#3 Car DIY: Get Better Insurance Rates

CJ_Auto Safety 3

In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Its always a good time to save money on car insurance but opportunities can sneak up on you. So if it’s been two years since your last accident and you’re paying more than $50 a month it’s a good time to look around for a better deal. If you are happy with the service you’re receiving now you can still call and ask for a review. None of our researchers have encountered an actual reward for loyalty at an insurer but hope springs eternal and there’s no harm in trying.

Know How:

We aren’t insurance agents so technically we can’t legally tell you anything about insurance…but here’s a link to common sense ways to get the best price on insurance any time.

If you are searching for a better rate because a blemish has fallen off your record we recommend finding a broker that can represent several companies. Each company tries harder to compete for customers in their target audience so you need to find a good match for you.

EDC/Hack:

For drivers of personal vehicles, you might want to try AAA.

If you drive commercially, either CDL truck, rideshare, parcel delivery or medical transport follow this link to NTC where you can get a host of benefits on everything from cell coverage to health insurance. For taxi and rideshare in OR/WA you can check out OTTIS. Or search around.

We don’t have much experience on Metromile which piloted the pay per mile insurance, but if you do we’d love to have a review of it. Please comment on this post below.

Advertisements

#2 Car DYI: Clean Windows & Headlights

bmw-1660953_1920

In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

*Windows need to be cleaned when dirty, which is obvious, OR IS IT? Ever had a film or fog seem to form on the inside of your windshield that makes it hard to defrost in fall/winter/spring? There’s actually a mold that forms which creates this. Use the secret formula in the hack below to wipe it out.

*Headlights need wiping off weekly or more often. You can lose as much as 50% of your light by having normal dirt accumulations on your headlights. Whenever you think you might be struggling to see at night, start by wiping or cleaning your headlights. See hack below for the #1 way not to clean your headlights.

*Headlight deep cleaning needs to happen whenever you notice a film forming on your headlights.

Know How:

Avoid using the free soap water and squeegee at the gas station to clean your glass, unless you’re on a trip and desperate. People have a habit of checking their oil and washing their hands in the rinse bucket. They get oil in there which will form a film on the glass that quickly re-acquires all the dirt and makes it hard to see. It’s also hard to get off. See the EDC/Hack below for the best way to get windows clean.

EDC/Hack:

Deep clean headlights by using toothpaste and a clean rag. All the same, reasons it’s safe and effective on your teeth make it the perfect stuff to take the cloudiness out of your headlights without scratching them up.

You can make a cheap and super effective glass cleaner out of alcohol and vinegar, equal parts. It cuts the film on the inside of your windows that clings to fog and it dries without streaking it also removes some hard to remove odors. (note that it’s not good smelling during cleaning, so be aware.) As a bonus, most coffee filters are cheaper than lint-free cloth and leave less mess than paper towels.

#6 Car DYI: Change Your Own Air Filter

air-filter-995251_1920

In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Most cars have two filters these days—one for the engine and another to clean cabin air inside the car.

The one for the engine needs changing about every 6 months unless your owner’s manual suggests less often. That keeps your peak fuel economy. This can seem expensive or obnoxious because if you have a service change your oil they’ll generally ask if you want your air filter changed also. They often want a good bit of money to do that.

There’s a big difference in the difficulty of changing your oil and changing your car air filter. Most car air filters aren’t hard to get to. No need for a pit or lift so no getting on the ground to shimmy under your car with a special wrench and trying to torque the thing off without barking your knuckles on the concrete of your driveway, and then spilling oil on yourself etc. Your car air filter is generally on top of the engine somewhere. Five minutes of searching your owner’s manual should show you how to do it yourself. You can find new filters at any auto parts store and often install it with your bare hands.

Another reason you might want to pay to have your oil changed is, depending on where you live, there are special regulations about how to dispose of old oil. By the time you pay for new oil and proper disposal of the old oil, you might not be saving any money at all doing it yourself. Air filters, on the other hand, you can install even if you live in an apartment complex without a garage. The trick here is to be very deliberate about hooking up anything you unhook to access your car air filter. Don’t lose track of vacuum hoses, or nuts or clamps. Reverse your tracks and put things back where you found them.

Cabin air filters on the other hand, vary from car maker to car maker. Some car designers hide those things in crazy places and it could be worth letting someone do it. Another reason it’s okay to let someone else do it is that you don’t have to do it as often. Assuming you don’t have allergies you can get away with changing that filter when you notice it’s not working well. Some will argue that it runs the AC motors harder if its clogged up which could burn gas and wear out your AC system. That’s a fair point, so you should probably have checked annually and use good judgment.

Know How:

Each car can be a little different so consult your owners manual.

EDC/Hack:

Don’t tell anyone we told you this, but all sorts of crud will float into your filters that can make an impact on performance but not actually mean the filters bad. Check the car air filter monthly, and look for leaves or hair that might be caught up in it. Sometimes you can pick it off with your fingers or knock it against your palm and dislodge a problem. You’ll still need to replace it every 6 months, but you can keep it running its best until it needs replacing. If you’ve had a forest fire or volcanic eruption nearby, that’s creating a specific bad air quality issue, you can sometimes put pantyhose over the filter temporarily to pre-screen large particles so it doesn’t destroy your filter early.

#1 Car DIY: Check Your Oil

oil-change-36096_1280

In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

While every car is different, most cars need a change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. There’s a little debate here because officially the best way to know how often for your car is to consult the owner’s manual. However, many car owners feel that the manual will recommend it more often than it needs, wasting your money and time.

Here are some signs you’ve waited too long:

  • Drop in fuel economy
  • Sluggish engine performance
  • Drop in oil level
  • Louder than usual engine noise
  • Black or gritty appearance when you check the dipstick

What happens if don’t change it often enough? The penalty starts with reduced fuel economy, so you’re not really saving money by putting it off too long. Then increased engine wear, which is the beginning of an expensive penalty phase. Eventually, your engine can seize which is the car equivalent of turning it into a brick.

Know How:

First, locate your dipstick. Who are we kidding? First, locate your owner’s manual. If you bought used and didn’t get one, search used bookstores, online markets like craigslist, or thrift stores for your exact manual. If you can’t find one, you can search for free PDF versions online and download it to your smartphone.

WITH THE CAR OFF! Grab a rag, locate your dipstick, pull it out and wipe it off. Reinsert it, then pull it out again. You want to make sure the reading you get is when the oil has had a chance to settle back down since it can run higher on the stick when the engine is on. The stick will have clearly marked, or more often, nearly impossible to see cryptic markings that let you know if there is enough oil. Quantity is just one aspect. Check the color. It should be a light honey color. If its black your car is about to die. If its pink, someone put the wrong fluid in and you’ve got big problems.

Once you’ve checked your own fluids a few times over a couple months, comparing it to what your owner’s manual says, you should be able to decide if you agree with your manual or not.

EDC/Hack:

Since the theme of this post is EDC we’d be remiss if we didn’t include some kind of hack or tip. Consider making a quarterly car maintenance schedule and putting it on your calendar. Simply scan forward in your google calendar (or whatever you use) and put in a reminder to get your oil changed every three to four months. Get your tires rotated every oil change just to be safe. You may well want to consider buying some kind of service package for these services so that you aren’t tempted to skip taking proper care of your vehicle.

One caveat. If you’re going to take a long trip, run through a pre-trip maintenance which could mean moving your oil change up a little.

Self-Driving (AV) Car First Fatality

https://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=53857211

Op-Ed by Managing Editor of the Kicker Blog A. R. Bunch

We at the Kicker, have waited a couple days to comment on this story because it’s important to acknowledge the loss of life before engaging in what will no doubt be a ruckus brawl of a debate regarding the fall out of the event. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t respond to it at all.

Last Sunday, a 49-year-old Arizona woman was struck by one of Uber’s autonomous (self-driving) vehicles while pushing her bike across the street outside the crosswalk. The collision seems to have occurred at roughly the speed limit of the road, with no sign that the AV attempted to slow down.

The is a myriad of legal viewpoints on who should be held responsible. The owner of the vehicle? The person behind the wheel, though not driving the vehicle, Uber, the state of Arizona!? Seriously. Was this a workplace accident? Was it vehicular manslaughter? Without being a lawyer, we can’t answer those types of questions. But let’s talk about another question that seems relevant.

Who could have predicted such a tragedy? Frankly everyone. I don’t know that anyone didn’t expect it to happen at some point. Cars hit people. Here at the Kicker we’ve also warned that self-driving cars are further from reality than we’re being told for one big reason. Mindset!

There’s an inevitable transition happening in vehicles away from mechanical and toward technological. We’ve covered it in several posts. But we’ve hit a tipping point where manufacture and design is shifting away from the car industry and toward technology companies. The leaders of these different industries have radically different approaches to development and often for good reasons.

In the late 1960’s Ford leadership came to their designers with a unique and exciting challenge–design a new subcompact car that weighed less than 2,000 pounds and bring it to market in under two years, for less than $2,000. pinto-699303_1920

The met that goal and the resulting Ford Pinto. burst into flames when struck from behind at low speeds. It didn’t need to. The issue was brought to the attention of decision-makers, but the suggested fix was a couple pound hunk of hard plastic that cost $11. It put the car over cost, and overweight. The controversy came when the public discovered that Ford had run a cost-benefit analysis to determine how many people would be injured or killed by not improving the design and decided it would be cheaper to settle lawsuits than to prevent them.

In other words, there was an acceptable number of people who could be killed or maimed if it let them meet their goals and profit margin. The resulting outcry tot Ford a valuable lesson–one which technology companies have yet to learn.

Ever buy a new computer and find it runs horribly? Ever find it buggy or insecure from hackers? Ever think, these people are releasing their beta version and letting us debug it for them? Well, that sort of thinking won’t be very compatible with the commuting public. Especially when they’re touting how much safer we’ll all be when their product is behind the wheel.

I’m going to make a prediction about how these new laws around AV’s are going to shake out. 100% of the fault for anything your car does will be blamed on you–the official operator of the vehicle. The only thing the law can hold accountable is the driver. That means insurance rates for people with AVs may be higher until actuaries determine if they are actually safer. It means, you can’t just sit back and watch TV while your car drives you to work, which could make the car less attractive to buyers and less attractive to companies like Apple who are jumping in with both feet because AVs are the next iPod.

If the sudden craving doesn’t create demand then the irrational exuberance driving us to rush AVs to market will slow and we can actually test these cars before they get on the road instead of just killing people and debugging later. So it’s a self-correcting process. However, it does mean two things–we were right that we’re more than 5 years away from self-driving cars AND no one is going to realize that until it kills someone.

This tragedy was avoidable. There is no acceptable number of people who can be injured or killed in the process of helping companies hit their financial goals. I hope that everyone involved in designing and testing AVs reflects hard on this tragedy, and I hope that the lawmakers of AZ consider their role in it.

Rest in Peace Elaine Herzberg

Until next time–this is A. R. Bunch hoping you stay safe on the roads.

Car Hacks (Vlog 17): Vaccuums Suck!

If you drive for rideshare it could be a great tip to keep a vacuum in your trunk for spot cleaning. I’d also recommend baby wipes. Watch the video below to get a fun recommendation from our cost-conscious vlog dude. (Yes, Mike I called you a dude…live with it.)

Hand Vac/Upright Vac Combo as shown in the video.

(PS at this time when you follow a link to a product on the Kicker we don’t collect any referral income. We reserve the right to change that at some point in the future. We don’t endorse any particular brand, we’re providing links purely for your convenience.)

 

 

Planning for Your Historic Route 66 Road Trip

S Larson_route66.jpg

Route 66 has become iconic with the days of old. Popular during the 1940s and 50s, it is fondly referred to as the Mother Road and was one of the first highways introduced with the US Highway System. It used to connect Chicago to Los Angeles and was approximately 2,500 miles long. Sadly, it is not possible to drive the original route in its entirety anymore. However, some states have taken steps to designate portions of the old route as historic state roads and there is much to see along the old route in places like Missouri, Arizona, and Texas. When planning your Route 66 road trip, here are some spots to keep in mind.

Food ChoicesS Larson_route66 Burger

There are an abundance of food options along the Historic Route 66 route. Starting just out of Chicago, try your taste buds out at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, which is known for its yummy fried chicken as far back as 1946 when it first opened. Interested in a great steak dinner? Then look no further than The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas which is famous for its 72-ounce steak challenge. If steak does not fit your fancy and you are looking for that old time diner, soda fountain feel, then try the 66 Diner in Albuquerque or the Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain in Pasadena. Both historical spots have been around since the hey-days of Route 66, but not as restaurants. The Fair Oaks Pharmacy as you can guess was once a pharmacy while the 66 Diner used to be part of a mechanics service station. Along the way, do not forget to stop in to The Mid Point Diner in Adrian, Texas, which marks the halfway point of your journey on the Historic Route 66.

S Larson_route66 Museum Museums and Unique Attractions

What Route 66 road trip would be complete without seeing all the unique attraction along the way? If you are interested in seeing a giant man holding a hot dog or a landlocked whale, then check out the Muffler Man located in Illinois and the Blue Whale of Catoosa in Oklahoma. Interestingly, the blue whale was built in the 70s by Hugh Davis as a gift to his wife who loved whales. A must stop location is definitely Gary’s Gay Parita, a 1930 gas station replica. Owner Gary Turner is a wealth of knowledge about Route 66 history so pull up a seat and grab yourself a cold soda. A few other unique places include POPS Soda Ranch, home of the largest collection of soda; Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, which has the cuddly versions and a unique monument made entirely of Volkswagen Rabbits; and lastly the Jesse James Museum, dedicated entirely to the memory of outlaw Jesse James.

 Lodging

There are many interesting and unique hotels along the route, but none more famous than the Blue Swallow Motel in New Mexico. This motel has been around since 1939 and has been serving Route 66 travellers for its entirety. Want something different than your typical room? Then try one of the wigwam hotels located at various points along the route. They boast a unique Native American flare and have become one of the iconic mainstays of the historic route.S Larson_route66-2

 

 

Route 66 is full of unique and interesting history and these are just a few of the attractions that await road trippers on the historic drive. Brush off those old maps, plan your next trip, and go see what it has to offer.

Mid-Aughts Shelby GT Body Structure

Mehta Mustang_Shelby

Mid-Aughts Shelby GT Body Structure

This Pony is timeless for a reason. Originally manufactured from 1965 – 1970, it’s proof that not all good things come to an end – sometimes, they’re reborn. When Ford opted to reintroduce a revamped Shelby in 2006, things really started to heat up. The original five-year span saw some evolution and Mustang fan(atics) were in a prime position to pick out the best aspects of the original.

There were only 500 Shelby GT-H models released in 2007. Already, just ten years later, they’ve become a hot collector. Classic Mustang parts, like the staple GT V8 engine of 1965, were bumped up with the GT-H engine. However, some things are better left unaltered like the traditional gold on black paint. Less than a year after the first Mustang came out, a convertible version was released.

Something Old, Something New

Experts on these powerful machines were instantly transported back in time when the first Shelby 2.0 was unveiled in the early aughts. Mustang accessories may abound, but nothing is as eye-catching as the “Hertz colors” featuring gold racing stripes has been a Hertz heritage for nearly 100 years.

A 100% custom, pinned Shelby hood infuses an extra injection of power into the Pony. In keeping with the racing horse, a brushed aluminium grille showcases the well-known emblem. Side scoops give a solid nod to the sleek look of the 60’s and brings the “muscle” back into muscle cars.

Care to “Super Snake” It?

Too much of a good thing? Hardly. The Las Vegas Carroll Shelby’s Performance Plant began offering this option in 2008. Owners who snagged the Shelby in 2007 could send their baby to Sin City to get super snaked for $27,995. So, what exactly does that mean? This upgrade meant 605 horsepower, but a “supercharged” option gave speedsters over 725 horsepower (however, there’s no warranty for this option). It’s estimated that a super snaked Mustang can go 0 – 60 in as little as 3.5 seconds.

The original 1967 GT500 Super Snake is the inspiration. It’s not just extra horses that drivers get with this package. A fiberglass hood, six-piston brakes, cat-back exhaust, and cooling ducts are just a few of the extra perks of going this route.

2013 Shelby GT500

Change has been in the air since the 2013 model was revealed at an L.A. Auto Show in 2011. The fastest Shelby yet, speeds surpass 200 mph with a 5.8 supercharged V8 under the hood. A new LED taillight ups the ante a notch. The biggest cosmetic difference? There’s no grille – so much interior cooling is required that there is simply no room for it.

A Whiff of Nostalgia

You don’t have to be a child of the 60’s to appreciate one of America’s most impressive machines. Whether you enjoyed your first kiss in a classic or were barely a sparkle in someone’s eye, muscle car nostalgia is one ailment that afflicts everyone.

 

Chase Away Winter Blues with Spring Maintenance.

S Larson_Chase wet

On average when people talk about bad weather driving, they are typically referring to winter driving that involves snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. Surprisingly, spring driving can also be hazardous due to slippery roads from heavy rains and in some cases flooding. More instances of hydroplaning, or loss of traction, happen during the spring season. Do not forget about the extreme weather as well. The mixture of cold and warm airs that happen more often in spring brings about heavy thunderstorms that can bring damaging winds and hail. Keep in mind road conditions once the road thaws because winter can be extremely damaging to road surfaces and you may find an overabundance of potholes have developed. However, there are plenty of tips and tricks to take into account when preparing your vehicle for spring.

S Larson_Chase Clean

  • Perform preparatory maintenance

One major step you can take to prepare for driving your car in spring weather is to conduct some basic maintenance yourself or have your car serviced by a professional. Winter grime tends to build-up on the undercarriage of your vehicle and is usually tracked inside your car as well. Give your car a bath inside and out because the protective salt found on roads during the winter can cause rust and corrosion issues throughout your vehicle. Consider taking your car to a professional car wash to have the underside power washed to remove all trace of winter grime. Make sure to top off your fluids, check over your brakes, and ensure your alignment and suspension are in proper working order. Basic maintenance after the winter weather has come and gone can go a long way to ensuring your safety through the spring season.

 

  • Keep the snow tires on

    Mehta_Tire1

    Winter Tires

Along with your preparatory maintenance, check your tire pressure and ensure none of your tires have any bald spots or excessive tread wear. These conditions contribute to instances of hydroplaning. Perform the penny test if you are unsure of whether or not your tread is worn too far down. Consider keeping your snow tires on for a little while longer as they have better traction control than other tires. Believe it or not, snow tires are meant to stay on your vehicle until the temperature registers above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, make sure to get your tires rotated especially if you have gone 5,000 miles without doing so. Rotation ensures that all the tires wear evenly, which will help you to maintain safe driving.

 

  • Be prepared for defensive driving

The winter blues tends to affect everyone including animals and when the weather starts to warm, people and wildlife alike start to appreciate the outdoors again. There will definitely be an increase in motorcycle activity, people on bicycles, children at play, and wildlife roaming the roadside. Be prepared and vigilant when driving to avoid a possible collision due to the increased human and wildlife activity. Keep in mind that wildlife tends to come out more during dawn and evening hours. You may have to consider reducing speed if you are night driving or on your early drive to work especially in a heavily wooded area. Also, try to avoid distracting behaviours like texting so that you can stay focused on the road.

S Larson_Chase Flood

Winter may have come and gone, but spring weather requires drivers to still be prepared and observant of the road conditions around them. There are plenty of easy steps a driver can take in preparation for the new year without breaking the bank.