By Linda Looney-Bond
April is National Car Care Month, and a good time for drivers to give their cars a check-up, according to Gail Dunn, founder of Women's Automotive Connection, a service aimed at giving women access to automotive advice.
Dunn, who has more than 20 years of experience in the automotive industry, regularly speaks to women on a number of car-related topics, and offers car care tips that she said are good advice for any car owner.
"Two of the biggest ones to me are tires and brakes. No matter how well your car runs, if it won't stop, you're in trouble," she said.
"It's real easy to do ... making sure you have good tread on your tires and good brakes," said Dunn, who teaches an automotive boot camp for Atlanta-area groups. "If you can put a quarter in the tread and not see the top of the head, you don't have enough tread on your tire," she said.
John West, owner of John's Auto & Truck Service, located at 239 S. Main St. in Jonesboro, said keeping the oil changed is essential to making a car last, as well as avoiding costly repairs.
It's best to change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer's recommendation, according to West, who has been fixing cars for more than 40 years.
"It wouldn't hurt to change power steering fluid and brake fluid every two or three years," he added.
"That stuff wears out. They get dirty ... and they get burned out from heat. To keep a car performing right ... you have to do these things," said West.
Dunn recommends having tires rotated every other time a car's oil is changed. "And when you rotate your tires, have them look at your brake pads, because they're going to have the wheels off anyway. Brake pads wear down. If you don't replace them in a timely manner, you've got metal against metal, then you tear up your rotors and calipers and those are very expensive," she said.
Dunn also offered advice to avoid being taken advantage of when it comes to car repairs.
"If you're ever in doubt about having to replace a part, always ask for the old part to ensure yourself they have replaced that part. The other thing to keep from getting ripped off - don't necessarily take their word because they say 'X' is true, it may not be. You may actually need to get a second opinion," said Dunn.
West agrees. "Get a second opinion on anything," he said.
Dunn also said it's a good idea to make sure a car is clean when it's taken in for service. "It's a funny thing. If you take a clean car in somewhere they're going to take better care of it because they know you take care of it," she said. "It sends a message to the people working on your car. I don't think they should look at things that way, but I know they do."
Dunn said, in a poor economy, many car owners are trying to hold onto their cars longer and keep them running.
Automotive industry leaders have also designated October as National Car Care Month, in addition to April. "They do it twice a year just to remind people," to conduct general car maintenance, said Dunn.