Car maintenance made easy with simple tips from “Top Gear USA” host Rutledge Wood

Everyone knows car maintenance is important, but if you’re not a gear head – someone who loves working on vehicles – the idea of doing routine car maintenance can be very intimidating.

Whether on the set of “Top Gear,” at NASCAR races or just in my garage at home, I’m fortunate enough to be around cars a lot. I love driving them, repairing them and tinkering with them. However, for a lot of people, cars can be a confusing and even intimidating piece of machinery to work on.

To help people feel more comfortable in maintaining their vehicles, here are some simple tips that can make anyone feel like a gear head.

Change your oil

While many don’t find the prospect of being under a car messing with greasy filters their idea of a fun Sunday afternoon, changing a car’s oil isn’t as daunting a task as it seems.

1. Make sure your engine is cool before you start, then safely jack up your car and support it with jack stands. Lay a piece of cardboard under the engine, just in case you spill any oil.

2. Position a recycling container under the oil pan that’s on the bottom of your engine, then undo the drain plug and let the old oil pour into it. When the old oil’s out, put the drain plug back on and tighten it to your car’s torque specification.

3. Next, remove your old oil filter using an oil filter wrench; turn the filter counterclockwise until it’s free, but watch out you don’t spill the old oil that’s still in it. Make sure the rubber gasket comes out with the old filter.

4. Then, taking your new oil filter, lubricate the rubber gasket with some new oil and fill the new oil filter with oil to about two-thirds full.

5. Carefully screw the new oil filter clockwise into place (holding it upright); tighten only as much as you can with one hand, don’t overdo it or else it can cause a leak.

6. Now it’s time to fill the engine with oil, so unscrew the oil fill cap on the topside of the engine and insert your funnel. It’s smart to check your owner’s manual to find out how much oil your engine holds if you’re unsure, then pour a little more than three-fourths that amount into the engine.

7. Finally, start your vehicle and let it run for about a minute. During that minute, take a peek underneath to make sure you don’t have any leaks. After a minute, turn off you vehicle and check the oil level on the dipstick, adding more if necessary.

I use and recommend Valvoline NextGen Oil. It works great, and since it’s made with 50 percent recycled oil, it’s good for the environment as well. To sweeten the deal, they’ve even come out with a Close the Loop program where they’ll give you a $20 mail-in offer if you return your used oil at participating auto parts stores and buy five quarts of NextGen for your next oil change.

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NASCAR at Night: Bullz-Eye’s time at the Bank of America 500

When you think of NASCAR, you think of a few key images. First, there must be loud, fast, heavily stickered cars careening around an oval. Secondly, the race will probably take place somewhere in the south. And finally, there must be enough flowing Budweiser and blaring country music twang to annoy Toby Keith. Yes, these are stereotypes, but no one ever mentions just how much fun a NASCAR event is because of it. Bullz-Eye went to the Bank of America 500 in Charlotte as a guest of Valvoline to witness this circus in person.

NASCAR races, like horror movies, are better at night. The reason is the same, drama. The noises seem louder, the speed seems more intense, and the crowds become more restless with anticipation. And really it is the fans that make these events what they are. Their blind devotion to single drivers makes the most ardent sports team fan blush. Depending on their favorite driver’s success in the rest, certain sections of the track may be in utter despair and crazed happiness at the same time.

The venue is also crucial. Charlotte can be described as one of the cradles of NASCAR. This southern city not only contains the track, but the Roush Racing Team as well. With its southern charm, fantastic barbeque, and good times vibe, the city is the embodiment of NASCAR’s attitude.

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Product Spotlight: Valvoline NextGen

Car guys get a bad rap when it comes to being seen as “green.” The public at large sees us as a group of people who would love nothing more than to suckle the last drop of oil out of the earth to in order to be able to do burnouts in front of church that much longer. However, in many ways, car guys are the original environmentalists.

What person do you know threatens his bank account and relationships over recycling? Definitely not Mr. Toms shoe wearing compost maker down the block. He’ll toss his compost pile, and everything nature friendly, right down the drain if they slightly inconvenience him, but not car guys. We will go to absurd lengths just to keep our cars on the road. Restoration is nothing more than a nicer word for recycling. And to help keep our cars on the road a little longer, as well as the resources needed to run them, Valvoline has released its line of NextGen oil; the first commercially viable oil that uses 50% recycled oil.

Valvoline recently invited Bullz-Eye down to North Carolina to showcase this new product, and how it is being used in everything from the car in your driveway to the cars on racetrack.

When you hear “recycled” oil you might be under the assumption that it is inferior to new oil. However. Valvoline explains that it is the additives in the oil that get used up during its lifetime, and that the actual oil is fine. If you take the spent additives out of the oil, and do some refining, you get the same quality product as you had the first time around, but you didn’t have to drill it out of the ground again. All that needs to be added after that are some new additives and its ready for your car once again.

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