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How to get Your Vehicle Ready for Winter

The winter season is fast approaching, meaning it’s time to get your car prepped for the cold months ahead. We’ve compiled a list of things you need to do to make sure your car is ready to perform, and to make sure you are ready for any situations that could happen to you out on the icy roads.

Check Your Tires

When the roads have ice and snow on them it makes your tire’s traction worse. You should seriously consider purchasing winter tires, as they’ll significantly cut down the risk of you losing control on the road. You should also make sure your tires are properly inflated. The colder the air starts to get the more it can affect your tire pressure. You can expect each tire to lose 1 pound of pressure per square inch when the temperature drops 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check Up On Your Battery

When the temperature drops your engine needs more power from the battery to start up properly, so it’s important to check and see if your battery is charged up. The most simple way to check is by turning on your headlights before you start your engine. Then turn your engine on. If the lights get brighter your battery may be dying. You can test the actual voltage at home with a voltmeter or have your mechanic do a test for you. Some batteries also have a built-in hydrometer that measures the voltage. You’ll also want to check the cables for cracks. Finally, ask your mechanic to check the battery fluid.

Get A Tune Up

Check your owner’s manual, but for many cars a tune up is recommended every 30,000 miles or so, and if you’re getting a tune up right before the winter there’s a couple extra things you should get checked out as well. Get your oil changed, and make sure you get the right type of oil. Oil thickens in the winter, so it’s important to follow your car’s manual to protect your engine. Have a mechanic also check your belts and hoses, ignition, brakes, wiring, fan belts, spark plugs, air, fuel and emission filters, and the PCV valve. 

Replace Your Wipers

It’s wise to replace your windshield wipers every year or so, and it’s definitely wise to make sure they’re working before the winter comes in full force. Here’s another important step to take before you find yourself blind in a winter storm: fill up your windshield washer reservoir with windshield washer fluid. Also check to see that your heater and defroster are working properly so you don’t have to find out at the worst possible time.

Check Your Antifreeze Ratio

Normally you want the ratio of coolant to water to be 50/50, but when it gets colder you want the ratio to be 60/40 coolant to water. This will prevent the mixture from freezing in extremely cold weather. You can purchase an inexpensive antifreeze tester from any auto parts store. 

Hopefully these tips and tricks help your car perform to the best of its ability when the winter weather starts setting in. Stay safe out there!

When Should I Purchase a New-to-me Car?

It can be hard to know the right time to retire your car. Maybe your current car is still fairly reliable, but it’s feeling old. Maybe you have your eyes on a newer car that you can afford, but you’re just not sure if you should make that leap. What should you do? We’ve compiled some questions you can ask yourself before you make that new car purchase, and also added some advice in there to help you along your way.

Can you afford it?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Can i afford this?” The price of a car is more than just the monthly payment, it’s also higher insurance, and taxes. If you take all of this into account and know that you can meet that monthly payment comfortably, then a car upgrade is worth considering.

How much are you spending on repairs?

The amount you spend on your vehicle being in the shop annually may surprise you, especially if you’re driving an older car that’s worn down. There’s a simple formula you can use that will help you figure out if you’ll be paying more annually on car payments vs. car repairs. Say you spend $500 a month on your car payment. That would equal $6,000 dollars a year spent on a new car. Now, calculate how many times a year you get work done on your current car. If you had to bring your car into the shop, say 5 times in one year, and those repairs tallied up to $4,000, then it’s possible that you could decide that it’s just worth it to spend the extra $2,000 and get a newer car. 

Another factor that goes into this is your own ability with fixing cars. If you can fix all the problems that your car has then it could be a wise decision to keep it for a little longer and save more for the eventual time that you must purchase a new car. 

Safety and Convenience 

If you have an older car it’s likely you don’t have many of the great safety and convenience features new cars have. Things such as a backup camera, curtain airbags, electronic stability control (ESC) and forward-collision warning make a huge difference in avoiding catastrophe. If your current vehicle has none of these, then maybe it’s time for an upgrade. 

Something that isn’t as important as safety but is still desirable is convenience features. Features such as bluetooth, heated seats, multi-zone climate control, and keyless entry sound frivolous and unnecessary, but they really do make your car experience more enjoyable.

Conclusion

Purchasing a new car is a major life decision, and shouldn’t be made without investing a lot of thought. Be sure to consider all the factors, such as your lifestyle, your needs, and, mostly importantly, your finances, before making the big decision.

Improving Your Credit Score

Whether you’re getting ready to purchase your first vehicle or your tenth, if a car loan is in your future, part of the preparation should be checking out your credit score. A credit score is a point based system that many companies use to decide if you will get approved for a loan, how much you will pay for insurance, and a biggie: determining your interest rates. A high credit score means that you will have lower interest rates and will be more likely to get approved for loans, while having a low credit score can start to limit your options. 

Credit scores can be confusing and what’s factored in changes, but we’ve compiled five basic tips to make sure you get and maintain a healthy credit score.

1: Finance Large Purchases 

It can be wise to limit the overall credit that you use when making purchases, but financing and paying off large purchases such as a car or a house is one of the fastest ways to build up your credit. Here’s a couple steps to make sure you take full advantage of this.

  • Verify that your lender reports payments to the major Credit Reporting Agencies. Some smaller car dealerships do not do this. 
  • This sounds obvious, but make sure you can afford your payments.The total amount you owe makes up around 30% of your credit score, so it’s extremely important to buy a car you can afford. If you’re financing from a reputable lender they won’t let you borrow more than you can afford because they want their money back, so keep this in mind.

2: Keep Your Credit Cards Open

Credit history length is a good indicator of how your credit will perform. Keep that credit card that you never use open, because even if you don’t use it it will help keep your credit score healthy. If you have a credit card that you’re tempted to use but know you shouldn’t, cut up the actual card itself! Your account will remain open and you’ll still get the benefits to your credit score. (Some credit cards require an annual fee, so if you don’t intend to use it, then look at closing it.)

3: Don’t Use Too Much Credit

A good rule of thumb is to try and not use more than 30% of your available credit. Say you have a $1000 limit, you would try and keep your spending to a maximum of $300. Use this rule for any credit card you have. Also, only use your credit card for things you can pay off in full monthly. 

4: Don’t Miss Payments

It’s possible that you’ve missed payments before, which may have already damaged your credit score. That’s okay, it happens to the best of us. Commit to never missing another payment again though! It may not be easy, but it’s the most important step to getting healthy credit. Set up automated payment systems if you need to so you don’t even have to think about it. 

5: All Payments Matter

This goes along with the previous tip, but keep in mind that credit bureaus are changing what influences your credit score. Now payments like rent, cell phone bills and other recurring payments can influence your score. Make sure all of those payments are made on time as well.

Hopefully these tips help you get the healthy credit score you desire!

What is an “As Is” Car Sale?

Nowadays, it’s fairly easy to find a late model used vehicle with all the modern conveniences you love. If you’re lucky, it’s possible that the manufacturer’s warranty is still valid, or the dealership you’re buying from may offer limited coverage. If the car you want to purchase is being sold “as is” though, a dealer warranty is not available. So what should you do if you want an “as is” car? We’ve put together some tips to help you out.

An “as is” vehicle does not include a warranty from the dealership, meaning the buyer accepts any existing and future issues that the vehicle may have. If you discover a mechanical or cosmetic issue while owning the vehicle the dealer is not obligated to repair it or offer you a refund. Now, this doesn’t mean that an “as is” car isn’t worth considering, it’s just wise to know the risks before you make the purchase.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, dealers are legally required to display a Buyers Guide with a warranty disclosure specifying that a used vehicle is being sold “as is.” The Buyers Guide appears as a window sticker, making it easier for shoppers to know the terms of sale when seeing the vehicle in person. The same information must appear on the sales contract, so be sure to review all the paperwork before signing.

Before you make the decision to purchase an “as is” car you should research that model. Find out what known issues the car may have, figure out if there are any parts that may wear out faster than others. Try to get as specific as possible in your research. Some cars have issues that are isolated to a model year or trim. If there’s an issue that is known to arise after 50,000 miles, then it’s important to pay attention to the mileage while you shop. You should also keep an eye out for ways to easily identify a particular problem.

Order a vehicle history report if one isn’t already provided. It’s valuable to know the history of the car you’re buying, specifically if it’s been involved in any accidents. You can purchase a vehicle history report from services like CarFax or AutoCheck, which receive data on reported events such as change of ownership, accident damage, and theft. This provides a better idea of the car’s previous life. 

An “as is” car isn’t something you should be afraid of, but it’s important to do your homework up front to make sure the savings don’t disappear as soon as you’re handed the keys.

How To: Remove Light Scratches From Your Car’s Paint

It’s an unfortunate fact that, if you’re actually using your vehicle, it’s an inevitability it will pick up light scratches here and there. Luckily, you can fix those scratches at home, and fairly easily too. Here’s an easy to follow list of how to get started:

  • Step 1: Wash and dry your car. You need to get all the dirt and grime off your car before you can fix any scratches.
  • Step 2: Mark the scratch with masking tape placing the masking tape 1″ above and 1″ below the scratch in order to help the application process. 
  • Step 3: Apply a scratch repair product with a microfiber cloth back and forth for around 30 seconds with medium to firm pressure. When it comes to deciding which scratch repair product to use, it really comes down to personal preference. If you have no idea which one to pick you could ask your local auto parts store and they’ll give you some guidance.
  • Step 4: Wipe the area dry with a separate, clean microfiber towel and inspect the area to see if the scratch has been fully covered. If needed, reapply the scratch repair product until desired results are achieved. Repeat this process up to 5 times, but be careful not to overwork the area.
  • Step 5: Finally, apply the product to the larger surrounding area to blend in the repair so it looks seamless.

If the scratch or scratches still aren’t blended, it’s likely that you have a deeper scratch. If you don’t feel comfortable going further, then getting a quote from your local body shop is recommended.

Getting the Most From Your Vehicle Trade

So you’re looking for a new car, and you just want to trade in your current vehicle to a dealer. What should you do to make sure you get your money’s worth? We’ve put together a few steps to help you get the best price for your car.

Step 1 – Research 

The biggest thing that will help you get the most money is doing some research. Having an idea of what your car is worth is very important. It’s possible that you’re expecting more money than you’re going to get, but depreciation can hit certain vehicles harder than others. Of course, the condition of your car, having copies of maintenance history, and any additional aftermarket parts will make a difference — mind you, not all aftermarket parts and accessories will increase your vehicle’s value — but it should come as no surprise your car isn’t worth what you initially paid for it. Luckily, it is fairly easy to get an approximate value for your vehicle online using websites like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds. Something many do not take into account though in their research is how many other vehicles just like your may be in the market in your area. Take a little extra time to search local listings for the year, make, model, and trim level of the vehicle you’re looking to trade in to get an even better view of what it’s going for. 

Step 2 – The Dealership’s Perspective

The dealership is looking at factors such as how fast they can sell your car to another buyer (a car sitting on the lot is actively spending the dealer’s money on a variety of levels of overhead), and also how much work they may have to do to fix it up so it’s ready for the next owner. The dealer is more willing to work with you on a trade than buying your car outright, but in fairness it’s good to keep these things in mind during negotiations.

Step 3 – Prep Your Vehicle

The presentation of your vehicle will go a long way in getting you a good value. Vacuum the interior thoroughly, and make sure everything that isn’t supposed to be in the car (such as trash – you may be surprised how many people do not consider this) is out, and everything that should be in the car (things such as documents, manuals, tools) are in the car. It doesn’t hurt to make sure your vehicle smells good too. Go through a car wash or hand wash, and give your car a wax to make it look better. If there’s anything wrong with your vehicle the value of the trade will go down, but it may be easier and sometimes cheaper to just leave the problem and have the dealership fix it. If your vehicle has major issues don’t be afraid to approach the dealer regardless, it never hurts to get an appraisal, and hey, you may come away pleasantly surprised!  

Something to keep in mind is that dealers love happy customers, repeat business is how we stay in business, so always feel free to come on in and give us a shot, you may just drive away happy.

Tire Maintenance Means Safety (and Savings)

Consider that your tires are the only part of your car that touches the road, so no matter what sort of engine, transmission, suspension, or brakes you have, without a healthy set of tire tread, you’re asking for trouble. You want to make sure they are up to standard and prepared for anything that comes their way, and to that end it’s important that you know how to properly take care of your tires. Some people think of tires simply as they would their own shoes, they wear out and you replace them, but there are some simple things you can do to both keep you and your vehicle safe on the road, and save money as well by increasing your tires’ longevity. 

You don’t want to over inflate or under inflate your tires, as both can cause the tread to wear unevenly. The proper amount of air pressure for your tires should be in the handbook that came with your vehicle, and if you no longer have the handbook a quick google search will do the trick. Go and purchase a tire pressure gauge if you don’t have one, and stick it in the glove box for when you need it. They’re fairly cheap and make filling up your tires with the proper amount of air easy.

To ensure a long service life for your tires, it’s essential to keep the wheels balanced and aligned and get the tires rotated every 5,000 miles. Always be on the lookout for unusual vibrations while driving, as this may indicate an improperly balanced wheel. Rotating the tires as per the manufacturer’s recommendation also helps ensure even treadwear of all the four tires.

The treads of a tire are what help it grip the road while braking, turning, and of course, in sloppy, “Kansas weather” conditions. A tire’s capacity to disperse water is reduced considerably when the tread is worn out. If your tire can’t contact the road, that means you’re riding on top of the rain or snow, which means you are no longer in control of the vehicle. So it’s important to replace your tire’s when the tread wear indicator is exposed. A tread wear indicator is a bar of rubber built across the treads and can be seen only after the rubber is worn down to 1.6mm.

Hopefully, these tips help you with your tire maintenance. It does require a small bit of effort, but keeping up with your tires’ maintenance is a big factor in staying safe out on the road.

Maintaining your rarely used vehicle.

Driving Less These Days? You Still Need to Maintain Your Vehicle

With the Coronavirus pandemic still around it’s possible that you’ve been working from home, or at least self isolating, resulting in our vehicles being driven less and less. So what should you do to keep your vehicle in good condition during your hiatus from the roads?

Step 1: Keep your car clean

This may seem like an obvious step, but it gets looked over by almost everyone. Make sure you get out all the old cans, bottles, and trash that’s accumulated in your car. The last thing you want are bugs or even rodents trying to find their way in because they smell some old food or drink. It makes the most sense to give your car a good cleanse before you go through the other steps, but you can do this in any order you please.

Step 2: Fill the gas tank

This is for pre-90s vehicles with metal gas tanks: if you leave your car unused for too long with no gas inside of the tank it can actually rust, which can create a host of issues. You should go and fill up before you park your car for an extended period of time. Plus, you’ll be ready for an impromptu road trip with your family or friends once you’re ready.

Step 3: Stay on top of oil changes

It’s suggested that you get your oil changed every 6 months or 5,000 miles (check your manual to be sure!), whichever comes first. Even if your car is not being used, the oil still needs to be changed, as it will break down over time regardless. Getting your oil changed every 6 months will help make sure your engine is protected whenever it is you DO crank it up next.

Step 4: Check the tires

You don’t want to park your car, then come back to it weeks later to find a flat. Just check on your car every so often and see how the tire pressure is holding up. Weather change can have an impact on the air in your tires, so keep that in mind too. Make sure you’re following the user manual’s guide on the right tire pressure for your car.

Step 5: Drive your vehicle every once in a while

You should take your car out for a drive every few weeks, even if it’s just a quick couple laps around the block. This will help keep the fluids good for longer, keep your battery charged, and engine healthy. At the very least, replacement batteries aren’t cheap.

Hopefully these steps help keep your car healthy while you take a break from driving. Stay safe out there, friends!

Safe “Hypermiling”

One of the most sought after features on a vehicle is good gas mileage. The fewer trips that you have to make to the gas station the better. I bet you wish you could improve your car’s gas mileage, and what if I told you that this was a possibility? With “hypermiling” it’s possible to improve your mileage and save a bit of money. This term has become controversial, as some extremist go to great and sometimes dangerous lengths to eke out extreme performance, but here we’ll focus purely on how to hypermile safely and effectively.

Step 1 – Vehicle Maintenance

These driving techniques won’t work if you don’t properly maintain your car, which you should do whether you’re hypermiling or not. Keep your car tuned up. Out of tune cars are more inefficient and produce more pollution. Take your car in for regularly scheduled check ups, and pounce on any problem that your car may face early. Don’t wait till it’s too late.

Step 2 – Tire Maintenance 

Your tires are the only thing that makes contact with the road, obviously, so if you have tires that aren’t rotated properly, or if the tread is bad, then you’re going to suffer poor fuel efficiency. Make sure that your tires are properly inflated (This also means don’t over inflate them), and also make sure your tires are properly balanced and aligned. You should rotate your tires every 6 months, or every 6,000 miles.

Step 3 – Weight Management 

Remove the extra junk from your car! This one is overlooked compared to the other two steps, and it makes sense. People have a lot of stuff, and that stuff usually ends up in your car. Just remember that more weight equals less fuel efficiency. Also, don’t take out important things from your car just because you’re trying to lower the weight. Your spare tire and tools can stay.

Step 4 – Coasting

Coast when you can, and again: SAFELY. Don’t cause traffic issues, don’t drive below the speed limit, just try to avoid sudden stopping and starting, as this is fuel efficiency’s biggest enemy. On newer cars if the car is in gear and your foot is off the accelerator, the injectors shut off completely,  essentially creating “free” mileage. Don’t coast by disengaging the clutch and/or putting the car in neutral, this will cause the engine to go into idle which uses up more gas than simply leaving the car in gear and letting it coast, and more importantly: it can be dangerous. Bottom line: be safe when coasting, keep your foot close to the brake, and make sure you don’t “coast” through a red light or stop sign.

Step 5 – Idling and A/C

Try to idle the least amount possible, sometimes this cannot be avoided, but it’s something to be aware of. Try to limit your A/C use to only the freeway, and if you live in a hot climate where you need to use A/C, cycle your use. When it comes to using the heat, most gas cars create “waste” heat so it won’t affect your fuel economy.

Step 6 – Acceleration

Be gentle with the accelerator. The “gas pedal” is called that for a reason, so to effectively hypermile you’ll need to learn to push down the gas pedal slowly, and only when necessary. Also, you’ll need to learn to let off in anticipation for every stop.

Safely Taking it to the Max

We hope that these tips help you get out there and hypermile effectively. You may be wondering why we didn’t include drafting in this list, and the answer is that it is dangerous, as the whole point of drafting is to be close to the vehicle in front of you, therefore giving you significantly less time to react to anything that may happen. Now get out there and get the maximum fuel efficiency possible!

Buying a Used Truck

You may think that purchasing a used truck would be no different from purchasing a used car, right? Well, there are differences that you may not consider, that can save you time in finding the truck you want, and the deal that suits you. We’re here to share some simple considerations that will simplify the start of your search.

Step 1: Know What Size is Right for You

When it comes to trucks there are many different customization options regarding the size of the cab and that of the bed. It can be intimidating and confusing trying to pick from the multitude of options even when they’re lined up in front of you. The most important thing you need to figure out is what you are trying to achieve with the truck you are wanting to purchase. Are you wanting to be able to haul equipment for your business or wanting to be able to move big items? Then a full size truck with a large bed is the correct option for you. If you simply like the idea of driving a truck and don’t plan on hauling anything major, then a midsize truck would be the best option. In regards to the cab, do you need room for children or full-size adults? This may seem obvious, but a lot of people buy far more truck than they really need and end up not as happy with their purchase over the long term. 

Step 2: Light, Medium, Or Heavy?

The towing capacity of a truck is important if you’re planning to haul anything from a boat to a work or even travel trailer. Trucks are commonly divided into three different categories; light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. These three categories are then given numerical labels such as 1500, 2500, and 3500 (or 150, 250, and 350.)  

It’s important that you get the proper size truck for your needs. If you go with less power you may not be able to haul what you need to unless you like replacing parts. On the other hand, if you get a truck that is too big you’ll have to spend more money purchasing it, and filling it up at the gas station. Additionally, if this is for everyday use, you also probably don’t want to struggle with maneuverability in every parking lot.

Step 3: The Test Drive

So you’ve figured out which size of truck you want, and you’ve made it to the point where you’re giving the truck a test drive. This step is similar to buying a regular car. You really want to test the limits of the truck you’re driving. Accelerate hard, give the brakes some work, and get the engine and transmission up to operating temperatures. A 20-minute drive should be enough time to reveal any apparent issues. Does the truck drift to the side? Is there play in the steering wheel? Does it brake well? Are there any quirks in acceleration? Does the truck shift smoothly? Pay close attention to your gut feelings, and don’t get too attached to the truck. If something doesn’t seem right don’t buy it. 

We hope that this list can help you get started in making the right decision for your future truck. If you have any further questions about purchasing a used truck, feel free to come speak to our friendly and knowledgeable staff. We would love to help you out and make sure you get the best deal for you.