Car Care Tip: Gridlock Driving

what is gridlock drivingIf you drive in busy urban areas, you have no doubt encountered your share of gridlock traffic. Even if you don’t live in town, passing through during high-traffic times is bound to make sure you are familiar with the phenomenon. What you might not know about this common feature of the American roadway is that it is one of the hardest kinds of driving for your vehicle to cope with. It’s not just gridlock, either. Stop-and-go driving and bumper-to-bumper traffic in general lead to the same kinds of issues, so areas where traffic lights stop you every block or two and vehicles queue up can cause the same kind of wear.

Why and How Gridlock Style Traffic Affects Your Vehicle

When your car is able to cruise at a somewhat consistent speed, it is making efficient use of the energy it generates, it’s maintaining lubrication throughout the engine consistently, and it’s also when your vehicle is most efficiently able to disperse heat. These three things are key to smooth, low-wear operation. When your driving situation dictates slower speeds with a lot of stop-and-go, then you wind up encountering the following challenges:

  • Lower airflow through the radiator, reducing cooling efficiency
  • Increased wear on the brake system
  • Increased transmission wear
  • Less consistent power generation through the alternator
  • Less ability to dissipate exhaust

On top of these issues, stop-and-go traffic is also riskier simply because of the amount of maneuvering it requires on the part of the driver. There are also trade-offs. For example, while you are not dissipating heat as efficiently, engines running at lower speeds tend to make less heat. Then again, engines surrounded by other heat-generating engines wind up contributing to hot zones that affect everybody.

Luckily, there are preventative maintenance tips specifically designed to help you keep an eye on the systems that wear more heavily during stop-and go-driving, so you can navigate bumper-to-bumper traffic with confidence.

How To Maintain a Car That Sees a Lot of Gridlock

The first thing you have to remember is that the more data you have about what’s going on with your car, the better equipped you are to make good decisions about how to take care of it. That means your first step in developing a consistent and high-quality maintenance plan should be an initial inspection from Sun Auto Service. Our ASE Certified technicians will go over each important system, check the performance of each of the vehicle’s fluids, and develop a plan for preventative maintenance that gets you up to speed.

When you are putting together your maintenance plan with the information from your inspection, you will want to plan for the following items in your rotation:

  • Oil changes
  • Tire rotation
  • Front end alignments as needed
  • Brake inspections and repairs
  • Fluid flushes
  • Filter and valve changes
  • Shocks and struts
  • Regular tune-up services, including spark plugs, distributor cap, etc. as needed
  • Tire replacement
  • Fuel injector cleaning
  • Suspension inspections

This list might look a bit daunting at first, but keep in mind that many of the items on the list only need to be done every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. That means that while you might need to make room for the expense of two or three items on the list being done at once, it’s likely that you won’t have to do it very often. Staying on top of the timing for each of these items is essential, though, as is planning for other preventative repairs like a timing belt replacement if your vehicle’s mileage indicates one.

Planning Your Maintenance Checklist

Understanding which of these items to prioritize means understanding the particular state of your vehicle’s repair at the moment. Before you can develop your own car maintenance checklist, you will need to talk to a Sun Auto Service technician about our inspection of your vehicle. The technician who looks your car over can advise you about the effect that stop and go driving has on your vehicle, including providing you with feedback about which maintenance concerns rate the highest priority for your vehicle’s health.

Don’t wait to start keeping your car in great shape, especially if you drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic regularly. Contact us today for an appointment.