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Dear Car Coach: I was driving down the highway behind a truck full of gravel, and a piece flew off and nicked my window. I definitely don’t have money for a new windshield, and right now the damage is just a small little divot in the glass. What can I do to ensure that this won’t spread into a full-blown crack? – S.A.

Dear S.A.: You’ve seen the guys in the mall asking you if have a chip in your glass. Now you can buy a repair kit in stores for about $10 and repair it yourself. Don’t wait or it may turn to a crack and then you’re done. If you have glass coverage on your auto insurance, a chip can be repaired for free and if it does turn to a crack they can replace the windshield. Believe it or not the windshield is an integral part of your safety and is an essential part of your car’s overall structural integrity which is why you should have it repaired or replaced as soon as you discover any damage. The windshield keeps the roof from crushing in on you in a rollover, it allows the airbags to deploy in the correct position to cushion passengers, and prevents you and your family from being ejected in a serious collision. It’s important to your family’s safety that the auto glass in your vehicle be installed properly.

When you do get the windshield repaired or replaced, look for a yellow AGRSS decal or sign. The Auto Glass Safety Council is an accredited American National Standards Institute standards development organization. The council was founded and is supported by auto glass companies and other organizations that keep vehicle safety as their primary goal.

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Dear Car Coach: How does a driver know when it’s time to go shopping for new tires? – B.R.

Dear B.R.: It’s important to check your tire pressure once a month, at the same time you should visually inspect the tires. If they appear to be worn unevenly and one side is bald or looks dramatically different from the other side of the tire, you will need new tires. This is also a sign of a misalignment of the wheels. Another way to tell if you need new tires is the quarter test; just take a quarter and place Washington’s head directly into the tread. If you can see the top of his head, in at least one location, you need new tires.

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Dear Car Coach: What is extended life coolant? When I bought my new car, the sales guy told me I never had to worry about it. I’ve had the car a few years now. Can you tell me? – P.T.

Dear P.T.: No fluids are good forever and all cars will require some form of maintenance to the nine fluids used in all automobiles. Extended life antifreeze/coolants use organic acid technology (OAT) to improve long-term corrosion protection. They generally carry a five-year or 150,000 mile cooling system warranty depending on the auto manufacturer. If a vehicle comes with extended life antifreeze/coolant, continue using it to maintain the extended life protection. For example, many General Motors vehicles are factory-filled with OAT antifreeze/coolant, so consumers who drive these vehicles should continue to use an extended life antifreeze/coolant that meets GM DEX-COOL® specifications. If you need to top off any radiator, you can also purchase an extended life 5/150 Antifreeze/Coolant at any auto parts store or mass merchandiser. Read the labels and look for a brand that will work with your car.

If you don’t have long-life coolant or are not sure, you should have your coolant/antifreeze checked every six months and changed every one to two years, depending on the vehicle’s recommended change intervals and on driving conditions. As many do it yourselfers (DIYers) know, the more stop and go and extreme the driving conditions are, the more frequently antifreeze needs to be checked, topped off and possibly changed. Of course, for new vehicles under warranty you should always follow your owner’s manual recommendations.

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Dear Car Coach: Are there any common household items that can be used to clean my car? – H.F.

Dear H.F.: Never use home cleaning products on your car. Use car products. There are few exceptions. Glass cleaner and old newspaper are a great way to clean glass. Use a vacuum to clean the carpets, but never use home interior cleaner in a car as it can take the color out of plastics, destroy the carpet and take labeling off controls. As for the paint, NEVER use dish soap as it strips the waxes and dulls the paint.