Holiday Gifts for Drivers

Do you still have some people to shop for on your Christmas list? Friends or family members who have you stumped for ideas? Consider an auto-related gift! Just about everyone drives, and sometimes items for the car are things people just don’t think to buy for themselves. If your loved ones own a car, they are likely to appreciate something from our list below. 

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Auto Service Gift Certificates

Let someone know you care about them by making it a little easier for them to stay safe on the road. Check with auto service pros in their area to see if they sell gift certificates. If you know someone who needs a new set of tires, a gift certificate from a local tire dealer will be a much appreciated gift!

Car Wash Coupons

Even those who prefer to do their own washing will appreciate having these in the winter. Keeping a clean car is especially important in the cold weather months when the roads are covered in salty slush.

Auto Mats

Custom fitted, all-season rubber floor mats are a great gift idea for pet owners, parents with small children, and anyone who likes to eat and drink on the go.

Car Parking Sensor System

Trying to park a large vehicle is a small or crowded garage can be very stressful. A car parking sensor system makes the job much easier and will help drivers avoid scratches and dings.

Car Vacuum

A quality portable vacuum cleaning makes keeping a clean ride so much easier. There are a variety of options available at a wide range of price points.

Car Windshield Snow Cover & Sun Shade Protector

Drivers who have their car parked outside all day will appreciate this all-season windshield protection. This easy-to-install protector keeps the car cool in the summer and free of ice and snow in the winter.

Emergency Kit and Folding Shovel

A roadside emergency kit is a great item to keep in the trunk along with a folding shovel. Too often drivers are not prepared for roadside problems, so this gift could be a lifesaver!

Digital Tire Pressure Monitor

Keeping tires properly inflated is essential for assuring safe driving and preserving tire tread. A digital tire pressure monitor makes checks easy. This is especially great for drivers of older cars, which may not have TPMS.

Portable Air Compressor

This is not only a great emergency item to keep in your car, a portable air compressor will be useful for filling a leaking tire until it can be fixed. It is also great for other jobs like inflating a camping mattress.

Car Cellphone Charger and Holder

Drivers who use their phones for GPS directions or like to make hands-free calls on the road might like a cell phone holder and a car charger. While some newer vehicles have built in phone connection technology, there are plenty of drivers who do not yet have that feature.

Here’s hoping your shopping goes smoothly, and that your holidays are merry and bright!

Auto Services – When You Should Leave it to the Professionals

The DIY approach can be great for a lot of the things you need to do to care for your vehicle. There are some services that you really should not tackle yourself, unless you are a trained and certified mechanic. If you do not have the education and experience needed to do the job right there is a good chance you will do more harm than good. 

DIY Auto Service

Aside from the matter of training, there is the issue of proper equipment. Most people do not have the costly and complex tools that are required to properly diagnose and repair today’s vehicles. Your local professional auto service technician is trained and equipped to perform all automotive services in an affordable and timely manner.

The following are a few examples of automotive services you should leave to the professionals:

Engine Diagnostics – Today’s advanced on-board automotive technology has greatly simplified the diagnosis of engine problems to a large degree, however the technology is not perfect, and it does not eliminate the need for human interpretation. Engine codes can be very general and require more sophisticated equipment to reveal the true source of the problem.

Tire Rotation – While it may seem simple to jack up your vehicle and change the tires around, not doing the job correctly could mean costly damage to your tires, or worse yet, it could result in losing a wheel at highway speeds and a life threatening auto accident. It is better to have a tire professional do the job. They have the training to not only do the job properly, but also to spot signs of uneven tread wear and tire damage.

Suspension Repairs – The suspension system of your vehicle provides stability to your vehicle’s steering system therefore it is critical to the safety of your vehicle. Any work you do or new components you install during a suspension repair could have a serious impact on suspension system performance and reliability.

When considering attempting an auto service task keep in mind this rule of thumb – “when in doubt, send it out”.  Call your local automotive services professional.

Be Thankful for Auto Safety

This is the time of year when everyone seems to be busy preparing for holiday celebrations. Thanksgiving Day is coming right up and soon we’ll be sitting around the dinner table with loved ones, enjoying great food, sharing memories, and reflecting on all those things that make us truly thankful. As you prepare for holiday travel, here is one more thing to be thankful for – auto safety.

Thanksgiving Road Trip

Auto travel has become an established and commonplace part of our lives. While we do think about driving safely and keeping our vehicles well-maintained, most of us probably take for granted the amazing auto safety features that have been designed specifically for our protection. Through the years, automotive manufacturers have invested heavily in the development of innovative safety features, which have saved countless lives on the road.

While you are counting your blessings around the table this year, this post has some auto safety trivia you can share with friends and family. We should all be thankful for these innovations:

Safety Belts

seat belts

Safety belts were first introduced as standard  by the Swedish automobile manufacturer, Saab, in 1958. Earlier, in 1946, California neurologist, Dr. C. Hunter Sheiden  first conceived of the idea of seat belts. His concern arose greatly from the high number of head injuries he saw in emergency rooms. His research was published in a 1955 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He proposed the retractable seat belt concept, as well as many other automotive safety measures. By 1968, the U. S. Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety Standard required that all vehicles, with the exception of buses, have seat belts installed in all designated seating positions.

Airbags

AirBags

American Industrial Engineer, John Hetrick was issued a United States patent in 1953 for the first of his airbag designs. His approach was to apply his experiences with compressed air from torpedoes during his service in the Navy to a device that would provide protection during automobile accidents. Although Hetrick worked with the major American automobile corporations at the time, the airbag concept’s first commercial use did not occur until 1971, when it was tested in a few Ford cars. By September 1, 1998, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 went into effect, and required that all cars and light trucks sold in the United States have air bags on both sides of the front seat.

Safety Glass Windows

windshield

The concept of shatter-resistant glass was discovered inadvertently in 1903 by the French chemist Edouard Benedictus. When he dropped a glass flask filled with a dried collodion film, he observed that the glass coated with the film cracked, but retained its shape. A few decades later this laminated glass began to be installed  in automobiles. In 1970, the U.S. government formed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since that time, four Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for automotive glass have been enacted, greatly improving driver and passenger safety during collisions.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Auto Safety – Teen Develops Promising Solution to the Blind Spot

Auto safety is always a great topic to discuss and recently there has been much buzz about a fourteen-year-old Pennsylvania student who invented a new vehicle safety feature that earned her a $25,000 prize. 

Teen Develops Blind Spot Solution

Over the decades, automobile design and engineering have made tremendous strides in terms of safety features, including strengthening of the vehicle frame to prevent vehicle collapse in the event of a rollover. Unfortunately, this strong A-frame design leads to serious visibility problems for drivers, as the A-frame pillars create “blind spots” in the driver’s viewable area. According to NHTSA data, nearly 840,000 accidents per year are related to blind spot issues.

Fourteen-year-old Alaina Gassler of West Grove, PA seems to have hit upon a viable solution to this issue with her blind spot reduction system, which makes the A-frame pillars in a vehicle effectively disappear! Alaina’s system employees the use of a webcam, a projector, a 3D printed adapter and retro-reflective fabric. It is demonstrated in the video below:

The invention, which she completed while in eighth grade, earned Alaina a grand prize of $25,000 from the Society for Science and the Public’s Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) science and engineering competition.

Congratulations to this incredible young woman on her achievement!

Snow Tires, Winter Tires, All-Season Tires. What’s the Difference?

winter roadDrivers who grew up in the North or Midwest regions of the U.S. are likely to have heard of “snow tires” and are probably familiar with the concept of making the seasonal tire swap. Today, snow tires are increasingly being referred to as “winter tires”. While conceptually the same, the term “winter tires” has become more of a general description than “snow tires”. Winter tires are engineered for all kinds of cold weather conditions, not just snow, so the term “winter tire” more accurately represents the road-gripping capabilities of these tires.

While the name may be a bit misleading, “all-season tires” are not the best choice for winter. Though they do provide good traction for mild conditions, all-season tires fail to offer the ice control, stopping power, and superior traction of winter tires.

Not sure if you need winter tires? 

Think about the weather in your region. Are winter conditions typically snowy or icy? Do you often find yourself waiting to leave until the roads in your area have been cleared? If so, then you probably do want to invest in a quality winter tire that provides superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. Winter tires do have the drawback of faster tread wear than all-season tires. Since the tread is designed to grip into snow and ice, and the softer rubber is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. Be sure to  change back to your all-season tires in the spring, and your winter tires should last for many seasons.

If you decide you do need to invest in winter tires, now is the time to shop for them. Retailers begin to stock the newest models of winter tires in the fall, so you will have the best selection. When shopping for winter tires, keep in mind that they have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. It assures you they have passed industry testing for severe snow use.

If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need in stock, you can typically order them. If you order in the fall, your retailer will most likely be able to install them, at your convenience, before the winter weather rolls in.

 

5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Tires Last Longer

tire on roadDriving on tires that are in good condition is critical to your safety and that of your passengers. If that was not reason enough to take good care of your tires, consider how much you spent on them. Wouldn’t you like to have them last as long as possible?

Like any other essential component of your vehicle, tires require proper care and maintenance to keep them performing safely, and to assure they provide optimal driving performance.

Did you know there are five easy things you can do to make sure your tires last as long as possible? Check out this list of simple ways to get the most out of your tire investment.

  1. Check tire inflation 

As underinflated tires meet the road, an additional load is placed on the shoulder of the tire, causing that area to wear prematurely. Underinflated tires also build up internal heat, which increases rolling resistance and in turn reduces fuel  economy. Tire air pressure should be checked monthly and it is best to consistently use the same tire gauge. Remember to check pressure when the car has been parked for at least a few hours so the tires are cool. Keep them inflated to the level recommended in your owner’s manual.

  1. Keep an eye on your tread wear

Most drivers don’t think to check tread wear unless they have driven through unavoidable debris. It is important, however, to inspect your tire tread regularly in order to catch wear trends before they cause major wear issues. Problems can be spotted by visual inspection or by running your hand over the tread and feeling it. Distortion in the tread, feathering, or cupping are all abnormalities you should watch for. If caught early, bad wear patterns can often be countered to extend the tire service life.

  1. Keep up on vehicle alignment service.

When unusual tread wear is spotted, poor vehicle alignment is often the culprit. Accelerated tread wear occurs on certain areas of the tire when they are unable to move in straight ahead position. Regular alignment keeps the vehicle from experiencing a variety of problems, including uneven and premature tread wear.

  1. Keep up on tire rotation service

Like alignment service, tire rotation should be performed on a consistent basis. Keeping up with scheduled tire rotation will promote even tread wear and extend tire service life.

  1. Inspect and replace wheel and suspension components  as necessary

While not something you may consider when you think of tires, wheel and suspension components can have a considerable impact on tire service life. An improperly torqued wheel bearing can cause improper tire wear, and worn shock absorbers can create depression wear on treads. Don’t wait until problems occur – replace shock absorbers and other suspension components on a regular schedule.

 

STOP! Pay Attention to Signs of Brake Problems

Stop for Brake ProblemsYour car’s brake system is highly complex, involving multiple integrated components, all of which are prone to wear and eventual failure. Brake problems can have serious and deadly consequences, so drivers need to pay attention to any indications of brake trouble. People often ignore the signs, thinking they do not have the time or money to deal with it. But when you think of all that is at stake if your brakes fail, you cannot afford to ignore any warning signs.

Today’s vehicles have many ways of letting you know that brake problems may be starting. Pay attention to brake problem warning signs and you can have brake problems fixed before they put the safety of you and your passengers in jeopardy.

Common Warning Signs of Brake Problems:

Strange Noises

If you hear a high, screeching sound when you apply your brakes, it might mean that your brake pads are excessively worn and need to be replaced.

When Braking Causes the Vehicle to Pull to One Side

When your car pulls to one side as you are braking, it could be an indication that the brake lining is wearing unevenly or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

Brake Pedal Feels Odd or Spongy

When you hit the brake pedal, it might feel spongy or sink to the floor. This could mean a leak in the braking system, such as an air leak in the brake hose or a brake fluid leak. A brake pedal that feels stiff or is difficult to press may indicate a blockage in the brake line or an issue in the vacuum system.

Excessive Vibration When Braking

You might notice excessive vibration in your brake pedal during breaking, similar to the vibration you feel when the anti-lock brakes feature engages. This vibration or pulsating can be an indication of warped rotors.

Jerking Sensation As Brakes are Applied

If you experience a grabbing or jerking feeling when applying the brakes, it could mean the rotor is unevenly worn or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

Along with these warning signs, the brake system service light on your car’s dashboard will illuminate if your on-board diagnostic system senses any problems. It can happen that service lights come on even when there is not a problem, if you see the brake service light up, you definitely should take your vehicle in for a brake system inspection.

What Happens During Tire Rotation Service?

Tire Rotation ServiceWhen your service technician rotates the tires on your car, typically the front tires are exchanged with the rear tires. In most cases the driver side tires stay on the driver side and the passenger side tires stay on that side, however with certain types of vehicles or tires this approach may vary.

Tire rotation service is an essential maintenance operation that over time will save you money by protecting your tire investment. Rotating your tires is so important because of the different ways front and rear tires wear. Front tires are subjected to much more pressure than rear tires, so the tread wears faster on the front tires. By rotating the tires, you can balance out the wear, getting the most out of all four tires, and making sure that all four tires have a safe amount of tread. This is why regular tire rotation also enhances driving safety. And as if safety were not reason enough to have regular tire rotations done, keep in mind that inconsistent tread wear can lead to poor performance and bad gas mileage.

Tire rotation service will keep your vehicle safe and to keep your tires properly maintained to get the most from them. Generally speaking, tire rotation is recommended every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. Your service manual will provide you with the best maintenance schedule for your particular make and model vehicle.

 

Back to School Road Safety

In most areas, kids are now back in school and you are seeing more school-related traffic on the roadways. This includes those dreaded school buses, which always seem to magically appear in front of you when you are running late. While sharing the road with school buses can be somewhat of a pain, try to keep in mind that buses play an essential role in the safe transportation of children. It is important to support them by knowing and obeying school bus traffic laws.

School Bus

According to the National Safety Council, school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation for students. They warn, however, that more children are hurt or killed outside of the bus when they fail to watch where they are going, or when a motorist does not pay attention and illegally passes a stopped school bus.

The council offers the following points to remind drivers of school traffic safety laws and procedures:

  • In all 50 states it is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children.
  • In all 50 states traffic in both directions is required to stop on undivided roadways when students are being picked up and dropped off.
  • State laws vary on divided roadway requirements, however in all cases, vehicles driving behind the bus, and moving in the same direction must stop when the bus does.
  • Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate the bus driver is preparing to stop to load or unload passengers. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals that the bus has stopped and children are exiting or entering the bus.
  • A required distance of 10 feet around a school bus must be observed to allow sufficient space for children getting on or off the bus.
  • Be on the lookout for children who may run or fail to observe safety rules when moving to and from the bus stop.
  • Drivers should never block crosswalks when waiting to turn or stopped for a red light.
  • In school zones be alert for warning flashers, and while you are in an active zone, be sure to yield the right-of-way to students crossing in the marked crosswalk.

To learn more about the laws in your area, see AAA’s summary of school bus traffic laws state by state

If your morning commute takes you through an area with school bus stops, just leave a little early so you won’t have to stress about delays. Remember, we are all sharing the same roadways, and it is up to each of us to keep the drive safe!

8 Checks to Help Your Vehicle Beat the Heat

Driving in the summer heat is rough on your vehicle, especially during road trips.  It is important for drivers to be aware of the punishing effects extreme heat can have their cars.

Help Your Vehicle Beat the Heat

One problem excessive heat can lead to is an overheated engine, which can compromise engine components and cause serious damage requiring expensive repairs. Engine overheating is also a dangerous situation that can quickly put you and your passengers in danger.  When the engine exceeds 230 degrees Fahrenheit, is overheated, and at temperatures above 245 degrees Fahrenheit, engine damage may result.  Make sure your vehicle’s cooling system working properly to avoid overheating.

Before you head off on your next long drive, take some time to review these eight checks to help your vehicle beat the heat:

  1. Batteries – Have your battery tested to be sure it is strong enough to endure the heat. People think of dead battery problems in the winter, but many do not realize hot summer temperatures can be just as rough on batteries.
  2. Tires– Keep your tires inflated to the pressure recommended for your vehicle. Soft, under-inflated tires generate heat, can result in a blowout.
  3. Coolant– Have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer as part of scheduled maintenance. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is usually required every two to five years.
  4. Radiator – Have your radiator checked to be sure it is in good condition and that the fluid level is correct. Another issue to watch for is a plugged radiator core. This problem can happen when coolant flushes are not performed.
  5. Cooling Fans – Cooling fans should be regularly checked to avoid engine problems. A cooling fan failure can lead to engine overheating problems. In some cases, trouble with the air conditioning system can be a sign that you have a cooling fan problem.
  6. Thermostat – Have your thermostat inspected. A bad thermostat is a common cause of engine overheating. A failing thermostat can also be indicated by the check engine light illuminating or the car heater not working.
  7. Water Pump – A compromised water pump will often cause a coolant leak, so if you notice the coolant level dropping at a faster rate, you should have it checked as soon as possible.
  8. Belts and Hoses – The belts and hoses in your cooling system should be checked to make sure they are tight and in good condition.  Cracks or deterioration of the rubber are signs of trouble.