web analytics

Archive | Auto Life

Top three auto repair red flags

RepairPal.com provides drivers with referrals to certified mechanics who do quality work at fair prices with no hidden fees.

RepairPal.com provides drivers with referrals to certified mechanics who do quality work at fair prices with no hidden fees.

(NAPS)—Finding an auto re-pair shop you can trust can be a challenge. Here are three warning signs to watch for on your next trip to the mechanic.

• While no one likes to be overcharged, beware of estimates that are well under market rate. This can be a sign the mechanic is using low-quality or even used parts. Some mechanics use lowball estimates to lure you in for additional repairs that they will tack on later.

• Automotive technology is rapidly evolving and some shops fail to keep up. Without up-to-date diagnostic tools, a mechanic could misdiagnose your problem, which means you’ll pay for unnecessary repairs that don’t even fix your original problem.

• If a mechanic employs scare tactics or treats you in a condescending way, move on. A reputable mechanic will take the time to explain your options just as a doctor guides you to make the right decision for your health.

Fortunately, there’s a free service called RepairPal that can help consumers find a trustworthy local mechanic. RepairPal independently certifies auto repair shops nationwide for superior training, quality tools, fair pricing standards and a minimum 12-month/12,000-mile warranty.

RepairPal also provides car owners with a tool that brings transparency to repair costs—the RepairPrice Estimator. Cited as a resource by Consumer Reports, AOL Autos and Cars.com, this patented calculator generates fair price quotes based on the user’s automobile, location, and the service requested. All mechanics in the RepairPal Certified shop network honor these estimates to give consumers peace of mind that they’ll never be overcharged.

To learn more, visit www.RepairPal.com/estimator.

Posted in Auto Life, FeaturedComments Off

July is vehicle theft protection month

Protect yourself from being a victim

During National Vehicle Theft Protection Month, the Michigan Automobile Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) is seeking to educate the public and raise awareness on auto theft and carjackings.

“July and August are the top months of the year for vehicle theft in Michigan and throughout the country,” said Mr. Dan Vartanian, executive director of ATPA. “Motorists can avoid becoming victims by taking some simple precautions.”

The ATPA suggests the following tips:

• Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.

• Keep your keys with you at all times. Never leave your keys in or on your vehicle.

• Close and lock all windows and doors when you park your vehicle.

• Always park in well-lit areas or in a garage, if possible.

• Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially in view.

Additional information on how to prevent becoming a victim can be found by visiting the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security at http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/rpt/19782.htm.

Since the inception of the ATPA in 1986, auto thefts in Michigan have decreased by over 65 percent.

The ATPA assesses the scope of the problem of automobile theft, analyzes various methods of combating the problem, establishes a plan for providing financial support to combat automobile theft and grants funds for theft prevention teams. The authority is governed by a seven-member board of directors appointed by the

Governor, which includes representatives of law enforcement, automobile insurers and consumers of automobile insurance. Each year the board awards grants to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices and nonprofit community organizations to prevent auto theft, catch auto thieves and put the thieves in jail.

For additional information about the authority, visit www.michigan.gov/atpa.

Posted in Auto LifeComments Off

Keeping your eyes (and tires) on the road

(BPT) – Have you ever thought about all of the distractions associated with driving? Weather, kids, pets, eating, cell phones, billboards, the radio and even a friend riding shotgun all compete for the driver’s ever-shrinking attention span.

Keep eyes and tires on roadSome distractions like cell phone usage—whether talking or texting—pose a greater risk than others in keeping the road a safe place. At any given time, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. are using their phone or other electronic device while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency. If that’s not scary enough, a study by the University of Utah reports the impairments associated with cell phone usage are similar to intoxicated drivers. In short, distracted drivers, much like drunk drivers, are more likely to drive aggressively, tailgate, hit the brakes harder, have slower reactions and cause accidents. Now more than ever, defensive driving has become critically important.

“One way to battle distracted driving is to be extra attentive to what’s around you as a driver,” says Andrew Briggs, director of marketing and product planning for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “Pay attention to what’s in front of you, behind you and to your sides. Keep enough distance between you and the other vehicles. Try to anticipate the action of the other drivers. These defensive driving techniques are already familiar to many of us, but practicing them in our daily driving, especially these days, can help determine whether one will be in an accident or avoid one.”

The ability to stop quickly or change lanes is another essential technique and that’s where your tires can play an important role. “Your tires are the only part of your vehicle that grips the road,” says Briggs. “The first line of defense, even before you get on the road, is to make sure that your tires are properly maintained. You always want to make certain your tires have enough tread depth to ensure ample traction.”

Checking your tires’ tread depth is easy, Briggs says. “Tires should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch to help prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Simply place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with at least that 2/32 of an inch that is a minimum amount of tread required. If you can see all of his head, you should buy new tires.”

Briggs offers more tips that will keep your tires road-ready:

* When the tires are cold (at least four hours after the vehicle has been driven), check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. Be sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep dirt out and a seal against water and foreign objects. The tires’ proper inflation level, as recommended by the car maker, can be found on a placard in the glove box, on the car door or in the owner’s manual.

* Check tire alignment once a year. Misaligned tires create unnecessary tire wear and lower mileage.

* Rotating your tires will prevent uneven wear and promote a better ride. Because the weight distribution on your car or truck can vary, it’s best to rotate your tires a few times a year, like every time you get your oil changed.

* Balancing act: Tires that are balanced correctly will give you a smoother ride and help prevent improper wear. You can get your tires balanced at the same time as your regularly-scheduled rotation.

For additional tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com or www.rma.org .

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Auto LifeComments Off

Running on empty: How far can you really go?

driving on empty(BPT) – Whether intentional or purely circumstantial, it’s likely that most experienced drivers have seen the low-fuel light illuminate their vehicle’s dashboard at least once. For some drivers, the fuel light is a source of anxiety as they search for the closest gas station. For others, it can be a bragging right, proudly boasting how far they push their gas tanks to the limit.

It’s no secret that an automobile can continue to run after the fuel light comes on, but should drivers rely on the extra mileage it allows?

It’s likely most drivers would agree that the fuel light often comes on at inopportune times. Stuck in traffic on a freeway; running late for an important appointment; or driving on a country road with no towns or gas stations in sight, is when drivers decide to push the fuel gauge past the ‘E’ signal.

Some popular car models can make it between 30 and 50 miles after the fuel light goes on, according to a study by Pick Analysis. The average Chevrolet Silverado will continue for about 33 miles beyond empty. Smaller cars like the Volkswagen Jetta average about 43 miles and the Toyota Corolla tops the list at 47 miles.

Knowing how far a vehicle can drive with low fuel may be reassuring, but the effects of low-fuel driving can be damaging to the car.

“When you’re running low on gas, it’s best not to push your luck,” says Neil Hoff, a refined fuels specialist with CHS, which supplies more than 1,400 Cenex branded gas stations. “Stopping to fill up before your gas gauge hits ‘E’ could save you stress, damage to your car and time spent on the side of the road.”

Hoff explains that by allowing a car to run on empty, dirt and contaminants are more likely to become suspended in the fuel and block the fuel filter. When fuel is extremely low, the fuel pump is no longer suspended in fuel and can overheat. In some cases, low fuel can even affect power steering and brakes.

To avoid an expensive trip to a mechanic, Hoff advises taking a proactive approach to fueling, advising drivers to always keep at least a quarter tank of gas in the tank at all times. Running out of gas in heavy traffic is not only inconvenient but also dangerous, so Hoff recommends fueling up before getting on highways or major roads. Also, becoming familiar with where gas stations are along a driving route will also help prevent running out of gas on long trips. Always keep a gas can in the trunk in case of emergencies.

“Keeping your car fueled is cheaper and safer, in the long run, than driving on empty,” Hoff says.

For more helpful automotive information, visit www.cenex.com.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Auto LifeComments Off

Tire maintenance is key to safe summer driving

 

As you head out on your next summer journey, take five and check your tires.

As you head out on your next summer journey, take five and check your tires.

(NAPS)—Tires are the only thing between you and the road, so it’s imperative motorists stay on top of tire maintenance. Proper tire maintenance is important all year, but especially in the summer months as the temperature starts heating up and the frequency of tire blowouts increases.

Improper tire care contributes to 195 fatalities and 6,300 injuries each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency also estimates that about 11,000 tire-related crashes occur annually. Simply checking your tire pressure can help you and your passengers stay safe during your next summer journey.

To get the most from your tires this summer, here are five maintenance tips from the world’s largest independent tire and wheel retailer—Discount Tire:

1. Get Pressure Right— Low tire pressure can decrease fuel economy. Tires may lose up to one pound PSI (per square inch) of air pressure per month. The specific inflation pressure number may be found on the vehicle placard located inside the driver’s door. Don’t forget those trailer tires. Checking the tire pressure for boat, travel and utility trailers is as important as your car or truck.

2. Don’t Overload—Overloading your vehicle or trailer decreases fuel economy due to increased cargo weight. Handling, control and braking are also negatively impacted.

3. Rotate Before You Go—Regular rotation helps achieve uniform tire wear and improves road performance. Tires rotated every 5,000 miles have longer life and will help maximize your tire investment.

4. Straighten Up—Proper wheel alignment provides safe, predictable vehicle control and helps tires wear evenly and last longer. If your tires squeal when you turn or if you notice your steering wheel veers to one side while driving straight, it’s time to get your wheels re-aligned.

5. Bald Isn’t Beautiful—Lack of tread affects the tire’s ability to grip the road, especially in wet conditions. Make sure tires don’t have uneven wear, which indicates something is wrong with the tire. High or low spots or unusually smooth areas may decrease traction and increase the risk of road accidents.

“Maintaining tire pressure is one of the most critical things motorists can do to improve road safety while getting the most from their tires,” said Mark Marrufo of Discount Tire. “Improperly in-flated tires lead to decreased steering and braking control as well as excessive tire wear and fuel consumption. Taking five minutes each month to inspect your tires will go a long way in keeping you and your passengers safe.”

A Five-Minute Fix

Checking tire pressure and tread is easy and can pay dividends when it comes to fuel economy and handling. Don’t go by appearances. Use a tire gauge to check the pressure since a tire can be 50 percent underinflated but still not appear flat.

Make it a habit to check tire pressure every month and always before a long journey. Use the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure and don’t forget to check the spare and trailer tires.

“Most people forget to check the pressure in the spare tire and come to find that when they need it, the spare is flat,” said Marrufo. “This simple check could keep you from a costly tow if you get stuck with a flat.”

Road trippers should also check tire tread depth by using the “penny test.” Insert a penny upside down into the tread. If you see Abe Lincoln’s entire head, it’s time to replace the tire.

To learn more about tire safety, visit www.discounttire.com.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Auto Life, FeaturedComments Off

Potholes pack a powerful punch

Potholes occur when water permeates the pavement—usually through a crack from wear and tear of traffic—and softens the soil beneath it, creating a depression in the surface of the street.

Potholes occur when water permeates the pavement—usually through a crack from wear and tear of traffic—and softens the soil beneath it, creating a depression in the surface of the street.

(NAPS)—Hitting a pothole can be more than a momentary jolt. While the tires and wheels should be visually inspected as soon as possible, you should know there could be damage to the steering, suspension and alignment systems that you can’t see. To help determine if hitting a pothole has damaged your vehicle, watch for these warning signs:

• Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These indicate that key safety-related systems—the steering and suspension—may have been damaged. They largely determine your car’s ride and handling. Key components are shocks and struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack or box, bearings, seals and hub units, and tie rod ends.

• Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear. These mean an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for safe handling and long-lasting tires.

• Low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. These problems should be checked out as soon as possible as tires are the critical connection between your car and the road.

“If you’ve hit a pothole and suspect that there may be damage to the tires, wheels, steering and suspension, or wheel alignment,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council, “it’s worth having a professional technician check out the car and make any necessary repairs.”

As a general rule of thumb, he advises, steering and suspension systems should be checked at least once a year and wheels should be aligned at the same interval. Motorists who drive in areas where potholes are common should be prepared to have these systems checked more frequently.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers.

Free Guide

For a copy of the council’s “Car Care Guide” or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.

 

Posted in Auto LifeComments Off

Clever tips and tricks to save on auto insurance

CAR-Tips-and-tricks(BPT) – Car insurance can take a bite out of your budget. On average, consumers shelled out nearly $800 for auto insurance for each vehicle in 2011, according to a recent report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. In some states, the annual cost to insure one car topped $1,100.

To cut insurance costs, the first thing to do is talk to your agent. Your agent can tell you about discounts and other painless ways to reduce your premiums, says Charles Valinotti, a senior vice president with insurer QBE North America.

“Insurance companies reward drivers for behaviors that reduce risk,” Valinotti says. “But you have to ask your agent which discounts and savings apply to your situation. You may be surprised to learn the number of ways you can lower your premiums.”

For example, if one of your teenage drivers earns As and Bs in school, you may be eligible for a good student discount, Valinotti says. You may also be eligible for a discount if your son or daughter attends college more than 100 miles from home, and does not have a car at school.

Other ways to save include:

* Owning two or more cars and covering them on one policy.

* Owning a vehicle that’s outfitted with safety equipment like anti-lock brakes, air bags or a security system.

* Having a passive anti-theft device, such as a “smart” chip embedded within a car key.

* Paying the full cost of the premium up front.

* Safe driving. Keep your driving record accident-free for 36 months.

* Buying your auto and homeowners, renters or condominium insurance from the same company.

Whatever you do, don’t cut corners with coverage. While it may be tempting, it is best not to buy a policy that offers bare bones coverage. A savvier way to save money would be to increase your deductible, Valinotti advises.

“Rather than buying minimal coverage, think about increasing your potential out-of-pocket cost if you have an accident,” Valinotti says. “If you can handle it, raising your deductible can lower your premium without reducing the amount of coverage on your vehicles. Your agent can tell you exactly how much you’ll save in premiums by choosing a higher deductible policy.”

Don’t focus strictly on cost when choosing an insurer. A company that offers auto insurance at rock bottom prices may not be your friend if it takes forever to handle claims. Do your homework on a company’s record of claims service before you buy coverage.

 

 

 

Posted in Auto Life, FeaturedComments Off

Turn to spring car care after rough winter

CAR-Car-care-month-be-car-care-aware

Many vehicles were neglected during the recent brutal winter months and could use a little extra care by now. The Car Care Council recommends that motorists follow three simple steps during National Car Care Month in April to get vehicles ready for the spring and summer driving season.

* Keep your vehicle clean. Regular car washes and waxes protect the paint and body of your car from corrosive debris. In parts of the country where salt is used on the roads, regularly washing is especially important.

* Keep your car on schedule. Every vehicle has a manufacturer recommended maintenance schedule. Whether you choose to do your own maintenance or patronize a local repair shop, following a routine service schedule is essential to keeping your car in safe and dependable working order.

* Keep an eye on the little things. Your windshield wipers aren’t cleaning as well as they should? Your gas tank is missing its cap? There’s a warning light on your dashboard?  When you see your car needs attention, don’t delay. Repairing small things now can help avoid more costly problems down the road and add years of useful vehicle life.

The Car Care Council offers many free tools on its website at www.carcare.org to help consumers drive smart, save money and be car care aware, including the popular 60-page Car Care Guide and a custom service schedule and email reminder service.

 

Posted in Auto LifeComments Off

Is your child’s car seat keeping them safe?

 

By Diana Barkey

 

One of the most important jobs as a parent is keeping your child safe. Reading up on the crucial subject of car seat safety is an effective way to keep your child safe inside a moving vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator (NHTSA) estimates that a properly installed car seat lowers a child’s risk of death by a shocking a shocking 71% for infants and by 54% for toddlers.

Since 1975, approximately 8,000 children ages 1 to 5 have been saved due to car seats. Thousands of children are injured or killed each year from car accidents. These statistics prove that keeping children safe inside a car is extremely important.

Everybody loves to get hand me downs when they have children. However, are car seats an acceptable hand me down to use? Sometimes car seats fail to protect children if the car seat has been in an accident, haven’t been properly taken care of or if the car seat is expired.

Typically in the United States car seats expire after six years but some expire anywhere from five to nine years. A great tip to remember is that the car seat expires from the time it was manufactured, not to be confused with the date the car seat was purchased.

Every car seat is different so be sure to read the user guide to find the expiration date. If for some reason the user guide has been misplaced, there will most likely be an expiration date stamped on the base of the car seat.

Car seats expire due to the fact that safety standards in the United States change over time. This is because as new and safer technology is developed, the old ones are dismissed. Secondly, the materials the seat is made from wear down. For example, the elasticity in a seat belt can potentially decrease if use is continued after a serious car accident or after the expiration date. Finally, car seats are only tested for a certain amount of time. Manufacturers do not test how well old car seats work in a serious accident.

A main concern for parents is the price of car seats and how to maintain up to date ones on a low budget. To save money, do not be fooled by the price tag. All car seats must be approved by the United States current car seat standards. If a more inexpensive seat is purchased, it won’t necessarily put your child in more danger than an expensive car seat would. Also, more expensive car seats don’t always have a longer life expectancy.

Ask yourself questions such as, “Has this car seat been in an accident?” “Are the labels still attached?” “Has this car seat been recalled?” and “Is this car seat expired?” Taking all of these questions into consideration will keep your children safer while in a vehicle.

Diana Barkey is in the early childhood program at Ferris State University.

 

 

Posted in Auto LifeComments (1)

April is Financial Literacy Month

What to know before buying or leasing a vehicle

CAR-Auto-Financing(StatePoint) Buying or leasing a vehicle is an exciting decision. For many consumers, it’s the first “big ticket” item they acquire. Knowing what to expect before making this important financial commitment will help you feel confident about your decision for years to come.

“To make wise decisions, it pays to understand the tools available to educate yourself on financing a vehicle,” says Mike Kane, vice president of Consumer Credit Operations at Ally Financial. “The internet has made it easy for shoppers to access these tools, which can help you get the most for your money during the financing process.”

This April, which is Financial Literacy Month, Kane is offering some auto finance tips to help you make sense of the process.

• Ways to Pay. There are a few different options when it comes to buying or leasing a vehicle, such as paying cash, getting a loan from a bank or credit union, or negotiating a retail contract or lease through a dealership. It’s important to choose the option that works best for you.  Visiting different dealerships is a way to learn more about the options available.

• What to look for. When financing the purchase of a vehicle, the total amount you pay during the term of the retail contract will depend on several factors including the price of the vehicle, the amount you finance and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR).

• The length of your retail contract matters. Retail contract terms typically range from two to six years, or longer. The longer you take to pay, the lower your payments will be, but your total cost to finance will increase. The length of your retail contract may also impact your options to trade in your vehicle, should you have an outstanding balance. Choose the terms that best fit your financial situation.

• Negotiation may be part of the transaction. The terms of the financing — such as the APR, vehicle selling price, down payment, monthly payment amount and term — may be negotiable with the dealership. Ask about any incentives the dealership offers, such as cash rebates or low APRs.

• Do your homework. Using free online tools like payment calculators or vehicle valuation guides will give you the information you need when it comes to negotiating with the dealer.

• Stick with your budget. There are ways to stay within your budget after all the negotiations are over as well. For example, once you have your vehicle, you’ll need insurance. To get a lower premium, consider increasing your insurance deductible, should it fit your financial situation.

For more auto-related financial advice and for free resources, visit www.allywalletwise.com.

Remember, there is no one “right” way to finance a vehicle; only a series of choices you can make to get the most for your money. If you’re planning to finance or lease a vehicle in the near future, improve your financial knowledge to better understand the process.

 

Posted in Auto LifeComments Off