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Car Care and Tips

Following your vehicle's maintenance schedule is a good idea. The schedule is determined by the vehicle manufacturer and is an excellent way to keep on top of your vehicle's maintenance. Following the schedule can also prove valuable if ever a warranty issue were to arise, and proof of maintenance was required in order to obtain warranty service.

Here are some of the items that should be inspected on your vehicle before heading out on your trip:

  • Check all fluid levels and filters
  • A complete check of the cooling system should be done
  • Have all the hoses very closely inspected for cracks, softness and bulges
  • Check all drive belts for cracks and proper tension
  • Check all the tires closely and have them inspected for signs of abnormal wear, proper pressures (including the spare) and any obvious cracks or bulges
  • Check all brake, suspension and exhaust components
  • Check the air conditioning system
  • Have an engine analysis completed to check the condition of the ignition, fuel and electrical systems
  • Always have a Service Technician perform a road test on your vehicle to check for any out of the ordinary problems such as strange noises and vibrations

It is a good idea to go by your manufacturer's maintenance schedule when determining how often to have your oil changed. If you have an older vehicle and do not have a maintenance schedule as a reference, standard practice is to have your oil changed every 5,000 kms or every 3 months.

Bill 22 is an Act to regulate Motor Vehicle Repairs. The purpose of the Bill is to provide protection to motor vehicle owners whose vehicles require repairs. The main features of the Bill are:

  • Written estimates must be provided on request
  • Customers must be told in advance if there is a fee for an estimate and the amount of the fee
  • No work may be charged unless there was authorization for the work
  • Actual costs may not exceed an estimate by more than 10 percent
  • Parts must be returned upon request
  • Specific warranties are set out
  • Charging more for work that is covered by insurance is prohibited

Repairers are barred from collecting illegal charges.

Transport Canada has a website available to motorists which lists any outstanding recalls for most vehicles. You just type in your vehicle information and your question is answered. Click here to visit the website.

If you think your vehicle may be affected by a recall, another option is to check in with your local dealer and they can check your Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN).  All recalls are VIN# affected and the Dealer will have the most updated information from your vehicle’s manufacturer.

The Safety Certificate awarded to your vehicle following its inspection is good for 36 days.

To register your vehicle, you need to bring the following:

  • Safety Certificate
  • Emissions Certificate
  • Used Vehicle Information Package and transfer papers
  • copy of the vehicle insurance and the vehicle ownership
  • Proof of insurance
  • Your Ontario Driver’s Licence
  • Used vehicle information package (UVIP)
  • Bill of sale (you can use the bottom of the UVIP as there is a section specifically for this)
  • Safety Standards Certificate (SSC), if applicable
  • Owner’s permit with the completed Application for Transfer portion on the back
  • Odometer reading information
  • Recharge or replace weak batteries, and check your battery’s posts, cables, and your alternator.
  • Damaged ignition wires, a plugged air filter, or worn spark plugs can make starting difficult or may cause a sudden breakdown. Ensure these components are in good repair or replace as necessary.
  • Regularly check that all lights are functioning properly and that headlights are properly aimed.
  • Pulling, a soft or squishy pedal, or unusual squealing or grinding often indicates a need for brake service or repair. Have your brakes checked to ensure safe, stable braking in poor weather.
  • Check the tires and tire pressure at least once a month when the tires are cold. Tire air pressure decreases in colder weather. Tires should be properly inflated to the recommended pressure shown in the owner’s manual. Do not exceed pressure shown on the tire sidewall. Identical tires on all four wheels will improve vehicle handling.
  • Don’t mix tires with different tread patterns or sizes. Tires marked with the pictograph of a peaked mountain with a snowflake meet specific snow-traction performance requirements and have been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions.
  • Have the exhaust system fully checked for leaks that could send carbon monoxide into your vehicle. Exhaust leaks can also cause hard starting, rough running, and excessive fuel consumption.
  • Check your radiator, radiator cap, and hoses for cracks and leaks. Test the strength of the anti-freeze and test the functioning of the heater and defroster.
  • Fill your washer fluid reservoir with winter fluid that includes detergent rated for the -40°C temperature range. Keep a spare jug in the trunk. Replace wiper blades that streak or smear to ensure clear visibility.
  • If you must drive in bad weather, plan ahead and be prepared. Keep fuel tank at least half-full and ensure that others are aware of your destination and estimated time of arrival. Allow plenty of travel time and stop and rest if your get tired. Buckle your seat belt and ensure all children are correctly positioned in appropriate child car seats and booster seats. Children ages 12 and under should ride properly buckled-up in the back seat.
  • Clear all snow from the hood, roof, windows and lights. Set your heater to keep your windows clear, turn on your air conditioning and defroster to keep fog away. If visibility becomes poor, find a place to safely pull off the road as soon as possible. It’s best to stop at a rest area or exit of the roadway and go to a protected area. If the roadside is your only option, pull off the road as far as you can safely, and turn your four-way flashers (hazards) to ensure that other drivers can see you and prevent collisions.
  • Keep to the main roads and drive with caution, matching your speed to road and weather conditions. Avoid passing other vehicles if possible. Bring warm clothing and jackets in case you need to stop and go outside your vehicle. Bring a cell phone in case of emergency. If you need assistance, let a passenger call for you or pull over before placing a call.
  • A good hand wash of your vehicle is very valuable in the spring. Take the time to check out the condition of your paint while you're washing and make note of any chips or scratches.
  • If you do find some minor damage to your paint job, buy some touch-up paint as soon as possible. It's important to do anything and everything to prevent rust from forming!
  • Spray the salt and dirt out of your wheel wells (a favourite hiding spot for rust) and repair any rust if necessary.
  • A good waxing is great for your paint job after winter.
  • Check the windshield for stone chips or cracks. It often isn't necessary to replace the entire windshield, just repair the chips.
  • This is also a good time to replace worn out wiper blades.
  • If the carpet in your vehicle is subjected to a lot of salty water over the winter, rust could be forming where you can't even see it, underneath the carpet. A good rug shampoo, either a do-it-yourself project or professionally done, will help remove the salt from the carpet fibres. Make sure to clean the upholstery too.
  • Give the vinyl in your car a good cleaning with a vinyl treatment product to help protect against drying and cracking.
  • Clean your windows, inside and out to increase visibility.
  • Change the engine oil & filter if needed (as per your vehicle’s factory recommended intervals). Get a tune-up if necessary (as per your vehicle’s factory recommended intervals). Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks and drive belts for cracks. Have your antifreeze tested. It prevents your coolant from boiling in the summer.
  • Check your tire pressure. Temperature changes can affect it. Having the proper tire pressure will maximize your gas mileage and save wear & tear on your tires! Check the condition of your tires. Did they sustain any damage? Is there anything visibly wrong like cuts or bulges in the sidewalls? If so, have them checked.
  • As we head towards the summer months, keeping cool is important - both under the hood and in your vehicle. CAA's Roadside Assistance team has noticed that on certain days in the summer there are just as many calls as on stormy winter days. Why? Overheating!  Before the temperatures start to rise, it's a good idea to check your vehicle's cooling system. Have your anti-freeze tested to make sure it's up to strength - it prevents your car from overheating. Check that your radiator pressure cap is in good condition. Your maintenance schedule should also be up to date to ensure smooth sailing throughout the summer.
  • There's nothing better than a cool, comfortable drive when it's sweltering outside, so make sure your car's air conditioning system is also in tip top shape. You don't want to find out in mid-July, when it's 90 degrees in the shade that the air conditioning isn't working.

All vehicles need good maintenance, and occasionally, some repairs. To receive the most efficient and accurate vehicle repair, you need to provide clear, comprehensive information. Because you know your vehicle better than anyone, you will be the first to notice performance changes.

To accurately identify automotive problems and effectively communicate them to your repair technician:

  • See - Watch the area around your vehicle.
  • Hear - Listen for strange noises including:
  • Squeals - Shrill, sharp noises, usually related to engine speed.
  • Clicks - Slight sharp noises, related to either engine speed or vehicle speed
  • Screeches - High-pitched, piercing metallic sounds that usually occurs while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Rumbles - Low-pitched rhythmic sounds.
  • Pings - High-pitched metallic tapping sounds, related to engine speed.
  • Heavy Knocks - Rhythmic pounding sounds.
  • Clunks - Random thumping sounds.
  • Smell - Notice unusual odours including:
  • Light, sharp odours like the smell of burnt toast.
  • The smell of rotten eggs or a continuous burning, sulphur smell.
  • Thick acrid odours.
  • The smell of gasoline vapors.
  • Burning resin or acrid chemical odours.
  • Sweet, steamy odours.
  • Feel - Be aware of differences in the way your car handles. Difficult handling, a rough ride, vibration and poor performance are all symptoms you can feel.
  • Organize your thoughts before beginning any discussion with the service writer or repair technician. Be prepared to explain:
  • What the problem is.
  • When it began.
  • If it comes and goes or is steady.
  • If it occurs when the engine is hot or when it is cold. When you turn right or left. When braking or accelerating.

Be sure you communicate vital information in your own words and avoid technical terms. Using simple words and phrases can reduce the possibility of providing inaccurate information and confusing the diagnostic process.

Sharing information empowers you and the technician. No one expects you to have the technical expertise to define the problem, but your observations are important. If you do not share what you know about your vehicle, the diagnosis may cost more and repairs that are needed may not be made.

When your repairs are complete, arrive at the repair facility at least one-half hour before they are scheduled to close. Read your bill carefully and question any information or charges you don't understand. Insist on descriptions of replaced parts, not just part numbers.

Arriving prior to the facility closing also gives you an opportunity to test drive your vehicle and return immediately if the problem persists.

If you feel a problem persists, ask someone from the repair facility to go with you on a road test. Clearly state the correction you want and give the facility the chance to correct any errors or oversights.

Clear, concise communication is the key to a successful repair experience. Provide information - not a diagnosis. Let the experts uncover the problem and offer a cure.