour it over the posts. Wait a couple of minutes as the acid is neutralized and then rinse. If you spread a little grease over the post and clamp, it will help prevent future buildup. If your car is going to sit for extended periods of time, it may worth removing the battery to preserve it or, if you have a garage, an inexpensive trickle charger can be used to maintain your battery. For about $25 you can get a charger that will monitor the battery charge and slowly charge it back up when the level gets low, ensuring that it's ready to go when you need it. Don't forget to check your fluids periodically as well to make sure you have washer fluid when you need it.

[Source: General Motors]

Maintenance Still Important for Vehicles Driven Less

Goodwrench Provides Tips for Those Deferring Upkeep


GRAND BLANC, Mich. - Record numbers of Americans have reduced the number of miles they drive and put off routine maintenance due to high gas prices, tighter budgets, and the belief that if they are driving less their vehicle doesn't need as much attention. However, Goodwrench stresses the importance of regular vehicle care to maintain fuel efficiency and performance, as well as to protect their investment.

New data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that, since last November, Americans have driven 62.6 billion fewer miles than they did over the same period a year earlier - exceeding the 1970s' total decline of 49.3 billion miles. And in July 2008 alone, Americans drove 3.6 percent less, or 9.6 billion miles fewer, than in July 2007. However even when driving less, there are a few things car owners should do to ensure trouble-free driving.

"If you are driving less and you are deferring maintenance there are some basic items that you need to give attention. With out a doubt, the top two are cleaning battery terminals - and generally making sure the battery is in good shape - and making sure tires are properly inflated," said Robert Sinclair, spokesperson for AAA of New York. "At AAA we've got 51 million members. In the average year we get 30 or 31 million service calls, and the top two items that we get calls for are flat tires and dead batteries - and yet they are the easiest things to maintain."

Not only are people driving less, but they are changing their driving habits. Car pools have gained popularity, and the American Public Transportation Association reports public transportation use has increased by 140 million more trips across the nation during the second quarter of 2008, compared to the second quarter of 2007.

In terms of fuel economy, experts say drivers shouldn't waste the money they were able to save from car pooling and combining errands by driving a vehicle with under-inflated tires.

"Tires, one of the most significant components of a vehicle and one of the biggest factors related to fuel efficiency, should be inspected regularly. Air is free at most places, so maintaining your tire pressure costs you nothing, yet saves you money because low tire pressure reduces miles per gallon and wastes fuel," said Dave Cowger, Engineering Group Manager of GM's Tire-Wheel Systems Lab. "Just as important is making sure you have the right tires on your vehicle. Some non-manufacturer recommended aftermarket tires can negatively affect fuel economy. Tires on GM vehicles are engineered specifically for each vehicle to maximize a number of factors including fuel efficiency."

Goodwrench recommends the following four maintenance items:

  1. Tires - One of the most important things vehicle owners can do is maintain their tires, whether they drive 15,000 miles a year or 100. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, under-inflated tires can
  2. reduce fuel economy by up to 3.3 percent.
    • Tires generally lose up to 1 psi per month whether being driven regularly or parked, so it is important to check tire pressure monthly and rotate tires using the manufacturer's specified maintenance schedule.
    • Flat spots on a tire can also occur if a vehicle remains parked in one location for a long period of time. This can lead to unwanted vibrations and a rougher ride.
    • Under-inflated tires can increase rolling resistance and fuel consumption, so make sure tires are inflated according to manufacturer's recommendations.
    • Here are a few simple tire maintenance tips from the experts at Goodwrench that improve fuel economy and identify and address problems before replacement is needed:
  • Conduct a visual inspection of the tires periodically and check for uneven wear or excessive tread wear. Check and adjust inflation pressure.
  • Check inflation pressure at least once per month and adjust as necessary.
  • Properly rotate tires at recommended intervals and align and balance, if necessary.
  • Have manufacturer-recommended tires installed on your vehicle. GM develops a unique Tire Performance Criteria (TPC) for each vehicle it engineers in North America to maximize ride, performance, fuel economy, handling and several other factors.
  1. Batteries - Most breakdowns occur because batteries are not delivering full cranking power. Driving less or parking a vehicle for an extended period of time can negatively affect battery life and efficiency, especially if a vehicle has a digital display/clock or security system that's always on. When a car is being driven regularly the alternator re-charges the battery, but when stationary, these electronic systems simply serve as a slow drain on the battery.

    Check battery life, replace or charge your current battery and make sure battery cables are corrosion-free.

  2. Fluid levels - Fluids such as engine coolant, transmission and power steering fluid, engine oil and even wiper fluid are the life blood of a car. These fluids may leak or deteriorate whether a vehicle is being driven consistently or not. Check all fluid levels before going on any extended trip or if a vehicle has been sitting for a long period of time. Drivers can get a more accurate dipstick reading on any vehicle fluid by waiting a few minutes after turning off the engine and making sure the vehicle is on level ground.
  3. Exterior conditions - With the weather turning colder and fall and winter rolling in, it is especially important to check exterior conditions of a vehicle if it's sitting outside. Don't let leaves or snow pile on top of a vehicle. Leaves can clog air intakes, and peaks of snow increase drag and decrease gas mileage. Also, scan the ground under the vehicle where it's been parked to see if any fluids have leaked creating a puddle.

Goodwrench understands people are driving less and extending the time before regular maintenance. While drivers can get longer life out of their oil due to GM's Oil Life System, which indicates exactly when to change the oil and debunks the traditional 3,000-mile oil change myth, Goodwrench recommends that drivers do not delay critical repairs or replacements.

Goodwrench has expert Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technicians and advanced GM technologies, such as OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics, Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), GM's Oil Life System, Goodwrench Remote Diagnostics, and Simplified Maintenance Schedules that help GM owners take the guess work out when these critical services need to be performed.



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