Gift Guide for Car Lovers

 

Tis the season for gifts! It can be hard to shop for car lovers but we are here to help. Here are some ideas for this holiday season.

Customized Floor Mats
WeatherTech is an American company that makes customized floor mats, trunk liners, and other accessories. Their floor liners are laser measured to protect all sides of the vehicle’s footwell and are engineered with advanced surfacing that makes cleaning messes unbelievably simple. Most car lovers have heard of them and would relish any gift from the company. If you are unable to provide floor mats for your loved one’s vehicle, WeatherTech offers gift cards as well.

Satellite Radio Subscription
Many cars come with satellite radio units, but most car owners let those introductory subscriptions lapse. Purchase a subscription or gift card to streaming services like SiriusXM.

Portable jump-starter/charger.
Jumper cables are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Portable jump-starters are easy to use and can also be utilized to charge smartphones, tablets, and other devices. They come in sizes small enough to fit into the glove compartment and run relatively inexpensive.

Smartphone Dash Mount
Keep your driver safe and from a ticket. A dash mount will allow them to use their smartphone hands-free while driving.

Heated Massage Cushion
For those that spend a lot of time in their vehicle, offer some relief. Portable seat cushions attach to the seat with heat and massage capabilities. If they would like to use it at their office or recliner at home, they can remove it easily.

Hail Protector Car Cover System
Texas may not get a lot of snow, but hail is a problem. For those that may not have a garage, they can keep their cars safe. It inflates using a remote control and can cover sedans, hatchbacks, and wagons up to 175” in length.

High-quality Auto Care Products
Create a gift basket they will love filled with a chenille wash mitt, professional microfiber towels, a collapsible bucket, foam auto wash, and more!

500 Nascar Race Weekend
For the those that love Nascar, grab them tickets to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Nascar Race weekend.

Fall Car Camping

Photo courtesy of Liz West/flickr

Summer has finally ended and it’s time to start enjoying outside. Over the past 20 years, fewer kids have been introduced to the pastime of camping so there is a declining number of adults who know how to pitch a tent or use a camp stove. If you are new to camping or want to start, car camping is a great first step. Most state parks provide access to toilets and showers and camping in your vehicle can help ease you into the great outdoors. Mistakes are easier to make and learn from with the safety net of your vehicle. Follow these tips to stay safe and make the most out of your car camping trip.

 

Remember safety first. Never sleep in a vehicle while it is running. Find campgrounds that require guests to register and who monitor unregistered visitors. Lock your vehicle’s doors and store valuables out of sight. The camping community is friendly and open but you want to be wise. Use apps like AllStays or Hipcamp to find out where you can stay legally and not be bothered. They list a variety of free or paid locations.

 

When packing, keep it simple. The Ten Essentials assembled in the 1930s by The Mountaineers has been updated to help people be prepared in the outdoors. This list includes navigation, sun protection, insulation, flashlight, first aid kit, matches or a lighter, food, water, repair kit, and emergency shelter. For most people, devices like smartphones are used as maps and flashlights. Charging, however, can be difficult on the road. Plugging devices into your car to charge overnight is not an option but there are mini solar panels or rechargeable batteries on the market that can keep all of your devices charged for the duration of your trip. Follow food safety precautions and do not keep perishable food in your car for long. Trail mix, freeze dried meals, or hot dogs over a fire are specially designed for campers and require minimal packing and prep time.

 

Read up on camping etiquette. Clean your campsite and follow Leave No Trace principles which are practices to protect natural spaces. This includes disposing of waste properly, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. Respect quiet hours, use lowlights and don’t cut through campsites.

November Car Events

Photo courtesy of Greg Gjerdingen/flickr

 

The leaves are falling and there is lots to do! Grab your coat and come out to local car shows and fundraisers to honor veterans and kick off the holiday season.

 

Friday, November 3

 

GenNow Annual Car Show
American Airlines Federal Credit Union
4151 Amon Carter Blvd., Ft. Worth, TX
10:30am-2:00pm

Generation Now is teaming up with AAdvantage and AACU to raise $2,000 and awareness for Dallas Animal Services and Pet Adoptions. Suggested vehicle entry is $25 and 1st place wins 25,000 AAdvantage miles. Donations are also welcome. There will be music, food trucks, and more.

 

Saturday, November 4

 

O’Reilly Auto Parts 300

Texas Motor Speedway

3545 Lone Star Cir

Fort Worth, TX

As the NASCAR Xfinity series season winds down, this event is make or break for drivers who have hopes of winning the championship. Kids 12 and under are free and adult ticket prices starting at $25.

 

Sunday, November 12

 

Turkey Trax Auto Show

Forney Community Park
241 S FM 548, Forney, TX
9:00am
In 2007, the City of Forney started the Turkey Trax to bring the community together and honor local veterans. Now held annually the second Sunday in November, Turkey Trax rallies hundreds of collector vehicles in many classes including Vintage, Antiques, Classics, Muscle Cars, and Trucks. As the 10th anniversary of the event, the community will be returning to the original idea of the event by paying honor to all area veterans. There will be a family friendly Veterans 5K to be held before the car show. Car show participants and guests will be encouraged to proudly sport their military pride as patriotic themes will be on display throughout the event grounds. A portion of all proceeds raised will benefit local veteran organizations.

Tailgating Safety Tips

Photo courtesy of Jarrett Campbell/flickr

 

Fall is officially here and that means it’s time for football season and firing up the grill. Whether you plan to get together before or after the game, here are some ways to ensure that everyone can enjoy the festivities.

 

Food Temperatures and Sanitation

 

No one wants their party ruined by a case of food poisoning. To prevent bacteria from growing you want to pay attention to food temperatures. Cold foods should be stored in a cooler or styrofoam container with plenty of ice. There are many ice packs on the market now that stay cold for hours and can be re-used for future tailgating parties. This can save you money and that tedious task of pouring out the water after. Hot foods should be kept well insulated and there are lots of containers made for this. To see a list of recommended food temperatures, go to www.foodsafety.gov. If you are cooking meats, beware of cross-contamination. Clean all utensils, surfaces, and cutting boards after preparing raw meat. Wash your hands before and after handling the meat and always dry with paper towels as dish towels hold bacteria. When packing, place raw meat in separate and individual containers.

 

Grill Rules

 

If you are using a gas grill, make sure you know all of the safety features. Do not light it when the lid is closed, for example, otherwise, you risk an explosion. Read the grill safety guide for instructions on lighting and hose maintenance. In the event of any issues, have a fire extinguisher on hand as well as a first aid kit. You may know how to use your grill, but a combination of wind and paper plates may cause an issue you did not think about. Park your grill at least 6 feet away from any car or combustible and always keep children and pets at a safe distance.

 

After Party

 

When the food is all cooked and everyone is ready to get going, make sure your grill has cooled. If you used coals, make sure they are completely cooled and throw them out. Look for specially designated bins to do this. Throw out all perishable leftovers. It may seem tempting to keep that potato salad for later, but you should not leave food unrefrigerated after two hours.

 

Designate a Driver

 

Everyone wants to have fun, but do not let your party end in a bad decision later. Choose who is going to take one for the team earlier in the day so it is already decided before you start tailgating. This way, you can focus all your energy and excitement on the game.

 

Happy football season!

Fall Car Care

Basic auto care goes a long way and fall is a great time to check your vehicle before winter sets in. Here is a list of basic needs that you can go through to ensure your car is ready to go!

Check all fluids including power steering, brake, transmission, and engine oil. This is a great time to check antifreeze and coolant levels as well as windshield cleaner.

Check the battery. Ensure that the connection is corrosion-free, clean, and tight. Replace if necessary.

Check all hoses and belts. You want to make sure they are not cracked, frayed, brittle, or loose. Also, check to see if they are showing signs of excessive wear.

Check all tires including pressure, tread, bald spots, and bulges. Wheel alignment might be needed if there is uneven wear.

Check the brake system including brake linings, rotors, and drums. These should also be inspected at every oil change.

Check engine performance to ensure it is producing the lowest emissions and distributing the best balance of power.

Check the exhaust system. Make sure there are no leaks, damage, or broken supports. Exhaust leaks can be very dangerous and must be corrected immediately.

Check the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system. You want your HVAC to be working properly for comfort and things like defrosting.

Check the steering and suspension system. This includes struts, shock absorbers, and chassis parts.

Check wipers and lights. You want to ensure that you can see and be seen! Lighting includes exterior and interior. Replace worn out blades and clean headlights.

This is a basic checklist, but if you know something else is going on with your vehicle be sure and mention it to your service provider.

How to Properly Clean Tires

Photo courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker/flickr

Most people take care to clean the outside of their vehicles but they do not consider the tires to be as important. Detailing your wheels is more than just a vanity issue. Brake dust is made up of tiny metal shavings and carbon fibers. When it is mixed by the friction created by tires on your vehicle it becomes highly corrosive. Brake dust can eat into the coating of the tires if left untouched. Cleaning your tires periodically will help keep you safe on the road. Here is how to properly clean and detail your wheels.

First gather the right supplies. If you want to stay simple with soap, water, and a brush you can. If you decide you want to use a tire cleaner, be sure and choose the right one for your tire type. Some cleaners can be used on all types, but others will be more specific. Coated, painted, or anodized wheels will need diluted cleaners while wheels that are aluminum and chrome can withstand stronger chemicals. Check the label to see what cleaner is best for your vehicle and if you are unsure buy an all-purpose tire cleaner. For tougher jobs, you may need to purchase a tire gel or degreaser. Wax and wheel protectant will be needed for the end of your detailing. Lastly you will need a tire brush, two buckets, and microfiber towels.

Always clean your tires first when washing your vehicle. This will ensure that no grime will spray on clean panels. Once all your supplies are gathered, begin by wetting the tires with a hose. Check your cleaner for dilution instructions and then spray your tire for a pre-soak. While the cleaner sits, start to fill your buckets with water. If the temperature is high outside, do not let the cleaner sit for too long as it will dry on your tires and cause damage. Add some cleaner to one bucket, take the brush, and agitate the sidewall of the tire. Rinse the brush every so often and then wash the tire with the soapy water from the bucket. Spray with a strong hose to rinse off any remaining bubbles. Use the microfiber cloths to dry your wheels but do not reuse the same cloth for the rest of your vehicle. You can finish your tires with a coat of wax to seal the surface. Apply with applicator pad and buff the wheel. Tire wax works just like car wax.

Complete one tire at a time so that it can dry while you clean the others.

Labor Day Driving Tips

Photo courtesy of sboneham/flickr

Labor Day weekend, next to Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest times on the road. If you are planning a long weekend trip, you want to be well prepared. Here is how you can make the most of your Labor Day vacation and avoid being stuck with car issues.

Before hitting the road, you want to make sure your car is ready for a long trip. Take your vehicle for a routine check and have the mechanics look at the engine, radiator, and fluids. Summertime’s hot weather is harsh on vehicles and this is another good reason to have your car checked out as Labor Day marks the end of one season and the beginning of another. Your tires should be well inflated and the tread high or up to state standards. If you took a lot of road trips over the summer, you may find you need new tires. Check that the steering wheel works well and that your brakes work properly. There will be lots of stop and go traffic along the way and you want to avoid an accident. Check your emergency kit and re-stock items that have expired or are empty. Your kit should contain jumper cables, a flashlight, bottled water, a tool kit, first aid kit, and tire gauge at minimum. Other things you can add are a wind-up radio, a blanket, and duct tape. It is always recommended to have these things in your vehicle in case you are stranded.

Once you are ready, leave early. Try to beat rush hour on Friday or leave early in the morning on Saturday to avoid traffic. If you cannot work around these times, look for alternate routes that will be less congested. Use online maps to plan ahead for construction and program your GPS in the car. WAZE is a great up to the minute app that you can download. It will post things like accidents or construction that may not show up on other applications.

Monitor how you are feeling before you get behind the wheel. One of the major reasons for accidents on the highway is when people fall asleep or lose their concentration. If you are driving and start to feel drowsy, pull over and ask someone else to drive or take a break and leave at another time. The other reason for accidents is ignoring the risk of big trucks. These vehicles have lots of blind spots and cannot adjust their driving if you cut in front of them quickly. The general rule is, if you cannot see the truck’s mirrors, they cannot see you.

Be safe, and have a great Labor Day!

Car Shopping Tips

Photo courtesy of Michel Curl/flickr

 

Buying a car is number two to buying a home in most expensive purchases a person can make. Most people do not enjoy the process and it can be tedious and difficult to sift through lots of research. Here are some tips to ease the process.

Know when the deals are. If you are in no hurry, shopping at the end of the year is a great time to buy. End of the year models can be found cheaper and if a dealership has too many models from two years before, they mark them down drastically. The last week of the year is also great as manufacturers provide incentives and specials.

When you go to the dealership, bring some people with you that will be riding in the car with you a lot. This will help when you test drive the car. They can try out all the features in the back and all of the seats and you will know if you have enough room for that particularly tall friend. If you want a longer test drive, just ask. If there is a particular part of the car you need to test like an SUV’s four-cylinder and need to travel a little more to do that, a good salesperson will let you. Never buy a car you haven’t driven. Online research is important but it does not replace actually taking the car out on the road.

Try to go car shopping during the week, especially during the afternoon. The dealership will not be as busy and you will get more personal attention. Don’t be afraid to take advice from the salesman. You may have your eye on a sticker price, but they may know about special incentives or specials going on that would land you in a nicer vehicle at the same price. Negotiating can be a useful tool but be sure you have good sway for why you need a lower price.  Will you be referring friends to the dealership? Using their service department? You hold more power if you give them a good reason.

If you have found the car you want online and worked out a price, do as much paperwork over the phone as you can. Doing as much of the deal-making process without having to go to the dealership saves you time out of the showroom.

How to Clean Foggy Headlights

 

Photo courtesy of Nick Ares/flickr

Hazy headlights can be an eye sore after washing your car. In addition to that, they can cause visual problems while driving at night. Just like cleaning your windshield, your headlights should be a part of car detailing.

Polycarbonate or plastic replaced glass headlights in the 1980s and since then hazy or foggy headlights have become a problem. One reason your headlights may have become cloudy is that they are just dirty. Grime can build up and darken the surface of the plastic. Wash your vehicle thoroughly to see if this the case. Another reason your headlights have become cloudy is by naturally occurring oxidation. UV light, dirt, and atmospheric chemicals cause this and can build up over time. You can clean oxidized headlights by using toothpaste. Toothpaste works on headlights like it does removing stains from your teeth. It contains a mild abrasive and will buff out the surface for a smooth feel and look that will give you clearer headlights.

To clean your headlights using toothpaste, you will need the following items: car wax, masking tape, plastic or vinyl gloves, a soft cloth, water, soap, and toothpaste of any kind. First, wash the headlight with soap and water, and rinse. After allowing some time to dry, inspect the headlight again. Take the masking tape and outline the light to protect the surrounding area from accidental scuffing. You don’t want to create another problem while solving this one.  After putting on the gloves, dampen a clean soft cloth in water and add a dab of toothpaste. In small circles, firmly rub the headlight with the toothpaste. Add water and toothpaste as needed. After you see the results you want, rinse with water and allow to dry. Apply the car wax to help protect your headlights from future damage. Do this with a clean cloth and rinse one last time with water.

If you are uncomfortable using toothpaste, you may also clean your vehicle’s headlights with glass cleaner and automotive polish or a polishing compound.

If you notice any drops of water on the inside of your headlights, you will need to remove them. Oxidation can occur on the inside as well as the outside and will need to be repaired either way.

Troubleshooting Air Conditioning Issues

The Texas summer heat can drive anyone crazy but if your vehicle’s air conditioning starts to falter you want to know what the problem is as soon as possible. There are many reasons your frosty cool air may be wavering and you want to make sure it’s nothing major. Here are the most common issues and how to diagnose them. If you are experiencing any issues and are unsure, always take your vehicle to your local mechanic.

If you turn on your A/C and start to smell something funky, you may have some bacteria or fungi growing. This can happen during the winter when the air conditioning is not in use. Dark and damp interiors are perfect breeding grounds for micro-organisms. These little creatures will often make themselves known by strong odors. To get rid of this pesky problem, inspect and clean the drainage tubes of the evaporator as well as spray the appropriate chemicals straight into the blower ducts or air intake.

Weak airflow is usually because of an obstruction. Mold or mildew may have accumulated in the evaporator core. A hose could have come loose or the ventilation fan is fried.

If the air is not as cold as it usually is this could be caused by several things. Make sure the cooling fans on the condenser or radiator are running. Look for any blockages on the condenser and/or cabin air filter such as dirt or bugs. Your refrigerant or vacuum could also be leaking.

Leaks are never to be ignored. Refrigerant is a dangerous chemical that can not only harm your engine but also the environment. You can test your vehicle by using black light enabled dyes or “sniffers”. Most refrigerants are pre-mixed with a special U.V. dye that shows up under a black light. A sniffer is a device that hones in on the refrigerant’s chemical components and will “sniff” out a leak. Age and moisture are what cause leaks in vehicle air conditioning. Seals and hoses lose their elasticity over time allowing refrigerant to escape. Moisture then enters in to the system and creates a corrosive acid.