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Kate on Cars - Back To School For Your Car


Kate on Cars - Back To School For Your Car

Wow, it’s back to school time already. A busy time as parents get their kids ready for a new exciting year of math, history and football games; the flurry of activity to buy the clothes and books and paper and calculators; the smiling grateful helpful children who are such a joy during these shopping trips (yeah right). And then finally the school year commences. And then the rest of us with or without kids share in the delightful experience of stop and go traffic each day when school lets out, especially in downtown Sebastopol.... Such a wonderful time of year.

It’s also important to remember to have your and your offspring’s vehicles checked out by your shop and cleared as being safe and roadworthy. Have your shop perform a safety inspection on your vehicles and let you know what they find.

You’ll want to have them check things like belts, hoses, brakes, and tires. Ask them to check the maintenance schedule and let you know what kind of maintenance is due by mileage, and compare that to what they actually see on the vehicle.

Belts and hoses

Belts need to be checked for looseness, cracks, excessive dryness, or contamination from oil or coolant leaks. If belts need to be replaced, your shop should spin the idler and tensioner pulleys with the belt off and listen with a stethoscope for any signs of dry or damaged bearings. The tensioner should be checked for it’s ability to keep the belt at the proper tension.

Hoses should be checked for leaks, hardness or brittleness, sponginess or other damage. If they have any of these symptoms, they should be replaced before they blow or leak fluid onto something expensive.


In order to properly check the brakes, all four wheels need to be removed. The tech will check the master cylinder, the brake fluid condition and moisture content, and the other braking components. Once the wheels are removed, the tech has access to check the brake pads, discs and calipers if that axle has disc brakes, and the drums, shoes, and wheel cylinders if the axle has drum brakes. Many vehicles have 4-wheel disc brakes these days, but drum brakes are still often used on the rear axles. If the brakes are worn thin or if there are any fluid leaks, then repairs will need to be performed. Just because you experience no symptoms while driving does not mean that that brakes are in safe condition. The only way to really tell what kind of condition the brakes are in is to combine a visual inspection with a road test.


The tires should be checked for tread depth, evenness of tread wear, and air pressure. Most tires should be replaced when they hit about 2 mm of tread depth. The tread should be worn evenly across the tire, from the inside to the outside. Sometimes if the suspension is out of alignment, the tread on only one half of the tire will be worn. If this is the case, the outer tread can look fine, but once you put the vehicle up on a lift and look at the inside of the tire you might see metal cords sticking out. If there are metal cords sticking out anywhere on the tire, it needs to be replaced immediately. It’s better if you get tires replaced before they get that bad. And if there is that kind of uneven wear, suspension repairs and an alignment may be necessary.

And of course tire pressure needs to be set correctly to ensure safety and the best fuel economy possible. There is usually a sticker in the driver’s door jam that lists the correct cold tire pressure for your vehicle.

So remember to have your vehicle checked out this fall, and if you have kids then make sure their rides are safe too. With all that loud music playing, they may not be able to hear any funny noises their cars decide to make.