Why Won’t My Car Start?

We depend on our cars to always be there when we need them. That’s why it can be such a shock when you turn the key and your car doesn’t start. If that happens to you, don’t panic. A lot of times the problem is relatively simple to fix. To figure out what’s going on, pay careful attention to what happens when you turn the key.

Click what happens when you turn the key to jump down to your specific issue:

 

Nothing Happens When I Turn the Key

Say you turn the key and nothing at all happens. Dead silence—no dash lights, no interior lights. That means your car’s systems aren’t getting any power from the battery. The most likely culprit is a dead battery, but before you spring for a new one, you should check that your battery connections are good. Check by hand that the terminals are tight on the battery. If they feel loose, tighten the nut on the side of the terminal. If they feel tight, but there’s a lot of corrosion and buildup, that might reduce the effectiveness of your battery. You might want to take the terminals off the battery posts and carefully clean the posts and terminals. Often you can get the terminals clean enough just using a wire brush, but this video will show you a more thorough procedure to keep your terminals cleaner long-term:

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Do I Need Premium Gas?

Gas station Does your car recommend you use premium gas? Or if it doesn’t, when you’re pumping your regular gas, do you ever wonder if you would get a boost by paying for high-test? Or have you ever had an old-school car guy tell you that you need to run premium sometimes to clean out your gas tank?

There’s a lot of confusion out there about premium gas, what it’s good for, and who does or doesn’t need it. So, let’s clear things up once and for all.

Why Do Some Cars Use Premium Gas?

Some cars either recommend that you use premium gas or require it. Many cars will have a sticker inside the fuel door that tells you if it recommends or requires premium gas. You can always check your owner’s manual.

So why would you need premium gas? Cars that call for premium gas tend to either have high compression engines or forced induction (supercharging or turbocharging). That means that the fuel and air is under very high pressure in the combustion chamber. That’s one way to make a high-powered engine.

High compression and forced induction introduce their own complications. High pressure (along with heat building up in the engine) can cause the gas to combust before it should. That’s called pre-ignition, detonation, or engine knocking. Knocking can cause damage to engine components, especially if it recurs over a long time. You can recognize knocking as a metal-on-metal “pinging” sound under the hood.

You may have noticed the different octane ratings on the fuel pump: usually numbers like 87 for regular, 89 for mid-grade, and 92 (or thereabouts) for premium. A higher octane rating means that the gas is less likely to pre-ignite.

Which Cars Require Premium?

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Why Does My Tire Pressure Light Come On When It’s Cold?

low tire pressure light symbol
Low tire pressure light.           Photo by Machalov is licensed under CC BY 3.0

It’s a bitter cold morning in January. You start your car and this icon lights up on your dashboard. It’s the low tire pressure light. What’s wrong? How did your tire go flat over night? And do you need to get air?

What the Light Means

Cars built after 2008 are required to have sensors in the tire that measure the tire’s air pressure. The light comes on if the pressure in your tire drops to 25% below the recommended pressure, according to Edmunds. How Stuff Works points out that the sensor can be off by as much as two pounds per square inch, but that’s far from enough to make your tire 25% low. If the light comes on then your tires are probably too soft. That can cause tire squealing, poor handling, and increased tire wear.

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6 Things Shady Mechanics Don’t Want You to Know

A trusted mechanic can be a great resource for car repairs. “Trusted” is the key word there. As with any business, there are some mechanics who will put a quick buck ahead of what’s best for you, the customer. We’ve pretty much all dealt with someone like that at some point. The best way to protect yourself is by educating yourself so you can make more of your own decisions. Here are some things you should know, even if your mechanic doesn’t want you to.

1. They Don’t Have Automotive ESP

Mechanics don’t have psychic powers that tell them what’s wrong with your car. You can apply some of the same skills the pros use to diagnose your own problems. A good mechanic knows plenty of tests to find out what went wrong with your car, and although you may not reach the level of expertise of a pro mechanic, you can definitely learn some basic tests.

First, if your check engine light comes on, a mechanic will use a device called an OBD scanner to check for trouble codes that will point out the problem. You don’t have to take your car to a shop to get it scanned, though. Many parts stores will rent you a scanner, or you can buy one, sometimes for as low as $20. If you have an older car with frequent problems, an OBD scanner can be a good investment.

You can also learn how to test parts for wear and tear yourself. You can easily visually inspect brakes for wear and you can test suspension parts like hubs and struts by hand.

In some cases, your shop is just trying to figure out your problem by educated trial and error. They may try one part see if it works, and move on from there. Of course, with a little know-how about your car’s various parts and symptoms, you could do your own process of trial and error much cheaper, as our DJ Butler describes. No, it’s not the ideal way to fix your car, but sometimes it’s your least worst option. Read More

Do I Really Need to Warm Up My Car?

rear view mirror covered in snow

If you live in a cold climate, you’ve probably heard how essential it is to let your engine warm up before driving.  You might even be in the habit yourself.  But is it really necessary?

It turns out that there’s a lot of debate on that subject. Some say letting the engine warm up will make it run better and will reduce engine wear. Others say that leaving the car idling in the driveway wastes gas and is bad for the environment. Of course, some people just don’t like to sit in a cold car.

The Case Against Warming Up Your Car

The Environmental Protection Agency does not want you idling your car much.  Their primary concern is the carbon dioxide and other exhaust gasses that the car gives off while idling.  The engine is also at its least efficient when it’s idling.  It’s using gas without going anywhere, so, as Chris M0oney at the Washington Post points out, you’re getting 0 miles per gallon.  The engine also tends to run richer, using more gas, when it’s cold.  Over time that puts a hit on your wallet.  The rich running can also put more strain on your catalytic converter, which might mean you have to replace it sooner.

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Gifts for Mechanics, Classic Car Lovers, & Your Favorite Car Guy

Holiday gift guide: Gifts for every car enthusiast on your list!

Do you have someone on your Christmas list who’s crazy about cars? A Dad who’s into classics, an uncle who’s an off-roader, a brother who’s a wannabe racer, or even a kid who likes to crash his Matchbox cars? We have gift ideas for every car lover this holiday season.

Some of the gifts included in this list can be purchased from 1A Auto. However, there are many included that you can buy from another online retailer, such as Amazon or Gamestop.

Gifts for Classic Car Lovers

People who collect classic cars get really attached to them, and why not? Those designs were timeless and bring back a lot of memories. If you know a car enthusiast with a cool classic, why not help them keep it in tip top shape with a new car cover? A car cover can protect the exterior of the car, and a new set of floor mats can help protect the interior.

Some classics are meant to be kept pristine; others beg to be remade in the owner’s image. A custom shift knob is a fun way to spice up the interior of any classic or hot-rod. Skulls are always in fashion, but there’s lots of other options.

Or maybe your mechanic uncle talks wistfully about the one that got away. My Dad had a ’67 Riviera and ’64 Impala back in the day. I have to say, I’m pretty jealous. Since American muscle is a little bit outside my budget, the old man might have to settle for reminiscing vicariously. My Dad Had that Car is a book of photos brochures, and other pieces of automotive history.

Unique Gifts for Car Racers

If you know someone who wishes they were a racing driver, you’ll want to give them some safe ways to indulge their need for speed. There are a lot of great racing games out now, from Gran Turismo Sport, to Forza Horizon 3, to, yes, a new Need for Speed game, Need for Speed: Payback.

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