Auto Talk: Is your driving normal?

An important factor in determining your carís maintenance schedule is whether your driving counts as ďnormalĒ or ďsevere.Ē The intervals listed in a carís owner manual for regular maintenance tasks, such as oil changes, are based on a car which is driven under normal conditions. But what is normal, and how should service intervals be adjusted if your driving doesnít fall into that category? Letís take a look at two drivers.

The first driver uses her car mostly for commuting to work and running errands. She rarely drives more than 5,000 miles per year. The second driver is a salesman who is always on the road, covering multiple states and driving more than 100,000 miles per year. Whose driving is more severe?

If you guessed the salesman, youíre wrong. Although he drives more than most people, his car isnít working hard. Consider these points:

Now letís look at the commuterís short local trips:

Overall, the commuter is much harder on her car, though the annual mileage is low. If your driving often includes any of the following conditions, itís considered severe: stop-and-go driving; short trips; roads that are wet, snowy or icy; driving at high altitude; driving in areas with dirty air (smog, or dust from construction or rural roads); extremely hot or cold weather; carrying heavy loads or towing a boat, camper or trailer.

With Coloradoís high altitude, snowy winter weather and hot summers, the majority of drivers are likely to be in the severe category and should adjust their maintenance schedules accordingly. Check the ownerís manual for recommended service intervals under severe conditions. Air and fuel filter inspection, oil changes and transmission service are just a few of the routine tasks that may be necessary more often than you think.

Pothole Season

In Colorado, instead of winter changing to spring, itís frequently winter changing to pothole season. Potholes are caused by the freezing and thawing of water as it works its way into the pavement, so donít look for an end to pothole season until warm weather returns and road crews are back at work.

The appearance of potholes brings the potential of damage to vehicle suspension components and the possibility of costly repairs.

AAA Colorado has the following recommendations to help protect vehicles against the jarring experience of a pothole encounter:

Hitting even one especially severe pothole could alter the alignment of a wheel and cause uneven tire wear. Uneven tire wear means the tire will need to be replaced sooner than necessary causing a needless expense.

A broken shock or strut from a pothole encounter could alter the steering and handling of a vehicle, and create dangers when driving at higher speeds or in tight corners. Broken suspension components should be remedied immediately.

AAA Colorado recommends that motorists who suspect their vehicle may have been damaged by a pothole should take it to a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility where it can be carefully inspected, and serviced if necessary. AAA approved shops have met the associationís tough requirements for employing qualified technicians, meeting and exceeding customer satisfaction requirements, using quality parts and service equipment, and following ethical business practices.

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