Keep those clunkers running smooth

Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Turning in old gas-guzzlers for cash sounded like a great idea to a lot of Americans; in fact, the federal Cash for Clunkers program was so popular that it quickly ran out of funds and Congress had to provide more.

Alaskans aren't able to take full advantage of the program, however, and even if we were, many people - here and Down South - own vehicles that we might consider clunkers, but the government doesn't.

So, what do we do about our Alaska classics that seem to be clunking their way to the junkyard? If we want to keep them running for a while longer, there are steps we can take, and most are not very expensive.

The Car Care Council, a national organization affiliated with the service and parts industry, recently provided tips for keeping our cars healthy. Even taking potential bias into consideration, the organization's advice sounds reasonable and practical. Some of the tips are:

• Change the oil and filter every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, or according to the owner's manual. Periodic oil and filter changes keep the engine clean on the inside.

• Check the tire pressure at least monthly, including the spare. A car's tires affect its ride, handling, traction and safety.

• Schedule a tune-up annually to optimize a car's performance.

• Have the alignment checked at least annually. Potholes, rough roads and normal use take their toll on steering and suspension. A wheel alignment can reduce tire wear, and improve fuel economy and handling.

• Inspect the windshield wipers and lights. Lights and wipers play a major safety role.

Here in Ketchikan, it can take a whole year - or longer - to accumulate 3,000 miles. In that case, it's a good idea to go for an oil change and overall car checkup a couple times a year, if not more often.

Regular maintenance will help keep our cars in good shape on the inside. Keeping moss from growing on the hood? That's a whole other issue.



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