Category Archives: jumpstart auto batteries

5 Car Basics to Know Before You Hit the Road

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car basics to learnIn some ways, driving a car in the easy part; knowing when your tire pressure is getting low, or your brakes are done can be more difficult—but very, very important so you don’t get stuck on the side of the road. This is one of those cases where a few minutes of education about your car can get you on the road, and keep you on the road.

How to check your tire pressure

There are so many reasons to check, and know how, to check your tire pressure. Tires with improper tire pressure can cause handling and traction issues, which are dangerous especially during our Wisconsin winters. In addition, overinflated or underinflated tires are both vulnerable to unpredicted flats, which can cause you to lose control of your car or leave you stranded on the side of the road. An underinflated or overinflated tire can also accelerate the tread wear of your tires and leaves you vulnerable to blown tires. Another reason to check your tire pressure? Tires with too much pressure or not enough decrease your gas mileage, making you stop at the pump more often.

You can’t check tire pressure by looking at them; some tires may be down 10 pounds of air pressure and you can’t tell! The best way to check your tire pressure is by using a tire pressure gauge, or by asking your mechanic to check your tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge. Don’t forget to check your spare tire, in addition to all four tires.

  1. Get a tire pressure gauge like the one in the picture. (We’ve also found this great video as a reference.)
  2. Remove the cap from the tire stem. (The tire stem is a small rubber piece sticking up from your tire.)
  3. Insert the tire pressure gauge into the tire stem. You will feel the gauge fit in there correctly. (If you have a gauge with a knob for deflation, you will know if you are using the right end if you DON’T hear air escaping.)
  4. The end of your tire pressure gauge will register a number electronically or the white numbers will rise at the other end of the tire pressure gauge.

How to check your oil

A car engine without oil, or enough oil, is an engine with a death wish and a limited life span. Car engines need lubrication to keep running; that’s why it’s so important to make regular appointments to get your oil changed, and to check it periodically between appointments. To check your oil, turn off your engine and grab a paper towel. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick. Pull your dipstick out and wipe off the end. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out. Your dipstick has little lines on it; make sure your oil level is between the two lines (and not above the max line). If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done.

If you find your oil level is consistently low, mention it to your mechanic at your next appointment. A low oil level can indicate an oil leak or another issue.

What to pack in your emergency car kit

Packing an emergency car kit is not one of the first steps that come to mind, but it is one of the most important. A car breakdown is unpredictable; not having the supplies you need when you need them the most is more than an inconvenience:

  • Roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • Jumper cables
  • Boots
  • Snow shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Rags and hand sanitizer

How to change your tires

You don’t know how important your tires are until you’ve slid into the ditch, or are stranded on the side of the road with a flat. Prevent the stranding part by locating where your spare tire and tire jack are located in your car BEFORE you get that inevitable flat; those items are kept in different areas in every car.

If and or when you do get a flat tire, take these steps:

  1. Make sure you pull your car completely off the road.
  2. Take out your spare tire and tire jack.
  3. Use a screw driver to pry off the hub cap (if your tire has a hub cap).
  4. If your car has a lug wrench (it’s a t-shaped tool), put one end of the wrench on a lug nut. Loosen the lug nuts slightly.
  5. Position your tire jack and pump until your car is at least 6 inches off the ground. To determine where the jack should go, check in your owner’s manual for the right spot for the right location on your car.
  6. Use your lug wrench to completely loosen the lug nuts. Make sure you don’t lose any of the lug nuts. Remove the flat tire and put it in the trunk; depending on the size of the hole, the tire may be able to be replaced.
  7. Put the spare tire on. Put the lug nuts on and start tightening them by hand. Tighten the lug nuts with your lug wrench.
  8. Don’t drive indefinitely with the spare tire on; a spare is not manufactured for long distances. Make an appointment to get your flat tire fixed or to locate a new tire for your car.

How to charge your battery

prepare for battery failureCarrying a set of jumper cables is essential for anyone who does not want to be stranded by a dead battery (ever left your lights on? You know what we mean). When the day comes when you need those jumper cables, park another car near the front of your car and turn the cars off. Make sure the cars are secured, and use your parking brake if necessary for safety. Then:

  1. BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Be cautious.
  2. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative.
  3. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
  5. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
  6. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts.
  7. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal.
  8. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery.
  9. Remove the jumper cables.
  10. Enjoy a car that starts.
  11. Get your battery checked and replaced if necessary.

If you have any questions about your car, email your question or schedule an appointment to have your car checked. A few minutes of your time, and an education, can keep you and your car on the road—and not dealing with the inconvenience that comes with a dead engine or battery because you didn’t know any better.

Fatal Truth: Summer Heat’s Damaging Impact on Your Car Battery

prepare for car battery failureIt’s summer in Wisconsin. You don’t have to worry about your car battery, right? Everyone knows that car batteries only die in winter. NOT TRUE! The heat of our Wisconsin summers is actually harder on our car batteries than the winter. The heat and humidity of our Midwestern summers can actually cause battery fluid to evaporate and damage the internal parts of your battery. So why does everyone believe that you should only worry about your car battery in winter? Many cars do not start in the cold of winter because fluids in the engine turn to the consistency of molasses, meaning it takes maximum battery power that older batteries do not always have.

If you’ve always believed in that old adage about car batteries and winter, you’re not alone. Even though a car battery is one of the most important parts of our automobiles, it’s also one of the parts of our car that, in general, many people seem to know almost nothing about. This is where a little bit of knowledge about the signs of car battery death, when to replace a battery, and how to recharge a dead battery can come in handy, and prevent you from being stranded on the side of the road (or in your garage, or at school, or…):

Know your car battery’s age. You don’t have to throw a birthday party for it every year, but you should have a general idea about how old it is. It seems that everyone has a different idea of the average life of a battery, but most batteries start to give out around the 5-year mark (though we’ve seen customers have problem as early as 3 years.) Another reason to track your car battery’s age: knowing how old the battery is allows you to take the battery back during the warranty period when you have problems.

Inconsistent starting & consistent recharging. We’ve had personal experience with this: your car starts fine most of the time, but is suddenly the battery is suddenly dead and needs to be recharged—but not every time, and unpredictably. If you have to sporadically recharge your battery, even if it starts fine most of the time, you need to replace your battery. Yes, a car battery does die if you leave on interior lights, or some other accessory; but if the battery dies without any reason from time to time, it’s time to buy a new car battery at a local auto shop.

Slow, rough starting. This is the most obvious sign, the long, painful cranking that never seems to end when you are waiting for your car to start. Eventually, the cranking won’t happen, and you’ll be stranded. Buy a battery now—and have your mechanic double check for other causes—-so your car starts consistently.

Carrying a set of jumper cables is essential for anyone who does not want to be stranded by a dead battery (ever left your lights on? You know what we mean). When the day comes when you need those jumper cables, park another car near the front of your car and turn the cars off. Make sure the cars are secured, and use your parking brake if necessary for safety. Then:

  1. BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Be cautious.
  2. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative.
  3. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
  5. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
  6. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts.
  7. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal.
  8. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery.
  9. Remove the jumper cables.
  10. Enjoy a car that starts.
  11. Get your battery checked and replaced if necessary.

If you have any questions about whether you need a new car battery, email your question or schedule an appointment to have your car checked. A few minutes of your time, and an education, can keep you and your car on the road—and not dealing with the inconvenience that comes with a dead battery from our Wisconsin summer heat.

Must-Haves for your Car Emergency Kit

winterize_watertownNot planning on breaking down or getting stuck during our Wisconsin winter? No one does, but it’s best to prepared for when (not if, but when) you are stranded with a broken down car. Start by purchasing a plastic container or box to store these items in:

  • Roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number. Don’t be left scrambling trying to find the number at the last minute. Program these numbers into your cell phone, and carry your card in your purse or wallet. Add a copy of your card to your emergency kit.
  • Flashlight. Make sure you test the flashlight from time to time, and that the batteries are still strong. You never know when you need a flashlight, and you don’t want to be left in the dark.
  • Blanket. Pack a warm, thick blanket that can keep you and your family warm when you are stranded.
  • Jack and lug wrench. Most cars come with a jack and lug wrench for changing a tire, but some of the smaller, more compact car models do not. Make sure you have everything you need when you have a flat tire.
  • Jumper cables. Wisconsin winters seem to bring out the worst in car batteries (find out why in our recent post). Carry a set of jumper cables all year long, as summer is actually the worst time of year for weak car batteries.
  • Boots. Ever tried to shovel out your car with soaking wet shoes on? Not pleasant. Pack an old, waterproof pair of boots that you can use in case you get stuck.
  • Snow shovel. Be prepared for the inevitable snow that comes with our Wisconsin winter, and the winter driving that comes with it. A foldable or small shovel is handy for digging your car out of a full day of snow, or cleaning out around when your tires when you go off the road.
  • First aid kit. Wisconsin winters are slippery, and sometimes—any time of the year—people get sick. Always carry a small first aid kit with you for those just-in-case times, and make sure a pair of plastic gloves is included so you don’t come in contact with other people’s body fluids.
  • Rags and hand sanitizer. Working on your car can be dirty, so carry a few clean rags and small bottle of hand sanitizer so you can clean your hands when done.

Make sure you know how to use jumper cables (for step-by-step instructions click here) and change a tire. Next, schedule an appointment so experienced auto mechanics can make sure your car is ready for winter driving or that long trip to Grandma’s. Test your tires to see if they can make it another season, and you’re ready to hit the road safely and prepared.

Car Battery 101: What You Didn’t Learn In Driver’s Ed

engineHow many of us learned to drive without any education about the part of our car integral to driving, the battery? However, when we’re stranded on the coldest day of winter, we quickly learn the importance of a working battery that starts our car (shocking, isn’t it?). Luckily, learning about your car battery is not as complicated as your high school chemistry class. It just starts with a few simple questions.

Why do car batteries go dead in the winter?

Ironically, the heat of our Wisconsin summers is harder on our car batteries than the winter. However, many cars do not start in the cold of winter because fluids in the engine turn to the consistency of molasses, meaning it takes maximum battery power that older batteries do not always have.

How do I jumpstart my car?

Carrying a set of jumper cables is essential for anyone who does not want to be stranded (ever left your lights on? You know what we mean). When the day comes when you need those jumper cables, park another car near the front of your car and turn the cars off. Make sure the cars are secured, and use your parking brake if necessary for safety. Then:

  1. BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Be cautious.
  2. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative.
  3. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
  5. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
  6. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts.
  7. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal.
  8. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery.
  9. Remove the jumper cables.
  10. Enjoy a car that starts.
  11. Get your battery check and replace if necessary.

How long do car batteries last?

The average life of a car battery is 3-5 years. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell when your battery is about to die, as battery testers do not always detect the signs of battery death.

What other questions do you have about your car’s battery? Contact us with your questions!