Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Basic Vehicle Maintenance Tips For Safety On The Road

By Lydia Quinn

While practicing safer driving techniques on the road is a key to road safety, proper care and maintenance of your vehicle also plays a crucial role in getting you safely to your destination. After all, proper maintenance may mean the difference between getting home safely or breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Here are some essential car maintenance tips for keeping you and your car safe and healthy.

Check The Oil

It may seem obvious, but the importance of checking the oil regularly cannot be stressed enough. Checking it and changing it often is probably the single most important thing you can do to keep your car's engine in good condition.
Check Your Lights

This is one of the easier maintenance tasks, as you'll often find someone, hopefully not a policeman, will tell you that one of your tail lights isn't working properly. Having working head and tail lights is absolutely crucial to your safety. Have them fixed as soon as possible whenever one isn't working and avoid driving with one light out, if at all possible.

Check Your Tires

Check the tire pressure, but also the alignment often. Invest in a tire pressure gauge. Keep the tire pressure as your vehicle owner's manual recommends. Tire pressure affects many aspects of your car, including the amount of fuel it uses, the handling and performance, as well as the comfort and smoothness of the ride. Rotate your tires after every other oil change. Proper tire rotation helps your tires to wear more evenly. Also, keep a check on the tread wear of your tires and get new tires when needed.

Check Your Transmission Fluid

Check your transmission fluid according to your vehicle owner's manual recommendations. Top it up if needed, but do not over fill, as overfilling can damage your transmission.

Check The Engine Coolant

If you don't have enough coolant, you run the risk of overheating your engine and damaging it. Keep the coolant level topped up, especially if you're going on a long trip during warmer months.

Check The Belts

There are numerous belts in your vehicle, including the ones involved with the running of your alternator, your air conditioning and other parts. Be sure to check the rubber and the belt when you are performing your regular, under the hood maintenance.

Check Battery Contacts

Make sure the contacts on your battery terminal are clean. Often dirt and grime can build up on them, affecting performance.

Pay Attention To Warnings

Any modern car includes warning lights for various parts of the vehicle should the onboard computer detect something isn't working properly. When you see one of these lights go on, don't ignore it. Check your vehicle owner's manual to confirm what you need to check if it isn't obvious.

Be sure to read your vehicle owner's manual, the manufacturer will give you many recommendations for proper care and maintenance of your vehicle and often provide you with a checklist and recommendations for when and how to perform maintenance. Also, get yourself a copy of your vehicle's auto repair manual. If you need to do a repair yourself, these manuals will walk you through step by step, making it possible for even the least mechanical people to repair their own vehicle. If you have no confidence to make your own repairs, don't hesitate to take it to a professional.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tips For Painting Your Motorcycle

Here are some instructions to help you paint your motorcycle yourself and save a bunch of money by doing so.

Materials Needed

  • Reducer
  • Plastic Filler
  • Flowable Putty
  • Primer and Hardeners
  • Epoxy Sealer
  • Base Color Paint
  • Clear Coat/Hardener
  • 80,120,400,600,1500,2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper

Homemade Paint Booth

To create a homemade paint booth in your garage or shed, here's what you need to do. First, put plastic over all of the walls. This not only protects your walls, but helps to reflect the light so you can see better. Once you have the plastic up, put fans in the windows. Tape around the edge of the fans to seal it to the plastic around them.

You need to make the paint booth as bright as possible so that you can see what you're doing. You can buy temporary fluorescent light fixtures inexpensively at Home Depot or Lowe's. These work great for this sort of project, and they are easy to hook up since they just plug into an outlet or extension cord.

Safety Precautions

There are some things you need to think about before you paint. First of all, paint fumes can be toxic, and they are also flammable. For these reasons, the place where you are painting should not be attached to your house.

If you wire your light fixtures in, make sure that you do it properly. Be sure that you have the covers over the light fixtures to protect them from the paint. You will also need to use a respirator while painting to protect you from the fumes. Make sure the respirator has the right kind of filter for the type of paint you are using.

Paint Equipment

In order to paint your own motorcycle you will need to have at least two paint guns. You will also need an air compressor, air hose and a regulator with a water trap. The first paint gun is for the primer and the second is for the base coat and clear coats.


You need to check your motorcycle's fuel and oil tanks before you begin painting. Make sure they are pressure tested and free of leaks. You should start by sandblasting the metal parts on your motorcycle to remove the old paint. If you don't have a sandblaster, you can use sandpaper to sand them. Wipe down the parts you sanded with a non oil-based degreaser before you begin painting.

You will need to apply filler to the low spots. Mix it in small batches. It hardens quickly. Make sure you apply it as smoothly as possible. Sand it with 80 grit sandpaper after it dries, then check for any nicks or low spots. Fill them and repeat the sanding process. Once everything is smooth, it's time for the primer.

Apply two coats of epoxy primer. After it dries, use a spray bomb of black paint and spray it over the surface very lightly. This will make any defects in your fill work show. Use a light finishing putty to repair these trouble spots. Apply it in even coats, then use a foam sanding block wrapped in 80 grit sandpaper to smooth it, followed by 120 grit then 400 grit.

Now apply the last coat of primer. Once it is dry, use 400 grit sandpaper to roughen to surface a little so that the base coat will stick better. Apply a coat of epoxy sealer before applying the base coat. This will provide a better surface and help prevent bubbles.

Make sure you read the instructions for the paint you are using and allow the correct about of time between coats. Also, make sure you mix the paint properly and paint when the temperature is within the acceptable range, or in a temperature-controlled building.

Base Coat & Clear Coat

Apply your color according the instructions provided by the manufacturer, then apply a layer of clear coat. After the first coat of clear coat has dried, use 600 grit sandpaper to wet sand it smooth. Sand until the ridges that appear as you sand disappear.

If you are going to paint graphics on your motorcycle, paint the graphics next. Then apply another coat of clear. You may need two coats of clear over the graphics. Wet sand with 600 grit sandpaper between each coat of clear. After you sand the last clear coat with 600, sand it again with 1500. To make the finish even smoother, you can follow that up with 2000 grit.


You will need a variable speed polisher with a buffing pad for the last step, and some polishing compound. The store where you buy your supplies can recommend a good polishing compound to use. Now all that is left to do is buff it out for the perfect mirror finish, then sit back and admire your work.

By Sarah H

Sunday, October 05, 2008

10 Point Checklist to Help Your Car Pass Its MOT

Every year the motorist is faced with the ordeal of the MOT test, unless their car is less than three years old. The purpose of an MOT is to ensure the vehicle complies with road safety and environmental standards. Without it car owners are unable to obtain a tax disc for driving on public roads.

But what does the MOT tester look out for? Is it car tyres or fuel emissions? It can become expensive when the vehicle fails and needs to be re-tested. To help achieve a first time pass, this 10 point checklist highlights the main components that are included in an MOT test:

1. Brakes

The car's brakes are tested on a 'roller brake tester' to assess their condition, performance and efficiency. Brakes that 'lock up' when applied will fail. Other areas to watch out for are loose brake pedals and signs of leaking brake fluid.

2. Doors and Mirrors

Ensure the doors open and close correctly, from the inside and the outside of the vehicle. Car locks need to work adequately. Wing and rear view mirrors must be present and in good condition. A cracked wing mirror will result in a fail.

3. Exhaust System and Emissions

The car will need to pass specific exhaust emission requirements, depending on its age and fuel type. The exhaust system must not have holes or leaks, often caused by rust.

4. Car Bodywork

Excessive rust corrosion, damage or sharp edges on the car's bodywork will result in a fail.

5. Wheels and Car Tyres

The tread depth on a car tyre must be a minimum of 1.6mm. The car tyre needs to be the correct type for the vehicle and have no signs of excessive wear or damage. It is recommended to consult a car tyres specialist to check this. Ensure all the wheel nuts are present as any missing will result in a fail. Spare tyres are not tested.

6. Windscreen, Wipers and Washer

The wiper blades need to be in good condition and the windscreen washer must contain fluid. The windscreen cannot have any large cracks and must have clear visibility.

7. Lights and Indicators

All lights and indicators need to work correctly, including the hazard lights. Check that the headlamps dip to the correct angle and are not loose.

8. Seats and seatbelts

Ensure all seats are secure in the upright position. It is compulsory for seatbelts to be fitted in the front and back of a car. They must be the correct type and in good, working condition.

9. Steering, suspension and horn

All three need to be in good condition and work correctly. Make sure the horn is the right type for the vehicle. Ensure the wheels are correctly aligned and the car tyre pressures are correct, as these can affect the vehicle's steering.

10. Registration Plate and Vehicle Identification Number

The registration plate needs to be in the correct format, legible and in good condition. Every car used after the 1st August 1980 must have its vehicle identification number clearly displayed.

Lights, brakes, suspension and car tyres are the four most common reasons why a car will fail its MOT. This checklist is intended as a guide to improve your cars chance of passing. If in any doubt we recommend consulting your local garage before taking the MOT test.

By James Todman

[James Todman is a freelance web content editor working with Merityre, a leading UK independent car tyres retailer.]