Windshield Time

Keep your eyes open for bikes

Biking is great exercise, a good way to minimize carbon emissions and, for many, a lot of fun. But, particularly in congested cities, mixing bikes and cars on the roads can be disastrous. For instance, Chicago has been called America’s Best Bike City. Yet, more than 300 cases of cyclists crashing into open car doors on the streets of the city were reported in 2015 – a nearly 50 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Illinois Department of Transportation has reported the 302 cases of dooring that year were up from 203 in 2014 and 270 in 2013, but down from the 334 reported in 2012 and 336 in 2011. For the safety of our bike-riding friends: Open your driver’s-side door by reaching for the handle with your right hand, forcing you to turn and look behind for oncoming bicycles.

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Maintenance tips

Winter isn’t the only time of year that it’s important to maintain one’s car. The warmer months also present some challenges to personal transportation and maintenance. Autotrader offers 10 tips for keeping one’s car – and its passengers – in good shape this summer:

  • Coolant system. Keeping cool is paramount, not just for ourselves but also for our cars. In addition to checking the level of coolant fluid in your car, inspect the state of the hoses and the coolant reservoir. Keep an eye out for leaks, especially at joints and connection points, such as where a hose connects to the engine block. Also, squeeze the hoses (when the engine is cool) every once in a while to make sure they feel firm and not excessively squishy or soft.
  • Engine belts. In most cars, there is a serpentine belt that runs between the alternator, the fan and several other components. The belt can deteriorate, become loose, squeal or even break for no apparent reason. Vigilant car owners can ensure the belt is in good condition and has the right amount of tension. If cracks appear in the belt or small pieces are missing, it’s time to replace it.
  • Be prepared for the next rainstorm. Worn wipers create nasty streaks across the windshield and can affect one’s vision while driving. Replacing them doesn’t cost much, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes a dealership will sell the wipers and install them for free while performing an oil change.
  • Other essential fluids. Check oil, brake, power steering and windshield-washer fluids regularly. These liquids are used and consumed continuously. Additionally, pay attention to how the brakes feel? Are they lacking in bite? Feeling a bit spongy? If so, new pads and a system bleed might be necessary. This is the kind of maintenance one should always have the mechanic or dealership take care of.
  • Air-conditioning system. Air-conditioning is a summer and early fall essential. Older systems sometimes leak Freon into the atmosphere. There are plenty of leak-sealing products and refrigerant rechargers available from hobbyist stores, as well as Walmart. Remember, if there’s not enough refrigerant in the system, it’s a sign of a leak. A qualified mechanic should fix the leak prior to recharging the air-conditioning system.
  • Air filter. Decomposing leaves from the previous winter can clog drainage points, windshield-washer nozzles or the car’s air filter. If so, it may be necessary to have these areas cleaned or replaced. Many newer cars also have pollen filters or cabin filtration systems, which can be easy to change. But, when in doubt, consult a qualified technician.
  • Tires absolutely need to be checked regularly and year round. Car owners should ensure the tire pressure is correct; the treads are free of stones, stray nails and the like; and that all four tires are in good condition. There should be no cracks or uneven wear, and the tires should have plenty of tread depth. And, it’s important to have a usable spare tire on hand and to know how to fix a flat.
  • Dashboard sunshade. When the car is in the sun, it makes sense to place a cover in the windshield to protect the dashboard against ultraviolet rays and help the cabin stay a little cooler. Some such covers have solar panels, which help keep the battery charged. Consider shades for the rear side windows, too, as they’ll provide some protection for backseat passengers and help prevent fading over time.
  • Clean the car. A dirty car windshield can diffuse incoming light, impeding one’s vision. Keeping the exterior clean also protects the paintwork from the sun’s rays, as well as any damage caused by birds and insects. After washing the car, it’s important to use a high-quality wax.
  • Driver and passengers. Especially in warmer weather, it’s important to ensure all passengers are properly hydrated. Before a long drive, make a list of everything you’re going to need, from sunglasses, hats, travel mugs, games for the kids, snacks, chargers for the phones and tablets, route planner, weather forecasts, emergency triangle to a flashlight and small tool kit. Schedule any necessary service before traveling and make sure your insurance and driver license are up to date.

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