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Lubricating and Conditioning Hinges and Weatherstripping

Statistically, when drivers are involved in accidents that result in bodily injury or property damage, they experience an increase in their auto insurance rates of more than 30 percent. So if you had car insurance under $100 a month, this could change. This is why regular checks on your vehicle are so necessary.

This obscure maintenance item has actually been on the books since the first automobiles. Your car's door, hood, and trunk hinges may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the words “chassis lubrication,” but they bear consideration for a few reasons. First, they have to carry some of the heaviest parts of your car body many times a day; when you think about how many openings and closings that adds up to over a year or more, you can see why the factory grease doesn't last forever. Second, the spring in your hinge mechanism will weaken over time, which can be a severe problem if the mechanism starts to seize up.

Lubricating the Hinge Mechanism

Ideally, you should use a thin, spray-on grease to lubricate the hinge mechanism. You can find cans of spray grease at any large hardware store and most chain auto parts stores. If you can't get spray grease for whatever reason, then a burst of penetrating oil is better than nothing. The procedure is relatively straightforward. Attach the straw to the sprayer, put its tip right into the hinge joint and give it a two-second burst. Then spray the spring mechanism, work the door open, and closed a few times and repeat.

Conditioning the Weatherstripping

Weatherstripping is usually some kind of natural or synthetic rubber. Conditioning your weatherstripping is just as important. Rubber will dry out, harden, and shrink over time. Once that happens, you're well into the opening phases of “Old Jalopy Syndrome” – leaking windows, rattling doors, squeaking over bumps, and wind noise. Applying a bit of rubber-and-vinyl conditioner will keep your weatherstripping soft and supple enough to keep your car feeling new.

Inspecting Your Brakes

Measure Pad Thickness

It is something you should do every 10,000 miles or third oil change. In practical terms, you can get a pretty good feel for how much life you've got left on your pads just by a visual inspection. A new pad has somewhere between 3/8 and 1/2 inch of pad material, measured from the pad's metal backing plate to the pad's surface. The pad's virtually gone once it reaches between 1/8 and 3/16 inch in thickness. If you don't have a ruler handy, that Swiss Army Knife of currency, the penny, may prove to be worth more than one cent.

The base of the Lincoln Memorial's steps on a penny is exactly 6/32 of an inch from the edge of the coin. This reduces nicely to 3/16 inch. So, once the pad's metal backing plate gets closer to the disc than the base of the Memorial's steps, it's time to swap out.

Inspect Rotors

You don't have to use the penny for this, but you've already got it in your hand – so why not? Over time, your brake pads will eat into the metal rotors and create dozens or hundreds of tiny, circular grooves on the rotor surface. Grooves in the rotors indicate a reduction in rotor thickness, which is something to be concerned about. All cars have different minimum rotor thicknesses, and you'll need to do some research to find your car's information to determine whether or not you need new rotors. But you can get an idea about whether or not you should have your rotors “turned” – machined flat – or replaced by holding the penny at an angle to the rotor and pushing it across the surface. If the edge catches in any of the grooves, it may be time for some machine-work or new rotors.

Grease Slide Bolts

Most cars use sliding brake calipers. If you look at a caliper, the hydraulic vice that squeezes down on the disc rotor, you'll notice that it only has a hydraulic cylinder on one side. When you apply the brakes, that cylinder pushes the pad into the rotor; when that pad gets some pressure on it, the entire caliper will slide on the caliper bolts to apply the other brake pad. If this slide dries out, the hydraulic cylinder will have to apply more pressure to slide it – and then, it won't want to slide back. This can cause problems in your brake system, such as uneven pad and rotor wear. And you can imagine what a brake failure implies, right? Vehicle accidents cause damage to you and your car and induce significant damage to your auto insurance premium. This may cause you to not qualify for convenient plans like $20 down payment car insurance.  

Keeping your brake system functioning

The terrible accidents that occur after a failure of your brake systems can be easily avoided. Keeping your brake system functioning over the long haul is as simple as periodically removing the two caliper bolts – one at a time – and coating the smooth part of the bolt with grease. Removing the bolt may require a hex-head socket, which looks like a big Allen wrench, but is well worth the two-dollar investment and the couple of minutes that it will take. Torque the bolts to spec.

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