Tire Tips

Your tires are the only part of the car that has direct contact with the road. Tires affect your vehicle handling, ride, braking, and safety. For optimum performance, tires must have the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance and the wheels of the vehicle must be properly aligned.

For optimum performance, tires must have the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance and the wheels of the vehicle must be properly aligned. Checking your tires on a regular basis is an important step in protecting your safety and your automotive investment. Ideally, tire inspections should be performed monthly.


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Save Gas With These Tips

1. Slow Down
This is simple and will do wonders for your fuel economy. Many people drive 5 to 10 miles above the posted speed limit, especially on the highway. While this will get you to your destination a little faster, it can really decrease your gas mileage. Driving the speed limit will help you to conserve fuel. It may get you to your destination a few minutes later but you can plan for this by leaving a few minutes earlier.

2. Keep your tires properly inflated
The phrase “rolling resistance” refers to the friction created when the tires of your car roll along the road. When it comes to saving gas, you want your tires’ rolling resistance to be as low as possible. Lower resistance = less friction = less fuel consumption. You can keep your rolling resistance low by regularly checking your tire pressure and filling your tires with air when the air pressure is low. The tire pressure should especially be checked when the temperature has dropped because tires can lose 1 to 2 lbs. of air pressure for every 10°F the temperature drops outside

3. Clean out your car
Having a dirty car may not seem like a recipe for more repeat trips to the pump but getting all the excess weight out of your car will let you squeeze every last bit of fuel economy from your vehicle. Also, all the little things you keep in your car that may not weigh much on their own – a bag of golf clubs or a stroller, for example – can add up to significant unnecessary weight if they are sitting in your car together all the time.

4. Have your car maintained regularly
Whether it’s getting your oil changed on time, replacing your air filter, or having a tune-up done, making sure your vehicle is properly maintained is key to saving money at the pump. Simply replacing your air filter on a regular basis can improve engine performance and gas mileage. Also, using the right grade of motor oil and having your oil changed on time can result in an increase in fuel economy. Add a simple tune-up and your gas mileage could be boosted by 4%. This goes to show you that properly maintaining your vehicle can pay off in the long run.

5. Be smart about when you fill up
There is no reason to top off your tank between fill-ups. Wait until you have a quarter tank of gas to refill it. This gives you time to find a good deal on your next refill and you can benefit from hauling around less fuel (i.e. less weight) while you do. Also, when you do hit the pump, fill up your vehicle all the way. Spending $10 here and $20 there might seem like you’re saving money but you are actually wasting fuel and time driving to the gas station more frequently.

6. Drive smarter, not harder
Only drive as much as you need to. If you can combine trips, do it. If you can carpool, even better. If parking spots are scarce, take the first one you find. If you can take the bus or train to work and it is cheaper than driving, do it. If you can ride a bicycle or walk to your destination, get some exercise while saving gas. If you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, take a lesson from the trucks – ever notice how they don’t stop and go but keep rolling at a very slow, leisurely pace? They do that so they don’t have to keep switching gears (most trucks have manual transmissions) but it also saves gas because it takes less fuel to keep a vehicle moving than it does to take off from a full stop.

7. Know when to run the air conditioner
It has been said by many that running the air conditioner can burn through gas quickly. This is true only if you are doing city driving or are in stop-and-go traffic. If you are not driving on the highway, by all means, open the windows instead of running the A/C. If you are driving on the highway, running the air conditioner is fine. Keeping the windows up and the A/C on while on the highway cuts way down on wind resistance, thus burning less gas.

8. Drive more efficiently
It can be tempting to put the pedal to the metal when the light turns green but doing that can empty your gas tank quicker than you think. Studies have shown that accelerating moderately and stopping gradually may cut gas consumption by as much as 35%. Some experts even suggest that, when a light turns green, you should take your foot off the brake, let the car get to its coasting speed on its own (if the vehicle has an automatic transmission), and then accelerate. It only takes a few extra seconds and could help you save gas.

9. Map it out
Technology has gotten to the point where it can help you save gas. Before you take a trip, use a map app or a mapping website to calculate the shortest and fastest route to your destination. If you do it right before you leave, you can even check the traffic to see if you might get stuck. If traffic is heavy, you can adjust your route accordingly.

10. Be a frugal shopper
When looking for a place to fill up, be choosy. It is perfectly reasonable to look for a gas station with the lowest price. You don’t have to drive around to do it either. Thanks to advances in technology, you can now use a smartphone to look up gas prices with cheap-gas-finding apps. If you don’t have a smartphone, there are quite a few websites that can help you find places to buy less expensive fuel. Another thing to be on the lookout for is gas stations that charge you more to pay with a credit card than cash. Keep some cash on you or hit an ATM before filling up to avoid being charged more.

Tips On How To Change Your Tires

It’s inevitable: If you drive a vehicle often, sooner or later you’re going to get a flat tire. While advances in tire technology have reduced the likelihood of experiencing random catastrophic tire failure, road hazards like nails, glass, and cavernous potholes are still omnipresent and capable of inflicting punctures severe enough to ruin your day. But we’re here to help. Follow the steps below to get back on the road as quickly and safely as possible.

Know Before You Go: Check your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s proper tire-changing procedure so that you’re familiar before you have a flat. Then do a quick rundown of all the required tools and supplies. Common items include a jack, lug wrench—some double as the jack handle—and obviously a spare tire. Most passenger vehicles now have a small, space-saving “doughnut” spare tire, although some still come equipped with full-size spare; others have a can of tire sealant and an air compressor. Whatever the case, remember that the doughnut or sealant generally have very specific speed and mileage restrictions, and are intended only as stopgap measures to get you to a service center. And don’t forget to check the spare’s inflation pressure whenever you check your other tires.

Add Some Kit: Consider packing a couple of reflective safety triangles, a tire-pressure gauge, wheel chocks—a wedge of old lumber will do the trick—a blanket, some rags, and a packet or two of hand cleaner. While changing a tire is a hassle, there’s no need to be dirty or unsafe.

Before You Jack It: OK, now it’s happened: You have a flat. Once you ease the vehicle to the side of road and turn on your hazard lights, grab those safety triangles and position them on the shoulder a decent distance behind the vehicle. Make sure the car is in park and the emergency brake is set. Remove the tools and spare from their storage places, and pop off a hubcap if required. Unless your vehicle has had a recent service, it’s likely the lug nuts (or lug bolts) will be a little snug, either from rust or previous installation by 800-pound impact-wrench-wielding gorilla. For this reason, it’s a good idea to loosen them before jacking up the car to keep the wheel from spinning as you flail away in vain. Get them loose, but don’t remove them completely; you want the wheel to stay on the studs when you lift the car,    lest it remove itself onto your foot.

Technically You’re Changing the Wheel, Not Just the Tire: Don’t be intimidated by the sometimes flimsy-looking factory jack; they might not be NASCAR pit-lane ready, but they’ll get the job done. Chock at least one other wheel—usually the one diagonal from the flat—and place the jack under the car. Most manufacturers have very specific “lifting points” for jack placement, and if you read your manual you’ll know where they are. Don’t forget to raise the car high enough to not only remove the flat, but also to slip on the inflated spare tire. Remove the lug nuts and pull the wheel clean away from the studs. If it’s stuck and needs some gentle persuasion, proceed with caution; knocking a car off a jack is possible and can be extremely dangerous. If it just won’t budge—or you were unable to loosen the lug nuts at all—reach for the cell-phone and dial a tow truck or roadside assistance.

Chock Full of (Lug) Nuts. Place the spare on the wheel studs (or hub if you have lug bolts), and spin the nuts on finger tight. It’s crucial to make sure the wheel seats squarely against the hub, and tightening the nuts in a star pattern helps ensure the wheel goes on properly.

Bring It Down: Lower the car fully, and use the lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts with the weight of the vehicle on the ground. Tighten the nuts as much as you can, following the same star pattern as before. For piece of mind, check the pressure in your newly mounted spare. Gather your tools, climb aboard, and be on your way, taking care to mind the recommended maximum speed of your spare. Regardless of your spare type, your car is probably going to feel and drive differently than before.

Tips On How To Change Your Cars Oil

Changing the oil in your car is something that any DIYer can do. Although changing the oil might appear rather “duh,” there are still a lot of folks doing it wrong, making it an ugly chore or overpaying for oil changes they could do themselves. Plus, it’s the single most important task you can do to make your engine last.

Changing your own oil isn’t brain surgery—you probably did it yourself years ago. But with oil change shops charging more and more, it’s time to get back under the car and start saving big bucks. Plus, you won’t be pressured into buying overpriced add-ons (like wiper blades and PCV valves) every time you go in for a change. We’ll show you how to change your oil fast and painlessly. And we’ll show you some tips you may not know about.

Before you head off to the auto parts store, consult your owner’s manual for the type and weight of oil specific to your vehicle. It’s especially important to follow the carmaker’s recommendations for oil viscosity. That’s a big change from the old DIY days. Late-model engines rely on oil pressure to regulate valve timing and apply the proper tension to the timing belt or chain. Substituting your personal preference for the manufacturer’s recommendations can result in engine damage, poor performance and even a “Check Engine” warning.

Don’t skimp on a filter
In the old days, oil filters were all pretty much the same inside. But not anymore. If your owner’s manual recommends extended oil change intervals (every 6,000 miles instead of 3,000 miles), you must buy a filter that’s rated to go the distance. In other words, don’t fill your engine with expensive synthetic oil and then spin on an economy filter—it won’t last. Check the filter box, ask the store clerk, or check the filter manufacturer’s Web site to make sure the filter you buy is rated for extended oil change intervals.

There’s a huge difference between an economy filter and a top-of-the-line version. But there’s only a small difference in price. If you use conventional oil and diligently change it every 3,000 miles, you can get by with the economy filter. But if you regularly “forget” and go beyond that mileage or use long-mileage synthetic blends or full synthetic, spend the extra bucks on a better filter. Look at these cutaway filters and you can see why the premium filter is a better choice.

If you get all your ducks in a row, you’ll be done in about 20 minutes. Start by spreading plastic sheeting on the ground. Then drive your car on top of it. That will eliminate all oil spill cleanup work since you can just toss the entire sheet when you’re done, or keep it for the next change if you’re lucky enough to go spill-free. Jack up the car, set the jack stands in place, and lower the car. If you’re on asphalt, place squares of plywood under the jack stands for support.

Place all your tools on a tray or in a box so everything you need is in one place. That means a box-end wrench for the drain plug, a rubber mallet (Photo 1), a filter wrench, a drain pan and the new filter. Before you slide it all under the car, open a new oil bottle and smear clean oil on the new filter’s gasket. Then you’re ready to start the job.

Remove the drain plug and get the old oil flowing. Then remove the oil filter and install the new one. Once the old oil is down to a trickle, install a new gasket on the plug (if required) and tighten it by tapping the box-end wrench with the rubber mallet. Wipe the drips with a rag and you’re done under the car.

Tips For Buying A Used Car

Avoiding depreciation. It’s common knowledge that once a new car drives off the lot, its value depreciates immediately. In the first two years of ownership, a new car can lose about 30% of its original value. And if you decide to sell your new car a few years after you buy it, you’re going to lose a lot more money in the re-sale than if you had bought it used.

Price. If depreciation is your enemy when buying new, it’s definitely your best bud when you buy a used car. There isn’t much difference between a brand new car and a two-year-old car. By buying a car brand new, you’re basically paying 30% more than you need to. That’s a big mark-up for that new car smell.

You can save even more money if you decide to buy older cars that have more miles on them. A buddy of mine back in college bought an ’86 Honda Accord hatchback for a couple hundred dollars. It was super ugly, but it drove just fine and lasted him a few years.

Bigger selection. Because used cars are cheaper than brand new cars, you effectively widen the selection of cars you can purchase. Instead of being merely a dream, luxury and sports cars enter the realm of possibility. I remember back in high school when my dad and I were shopping around for a used car, I found a late model (this was back in the 90s) Mercedes Benz for about $5,000. I couldn’t believe it! Something had to be wrong with it. So, we took it for a test drive and to a mechanic. It was in tip-top shape and drove like a dream. I ended up not buying the Benz. I was too punk rock for that. Instead I went with a 1992 Smurf Blue Chevy Cavalier. Now that’s punk rock. However, the experience did open my eyes to the fact that if you look hard enough, you can find some awesome cars for super cheap when you buy used.

Save money on insurance. If you buy a considerably older used car, you can save money on car insurance by only getting the state mandated minimum coverage. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium on your insurance, it’s probably not worth getting comprehensive coverage.

Buy a Used Car from a Private Owner or a Dealership?

When you buy a used car, you have two possible sellers: a private owner or a dealership. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Owner Advantages

  • Great deals. When you buy from a person who put an ad in the paper or on Autotrader.com, you can often find some really good deals. The best deals I’ve seen are at estate sales. You can find an older car with low mileage because the little old lady who owned the car only drove it to church and the grocery store. The car might smell like mothballs, but you’ll enjoy the sweet scent of saved cash.
  • Less intimidating negotiations. Negotiations can also be less intimidating because you’re working with an average Joe and not some highly trained salesman who has to take your offer to a mysterious backroom boss to get it approved. Moreover, dealerships often try to throw in unneeded extras when you’re buying from them — extra floor mats, XM Radio, etc. When you buy from an owner, they’re just selling you the car and nothing more. Makes the experience less irritating and cheaper.

Owner Disadvantages

  • Complicated and annoying negotiations. Owners tend to be more attached to their cars than dealerships. To them, they’re not just selling a product, they’re selling a memory. These sorts of owners can be difficult to work with. They’ll bust your balls in negotiation over a piece of crap Buick simply because it was their grandfather’s beloved car, and they hate to see it get in the hands of the “wrong person.”
  • No consumer protections. Private sales aren’t generally covered by many states’ implied warranty laws. Implied warranties are unspoken and unwritten warranties that hold sellers responsible if the product they sold doesn’t meet reasonable quality standards. When you buy from an owner, you’re buying the car “as is,” meaning if the car has a problem (known or unknown by the seller), once you buy it, it becomes your problem and the seller doesn’t have to do anything to fix it. Moreover, private sales generally aren’t covered by the FTC Used Car Rule which requires dealers to post a Buyer’s Guide in used cars for sale.

Dealership Advantages

  • Certified Pre-Owned Program. A CPO vehicle undergoes rigorous mechanical and cosmetic inspection before it’s put on sale. Moreover, CPO cars are often covered by a warranty beyond the original factory warranty which includes items like roadside assistance. Buying a CPO vehicle can give you the piece of mind that the car you’re buying is in great condition and not a piece of crap. Even if you don’t buy a certified pre-owned car, when you buy from a dealer, you’re likely protected by your state’s consumer protection laws such as implied warranties or warranties of merchantability.
  • Extra services. Dealers will often throw in extra services for free that a private seller can’t. For example, when Kate and I bought our last car, before we drove it off the lot, the dealer cleaned and detailed it, performed a free oil change, and gave us a discount on our first service visit with them.
  • Trade-ins. Dealers also take trade-ins which lowers the amount you have to pay in cash. Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey has a system set up that uses trade-ins on used cars to allow him to upgrade his vehicles every year or two without having to take out a loan on his car. Check it out. It’s pretty brilliant, if you ask me.
  • Better negotiation experience (possibly). The negotiation experience can be a bit more even keeled with dealerships. It’s just a business transaction for them. You can avoid some of the emotional baggage you often find when negotiating with owners.
  • Financing. If you don’t have all the scratch on hand to buy a used car, a dealership can often provide financing to help you make the purchase. And with the crum-dum economy, car manufacturers and dealerships are providing some pretty good deals if you decide to finance a used car. Things like cash-back or zero interest can make financing a used car a reasonable thing to do.

Dealership Disadvantages

  • Higher list prices. List prices at dealerships tend to be more expensive than when buying from an owner. However, you can usually negotiate this down easily.
  • High-pressure negotiation. Negotiations with car salesmen can be more high-pressured than when buying from owners. Selling is what these guys do for a living. They know every trick in the book and will unleash them on you without hesitation. When you step foot on the dealer’s lot, gird up your loins, and prepare to play hardball.
  • Up-sales. Dealers will try to up-sale you until your eyes bleed. They’ll tell you that you need to add the extended warranty or that you need the new stereo. If you’re not careful, you can drive out with a used car that cost you $1,000 more than the original value simply because you let the add-ons creep in. However, you can turn the up-sale to your advantage by simply using it as leverages in negotiating. If the salesman presses for an extended bumper to bumper warranty, tell him you’ll take it only if he lowers the price of the car a few hundred dollars.
  • Financing. Financing is both an advantage and disadvantage. When you finance a used car, you can end up paying thousands of dollars more for your car than if you had paid in cash. Dealers that finance to buyers directly want this extra cash, so they’ll often pressure car buyers to finance their new car. Save your money. Pay in cash.