35 entries categorized "Vehicle Maintenance"

A Checklist for Getting Your Vehicle Winter-Ready

Pumpkin spice latte season brings out conflicting feelings for me. On the one hand, it’s a pumpkin spice latte, guys! Plus, pumpkin spice muffins! (Yes, I am one of those nerds that love pumpkin spice – though I do draw the line at pumpkin spice lip-gloss). On the other hand, pumpkin spice heralds the arrival of fall, which is followed close by winter. Super close for places like Calgary and Winnipeg! And while I enjoy cruising the highways and byways of British Columbia in the summer, I could do without winter driving.


But, as a Canadian, winter is in my blood and I know I need to do my part to keep the roads safe during the dark and snowy months. This is my “Getting My Car Winter-Ready Essentials Checklist” (I’m working on a snappier title – suggestions welcome in the comments). It’s not exhaustive, but it will start you and your car down the right road.

We know we need to switch to winter tires, but when? Our Ultra 94 tire expert, John Mahler, has the answer:

The weather is shifting, and not for the better … (there’s) less tire grip, so caution on the throttle. When the average temperature for the day gets to be about +7C, it is time to consider some winter rubber for your ride.

That +7C mark is about where your summer high performance tires grip levels have dropped to the point where a winter tire has just as much grip. Then, as the mercury drops, summer tires lose even more grip and the winter rubber gets more stick.  Notice I said winter tires, not snow tires. Long gone are the big chunky tires that couldn’t handle bare pavement. Now winter tires are available in speed ratings all the way to W, that’s 270 km/h.

You can read the full post from John over on our Ultra 94 Facebook page.

I’ll admit, my car battery isn’t something I regularly think about. But with elevated temperatures this summer, I probably should. According to the battery experts over at CAA-Quebec, those high temperatures could affect the chemical reactions in the battery and cause it to be even less responsive in those cold winter months. So swing by your favourite car repair shop and get your battery tested.


Wipers are something I do think about a lot, especially in Vancouver. There was a time when my wipers weren’t clearing my windshield in a single sweep. The blades weren’t cracked or torn, but they just weren’t doing the job. I replaced them with a different size and my visibility improved dramatically. Make sure your wipers are up to snuff - clearing your windshield in a single sweep, aren’t cracked and aren’t bumping on your windshield. You can reasonably expect to replace the blades twice a year.

Windshield Washer Fluid
While we’re on the subject of windshields .. this is also the time of year where you want to make sure your windshield washer fluid can handle the cold. Some brands are specially formulated for use in winter – they won’t freeze and are tough on winter gunk like rock salt.

Emergency Kit
Finally, pull out your car’s emergency kit and give it a once-over, replacing or updating any items as necessary.

And that’s my Winter-Ready Essentials checklist! There are definitely other items to inspect on your car as we get deeper into the snowy season, but this is a good start. Are there any winter-ready maintenance essentials that you do in the fall? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

~ Rose R.

Considering a new car? Make sure you understand all the safety features!


On a family trip to Hawaii back in 2012, we rented a Ford Flex that had a back-up camera. Being able to see behind you without wrenching your neck; hearing a helpful beeping noise to let you know you’re about to hit a pillar in the parking garage; it was like a whole new world! We came to rely on that back-up camera very quickly and were sad to leave the Flex behind when we came home.

We bought our Saturn Vue brand new back in 2006 and the safety features at the time were basically anti-lock brakes and a robust air bag system. If we were to buy a new car now, we would probably feel a little intimidated by the dizzying range of new safety features available on today’s vehicles. From helpful “heads up” functions like "bicycle detection" and "curve speed warning", to more advanced systems, like "left turn crash avoidance" and "automatic emergency braking", keeping track of all the different functions (and the accompanying noises) of your car’s safety features might start to seem pretty daunting.

According to this article in Wired, even your car salesman may not be able to fully explain, or help you set up, the latest safety features on a vehicle. Obviously, spending some quality time with your owner’s manual will provide plenty of details but sometimes it helps to have a demo from someone in the know.

That’s where My Car Does What comes in. A collaboration between the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa, the site offers great information about all of the latest safety features available these days, to help you drive safer and smarter.

If you just want a quick tip on how a feature works, check out the series of short videos demonstrating the unfamiliar safety features your new car may have to offer. For a more detailed look at each safety feature, check out the Deeper Learning section, which provides more in-depth information on how each of these systems functions and gives you challenging questions at the end, to see if you’ve retained the information.

My Car Does What also offers mobile and desktop games aimed at helping drivers learn about, and make the most of, the safety features on their cars. Check out this overview video for more info about My Car Does What: 

What safety features does your car have? Do you know how all of them work? Do you think they make you a safer driver? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Recovering from Winter: Spring Maintenance Tips Round Up

Spring drive

The birds are singing, the trees are budding and your engine is making that weird clunking sound again. Your vehicle faithfully saw you through the worst of the winter - now’s the time to give back some love and make sure you’re on schedule for cleaning and maintenance.

Maintaining a regular cleaning and vehicle maintenance schedule not only prolongs the life of your car, but also helps you maximize your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and reduce your vehicle’s carbon emissions. Win-win! Here are a few tips from our top spring maintenance posts:

Why Tune Ups are Important

What's involved in a tune-up?

It depends on your vehicle, but a typical tune-up will involve the inspection, cleaning and/or replacement of:

  • Air filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Spark plugs and wires
  • Distributor cap and distribution ignition rotor (if your car has them - some newer models have distributorless ignition)
  • PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve and gaskets
  • Sensors and belts
  • Lubricants and coolants
  • Ignition timing
  • Tire alignment and tire pressure
  • Car battery
  • Windshield wipers

Regular tune-ups can help you save on fuel - and having a professional perform a thorough cleaning and diagnostic of your vehicle can help avoid costly future repairs by catching potential problems early.

Keeping Your Car Interior Clean can Help Keep You Healthy

Keeping your car interior clean isn't just for car pride - having a dirty car interior can actually impact your health. A study conducted by Queen Mary University in London found that around 700 different harmful germs lurk in our car's interiors. And, if you're like me and suffer from allergies, riding around in a car filled with pollen, dust mites and other germs can depress your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu.

If, like the average Canadian, you and your family are spending an hour in the car every day, keeping that environment clean can go a long way towards keeping you healthy.

The Spring Tire Switch

How should I prepare my winter tires for storage?

  1. Thoroughly clean the winter grime from your tires and make sure to remove any brake dust, which can be corrosive. If your tires are mounted on wheels, be sure to clean the wheels as well with a cleaner approved for use with that type of wheel.
  2. Make sure your tires are completely dry. Then, seal each tire up in an opaque plastic bag, removing as much air as possible (some folks use a vacuum cleaner to get the air out).
  3. Be sure and mark each tire bag with the tire's original position (Front Left, Back Right, etc.), so that you can replace or rotate your tires come next winter. Now your tires are ready for storage!

Benefits of Rust-Proofing

When is the best time to rust-proof? There are mixed opinions on whether spring or fall is the best time. An article in Auto123.com says that spring is better than fall because “The mild-to-warm temperatures will allow the products to better penetrate the treated areas.” Also, your vehicle is usually dredged with salt over the winter and we know that salt helps rust form on your vehicle. Getting your vehicle rust-proofed in the spring will ensure that all the salt is cleaned off thoroughly and that there won’t be any remnants of it over the summer.

How do you shake winter off your car and prep it for spring? Share your tips in the comments!

- Rose R.

Winter Car Care Tips

Winter driving

The last few dazzling autumn leaves have fallen from the trees and this morning, your lawn made a crunching sound. It’s officially winter in Canada.

Canadian winters are notoriously hard on vehicles and having a break down in the freezing cold is nobody’s idea of fun – so here are a few winter car care tips to help you keep your vehicle running smoothly through the season.

Test your battery: Have your battery and charging systems checked to ensure they’re performing optimally. Canadian winters are hard on batteries!

Be cool: When’s the last time you cleaned, flushed and put new anti-freeze in your cooling system? This should be done roughly every two years to keep the system working through the winter.

Check your exhaust system: Make sure your exhaust system isn’t leaking carbon monoxide, which can be very dangerous in winter, when we’re all driving around with the windows shut.

Get a clear view: Make sure your headlights and taillights are working and are aimed properly. Top up your windshield wiper fluid and make sure your wipers are clearing your windshield completely with each swipe.

Keep on top of your tires: If it’s consistently 7C or below in your area, it’s time to switch to winter tires. Make sure you’ve installed four matching winter tires and that they’re properly inflated. Checking your tire inflation regularly is especially important in the winter, as cold temperatures cause tire pressure to fluctuate.

Be prepared: Having a fully-stocked emergency car safety kit in the car is important all year round, but unpredictable winter weather makes it even more essential. Go through your kit and replace any items that are worn or have expired.

Protect your exterior: The combo of road dirt, salt and snow is hard on your vehicle. Make sure to visit the car wash when you start to see a build up of sludge. And make sure to clean the snow off your car before you drive.

How do you keep your car running smoothly through the winter? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.


Fuel Efficiency Refresher: Five Maintenance Tips to Help Improve Fuel Economy

Mechanics at work

We’re all about Ways to Save on Fuel here at PumpTalk and as summer draws to a close, here are five fall maintenance tips that can help improve your fuel efficiency and prolong the life of your vehicle.

Check your air filter.  The cleaner the air filter is, the more air flows through to your engine, optimizing your fuel mixture and gas mileage. Check your owner’s manual to see how often they recommend changing your air filter. And in the meantime, here's a good trick to see if your air filter needs to be replaced - hold it up to the sunlight. If you cannot see light coming through it, it's time to change it. Also, most filters are light coloured - similar to your furnace filter. If it's grey or black - yep, you guessed it - time to replace.

Check your tire inflation. Keeping your tires properly inflated has a big impact on your car’s fuel efficiency. According to Transport Canada:

"[Tire] underinflation increases rolling resistance, which reduces tread life and increases fuel consumption. It can also lead to sudden tire failure. Without enough air, the sides of a tire bend and flex too much. This builds up heat, which can cause serious damage. Operating a vehicle with just one tire underinflated by 56 kPa (8 psi) can reduce the life of the tire by 15,000 km and can increase the vehicle’s fuel consumption by 4%."

Check your tire pressure every month and make sure they’re at the optimum pressure recommended by your owner’s manual.

Check your oil and your oil filter.  When to change your oil depends on a number of factors, including how hard you drive your vehicle and what kind of vehicle you drive. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended timing on oil changes – and be sure to use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. Using the wrong grade can negatively affect both your engine and your fuel efficiency.

Check your battery cables. If your battery cables are corroded, that means the alternator has to work harder – and that uses more gas. Make sure that your battery cables cleaned (or replaced, if necessary) as part of your regular maintenance.

Check your gas cap. The gas cap not only keeps dirt and debris out of your fuel but it also keeps your fuel from evaporating out into the air. If the cap is broken or the seal is compromised, you could be losing up to 3.5 litres every couple of weeks. A new one is worth the investment!

Flush your fuel injectors. Since your fuel injectors' job is to shoot gas into your engine, keeping them clean has a big impact on your fuel efficiency. Clogs in your fuel injectors can not only cause poor gas mileage, but can also cause your engine to misfire, idle roughly or even cause hesitation when you step on the accelerator. You don't have to clean your fuel injectors as often as you change your oil, but you should perform a fuel injector flush every 50,000km to 90,000km to keep them free of debris and performing optimally.

Taking your vehicle in for regular maintenance is the best way to ensure that you’re getting most out of your fuel. When’s the last time you took your vehicle in for a tune-up? Did you notice a difference in your fuel consumption afterwards?

- Rose R.