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Extreme Driving for an Extreme Society

Tips to Keep Your Vehicle Running Smooth in the Extreme

Extreme. Who knew a word would spawn into a cultural craze. Whether it is the XFL, the X-Games or the extreme driving conditions your car battles every day, our society is obsessed with pushing things to the edge. Extreme auto driving involves the non-stop, no-holds barred, anything goes, danger-filled, freeway-laden vacations that many of us will take this summer. These taxing conditions take a toll on drivers and their towing vehicles. 

To make sure your machine maintains the well-oiled, finely tuned levels of performance you demand, there are a few essential steps to take.

Cross Training for RVs, TowCars — Above/Below the Hood
Ensuring that your recreational vehicle (RV) is performance ready takes care and maintenance, and the most obvious place to begin is its exterior. Regular cleaning, washing and waxing can prevent rust, limit wear and tear, and keep an RV looking newer, longer. Another essential activity to maintain your vacation vehicle is changing the windshield wipers. Because you can't control when Mother Nature strikes, windshield wipers that smear and streak could cost you not simply a few seconds on your trip, but more importantly, your life. There is no official change schedule for windshield wipers, but a good rule of thumb is to replace your windshield wipers at least once a year.

It's not as easy, however, to see what is going on under the hood, where oil is the lifeblood of your engine.If your vehicle is used strictly for long stretches of towing, I suggest using a motor oil designed for extreme conditions. For gasoline-fired engines, Valvoline's VR1 Racing Synthetic Motor Oil, which is used by NASCAR racing teams, has been tested and proven under the toughest racing conditions. VR1 Racing Synthetic Motor Oil has a high-performance, anti-wear additive to maximize the protection of your engine, as well as superior thermal breakdown resistance to stand up to the extreme temperatures that may occur during race day. This ultra protection is just as useful when your RV is pulling up those big hills as you head into the mountains or as you and it bake in the stop-and-go shore traffic, with lots of air conditioner stress, accelerations and idling time. For diesel fueled engines, I suggest Valvoline Premium Blue motor oil. It was developed for the grueling hauls of big trucks.

If you drive your RV or tow with your car or truck under normal city and freeway conditions, I suggest using Valvoline's SynPower Full Synthetic Motor Oil. This is a premium, fully synthetic motor oil that meets the performance requirements of virtually all naturally aspirated, turbocharged and supercharged fueled gasoline vehicles operating in North America.

It's also important to clean the fuel system of your engine.  You can't see it, but gum and deposits can accumulate on the throttle body, intake valves, fuel injectors, and combustion chamber. Fuel system cleaners, such as SynPower Complete Fuel System Treatment, can make a big difference to your car's performance by dissolving deposits on gasoline fired engines to restore lost power and eliminate hesitation, rough idle, and other ills. 

Don't Push Your Car to the Extreme
Now your engine is running smoothly and your vehicle is gleaming, but don't forget that extreme driving conditions also require that you constantly monitor your vehicle. Just as a play-by-play announcer watches and reports all the details in extreme football, you need to analyze how your tow vehicle handles all conditions. 

Before you head for the highway, be sure to inspect your brakes for any signs of wear and tear. Normally, brakes deteriorate gradually with wear, and a brake's life depends on a variety of factors, including driving conditions, driving style, terrain, and climate. Extreme driving can put a tremendous amount of stress on your brakes. If you hear a "screaming" noise while driving, your car may be warning you to replace the brake pads. To be safe and avoid brake rotor wear, you should replace them immediately. And if you hear strange sounds or feel the steering wheel pull when you apply the brakes, take this warning sign seriously.

Aside from paying close attention to your brakes, be sure to listen for any sounds that are out of the ordinary. Those tinkers and squeaks, tatters and rattles usually indicate that something is broken or wearing down, and it would be a good idea to have a local mechanic give your vehicle a once-over before you hit the highway.

On Your Marks, Get Set, Go..
Now you've got a clean, mean, fast-driving towing machine, and you're ready to hit the track. Whether it's the Daytona 500 or Route 66, if you follow the guidelines above, you'll be sure to cross the finish line without having your vehicle go to the "extreme."

Fran Lockwood is the Vice President of Technology and Product Development for The Valvoline Company.  Readers can write to Dr. Lockwood with questions or request the free "Complete Motor Oil Guide" at: Dr. Fran Lockwood, Valvoline, 200 East Randolph Drive, 63rd Floor, Chicago, IL, 60601.  Questions will not be answered individually, but may be featured in columns.