Weekly auto rail, with tire-care tips, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.

Tip of the Week

With temperatures dropping and school back in full swing, now is the time to get your car ready for cooler weather. Here's why the fall and winter can be so demanding on your tires, and how to stay safe throughout the seasons:

- Recover from summer: Following the busy summer driving season and numerous road trips, your tires may be a little tired. A study conducted by Hankook Tire America Corp found that 70 percent of Americans planned to take a road trip this past summer, with the average American logging approximately 725 miles on their vehicle. With increased wear and tear on your tires as a result of summer trips, the tread depth may not be what it used to be. Tires with unsatisfactory tread depth decrease the tire's traction in various road conditions and can potentially put you and your passengers at risk. Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch. You can easily check your tires' tread once a month by using the quarter test - place a quarter, head down into the tread of the tire. If George Washington's entire head is showing, your tread is too low.

- Air 'em up: Did you know tire pressure changes as the outdoor temperature does? For every 10degree change in temperature, your tires lose or gain 1 to 2 pounds of pressure, meaning as the hot summer weather gives way to a cooler fall, your tires will be losing air pressure. Add foliage, rain and slick driving conditions to the mix and it is even more essential to have the right tire pressure. Proper inflation maintains an even contact pressure of the tread to the road offering the performance the tire was designed to provide, while at the same time helping to prevent uneven wear. Proper inflation also reduces rolling resistance and quickly discharges heat that is generated. The correct tire inflation pressure for your vehicle can be found in the vehicle's owner's manual. While correct tire inflation is key to performance, it is also important to remember to not overinflate your tires. When tires are overinflated, they are more susceptible to road hazards and damage.

- Be safe … and save: Trips to college homecoming festivities, football games and Thanksgiving gatherings can also translate into some serious mileage on your vehicle's tires. If you're ready to replace your tires, choose an all-season tire. By minimizing wasted energy and improving fuel efficiency, lower rolling resistance tires can save you gas and money, while keeping the kids safe.

- ARA

The List

According to CNNMoney, here are the top hot SUVs:

1. Ford Explorer
2. Chevrolet Equinox
3. Ford Escape
4. Jeep Grand Cherokee
5. Dodge Durango

Did You Know

Honda recently recalled almost 1 million vehicles because of an electrical problem. The recall affects the Fit and CR-V models.

Car Q&A

Q: My husband would like a computer scan tool for checking trouble codes on our 1998 and 1991 cars. I asked the guys at the parts store and they said they had a scan tool for the 1996 and newer cars only. Can you suggest a scan tool that will work on both year cars?

A: You can buy a simple scan tool for $80 from Actron for the 1996 and newer and a separate scan tool for 1995 and down model years. The difference in the 1996 and newer vehicles is the generic diagnostic system called OBD2, and most 1995 and older vehicles system is called OBD1. You can go to actron.com and look at the scan tools. I have both of these scan tools, and once my neighbors use them they also go out and buy them. The Actron brand is a quality tool and simple to use. You can also reset the check-engine light (turn it off after the repair). For the professional and semi-professional and car clubs there is a model CP9580 that also is loaded with verified fixes for trouble codes, a big money saver.

- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist

GateHouse News Service