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Driver education for common car care questions

A periodic oil change will add life and vitality to your car. Every three months or 3,000 miles is usually recommended.
December 29, 2004 - Admit it. You know it's important to take care of your vehicle, but you're not sure if you're doing everything you can to maintain it properly. Here are answers to some common vehicle maintenance questions.

Q. Should I regularly clean my windshield wipers or does rain clean them well enough?

A. Even in the best conditions, most wipers probably won't last more than a couple of years. You can prolong the life of your wipers by cleaning them monthly with a lint-free cloth and windshield wiper fluid, alcohol or an alcohol-based cleaning solution. Simply rub along the rubber squeegee part of the blade to remove debris and contaminants.

Q. Is it okay to touch up a scratch on my car with nail polish?

A. So you want to own the first SUV on the block with a French manicure? Actually, this remedy is not as unusual as it might sound. Nail polish is actually a refined version of car paint, so it won't hurt your car.

However, for the price of some department store nail lacquer, you can buy a small bottle of spray or liquid paint that more exactly or closely matches your car's color. An auto supply store salesperson can provide it when furnished with the model and year of your car.

Q. I tend to hit the curb when I parallel park. Are tires made to handle this or am I doing damage to them?

A. Unless you drive a carnival bumper car, your tires won't appreciate your manner of parking. Yes, you could be doing some damage.

Repeatedly hitting curbs with your tires can actually alter the wheel alignment. Operating a car with misaligned wheels at high speeds can generate severe vibrations and even cause an accident.

Q. Which is more stressful on my car-short or long trips?

A. It sounds counterintuitive, but you're really not doing your car any favors by driving it sparingly. Your engine has to work significantly harder when it starts and stops frequently or sits in idle for long stretches of time, such as in stop-and-go traffic. It puts less stress on the engine when you can reach and maintain a fairly constant speed for a longer period of time. That's why you can get much better gas mileage from highway driving than city driving.

You cannot completely avoid stop-and-go driving, so the next best thing for your car is to make sure the moving parts are properly lubricated so they don't grind against each other. A simple oil change at a Jiffy Lube service center every three months or 3,000 miles or according to your manufacturer's recommendations is an easy way to make sure your car can withstand suburban or city driving conditions.

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