Dangers of a Flood Car

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After the flood waters of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy retreated, a flood of another kind began–the flood of brand new vehicles that were totaled by insurance as a result of flood damage hitting the car auctions.

“Flood cars” flood the market (literally) following most natural disasters. Unfortunately, it can be pretty tough to spot a flood car without a trained eye. It takes not only inspection but a bit of detective work. After collecting an insurance payout, or sometimes while waiting months for insurance to do the right thing, dealerships can accept a settlement for a totaled vehicle and “buy” it back from the insurance company. The title will have a salvaged title, aka rebuilt title. Sometimes it won’t and we’ll come back to that.

Local Disasters

First, let’s address localized flood incidents. As a general rule of thumb, avoid vehicles which are being sold close to recent disaster sites and always trace the origin back to the previous owner’s address. Chances are if you buy a car that was recently registered near a massive flood, it sustained some damage that’s invisible to the naked eye.

After Big Disasters

Disasters on the scale of Katrina leave entire lots full of brand new vehicles totaled. Insurance companies are overwhelmed and slow to respond. These are cars with hardly a scratch and less than ten miles on the odometer. The temptation is to dry them out and clean them up, then sell them at auction and write off the loss. Unprincipled middlemen will snap them up and transport them to a part of the country far from the flood where they auction them again for large profit.

It’s important to note that auctions allow almost no pre-bid inspection. Most large dealerships that accidentally buy a “bad” car simply re-auction them. It keeps there name clean but creates a glut of cheap cars that go to other dealerships that don’t care about reputation.

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The Good News

The good news is that flood damage isn’t always invisible, but you might need to check some otherwise strange locations. The upholstery is going to be the first place water damage is noticeable, with rot, mold or mildew being present. You may have to lift some of the upholstery to get a peek, but remember that a good cleaning (from a shoddy dealership) can temporarily keep visible signs of water damage at bay.

Here’s how to avoid a flood car and why you should never take a gamble.

 

Only Use Honest Dealers (Trust but Verify)

 If you buy a car from an owner, they can stretch the truth as much as they like with no real repercussions. However, a car doesn’t need to be in a disaster zone in order to get flood damage. If you’re considering a car from an owner in an area you’re unfamiliar with, do a brief search of recent floods in the area to see what the odds are of ending up with a flood car. If the car has been auctioned repeatedly in a short period of time that’s a warning sign. If the asking price is too good to be true, it’s for a reason.rolls-royce-3366960_1920

Otherwise, research dealerships, check testimonials and trust your gut. If there are high-pressure sales, a sudden influx of cars or other red flags, it’s best to stay clear.

No matter what, rely on a third party such as a lemon busting company to do a full inspection. When you’re paying the inspector, their allegiance is to you. You’re mechanic is often to busy to do an inspection at the drop of a hat when you find the right car for you and they may not do the online legwork to get a good picture of the cars history.

Bottom line, don’t depend on a dealership to provide comprehensive information; they should welcome a third party unless they have something to hide.

Flood car dangers

 When talking about device failures it’s important to note three things:

  1. What’s likely to fail?
  2. How catastrophic the results of the failure?
  3. How expensive it is to fix (to prevent or repair damage)?

The full impact of flood damage might not come to light until weeks, months, or even a couple of years later. However, the internal damage can be severe and not noticeable even to a skilled mechanic.

One of the most common dangers is brakes that suddenly go out months after flood damage from rust. Obviously, a vehicle is made up largely of metal parts which are prone to rust. Brakes can fail with no sign if they were submerged in water.

Other common flood car problems are electrical issues (and resulting fire hazards) as well as black mold which hides in hard to reach spaces and can be fatal to humans.

So the issue here is less about what could fail, it’s about how bad the results are when they do. There’s no point in risking the purchase of a flood car. They’re simply unsafe and unpredictable.

Slow Down There, Speed Racer

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Make Sure Truck Insurance is Protecting Precious Cargo

            You might be souping up rides for weekend warrior activities, or to show off at the upcoming auto show, but either way, protection is crucial. Make sure your car insurance is as solid as your ride. You can save cash by taking a defensive driver course that is state approved. This is a relatively easy way to lower costs and can help prevent an accident during those winter months when roads are icy. Drivers can also get a discount by combining policies and having house, vehicle, and even ATV coverage handled all in one place.

Disaster Isn’t Just on the Speedway

A lot of people grew up watching high-speed races on television, and it seems like that has extended to daily commutes, too. Almost 20 percent of all accidents are speed related and some people mistakenly assume things are safe in a heavy truck. Bigger vehicles might offer more protection, but there is still plenty of room for injuries and extensive damages. That custom ride deserves custom coverage to make sure that all of the bells and whistles are safeguarded should an accident happen.

pickup-truck-1700954_1920Weekends are often spent giving that prized possession the attention she deserves with tune-ups, modifications, and careful detailing. Make sure the same care is paid to protecting her on the road, whether it is a simple weekend trip or en route to the auto show. Low riders and big rigs alike need special defenses that only an expert truck insurance agent can provide.

Keep in mind that not all insurance packages are created equal, and some do not offer enhanced towing and labor which means the truck might be stranded on the side of the road. Towing fees are expensive, but adding this option on is a nominal fee. Situations are already stressful enough when a vehicle breaks down or is in an accident without worrying over how to get it to the shop.

Trouble does not end when vehicles are parked at home because there is always criminal mischief around. Grand theft auto is a serious threat and modified automobiles are even more at risk. Some thieves just cannot resist all of that custom work or high tech stereo equipment that is so easily accessible.

Who’s Checking Out Your Ride?

truck-956246_1920Sure, drivers expect some admiring glances after putting in all that elbow grease to modify the vehicle. However, remember that thieves are also taking a look at the goods and might be planning to ride off into the sunset in the lifted Jeep or restored Chevy. Take some precautions to make things more difficult for aspiring thieves.

People might remember “the club” from the 1990’s and fortunately, there have been some major improvements in terms of safeguarding automobiles. Installing a noise or motion sensor alarm is a good way to deter thieves. Simple stickers warning of an alarm might be enough to make criminals move on.

Families work hard to make a living, and investing some of that dough into high horse-powered machines is a rewarding hobby. Think about all of the time and money spent on the rig and how easily it can all be taken away. As you gear up for summer car shows, make sure you keep your ride and yourself well protected.

 

Budgeting Car Maintenance

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Cars require a lot of upkeep, and just like your own body the more TLC and preventative care that’s provided, the longer it will keep running. However, keeping up with the costs of car maintenance can be a challenge. This is especially true of many luxury cars and foreign-made cars in which parts might come at a high price. How can you enjoy the car of your dreams while making sure there’s money in the budget for routine maintenance?

Start by considering the upsides of different manufacturers. For example, BMW parts might be more expensive than Ford parts, but the manufacturer warranties and upkeep programs might more than make up for this disparity. Customer service is a cornerstone of every business, including car manufacturers. Make sure you read the fine print and know exactly what maintenance perks may be included.

Sage advice

You’ve probably heard countless times that oils needs to be changed every three months, but that’s not necessarily true. That’s what many mechanics may want you to believe, but it all depends on the make and model of the car. Read the owner’s manual in detail, because the company that makes the car has the best advice on care. Not all machines are created equally.automotive-1159508_1920

At the same time, consider dedicating a bank account solely to vehicle maintenance. Just like you put a certain amount of each paycheck towards savings, retirement, or a vacation fund, make sure you’re not caught by surprise in case a car emergency pops up. Something like a popped tire or clutch going out can cause big problems if you’re not prepared. Budgeting for big ticket items is always smart, and if you don’t need the funds, that’s just extra savings.

Do your research

Before buying a car, look beyond the fuel economy and safety ratings. What do owners say are the most common problems? How often is routine maintenance recommended, and will you be the one paying for it or will the manufacturer? Some vehicles are more demanding than others, and you need to compare those figures with your own maintenance budget (in other words, an old Delorean may be your dream car, but it’s also a financial black hole).

A fully functioning car isn’t just a convenience, but a requirement for many. It’s how you get to the office, escape to your weekend warrior activities and shuttle the kids to soccer games. Don’t skimp on maintenance; make sure you’re prepared and financially ready to take care of your freedom on wheels.

 

 

New Car Smell

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It’s one of life’s great mysteries, why the new car smell is so appealing. But what exactly is it?

Maybe the smell is just newness in general? If a car hasn’t been used it doesn’t have that “lived in” feel? It’s an unfamiliar situation which might be reacting with our noses? Okay, that’s not very scientific talk. So then – let’s get scientific.

You’d think it would be a simple question to answer, like “the leather” or “the paintwork” but the answer is a great deal more complex than that. Any salesperson will tell you that consumers are rational but not logical, which means we care about the features of the car like gas mileage, safety, and reliability but our decision is ultimately an emotional one.

Our five senses heavily influence our answers to questions like:
How does it run?
How does it look?
How does it feel?

We may not consciously be aware that we’re asking, “how does it smell?”

And ‘smell’ is the best description, right? It’s a pleasant odor, but not perfume. Its fresh like ozone more than sweet like air freshener. It can be hard to put your finger on, and one reason could be that it’s a complex cocktail of other odors.

 

 

So what does a new car smell of?

Well, it could remind you of a newly washed sweatshirt, a bath sponge or an escalator. This is because the most active ingredients are both polymers found in those two items; polyester (sweatshirt) and polyurethane (the sponge or an escalator). Not really connecting the two odors? As appealing as you may find the smell of sweatshirt/sponge/ escalator, there’s a big difference in intensity. Escalators are in big rooms and we’re not usually closely confined with our sweaters and sponges. The odor doesn’t collect and stagnate the way it does in a car. The complexity of the molecules in a car is greater too.

 

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The scent of polymers comes from something called “outgassing” or releasing their raw materials. Fortunately, vehicles are not as insulated as houses because continued exposure to polymers it can cause headaches or dizziness. Despite the innocuousness of these materials, compared to exhaust fumes or cigarette smoke it may also lead to lung cancer if you have too much exposure to these types of materials.

 

Some simple chemicals come into play as well, which don’t account for as much volume but due to their volatile state put our more scent.  And not all the chemicals are simple. A number of more complex ones include benzene and formaldehyde. Benzene is found in gasoline while formaldehyde is a disinfectant type substance.

Most likely the compelling odor comes from all these substances coming in “one big hit” which would be a happy accident for car sellers, at least at first. Used car dealers quickly adapted and the industry has managed to bottle the scent so they can spray it in any freshly cleaned vehicle to add that special zing.

While the bottled smell fades rapidly after purchase a truly new car smell is hard to remove quickly. If you are one of the folks who doesn’t enjoy the smell of a fresh new car, don’t bother trying to mask it with a car air freshener—they’re not up to the task. The best thing is just to avoid taking the car on too many long journeys and if you do take some long breaks park in the shade. Sun and warmth just exacerbate the problem.

So to sum up, the new car smell, while pleasant is only mostly harmless. The problem is of course that people generally like a new car smell and it’s one of the reasons people buy a new car. There has been some attempt to remove some of the more volatile substances but the actual smell won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

 

The Car Lover’s Guide to Long-Term Vehicle Storage

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You wouldn’t leave your child with a suspect babysitter or drop your dog off at a subpar doggie daycare, would you? Don’t do the equivalent with your car. Whether you’re buying a classic car that needs constant protection or you’re simply heading out of town for a long stretch and want to ensure your ride is cared for, how you store your car is just as important as where. Any time your car will be sitting more than two weeks, there are best practices to follow and make sure it’s safeguarded.

And if you don’t? You might be signing up for a lot of mechanical issues. Start by getting a filter and oil change—specifically, make sure additive-free oils are used. Caustic detergents are often fine when you’re driving a car, but can be damaging if it’s just sitting there. Next, fill up the tank. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but filling it with premium fuel prevents condensation in the tank. To play it extra safe, add some gas stabilizers (often sold for lawnmowers) and seek out premium fuel without ethanol if possible.

Check, Check

Have your mechanic check all fluids and oils in the car, including the coolant levels. Also, take a look at the tires—how is the pressure? Was there a patched leak that could really do with a tire replacement? This is especially crucial for those in regions with rough winters. A slight overinflation can be helpful, and remember to thump tires every ten miles once a car is taken out of storage.parking-932921_1920

Next, wash and wax your car even if you know it’ll collect dust. Clean thoroughly under the hood and in the wheel wells. The interior also requires some TLC, especially when cleaning up food scraps which can lure in pests. However, steer clear of any products with water (such as Armor All) since it can trap moisture.

Prep Work

Some people put a piece of plastic beneath the car’s floor just in case there are leaps or buildup of vapor. If you’re storing your car indoors (as you should when possible), crack the windows slightly. Convertibles should have tops up with a rag in the air intake/exhaust to keep animals out. Metal screens are also useful for all types of cars. It’s also a good idea to pick up a battery maintainer so you don’t need to hunt down someone to jump your car when taken out of storage.

Along with that plastic used under the car, put a sheet between the windshield and wiper blades to prevent sticking (another option is just taking the blades off). Removing the spark plugs yourself (if you’re comfortable) is a good idea to stop rusting. You can also jack it up on axle stands in order to prevent flat tires. However, the less mechanically inclined owners can simply release parking brakes so pads don’t cling to the rotors.

Finally, leave a note on the driver’s seat with everything you’ve done so you know where you stand when you return. Lock the doors, and remember that a car cover is only appropriate for cars stored outdoors.

 

The Safety Benefits of Tinted Windows

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By Kyle Kotecki

The mere mention of tinted windows may call to mind images of those sound-systems-on-wheels parked by teenagers at beaches across America. Though many view them as little more than a fashion statement, tinted windows can actually make your car safer in multiple ways. Read on to find out how.

Shatter-Resistance

Aftermarket tinting is accomplished by applying a thin film to the inside of a vehicle’s windows. In the event of an accident, the film helps hold the glass together, preventing shattering. Car accidents are bad enough without shards of glass flying every which way.

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Tinted windows block harmful UV rays, which not only prevents the fading and cracking of a vehicle’s interior but also protects the driver’s skin. Some forms of skin cancer are more often found on the left side of the body, and researchers think exposure to UV rays while driving is to blame. Window tinting can protect your interior, but more importantly, your skin, from sun damage.

Fighting Glare

Few things are as irritating as driving toward the blinding sun, leaning, squinting and adjusting the sun visor as you make your way down the road. This is not only annoying but also dangerous. It goes without saying that reduced visibility hinders one’s ability to commute safely. Window tinting reduces distracting glare and allows you to keep your hands off the sun visor and on the wheel, where they belong.

Obstructing Prying Eyes

A would-be thief may lack the motivation to break into your car if he is unable to peer through your window and see any valuables you may have in your car. Why risk arrest when, for all he knows, there could be little more than an eight-track player and some crumpled up fast food wrappers in there? While I still wouldn’t recommend leaving your bulging wallet atop a mountain of valuable Beatles memorabilia, tinted windows have the potential to serve as a theft deterrent.

In Conclusion

Tinted windows offer more than just style. They make driving not only more comfortable, but safer, too. One can view window tinting as an investment that helps keep both you and your car on the road for many years to come.

Studded Tires: Time to take them Off!

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The reason states require removal of studded tires is two-fold:

  • It destroys roads incurring greater repair bills
  • The lead from the studs and asphalt dust are hazardous to your health

There are two dates that matter, the date range when studded tires are allowed and the date when they are prohibited. The idea is that bad weather can last later in some years than others. Some states do choose to make a special provision, like Georgia, which only allows studs some years but generally prohibits them.

Most states that allow studs provide a little flexibility by having a second date after the allowed date range that represents when it’s actually prohibited. That’s the date when they’re going to start handing out fines.

States that prohibit Studded Tires entirely (obviously not needed):
Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, and Texas.

States that prohibit Studded Tires entirely (that surprised us):
Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Below is the best information we could find about studded tires by state. This information comes from Washington State Department of Transportation–be sure to look up your local state Department of Transportation. Also, some cities have statutes that are different than the state. According to AAA.com most states begin passing out fines for driving with studded tires on April 2nd.

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#10 Car DIY: Handle Car Body Damage Yourself

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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

Clearly, if you’ve got an insurance claim to file then you need to run everything through the insurance. However, sometimes there’s some parking lot damage that you don’t notice right away, or someone didn’t leave you a note. On occasion, insurance cuts you a check and you have a better use for the money than fixing some cosmetic issues on a car that’s not as new as it once was.

If you’ve decided not to get something professionally repaired its likely small enough that you might be able to fix it yourself. That’s a win/win, keep the money and still get a better-looking car.

Know How:

See the hack below for some crazy shortcuts that often reduce the appearance of damage to almost invisible.

EDC/Hack:

You can buy car wax at any automotive store and you’d be shocked how many sins it can wipe away. Simply apply with one clean rag and wipe off with another. Superficial scratches can catch the light and make damage seem large. Shadows can appear as dents. If the paint and metal aren’t actually damaged simply buffing out the scratches will improve your appearance dramatically.

Another trick we’ve heard of, but not had a chance to try yet is taking a common house plunger to medium-sized dents. We’ve used some of the commercially available dent removal options with mixed results. Honestly, anything that starts with the words, “drill a whole,” is something you want to live with or pay a pro.

 

 

#9 Car DIY: Value of a Dash Cam

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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

 

You never know when you’re going to need a dash cam. In the early days, go cams were the rage, strapped skateboards, and duct taped to helmets to capture your crazy stunts. Now they are vital in our legal state of the union to help you tell your side of the story. Here’s a video of a fake accident in England by a team of hustlers. If you watch this and don’t order a dash cam, then you probably never will.

(https://youtu.be/zAczz3nYuh4 Video Link)

Know How:

Follow the instructions that come with the one you buy. Heres a link to a couple that have nice features. The key is to know what’s important to you feature-wise. Do you want battery life, recording quality, hard drive space, external memory slots, etc. The features we’ll point out is twin cameras facing front and back, and some sort of inertia crash detection.

Apeman wins on bang for the buck.

This one has got to be the least obtrusive if you find that you can live without an in-car recording of your passengers.

EDC/Hack:

You can turn an old cell phone into a dash cam. It has all the right stuff—two way camera, GPS, memory, etc. All you need is one of the many apps available on the market. As an added bonus you can easily find mounts because they’re standard sized. There are quite a number of apps so try this link or this link to compare.

 

#8 Car DIY: Escape a Sinking Car

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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

The unlikely event of a water landing when driving a vehicle doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Unlike the duck and cover method of avoiding nuclear explosion you were tot in school, it actually can save your life to know how to escape a submerged vehicle. Assuming you were wearing your seatbelt so you weren’t knocked unconscious when your vehicle struck the surface of the water, you will have a little time before your car sinks—but not long.

The challenge is that the water pushing against the door will make it impossible to open the door. You’ll need to let the water in so that the pressure inside and out is equalized. Clearly, if you aren’t a professional free diver you’ll want to exit the car before it sinks too far, but the less air in the car the faster it will sink. Then there’s the whole needing to breathe. Bottom line, evacuate the vehicle swiftly without panicking.

Know How:

Roll a window down. Don’t freak out when it’s cold and you can’t do much until it’s full. Breathe while you still can. Then remove your seat belt. Visibility may be bad after the car is full of muddy water so make your preparations quickly. Still better to keep your seatbelt on until the rush of water is done—unless you need to get your kid out of a complicated car seat.

If you can’t roll down the window, because the water shorted your power systems, use a special device to break the window by striking it near a corner. It’s actually not easy to break a car window and there’s a good chance that you’re going to cut your hand. So plan on cutting your hand—it’s better than drowning.

EDC/Hack:

If you don’t have one of the many devices we recommend below for smashing car windows, you can remove your headrest and use you metal legs.