Which Body Style is Right For You?

Forget the number of models available, the number of body styles alone can be overwhelming: coupes, sedans, station wagons, crossovers, SUVs. How do you decide what you need?

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Coupe/Convertible: If you want a car that makes a statement about you, coupes and convertibles are typically the most expressive designs, but restricted access to the back seat (if the car you are considering even has one) seriously limits their practicality.

Sedan: If there are kids in the picture or in the near-future plan, four doors are a likely requirement. Even if children are small enough to ride comfortably in the back seat of a coupe with any regularity, consider the difficulty of constantly climbing into and out of the back seat to tend to a child before committing to just two doors.

Hatchback: If you add another door—bringing the total to five—you’re looking at hatchbacks and station wagons, which offer SUV-like space without the dynamic and fuel-economy compromises of heavier vehicles. As manufacturers get increasingly creative and design ever more stylish hatchbacks—their roofs are sleeker than wagons’—the market is warming to the segment.

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SUV/Crossover: Jack up the ground clearance of a hatchback or station wagon, and you have a crossover or an SUV. Do you need that ground clearance? Probably not. When was the last time your road didn’t get regularly plowed or cleared? Sure, it happens—most often to those in the northern part of the country, and that’s a few times a winter—but the fuel-economy penalty of opting for a taller and heavier vehicle is something that affects you every time you start the car.

Those who tow regularly already know they need something with that capability. But if you need a truck only to tow a few times a year, perhaps renting in those instances is a better alternative to living year round with the fuel-economy penalties of a truck.

Minivan: Those with large families—or dreams of such—often resist the practicality of the van, but if you routinely haul five or more people, there is no vehicle short of a school bus that will better accommodate six, seven, or eight passengers. A jumbo SUV like a Chevrolet Suburban or Ford Expedition EL has more cargo space, but passengers will find greater comfort in a minivan.

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Halloween Safety

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Watch Out for Children on Halloween

children-sitting-on-porch-halloween-safety-aaaAs children take to the streets on Halloween to trick-or-treat, their risk of being injured by motorists increases greatly. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that Halloween is consistently one of the top three days for pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that children are four times more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year. Because excited trick-or-treaters often forget about safety, motorists and parents must be even more alert.

Here are some tips for helping keep young ones safe on Halloween:

Motorists

  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods and obey all traffic signs and signals. Drive at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit to give yourself extra time to react to children who may dart into the street.
  • Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs. In dark costumes, they’ll be harder to see at night.
  • Look for children crossing the street. They may not be paying attention to traffic and cross the street mid-block or between parked cars.
  • Carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
  • Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible – even in the daylight.
  • Broaden your scanning by looking for children left and right into yards and front porches.

Parents

  • Ensure an adult or older, responsible youth is available to supervise children under age 12.
  • Plan and discuss the route your trick-or-treaters will follow.
  • Instruct children to travel only in familiar areas and along established routes.
  • Teach children to stop only at well-lit houses and to never to enter a stranger’s home or garage.
  • Establish a time for children to return home.
  • Tell children not to eat any treats until they get home.
  • Review trick-or-treating safety precautions, including pedestrian and traffic safety rules.
  • Make sure Halloween costumes are flame-retardant and visible with retro-reflective material.

Trick-or-Treaters

  • Be bright at night – wear retro-reflective tape on costumes and treat buckets to improve visibility to motorists and others.
  • Wear disguises that don’t obstruct vision, and avoid facemasks. Instead, use nontoxic face paint. Also, watch the length of billowy costumes to help avoid tripping.
  • Ensure any props are flexible and blunt-tipped to avoid injury from tripping or horseplay.
  • Carry a flashlight containing fresh batteries, and place it facedown in the treat bucket to free up one hand. Never shine it into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
  • Stay on sidewalks and avoid walking in streets if possible.
  • If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
  • Look both ways and listen for traffic before crossing the street.
  • Cross streets only at the corner, and never cross between parked vehicles or mid-block.
  • Trick-or-treat in a group if someone older cannot go with you.
  • Tell your parents where you are going.

Muffler Warning Signs

Signs of Problems with Your Car’s Muffler

An exhaust leak and other muffler repairs are costly.

Depending on your car and its exhaust system, the cost to make repairs to a damaged or broken exhaust component can range widely – but putting off an exhaust repair almost always costs more than addressing them promptly.

Because your exhaust system does more than just keep your car quiet – it also routes exhaust fumes away from the cabin, helps your engine run properly and maintain optimum fuel efficiency, and reduces polluting emissions.

Here are some useful things to know if you suspect your vehicle may need muffler or exhaust system repairs:

Car exhaust repair

One of the most obvious signs for many drivers is a deep or loud rumbling sound coming from your car. When this happens, it’s time to get it to a mechanic.

Having the exhaust repaired before it gets too loud offers the most benefit to you.

Delaying a needed car exhaust repair can make it cost more. That is because continuing to drive with an exhaust leak or bad catalytic converter can damage other things in your vehicle’s operating system.

Don’t just turn up the radio to drown out a loud muffler. Have the increased volume problem checked out and repaired by a professional. It will save you money in the long run.

downloadCatalytic converter

The catalytic converter is one of the highest priced exhaust system parts and, in some vehicles such as SUVs and trucks, it may be prone to theft by scrap metal thieves.

If your catalytic converter has been stolen, you’ll immediately notice a loud sound and altered vehicle performance upon startup.

An intact but failing catalytic converter may sound like someone shaking a box of rocks when your vehicle is idling when parked or stopped in traffic. If you notice any of these issues, schedule an appointment for the muffler shop right away.

Exhaust leak

If you notice a new vibration or loss of power when operating your car, have the exhaust system checked by a professional. You might notice the new vibration when you touch the steering wheel, foot pedals or car seat.

You might or might not hear a rumbling sound, depending on the size of the damaged area. A hole, exhaust leak or disconnected exhaust system component don’t just cause vibrations, they can also signal the engine is no longer running at optimum performance.

Exhaust system affects fuel efficiency

18cx1sf1g0529jpgIf you notice you have to fill up your gas tank more often than normal, have your exhaust system checked out by a muffler repair shop.

Similar to the vibrations, increased fuel use is a sign something is wrong with your car. When the exhaust leaks, your engine works harder. When your engine works harder, it requires more fuel.

Four Ways to Make the Most of Your Test-Drive

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When it comes to cars, it’s easy to fall in love at first sight. For many, all it takes is one long, lingering look at those curves, that grille and the great technology to make you seriously consider signing on the dotted line right then and there. If you really want to get to know if that Ford is the perfect fit, though, you’ll want to take it out for a test-drive.

Ready to roll? Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your test-drive and truly get to know your could-be new car:

  • Grab Your Gear – How many times do you just jump in your car and drive? Probably not many. Chances are you’ve got backpacks, briefcases, purses, phones, wallets and a whole host of stuff you’re hauling. Don’t be afraid to bring it with you when you take your test-drive. Does the car have the space and a place for everything you need?
  • Time to Settle In – Think of all the time you’ll be spending behind the wheel. Your comfort is important. Take a moment to find a seat position that works for you. Learn how all the controls work and how easy they are to operate. Adjust the steering wheel, mirrors, and get ready to hit the road.
  • The Daily Grind – A trip to the corner and back probably isn’t enough for you to get a good feel for the vehicle. Do what you can to mimic your routine and the types of driving you experience regularly.
  • Get Personal – People use vehicles in different ways. Once you’ve had a chance to see how it performs on the road, turn your attention to its features. You might have different needs depending on whether you’re trying out a car, truck, crossover or SUV, so don’t be afraid to be picky here.

Once you think about all the different ways you’ll use a new car, you’ll probably think of other items to investigate during the test-drive. Be prepared with a list of items to check and questions you might have for the salesperson at the dealership. When determining the right car for you, it’s better to ask too many questions rather than not enough.