Preparing Your Vehicle For A Summer Road Trip

Vehicle awaiting roadside assistance in wooded area

If you’re planning an exciting road trip over the summer this year, between planning and packing, remember to get your vehicle ready, too. Nothing slows down a trip like needing a tow because your vehicle’s broken down. Below are a few suggestions for what to check when you’re getting your vehicle tuned-up for the trip.

Oil

The first part of getting your car tuned-up for a road trip is changing the oil. Most vehicles need an oil change every few months or at a certain mileage. If your vehicle is nearing its next oil change date, make sure that it is changed, even if it’s slightly ahead of schedule. Whether you do it yourself or use a service, make sure a few other fluids are checked during your oil change as well. These include your vehicle’s brake fluid, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid.

Coolant

Getting your oil changed is also a great opportunity to check for coolant leaks in your vehicle. Check your engine oil dipstick and if there are light colored streaks there with a yellow or greenish color, a coolant leak could be the problem. Another way to detect coolant leaks is by smell. If you notice a sweetish scent when your vehicle’s engine is warm, it could be an indicator of a leak. If your car or truck doesn’t have any problems with leaking coolant, just check that the coolant is at an appropriate level for your vehicle.

Battery

Before you go, it’s a good idea to get your vehicle’s battery checked in addition to its fluids. Car batteries are often made to last for years, but having one die during a trip can be stressful. The unexpected expenses of having your vehicle towed and purchasing a new battery can also become an unwanted bump in the road on your trip. To avoid such a situation, get your battery tested. Many auto parts stores and mechanics offer battery testing.

Spark Plugs

Another issue that may not be immediately apparent is faulty spark plugs. If you vehicle is having trouble starting, or if it’s having difficulty idling, spark plugs may be the issue. When checking your vehicle’s spark plugs, there are a few issues that can be detected just by looking. Check for residue on the plugs. Corrosion could also cause problems. In addition, check for gaps between the electrodes. If any of these issues are present, you may need to replace the spark plugs, or it may be possible to repair them.

Brakes

One of the most important things to check on your vehicle before a trip is the brakes. Having your vehicle’s brakes fail can have disastrous results. No one wants to risk an accident any time, and during a trip is no exception. Most mechanics and auto repair shops offer inexpensive brake checks that include an entire system and brake line examination to make sure that nothing is damaged, worn out, or a potential danger.

Need more information for your vehicle tune-up before a trip? Contact Will Tow, located in San Marcos, TX.

Information You Need Before Letting Your Car Be Towed

Tow truck driver changing flat tire

Whether because of an accident or just a simple breakdown, you might find yourself needing to having your vehicle towed by a local towing company. Before having your vehicle towed, there is some information you should be prepared to have, and some you should remember to ask for from your towing company.

What Info Do I Need?

When you call to have your vehicle towed, you’ll need to provide some basic information about your situation and your vehicle. For instance, you will need to provide your location so someone can reach you. You can use the address of a nearby home or business if there is one within sight. If in a rural area, know the name of the highway or road you are on and the nearest mile marker. You’ll also need to provide the year, make, and model of your vehicle so that the appropriate towing vehicle can be dispatched.

What Influences the Cost of Towing?

Before requesting a tow, ask what the cost will be. The cost of towing a vehicle can vary from business to business. Some situations can influence that cost as well. The distance your vehicle is from the company, and how far it must be towed might affect the cost. The condition of your vehicle might also be a factor. For example, if your vehicle’s tires are unable to move, a flatbed tow truck is required, so the cost will change.

Will My Insurance Cover Towing?

Whether your vehicle’s insurance will cover a tow depends on two factors. First, if your policy covers towing fees. For this you’ll need to look at your policy, or contact your insurance company. Second, if the towing company works with your insurance. Many towing companies work with most major insurance companies, but it’s a good idea to ask up front so that you’ll know if there’s a problem.

How Can the Driver Help Me?

When calling for a tow truck, be sure to describe your situation accurately. Towing companies often employ drivers who are familiar with a variety of mechanical issues that vehicle owners experience. Often if you’re stopped with a common issue, such as a flat, or an empty gas tank, your tow truck driver will be able to help. Even if your vehicle has been damaged in an accident, your driver may be able to help assess the damage to the vehicle and provide help or resources.

Where Will My Car Be Towed?

Before having your car towed, make sure that you know where it’s being towed. This could influence the cost of the tow, but more importantly, you need to know where you can retrieve your car later. In some cases towing companies will tow to their company’s lot. If you’ve experienced a mechanical failure and have a mechanic in mind, you can ask to have your vehicle towed to that location. If you aren’t sure which mechanic to use, your driver may be able to recommend a reliable service to you.

For more information about what to do when you need a vehicle towed, contact Will Tow, located in San Marcos, TX.

Photo credit: mikepetrucci on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Dealing With An Out Of Town Breakdown

When your car’s engine doesn’t quite want to turn over, the wiring is shot, or the gears won’t switch, it can be hard to not feel like the problem is something you can’t fix without ruining your week. This situation can seem even worse when you’re on a trip out of town. But a little knowledge makes the situation feel less like a disaster, and more like a manageable problem. Here are a few options to consider before tackling the problem.

Strategies to Consider

Repair strategy depends on cost of repairs, roadside plans, cost of towing, travel distance, and the cost of a rental car. There are often 3 main options for dealing with sudden vehicular problems when out of town, barring some prohibitively expensive ideas. Your choices will also depend on whether or not you can diagnose the problem yourself.

Taking Everything Home

One option is to take the entire issue from wherever you find yourself broken down, back to your home. This would require towing the vehicle back, and having it fixed there. The benefits of this option include less travel back and forth between your home and vehicle, and having your choice of auto repair options in your hometown. On the downside, this option is unlikely to be covered by roadside assistance. Depending on the distance you are from home, it can also be tricky to find a towing company that will take your vehicle as far as needed. Some people may have the option of having an acquaintance with a large vehicle lend a tow, but it’s usually safer to have a professional do the job.

Repair Where You Are

If you’d rather not arrange and pay for having your vehicle towed back home, an alternate option is to repair it in the town or city it’s already in. This will remove the need for long distance towing, but will leave you without a vehicle away from home. Depending on how long the repairs take, you may also have to return home and come back later to retrieve your vehicle. This will result in additional travel costs unless a friend or family member is available to provide a ride. In the event that you have to stay in the current city in order to wait for your vehicle to be repaired, you may also incur temporary living fees, such as paying for a hotel. It’s usually a good idea to compare the cost of long distance towing with the cost of having to stay out of town for a few days and see which would cost less.

The Last Resort

In the event that the cost of towing, repair, and travel exceeds the cost of the vehicle, the final option is find a way to sell or scrap the broken vehicle and make other travel arrangements. This case is unlikely, unless the vehicle was truly on its last leg. However, it such a situation does come about, consider the available options carefully. The least costly choice may be to get what you can for the vehicle, find your way home through available travel or friends and family, and use the funds to look for a new vehicle. Again, this option is usually unlikely, but it is always better to get something for your vehicle than to simply abandon it.

If you would like information about roadside assistance or towing out of town, contact Will Tow, located in San Marcos, TX.

5 Tips For Keeping Tires In Shape

Checking your tires every day before driving off is a crucial step to take in protecting your safety and your automobile. Ideally, tire inspections need to be administered monthly. But, if you often roll over potholes and debris in the road, commute in chilly weather, or drive lengthy distances regularly, you should check out your tires much more frequently. If you have never checked your tires yourself before or don’t know how to properly take care of them, then you should check out the 5 tire maintenance tips we have that’ll help keep you driving safely on the road.

Inspecting The Tires Tread

For your tires to maintain good traction on the road, the tread needs to be a good depth. Checking your tire treads monthly is recommended to monitor any uneven or excessive wear. To make an accurate measurement of depth, a depth gauge that measures tread can be purchased at automotive stores. Other options that are sometimes used to measure tire tread depth include those such as “the penny test.” To perform the penny test, take a penny and position it so that the image of Lincoln is facing you, and upside down. The insert the penny into your tire treads. If all of Lincoln’s head is visible, then you should probably consider getting new tires. Though this type of test is quick and easy to do at home, consulting a professional is always the safest choice when it comes to checking tires.

Rotate Your Tires

It is a fact that both front and rear tires of a vehicle need to be rotated at a certain amount of miles. This is due to their different amount of loads and the fact that they perform very different functions in regards to both braking and steering. These differences could result in wear patterns which are unequal. For your tires to give you the most performance, you must always remember to have all four of your tires rotated. The best mileage recommendation available is always going to be located in your owner’s manual. Typically, the recommendation is set at a maximum of 7,000 miles for tire rotation to be performed. If you own a performance car, keep in mind that your tires are designed to be rotated in only one direction. Also, if you decide on using different sizes for each tire then it will be impossible to properly rotate your tires.

Keeping Tires Balanced

Keeping your tires balanced properly will prevent uneven tire wear thus extending the life of your tires. Tire balancing is conducted by attaching wheel weights to lessen the amount of vibration as the tires and wheels turn. It is recommended that all new tires be balanced as well as at the time of any new vibrations being felt or when repairs are done.

Keep Your Tires Properly Aligned

Every vehicle manufactured has specified settings for wheel alignment based on recommendations by the manufacturer. Keeping proper alignment of your wheels will prevent a lot of driving issues down the road. Some adverse effects that could occur because of improper alignment include poor handling of your vehicle, tire wear becoming uneven, and your car’s gas mileage decreasing tremendously. Another important reason to maintain proper wheel alignment is, of course, safety. Have you ever noticed that while you’re driving, your vehicle drifts to the right or left instead of straight? Improper alignment could be the problem. If your tires are properly aligned, your vehicle should drive in a straight line.

Ensure Tires Are Properly Inflated

Keeping all four of your tires inflated to their proper tire pressure is crucial in maintaining excellent gas mileage. It is also the easiest way to extend the life of your tires. You should check the tire pressure at least monthly using a tire pressure gauge which measures in psi. Tire pressure gauges come in 3 different model types. These are the pen/stick, digital, and dial gauges. Out of the three, the easiest and usually most accurate gauges to use are either the dial or digital gauges. If you see yourself needing to fill your tires at a gas station, make sure you use your own pressure gauge as the built-in gauges are often inaccurate due to constant abuse.

For more tips for keeping your vehicle in good condition, or to inquire about towing services, contact Will Tow, located in San Marcos, TX.

Tips to Protect Your Motorcycle from Theft

People who live in busy, crowded areas often prefer using motorcycles instead of cars for convenience and avoiding congestion. Bikes are easier to park, and easier to maneuver compared to automobiles. However, it is also easier for motorcycles to be stolen since they are exposed. Thieves are always interested in taking a high value, good quality motorcycle and selling it to make a profit. Motorcycle owners must do everything possible to protect their bikes. Below are some tips for protecting your bike.

Protect Your Bike Every Time You Park

Many motorcycle owners do nothing when they park their motorcycles. Bike owners should always do something to protect the bike before they walk away, even if it’s just engaging the security device and the steering lock.

Fit a Lock on Your Machine

You can use a U shackle, disc lock, clutch group, or set a functional alarm. Installing a quality chain on the front or rear can also prevent the bike from being pushed away. If your garage has a security anchor, make sure you tie your bike onto it.

Fit a Tracking Device on Your Motorcycle

Although tracking devices can be costly, real arrests have been made with their help. Owners can always research different types and brands to find the most reasonably priced devices. Before purchasing, ensure you ask about the previous success of those devices. Be sure the signal penetration is strong since thieves may carry the bike in a van. It is also important to start following the bike as soon as possible; Thieves may steal a bike and hide it somewhere to see if it is being tracked so they can get rid of the tracker. If your motorcycle is costly then a tracking device is worth buying.

Fit an Approved Alarm or Immobilizer on Your Motorcycle

Although signals differ among areas, some have proved to be effective in preventing motorcycle theft. You should therefore consider it a way to protect your bike. There are some areas, such as parking lots, where security officers might notice suspicious activity when they hear an alarm. In addition, if the immobilizer is recognized by your insurance firm, you could get a discount if the company offers one.

Secure Your Garage

Garage thieves mostly come to steal at night. Some thieves follow you home, so it is important to keep it secure. Maintaining a thick door, security cameras, security lights, and alarms are just some of the ways to make your garage safe. You should never leave your bike outside your house since it gives thieves easy access to it. If you are away from home for some time, ask your neighbor or friend to watch the garage for you.

Other Security Options

Parking in front of a security camera can deter thieves from considering your bike, and can also help in its recovery if it is stolen.

Covering your bike when parked helps ensure that your classy bike is not overly advertised.

If you have questions about motorcycle security, or if you’re in need of towing services, contact Will Tow located in San Marcos, TX.

Avoid Being Towed at Apartments in San Marcos

Having your vehicle towed can be inconvenient and expensive. One of the many ways to accidentally end up having a vehicle towed is parking incorrectly in an apartment complex. Many of the apartment complexes in San Marcos, TX, especially those near Texas State University, enforce strict parking rules in an attempt to discourage student commuters from leaving their vehicles in the apartment parking lots during their classes. Apartment parking lots often have limited space and maintain just enough room to accommodate residents and their guests, so it can be difficult to find the right area to park. Here are some tips to make sure your car stays where you left it.

Non-Residents

If you are not a resident and you are not intending to visit a resident of an apartment complex, do not park there. Many apartment complex’s will immediately check to see if a parked vehicle has a permit for the lot if the driver is seen leaving the parking lot on foot without visiting one of the resident buildings first. While it may seem safe to park your vehicle in a visitor space for free for a few hours, being towed will cost you much more than paying for public parking.

If you are not a resident but you are visiting a resident of an apartment complex, make sure that you get information about the apartment’s visitor parking policy. If the resident that you are visiting is not informed about the policy, call the main office or visit their website. Some apartments require visitors to have a parking pass put on their dashboard. If this is the case at an apartment you are visiting, make sure that you or the person you are meeting visits the main office before they close to obtain a pass.

Other apartment complexes do not require passes but do ask visitors to park in a designated area of the parking lot. Most apartments indicate the visitor parking spaces by marking “Visitor” on the curb or in the space. Others have signs posted with arrows indicating how many spaces are reserved for visitors. Occasionally the pavement markings may have faded, or the signs may have been knocked over. If this is the case and you are unsure where to leave your vehicle, ask the staff at the main office. One quick trip inside could save you a lot of time and hassle.

Residents

It does not happen often, but occasionally even apartment complex residents can find their vehicle has been towed. The best way to keep this from happening is ensuring that you follow the apartment’s resident parking policies. If you are a new resident, make sure that your vehicle’s information has been provided to the apartment complex and is up to date. If the apartment provides a sticker to mark your vehicle as belonging to a resident, make sure that you place it in the proper place on your vehicle so that it is clearly visible to towing companies.

If you get new license plates for your vehicle after it has already been registered with your apartment, make sure to give them the updated information. You should also ensure that your inspection sticker is up to date as some apartment’s will tow vehicles that have not been inspected, even if they belong to a resident.

Another good idea for ensuring that your vehicle is not towed as a resident is to make sure that it is properly maintained. Many apartment complexes will tow vehicles if they are deemed “non-running.” If your vehicle has not been moved in a few months, or if your vehicle has a flat or a missing tire that has not been addressed, some complexes will have the vehicle towed.

For more information on avoiding having your vehicle towed from an apartment complex, visit Will Tow in San Marcos, TX, or click here.

Call A Mechanic or DIY?

CallMechanicorDIY

There are things in our life that you should simply leave to a professional, things that you simply should not do yourself. You probably don’t have any business performing your own colonoscopy, your own appendix removal, or open-heart surgery. Rocket building and synthesizing your own medicines are simply too difficult to figure out yourself even if you have the parts. But there are things that even doctors would tell you that you should self-examine to find problems early, like cancer exams or home tests for blood pressure or blood sugar. Cars are the same way.

If you have never worked on a car, you probably shouldn’t be putting in an engine, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a tool to find out if the check engine light is on for a simple reason. Or if your battery won’t stay charged you shouldn’t see if a new battery fixes the problem before you put in an all new alternator. Some things you can diagnose yourself, some you can fix right there when it breaks, others you can fix yourself after buying the correct parts and getting a tow, and others need a professional hand from start to finish.

A vehicle diagnostic code reader can be plugged in directly to the car’s engine and will spit out codes that pertain to the exact problem. These codes vary and will need to be looked up, but can highlight problems from HVAC (A/C, heating, coolant), engine (not starting, idling, temperature, leaks, emissions), battery (meters, lights, wiring, charging), to brakes, steering, transmission, and more. These aren’t everything, but can really help cover a lot of your bases. Not everything is a car not turning on or any of its electronics (battery or alternator or wiring issues), or a car not turning over (likely starter or engine).

If you would like to have a chance at fixing some simple problems without a tow or need for part ordering, there are some things you should always have: a spare, jack, wrench, jumper cables, duct tape, and oil.

Repairs that you can make with parts purchased from local auto stores or online form quite a long list, but this is mainly limited to repairs that you may be able to do yourself. Headlights, brake pads, engine belt, new battery, or fluids are examples. You may not be able to do things like alternators, transmissions, engines, and things of that nature. Basically, some things are small but fatal to the car running, some non-essential in the immediate like lights, but needed, some of these can be fixed on the side of the road. Others are larger repairs, some can be done at home, but even more need such advanced knowledge and tools that it is not likely to be able to be done at home. Now, if you have a friend who is a mechanic, you may be able to borrow the tools needed to do it properly, but sometimes the cost of the tools needed to fix the car exceeds the cost of taking it to a mechanic. And honestly, that is a long list of things. Even if you had perfect knowledge, it doesn’t make sense to fix yourself if you don’t have a huge number of cars to work on.

Towing Myths Debunked in Three Minutes

Going online is a great way to educate yourself on some much-needed information. Not everything you read online is true, though. There are many times the information gets mixed in with false data. The same can be said for the data out there about towing and the services many companies provide.

Here are 7 myths about towing that require some truth seeking and a little bit of tweaking:

  1. Is it true you can increase the payload component by adding more products?

    No, this is not true. A person cannot add in extra suspension products in hopes it will increase the ratings. Are you worried about the suspension payload? There is something that can be done. Level your truck. Decrease the poor handling. Gain access to the leaf springs before you take your journey. Another thing that can be done is work on getting rid of the side-to-side away.

  2. It is not necessary to learn the towing terms?

    This is another myth that needs to be corrected. You do need to learn the terms. There are differences between the two most common terms, GAWR and GVWR. The first one details the maximum weight you can put on the axle. The second one refers to the gross vehicle weight. This includes the vehicle and every passenger on board. This limit should not be exceeded at any time. There are other terms you should educate yourself on. Click here for more details on this.

  3. I can increase the capacity by increasing my trailer hitch.

    The manufacturer has put in a maximum capacity for a reason. At no time should it be messed with. Let us say that you have a capacity of 35,000. There is an exception to this rule. Let us say your hitch is at a capacity of 20,000. At no time should you go over the 20,000 limit. In this case, the hitch capacity will override the actual capacity.

  4. Can you go by the tongue weight?

    This is the one primary cause of failure with towing. There is an incorrect estimation of the tongue weight. You should click here to find out what the tongue weight for your tow truck is. This is the only way to be sure.

  5. Is it true that tongue weight is always 10% of what is being carried?

    It is usually between 10 and 15 percent. There are many variables to consider here. Two to trucks are not one in the same. Do not place most of the weight at the front, towards the hitch. This is placing too much pressure on the hitch. You need to know the exact percentage.

  6. The bearings do not need any kind of upkeep 

    This is wrong information, once more. The bearings are outside 24/7. They need constant upkeep and maintenance. Do you want your truck to break down?

  7. You can get any old hitch extension, right?

    No. You need a proper extension for your tow truck. Not all trucks are made the same in this respect. Most are ready and available in 8 lengths. They measure between 21 and 60 inches a piece. It is best to get specific measurements for this. Your tongue weight needs the proper extension. A shorter one will be more fitting, but you still should check it out.

Are You a Conductor?

Alignment

A conductor of an orchestra has a very important job. Everyone knows they direct music, but it’s much more important than that. A conductor knows every note, the placement of every instrument and every musician and if something or someone is out of alignment in this well-oiled machine of an orchestra, it is his or her job to rectify it. It is important for you to be as diligent as a conductor with your car. If your car is pulling more to one side or the other or it is vibrating on the road, it needs to be properly aligned. Riding around with poor alignment continuously will cause you to have an uneven wear pattern on your tires. Rotating your tires helps you save money on tires and extends the life of your vehicle. You will also save money on fuel because there will be less stress on the car.

Towing, Jump Starts and Fuel Delivery

If you are in need of a tow in the Central Texas area, some companies provide 24 hour live dispatch, long distance towing, off road recovery, tire changes, lockouts, fuel delivery and jump starts. Check with your insurance to see if towing is covered or discounted. 

Separate Lockout Services

Separate lockout services provided by trusted locksmiths for Central Texas are also available. They have a quick response time for a sensible price. These locksmiths will also change locks and make new locks (for businesses or homes) while providing high quality and friendly customer service. They are available 24-7 for roadside assistance. They also offer emergency door unlocking services called PALSavesKids in case your child or pet is locked in the car. This service is free of charge. 

There is a free roadside assistance program available to motorist throughout Central Texas provided by the Highway Emergency Response Operator (HERO). HERO responds to those who need help on I-35 and US 183 who have flat tires and need gas. They also assist with vehicle removals from travel lanes that have been in crashes. HERO also assist with the following: jumping dead batteries, transporting motorists to a safer location, providing cell service to persons in a broken down vehicle, removing trash from travel lanes and shoulders, helping emergency response personnel, calling tow trucks or emergency vehicles and performing minor vehicle repairs.

Although all of these resources are available in case something should go wrong with your vehicle, a responsible car owner keeps up regular maintenance on their vehicle. Regular tune ups, oil changes, brake checks, tire rotations, alignments and car inspects are just a few things that will keep your car in working order. Keep up to date service records in case of any emergencies, such as an accident or break down. Become a good conductor and orchestrate the longevity of your vehicle. 

Winter Tire Maintenance Tips

Close up of a car tire driving on snow

Due to winter weather, your tires can get strange designs on them because they are more exposed to unusual wear, which can potentially cause misalignment of the car’s suspension. There are three alignment adjustments on your car which are a toe, camber, and caster. The important ones are toe and camber settings. The caster setting is not that quite as important, but it serves a purpose as well.

The vertical tilt your car’s tires are described by camber. When the top of your tire tilts outward, that is positive camber. Similarly, if the tire tilts inward, it is negative camber. The car manufacturer’s factory settings are the most suitable for your vehicle. Your tires’ outside edge will wear too much due to positive camber. Inside edges will wear too much if the camber is negative.

The toe setting of your car describes whether or not both tires on the same axle are aligned in what way from each other: toe-in or toe-out. Most of your vehicles have rubber bushings which connect the components of suspension with the body. When your car is moving, non-driven axle tires are pulled back by rolling resistance of the tire. The driven axle tires are pulled forward by driveline torque. Rubber bushings allow slight movement in suspension which are compensated by the toe setting. Your car manufacturer’s favorite setting should also be used for the toe settings of your winter tires.

Your cars come with adjustment specifications of preferred settings which also have a tolerance limit. You should only use vehicle’s factory settings when you align your winter tires. For example, if the factory toe setting for your vehicle is one-eighth of an inch with a tolerance value of one-sixteenth of an inch then vehicle setting should be three-sixteenth of an inch. It will be the maximum limit for toe-in. In other words, both front tires will be dragged eighty feet towards each other for one mile. The ideal practice for you is to check your vehicle’s alignment twice a year. Aligning them in spring will give good performance in summer. Aligning in fall will show good results in winter.

The air pressure of your tires is very important. The air pressure inside your tires carries the weight of the car. Good traction, handling, and durability is only possible if right air pressure is maintained. Your car’s owner manual has recommended tire pressure written on it. It is the cold pressure; therefore, you should check it in the morning before driving the car.

You should check inflation pressure of your tires in early winter months and fall due to its criticality. As days get shorter and colder, the air in your tires contracts. The inflation pressure of your tire changes by one pound per square inch when ten degrees Fahrenheit of temperature changes outside. The difference between average winter and summer temperatures is almost fifty degrees Fahrenheit. It means a pressure of five pounds per square inch can occur in your tires. If you keep your car in a warm garage, the tire pressure will not remain the same when you take out your car. It is very important that you keep the valve caps of your tires on; otherwise, the air will escape as the moisture freezes.