Pittsburgh Auto Spa
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What to do if your car overheats

It’s a pre-summer scorcher this week in states from Texas to New England with temperatures hitting the triple digits in some areas, and that means more drivers will be cranking up their vehicle’s air conditioning to stay cool. Find out what to do when your car can’t handle the heat.

Air conditioning can make driving in hot weather comfortable, therefore keeping you alert and safe. But sometimes the additional load on the cooling system can increase the chance of the engine overheating. Plus, there could be other problems that develop, like low coolant level or a leak, that may have you feeling like boiling over.

If you see the temperature gauge rising, a temperature warning light flashing, or steam billowing out from under the hood, then your car is overheating. The first thing to do is stay calm and follow these tips to ensure your safety and quick repair for your vehicle.

  • Turn off your A/C.
  • Turn on the heater full blast to drain heat from the engine.
  • Pull over and shut off your car to prevent any further damage to the engine. Park in the shade, if available.
  • Unless you see steam coming out from under the hood, raise it so that the engine cools off faster.
  • Wait at least a half-hour before trying to add coolant and check to see if the coolant level is lower than normal.
  • If you need to add water or coolant, see if any leaks on the ground as you pour it.
  • Check for any wetness on the carpet to see if there is an interior leak.
  • Call for roadside assistance.

Summer driving may increase risk of skin cancer

Heading out for a long drive with the top down or windows open? Don’t forget to buckle up—and apply sunscreen. A study out this week suggests that people in the United States are more likely to develop skin cancer on the left side of their bodies and driving could be the cause.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers from the University of Washington used a large government database to look at two particularly deadly forms of skin cancer, melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma. They found that when the cancers occurred on just one side of the body, in more than half of cases it was the left side–particularly the left arm. Exposure to ultraviolet rays on the driver’s side is a likely contributing factor, the researchers said.

Windows do provide some protection from the sun’s dangerous rays, but you can still get a sunburn with the window up. And exposure, of course, increases with the top or window down and your arm out.

As any convertible driver knows, the cooling breeze while driving can often mask a developing sunburn. As you savor driving in the warm weather, let this serve as a reminder to apply sunscreen.


Seasonal dangers: Avoiding the perils of potholes

It’s been a tough winter for much of the country. Record snowfall in some areas and tight municipal budgets have made it tough for many of our communities to keep our highways and byways passable.

Unfortunately, the relentless cold weather has resulted in potholes, which have been popping up in what might seem like record numbers. These randomly appearing asphalt craters make driving even more hazardous than usual. The dangers go double for motorists with low-profile tires, which are increasingly common standard equipment even on family sedans and economy models. Short side-walled tires often provide better handling and steering response than more conventional tires, but the compromise is less cushioning from the evils beneath.

So, what to do? For openers, make sure your tires are properly inflated, whether your car has low-profile tires or not. An improperly inflated tire is more likely to be damaged hitting a pothole, potentially bending an expensive wheel.

It is, of course, a good idea to try and avoid hitting potholes, or slow down if must go over one, but only within reason. Don’t swerve into oncoming traffic or onto the shoulder where you might endanger pedestrians or bicyclists. And don’t ever make a big cut at the steering wheel to avoid a pothole; you might end up losing control of the car. A flat tire is always a better option than a serious crash.

The best course of action is to pay attention, and be especially ready for trouble this time of year. Leave more room behind the car in front of you so you have time to react. And be especially vigilant when you’re driving along a seam in the road, like those often found between lanes–those tend to develop holes sooner than the lane center.


Keeping your car free of pollen, inside and out

Spring is here, and unfortunately for some of us, that means airborne tree pollen is, too. The powdery green stuff wreaks havoc with those who are allergic to it, but it can also make a mess of your car, both inside and out. Here are a few tips to hopefully help you breathe easier, and to protect yourself and your car from pollen.

Clean your cabin air filter
Most cars built since around the year 2000 have an air filter for the interior that can screen out not just pollen and other airborne pollutants. Cabin filters also prevent your heater core and air conditioner from becoming clogged, thereby reducing efficiency. But it’s an easy filter to ignore, especially if you don’t know your car has one. Mechanics we spoke with said they have seen vehicles that were equipped to house a filter, but did not come from the factory with one—presumably this was on lower-trim level models. In these cases, the filtration could be added by simply installing a filter. (Not sure if youre vehicle is equipped with a filter? Check your owner’s manual.)

The good news is that in the world of particulate matter, pollen bits are relatively large and easy for the filter to trap. Cabin filters are usually relatively easy to locate and change yourself. They’re normally located under the hood, often near the base of the windshield, or behind the glove compartment. Your owner’s manual should tell you how to do it and how often it needs to be changed. Most manufacturers recommend changing the filter at least once a year and more often in dusty conditions. If you can recall the last time it was changed, right about now would probably be a great time. Replacements can be found at auto parts stores, and you can save if you do it yourself. Expect to spend $10-35 for the filter, although some higher end models might cost more. If you have a dealer do the job, it might cost as much as $100 or more.

Keep the outside clean
Pollen may not look abrasive, but wiping it off the car or even leaning on a pollen-coated fender can cause scratches. The best bet is to start with a freshly washed car, and apply a good coat of wax. Then, you can just rinse the pollen off weekly, or more often if you like. And by keeping it off the outside, less is likely to end up inside where it can coat the interior, as well as get into your eyes and lungs.

Check pollen at the door
Keeping your car windows closed—whether you’re in it or it’s parked—will help keep the green stuff on the outside, especially in the early morning or at dusk. Those are prime times for pollen. And set the fan to recirculate when possible.

If you’re still bothered by pollen in the car, a shop vacuum or better yet, a household canister vac with an upholstery attachment should help. Plus, you can clean out a winter’s worth of other debris while you’re at it. If your allergies are really bad, wear a particle mask while vacuuming. A damp cloth can remove much of the dust on the dashboard, around gauges, and in many hard-to-reach places.

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