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Super Handyman: Keeping you car fine-tuned

Most of us own a car – some of us own more than one – and all of them usually are fairly expensive and are required on a daily basis, so it makes a lot of sense to take good care of yours. While we are not mechanics, we do have some simple maintenance tips that you can use to keep your investment on the road.

Browse your owner’s manual for specific instructions on your car.

Check your tires first. You can’t just read on the side of the tire how much PSI to put in your tires. Instead, look on the inside of your car door for the correct pressure for your tires, or check your owner’s manual. Use a good tire gauge to measure your tires, too.

Check your windshield wiper fluid and wiper blades. If the fluid is low, refill it. If the blades are worn or damaged, replace them. Applying a water repellent such as Rain-X is a great way to manage rain and snow on your windshield.

Check your radiator fluid, oil and transmission fluid according to your owner’s manual, and refill any that are low.

Check your paperwork. If you are required to carry insurance, is it up to date and on board? Is your car properly registered and inspected? Take care of this paperwork if you haven’t done so already.

It’s a good idea to check your lights, too. Check headlights, brake lights and turn signals, and replace any that aren’t working.

Clean your car inside and out. When it’s clean, you can apply a protective coating to help it resist dirt and help the car’s finish last longer. You can apply additional protection, such as an undercoating, to prevent damage from road salts, if you feel the need.

You should have a small emergency kit with you in each of your vehicles. You can buy one already stocked, or make one of your own. You need a can of

Fix-A-Flat or something similar, a flashlight, blanket, bottle of water, road flare or glow-in-the-dark sign, jack and emergency tire, radiator tape and a few simple tools such as screwdrivers and Vise-Grips.

Most of these things will take only a couple of hours to complete, so set aside some time just for this. In fact, you really ought to schedule a monthly appointment for your car to keep things in good working order. If you can’t do any of these things, ask a friend to help, or find a good mechanic to do the checks. It’s well worth it, in our opinion!

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Q: We used to have ivy growing on the brick of our home, but it has died back, and I want to remove the remnants of it. How can I get these little roots off the surface? – K.D.

A: Your best bet is going to be using a stiff-bristled brush and some trisodium phosphate, or TSP, which is available at your paint store. Wear protective gloves and goggles. You could try a power washer but caution needs to be taken around doors and windows.

Shoptalk

We get tons of mail and email asking us how to clean grout. And it can be really difficult. As it ages, it becomes more porous and starts absorbing liquids that can stain it – and once it’s stained, it’s practically impossible to clean thoroughly. The best approach is to clean it and then paint a new protective finish on to it with a special product made to stick to grout.

Polyblend is one brand that we’ve used, and their Grout Renew works really well. You do have to apply it to each individual grout line, but it will last a long time, can be used indoors or out, and even includes Microban, an antimicrobial protective solution. You also can use this if you just want to change the color of your grout, as it comes in four different colors.

To find out more, you can check it out at www.custombuildingproducts.com or at your local home center.

Got a question or a handy tip? Visit www.thesuperhandyman.com.