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September/October 2014 Issue

With average age of cars on the road climbing, maintenance is more vital

Properly maintaining vehicles has never been more crucial to the safety of motorists because cars on the road today aren’t getting any younger, with IHS Automotive reporting that the average age of light vehicles is 11.4 years for the second year in a row.

And that age is expected to continue to climb in the coming years.

As part of Car Care Month in October, AAA invites members to take advantage of free vehicle inspection opportunities with any paid service at Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facilities. AAA also recommends drivers pay attention to five critical elements that can help ensure the safety of older cars.

Maintaining good traction on the road is especially imperative to vehicle safety. Worn tires are more likely to hydroplane on wet pavement or lose traction in snow, resulting in a loss of steering control. Check the tread depth of tires by inserting a penny into a tire groove with Lincoln’s head facing the tire. If the top of his head is visible, replace the tire.

Quality brakes are also essential. Old brake fluid or low fluid levels can lead to brake fade or failure, so have the fluid level inspected at every oil change. Scraping, squeaking, or chirping noises that come from the wheels when the brakes are applied are signs of potentially excessive brake wear and signal the need for an inspection.

Leaking fluids often indicate a need for maintenance. Because leaking fluids can cause mechanical failures, often costly ones, have them inspected immediately after detection.

Drivers must be able to see where they are going on the road. If wiper blades are worn, they will not adequately remove dirt, rain, and debris that can obscure vision. Check for separation of the rubber blade, cracks, or bent arms at each oil change or whenever they fail to wipe glass clean.

Finally, maintaining a supply of clean engine oil will prevent an engine from wearing rapidly or from seizing. Change the oil and oil filter at manufacturer-recommended intervals.

Diligent and timely maintenance can help ensure against accidents and costly repairs. Certified technicians at AAR shops, which AAA inspects to make sure they offer quality service, can offer guidance on which repairs are needed.

Visit the automotive section of to find a list of AAR shops.

examine car

Vehicle inspections have never been more important because the average age of cars on the road today is 11.4 years.


Automatic stop-start technology accelerates savings

If your inner ecologist wants to drive an eco-friendly vehicle, but the car enthusiast in you balks at small, “powerless” commuter cars, one solution might be automatic stop-start technology, which AAA has found to deliver a significant fuel economy benefit.

Automakers are working on a wide range of technologies to help achieve new regulations to improve fuel efficiency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have set standards to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy levels to 54.5 mpg by 2025, which equates to about 40 mpg on the window sticker because that rating is derived from separate tests.

One of those measures is automatic stop-start technology, and vehicles equipped with these systems already are rolling off the assembly line. Recent AAA research found these systems deliver up to 7 percent improvement in fuel savings and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. The potential savings is as much as $179 when driving 15,000 miles a year in a vehicle that averages 20 mpg.

Already used in hybrid vehicles, automatic stop-start systems turn off the engine when the car is at a complete stop–such as in traffic or at a stoplight. When the driver releases the brake or the clutch, the engine starts again. While the engine is stopped, systems and gadgets run on power from the vehicle’s battery. For the study, AAA put three automatic stop-start vehicles through the Environmental Protection Agency’s “urban” cycle, which simulates a commuting trip covering 11.04 miles at an average speed of 21.2 mph. The simulation is part urban driving, with frequent stops, and part highway driving.

Automatic stop-start technology can be added to a traditional vehicle design for about $300, making it more affordable than other fuel-saving options. Automakers predict that more than 7 million of these vehicles will be on the road by 2022.


For the study, the cars were tested on a dynamometer to simulate driving conditions.

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