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Mechanics set the record straight

2. All-season tires are as good as winter tires: FALSE.
In the old days, winter tires were knobby things with coarse textured treads. You'd put them on the back two wheels of your rear-wheel-drive car and they would help get you started. Today's high-tech snow tires offer greater control, stability and braking capabilities, so putting winter tires on all four wheels gives you more control when starting, stopping and taking corners.

"Winter tires for ice and snow performance are far superior than all-seasons," says Ralph Warner, director of operations of the Rubber Association of Canada. "With the new rubber technologies and compounds, winter tire compounds have a much better gripping capability in colder temperatures."

3. Restarting your engine is harder on the engine and uses more fuel than idling: FALSE.
Starting and stopping your engine has little impact on the starter motor or battery of today's vehicles. "Today's cars have pretty strong starters and good electrical systems," says Armour. "We need to think of gas mileage and the environment."

According to Natural Resources Canada, or NRC, component wear caused by restarting is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving -- far less than what sitting still costs you in gas.  In fact, the NRC recommends that if you're going to be stopped for 10 seconds or longer (except in traffic), it's best to turn your car off.  Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.

4. Filling your tires with nitrogen is better than using plain air: MAYBE.
Some studies have shown that filling your tires with nitrogen reduces gas consumption and improves tire life by maintaining an even tire pressure. Nitrogen molecules are larger than oxygen molecules so they don't leak through the tire walls as readily. Underinflated tires wear out faster, cost more money in gas and are a safety hazard.

But this added convenience will cost you between $5 and $10 to have each tire filled with nitrogen. Not every service station offers nitrogen and topping up with air negates the benefits.

So unless you're a racecar driver, you might want to stick to old-fashioned air. "I think it's one of those unnecessary things," says Kerr. "Spend your money on it if you really want to keep your tire pressure accurate. You're better off buying a good gauge."

Use that gauge to check your tire pressure once a month and keep tires filled according to the optimum pressure (not the maximum, which is the number found on the sidewall of the tire).

Treating your car right
To keep your car in tip-top shape, go to the real experts. "Talk to your service manager at the dealership or a good mechanic at a garage," says Kerr. Don't be afraid to ask questions as to what you should be doing or doing differently.

Ask them, "If it was your mother's car, what would you really have to do to make it safe to drive?" And keep the pantyhose in the lingerie drawer.

-- Posted: July 11, 2007
See Also
Spring car maintenance tips
Buying a car?
Winter tires 101
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