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Archive | Auto Life

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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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Three easy DIY tips to maintain your vehicle

CAR-DIY-tips(BPT) – When it comes to vehicle maintenance there are two schools of practice: the “do it for me” and the “do it yourself.” The majority fall under the first category, meaning they opt to take their vehicle in for maintenance, mostly because having the ability to lift your vehicle for an oil change or having the proper tools for a tire rotation are not common in an average garage. We all know about the basic maintenance you should be doing like getting your oil changed and checking the belts and hoses for wear. But did you know there are other aspects of your vehicle you can easily maintain and, by doing so, will extend the life of your vehicle?

Spark plugs – The role of the spark plug is to ignite fuel in the cylinders. Spark plugs that aren’t working to their full capacity can reduce gas mileage or cause damage to other parts of the vehicle that can result in expensive repairs. If you choose to replace your own spark plugs instead of having the shop do it, the cost is less than $10 per spark plug.

Fuel injectors – Similar to spark plugs, fuel injectors are an important component to the life of your engine and car, particularly if you make a lot of short trips or have many miles on your vehicle. Fuel injector openings are half the size of a pinhole and can become blocked from sediment that gets into your vehicle via the gasoline. Why keep your fuel injectors clean? Driving with dirty fuel injectors can lead to poor acceleration, lower power, reduced fuel economy, rough idling and high carbon monoxide emissions. An easy way to maintain your fuel injectors is to use a fuel injector cleaner and stabilizer like Royal Purple’s Max-Clean. Use a bottle of Max-Clean by simply pouring it into your gas tank before your fill up at the gas station. Good for both gasoline and diesel vehicles, it can restore fuel economy and clean injectors.

Air filter – How often you change your air filter depends on where you drive. Regular travel in rural areas will require you to change your air filter more often than you would if the majority of your driving is on the highway. Driving with a dirty air filter can cause a pressure drop that restricts airflow, reducing fuel economy, performance and emissions. A good way to determine if your air filter is dirty is to remove it and hold it up to the light. If it is caked with dirt you should replace it. Shaking or blowing it out will not clean it, but only embed the dirt further into the fibers.

In addition to following a regular maintenance schedule for your vehicle, checking less thought of items can result in better fuel economy, and therefore result in money savings and longer life of your vehicle.

 

 

 

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Avoiding air bag fraud

It’s a good idea to check any used car for properly functioning air bags.

It’s a good idea to check any used car for properly functioning air bags.

(NAPS)—The next time you’re thinking of buying a used car, remember, what you don’t see can hurt you.

We’re talking about air bags. Be sure they’re present and working properly.

As many as 250,000 counterfeit air bags may have been used to replace deployed ones, according to the federal government. But that’s not all.

Air bag fraud also can involve:

• Stuffing things in the air bag compartment (newspaper, packing peanuts)

• Air bags found in junkyards

• Stolen air bags

• No air bags at all.

What To Do

Start by simply turning the ignition. If the air bag indicator doesn’t come on at all or stays on, there may be a problem.

Also, check Carfax for reported accidents and air bag deployments, and get a mechanic’s inspection.

Learn More

For further facts and reports, visit www.carfax.com.

 

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How to extend the life of your car or truck

Following your manufacturer’s recommendations can help you extend the life of your vehicle.

Following your manufacturer’s recommendations can help you extend the life of your vehicle.

(StatePoint) Your vehicle is one of your biggest investments, so taking care of your car or truck just makes good sense.

While regular wear and tear cannot be avoided over time, there are some important steps you can take to keep your vehicle on the road longer:

Wash Your Car

Regularly washing your car may keep you riding in style, but a clean vehicle is not just for appearances.

Keeping your car or truck clean and free of debris and detrimental road salt will prevent rusting and costly repairs down the line.

Oil Changes and Filters

To protect your engine, follow your manufacturer’s recommended oil change intervals. Instead of conventional oil, consider using high performance synthetic motor oil designed to reduce wear, heat and fuel consumption.

Just like motor oil, not all oil filters are of the same quality — filters can be classified as “economy,” “better,” and “best. Since the oil filter prevents contaminants from circulating through the system and causing damage, opting for a premium oil filter will extend the life of your vehicle.

For example, Royal Purple oil filters use micro-glass filter technology. Advanced micro-glass oil filters are designed to extend the life of vehicles and equipment. In addition to superior filtration media, the other internal and structural components are of higher quality materials, making for easier installation and removal as they are much less prone to crush while installing or removing.

More information on motor oil and filters can be found at www.RoyalPurpleConsumer.com.

Smoother Driving

The way you drive can affect your vehicle’s performance and longevity. Take care to accelerate and decelerate smoothly. Not only will you increase your fuel economy, but you’ll extend the life of your brake pads.

Avoid feel-good driving maneuvers like revving the engine and try not to drive on a nearly empty gas tank. Neither of these behaviors is good for your engine, and could result in costly repairs.

By following a maintenance routine and practicing good driving habits, you can extend the life of your vehicle well after driving it off the lot.

 

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New laws emerge as technology impacts cars and driving

CAR-Technology(BPT) – Have you ever felt that new technologies, from smartphones to Internet apps, are moving so fast that it’s hard to keep up?

You’re not alone. Many Americans feel overwhelmed by new technology. One-third of adults in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and China said they felt overwhelmed by technology in a 2011 study conducted by the University of Cambridge.

As it relates to public policy, lawmakers may also be feeling overwhelmed as they try to keep up with researching, writing and passing legislation to regulate new technologies to maintain public safety or prevent the invasion of privacy. According to the WestlawNext, the leading online legal research service, more than 100,000 new or changed statutes, 160,000 new or modified regulations and 285,000 new judicial opinions were incorporated into the U.S. legal system in 2013.

“New technology can create a debate,” says Rachel Utter, manager of Legal Editorial Operations at Thomson Reuters. “As regulators come to understand the impact of a new technology on our day-to-day lives, they may be challenged with balancing the benefits of a new technology with public safety concerns. In some cases, such as fuel mileage mandates, government regulation can force the development of new technology, such as hybrid engines and electric cars.”

Among the new wave of enacted or proposed legislation involving technology and cars conducted via WestlawNext through Jan. 30, some of the most prominent include:

* Texting and driving – Forty-one states and the District of Columbia ban texting with smartphones and cellphones for all drivers – and all but four have primary enforcement, allowing law enforcement in those four states to only ticket someone for texting while driving if they were stopped for another reason such as speeding.

* Wearable technology – With the recent introduction of Google Glass and other evolving wearable technology such as the smart watches and smart contact lenses, lawmakers may need to develop new laws about the use of these technologies while a person operates a motor vehicle. Ten states – Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming – have enacted or have proposed legislation prohibiting the use of wearable computers with a head-mounted display while driving. In October 2013, a California woman may have been the first person in the United States to receive a citation for operating a motor vehicle while wearing Google Glass. The citation was later thrown out of court.

* Black boxes – Nearly all recently manufactured U.S. cars and trucks are equipped with an Event Data Recorder (EDR), also known as a black box. In September 2014, this piece of computing technology will become mandatory in all new U.S. vehicles. The EDR monitors a vehicle’s electrical systems, which includes speed, braking, driving patterns and even location at any given time. A number of legal questions have emerged about black boxes, such as: “Who owns the data that a vehicle’s black box is gathering? If a car owner is involved in a crash, do police and insurance companies have the right to review the data in the vehicle’s EDR? Can marketers buy the data to deliver ads through the vehicle’s entertainment system?” These questions are at the heart of a recent bill introduced by senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

* Driverless cars – Imagine a day when people travel by car, but don’t actually drive the car. They simply type in their destination and go. Several states have passed laws allowing automated cars. California, Florida, Nevada and the District of Columbia allow autonomous vehicles to be driven on public roads. Washington D.C. may have the least restrictive provisions: the vehicle must have a manual override feature, a driver must be in the control seat with the ability to take over operation of the vehicle, and the vehicle must be capable of operating in compliance with the District’s traffic and motor vehicle laws.

“Technology, whether implemented into how automobiles are designed or operated, has made significant contributions in making vehicles safer,” says Utter. “And as new technology is integrated, there will be questions, concerns and debate driving new regulation and legislation.”

To learn more about WestlawNext, visit www.thomsonreuters.com.

 

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MDOT warns motorists, private plows of winter hazards

CAR-Fast-FactsA private snowplow pushes snow into a state highway, causing a public plow to crash and roll over, injuring the driver. Meanwhile, in another area a motorist disregards winter conditions, traveling too fast and crashes into the rear of a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plow, disabling it.

Those are just two cases of hazardous actions in winter resulting in crashes earlier this month in Michigan, and in both cases taking two winter maintenance vehicles out of commission.

“Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and excessive speeds greatly reduce the margin of error in winter driving,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We implore private plow operators and motorists to be extra cautious, and avoid doing anything that adds to the hazards of winter driving or roadway maintenance.”

Two main concerns are when residents and businesses pile snow at the ends of driveways along the highway shoulder, and when snow is pushed across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface.

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits depositing “snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway,” and “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.” This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway. Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can create an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel.

Motorists also should be particularly careful around winter maintenance snowplows and salt trucks. These large, powerful vehicles may be traveling at slower speeds than vehicles around them, and may be obscured by blowing snow.

“For your safety and the safety of our operators, it’s important to give snowplows a buffer to do their work,” Steudle said.

Some tips for motorists encountering snowplows:

• Snowplows have limited visibility and drivers cannot see directly behind their trucks;

• Snowplows often throw up clouds of snow behind them, reducing visibility for drivers following behind them;

• Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash; and

• MDOT snowplows throughout Michigan will be driving at 25 mph when applying salt, which helps keep more salt on the roadway driving lanes where it is most effective. Snowplows may travel at up to 45 mph when plowing only.

MDOT says: Drive like you want to make it home tonight.

 

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