Car Interior Cleaning Basics

When it’s time to change the oil in your car or you need to have the muffler replaced or you’ve been in an accident, there are tons of things to consider, from where to have the work done to what kind of parts to use to how the repairs or upkeep will affect the value of your vehicle.

Everyday wear and tear and regular use of your vehicle wears down all of its parts, inside and out. One of the best things you can do on a regular basis to maintain your vehicle’s value is to keep it clean, inside and out.

Keep your seats clean.

The best way to keep your seats clean is to cover them, especially if you have cloth seats or children. If you prefer not to use seat covers, regularly wiping and vacuuming your seats should keep them in good shape.

Use floor mats and clean the carpets.

Cars come with floor mats for one reason: to make them easier to clean. Simply shaking the dirt and debris off of the removable floor mats on a regular basis is a good way to keep them clean. If you can vacuum once a month, clean spills immediately, and remove stains as soon as possible, your floor will be in much better shape.

Dust and wipe the dashboard.

After the floor, one of the most noticeable kinds of dirt in a car is dust, especially on the dashboard. Wipe it down monthly to keep your car looking (and smelling) new. Leaving dust on the dash means you probably also have dust in the ceiling and on the floor, which can also trap smells from smoke, fast food, moisture, and more.

Keep the cup holders clear.

Cup holders tend to be where we store things from drinks and change to trash and lip balm. Cars can be exposed to extreme temperatures inside, and it’s easy to end up with a big mess on your hands.

Keep things smelling fresh.

All of the cloth in your car’s interior is a trap for smells, which can build from dust, dirt, mud, food, smoke, moisture, and your gym bag that lives in your trunk. After vacuuming all the cloth, spray it with a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water and leave the windows and/or doors open until it dries. Your car will be scent-free in no time.

 

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Why Are Accidents so Common in the Summer?

It may seem like there are reasons why each season is more full of car accidents than any other, but the truth is that the changing of the seasons leads to more accidents than anything else. Each season brings new weather and changes in the behavior of people, plants, and animals, all of which can affect things like visibility and the safety of road conditions. So, what changes in the summer can make accidents more likely than at any other time of the year?

School is Out!

When school gets out for the summer, it means there are lots of youngsters running around, whether they’re behind the wheel or playing outside. Younger children and their families may be walking in neighborhoods, playing at parks, and kicking balls that end up in the street, so watch out for extra distractions. Older kids, on the other hand, may be old enough to get behind the wheel, populating the road with a higher number of inexperienced and easily distracted drivers.

Construction Season Begins

The more road construction there is, the more likely it is that drivers are taking unfamiliar detours, temporary signs and signals are in place, and traffic lanes are shut down. Keep your eyes peeled for these new road rules that you (and other drivers) may not be used to.

Summer Heat

The heat of the summer can bring all kinds of changes, from overheating cars and an increase in tire blowouts to more motorcycles and bicycles on the road. Keep an eye out for hard to see cyclists! Summer heat is also more damaging to your vehicle, so make sure that your tires are properly inflated and your fluid levels are where they should be.

Vacation Season Begins

Summer is the most popular tourist and vacation time of the year all over the world. The chances are higher now that there will be foreign drivers, out of towners who don’t know the local roads, people relying on GPS navigation systems and trying to operate phones while driving than at other times. Keep an eye out for distracted or lost drivers, and make sure not to drive distracted!

Vacation season also means people are more likely to stay up late, drink more alcohol, and let loose. Driving under the influence is never a good idea, but keep an eye out for those who start earlier in the day or who may be tired from the night before.

 

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A Basic Guide to Automobile Fluids

Automobiles are made of lots of moving parts, but they can’t run without liquids to fuel them, keep them lubricated, and help them work. This is a basic guide to the fluids your vehicle depends on and the importance of auto maintenance.

Engine Oil

After fuel, which is absolutely necessary for any non-electric vehicle to run, engine oil is the next most important fluid in your car. It has several purposes: it keeps things cool, it keeps them lubricated, it prevents friction, and it cleans the engine.
Most cars have a stick that allows you to easily check the color, consistency, and level of the engine oil. It’s important to keep enough in your car and to change the oil and its filter regularly.

Brake Fluid

Brakes are one of the most important systems in any car, especially when it comes to safety. Modern brakes are hydraulic, which means they only work because of the fluid in the system. Over time, brake fluid can be contaminated or the system can fail, so if you notice your brake fluid leaking or your brakes aren’t working properly, it’s time to have them checked out.

Power Steering Fluid
This fluid helps make steering, especially at lower speeds, much easier. Without power steering fluid, every time you turn the wheel you’d be fighting the friction between the rubber tires and the road, which are designed to grip!

Windshield Wiper Fluid

Although you can drive your car safely without windshield wiper fluid, it still plays a role in helping you see where you’re driving. It’s easy to maintain and inexpensive to buy, just make sure it’s full so you have it when you need it.

Coolant

Coolant, or antifreeze, is a special kind of liquid designed to absorb heat and prevent the engine from overheating. There are several ways that coolant can work in the engine, but without enough coolant, your engine is likely to overheat and stop working properly.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid plays a role in the transmission similar to that played by engine oil in the engine: lubrication, cooling, and reduction of friction. While transmission fluid shouldn’t require upkeep, if you notice issues with your transmission, errors in manufacture, contamination, or damage caused in an accident could be to blame — check your transmission fluid.

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Steps in the Collision Repair Process

If you haven’t been in an accident before, the process, from collision to paid and repaired vehicle, can seem confusing. We’ve put together a simple list to help un-complicate the process for you.

The Accident

At the accident, make sure you do the following:

 

● Take photos of the scene, preferably before any of the vehicles have moved. If possible, you should clear the road soon after.
● Make sure everyone is okay. Call an ambulance.
● Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes name, address, phone number, email address, insurance name and policy, etc.
● Contact the police. Get witness contact information and statements – the police may do this.
● Give your insurance company an unbiased account of what happened.

Towing

If your car is badly damaged, it may not be drivable after the accident. If you need a tow, it saves time and money to already have a repair shop selected. Remember – you don’t have to go to the shop your insurance company suggests! They are obligated to work with any repair shop of your choosing.

Estimates

An estimate will give you an approximate cost for repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company may decide that your car is totaled if the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. An estimate shouldn’t take long, and you shouldn’t need an appointment.

Repair Appointment

Once you, the repair shop, and the insurance company have agreed on repairs, you can schedule a repair appointment at the shop of your choosing. You’ll have to sign a form to authorize the repairs, and you may owe your insurance company a deductible depending on your policy.

The cost of repairs will depend on the insurance policy you have. Damages caused in the accident should be covered by a collision policy. If you’re in a state that assigns fault and the accident was your fault, you will need collision coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle and not just the other vehicle. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company should pay for your repairs. If their insurance doesn’t cover enough, or if the other party doesn’t have coverage, you’ll need to pay out of pocket or have an uninsured/underinsured motorist package included in your policy. Check with your insurance company if you aren’t sure. Your insurance policy may also cover a rental car during repairs, but it depends on the policy you have.

Car Pick-Up

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your repair. When you pick up your car, it should be in the same condition it was in prior to the accident.

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Preventing Pothole Damage

After each winter, the number of potholes on the road seems to multiply. Unfortunately, the damage a pothole can do to your vehicle is potentially devastating, so it’s important to be on the lookout for potholes and learn how to minimize the damage. Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to prevent pothole damage from destroying your car.

Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you on the road.

While this is good safe driving advice and required by law in many places anyway, leaving space between you and the car in front of you gives you time to spot a pothole as you approach it, and if possible, avoid it. Never swerve suddenly to avoid a pothole; you may cause a much worse accident hitting another vehicle, person, biker, oncoming traffic, or a solid object.

Drive slower.

This may not seem like an ideal solution, but you’re more likely to suffer damage if you hit a pothole going fast than if you hit it going slowly. Ultimately, you’ll make it to your destination faster if you don’t have to stop and check out pothole damage.

Look out for puddles.

A puddle might be a small divot in the road that you hardly notice, or it could be a car-killing foot-deep pothole, just hiding under a pool of water. Be careful, slow down, and think of your poor tires.

Avoid sudden braking.

If you don’t have enough time to slow down before hitting a pothole, resist the urge to swerve out of the way sharply or brake too suddenly and harshly. Braking quickly compresses the front suspension, lowering the front of the vehicle, which can force the wheel deeper into the pothole and make it harder for it to come out the other side, rather than allowing it to glide over the top. While not ideal, gliding over the top is better for your vehicle in the long run.

Keep your tires properly inflated.

If you hit a pothole with under-inflated or overinflated tires, they’re less likely to hold up and more likely to suffer damage. Flat tires are a common result of hitting a pothole.

If you do hit a pothole, stop and check for damage as soon as possible.

The longer you drive a damaged vehicle, the more likely it is that the damage will grow. Check your tires, be aware of your steering and alignment, and if you are uncertain, have a technician take a look.

Pay attention to your steering.

One of the first things a pothole can affect is your steering and alignment, so make sure not to swerve when you hit a pothole, and pay attention to your alignment following a hit.

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Small Changes to Drive Green

Going green, eating green, and protecting the environment are terms we hear all over the place now. It may seem like the latest trend, but do you know how easy it is to do?

Benefits of ‘Going Green’

Not only is green healthier for you and for the environment, it can save you some green by keeping more money in your pocket.

● Reducing the amount of fuel you use can improve air quality. This isn’t only important for the future of the earth – you’re breathing the same air that vehicles pollute right now.

● Increasing your gas mileage, meaning you get more miles out of every gallon you purchase, can help you save money. On average, getting 30 miles per gallon instead of 20 can save about $1,000 a year.

We’ve put together a list of a few simple things you can do to drive green.

● Check your tire pressure. Low pressure can cost you an extra tank of gas every year.

● Don’t carry extra things with you. Take only what you need – every additional 100 pounds reduces your gas mileage by around two percent.

● Change your oil regularly. If you notice your mileage dropping, you may be due for an oil change – that’s how much of a difference it can make.

● Slow down. Driving over 60 miles per hour reduces your mileage, even if the speed limit is over 60. The more you speed, the lower your mileage.

● Take your time to stop and go. Stopping and starting abruptly is one of the best ways to decrease your mileage. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), it can affect mileage by 40 percent.

● Don’t idle unnecessarily. It’s better to turn your car off than to idle, in addition to wasting fuel, it can wear out your engine faster.

● As the weather warms, stay cool the right way. According to fueleconomy.gov, it’s best to use your air conditioning on the highway only, and roll down the windows at lower speeds.

● Avoid rooftop cargo if you can. Summer sports and vacations may call for equipment that won’t fit inside your car, but it’s better to mount them on the back than on top to reduce wind resistance. Remove it when you don’t need to use it!

● Use cruise control. Maintaining a constant speed, especially on the highway, will save fuel by minimizing the time you’re accelerating.

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Collision Insurance Myths

Five Myths to Stop Believing about Collision Insurance

Myth #1: Your insurance company chooses the repair shop you have to use after a collision.

In reality, insurance companies aren’t allowed to tell you where to have your vehicle repaired at any time; you legally have the right to choose where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Insurance companies may have lists of suggested shops, and they may have agreements with some shops, like direct repair options, but you don’t have to choose according to your insurance company’s suggestions.

Myth #2: The insurance company’s estimate is always right.

Both your insurance company and the body shop are likely to perform estimates on your vehicle, and they may not always be the same. Just because the insurance company comes up with a lower number, doesn’t mean they’re right, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be required to cover the difference between their estimate and the actual cost. It’s generally up to your collision repair shop to negotiate with your insurance company.

Myth #3: Comprehensive insurance coverage protects me from everything.

Comprehensive coverage is one kind of insurance coverage that you can include in your insurance policy, but it doesn’t cover everything. Usually, it covers damage that is NOT caused by a collision, like damage from vandalism, a fire, or a tree falling on your car. For coverage of damage caused in a collision, you’ll need collision coverage as part of your policy.

Myth #4: My insurance won’t go up if the accident is not my fault.

This isn’t necessarily true. There is always fault assigned in an accident, so even if it’s considered ‘no fault’ insurance, your rates may be affected if your insurance company has to pay and isn’t reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company.

Myth #5: Collision coverage pays for damages caused in any accident.

Collision insurance is meant to cover the cost of damage caused to your vehicle caused in an accident that is your fault. If you cause the accident, your liability insurance should cover costs incurred to the other driver. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may be held responsible to cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle if the accident is your fault. If the accident is the fault of the other driver, their insurance is usually responsible for your costs, unless the driver is uninsured or underinsured, in which case they can’t pay, and your own uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should pay.

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Springtime Pedestrians and Cyclists

Spring has arrived, the weather is getting warmer, and that means pedestrians and cyclists are coming out of hibernation and they’re on the streets and sidewalks. It may be wet, which means lower visibility and slicker roads.

In order to prevent or appropriately handle pedestrian and cyclist collisions, keep the following in mind.

Driver Safety Tips

Although pedestrians and cyclists have their own set of safety rules, as a driver, you’re the one who would be held responsible in the case of an accident. So, keep the following list in mind when you’re driving through towns and cities.

● Drive slowly when crossing sidewalks or pulling into our out of driveways. You may cross paths with children or others who have the right of way.

● When turning at an intersection, first check for oncoming traffic, then check for cyclists and pedestrians before you turn.
○ When turning left, it’s especially important to check for oncoming cyclists, and to look to your left for pedestrians.
○ When turning right, be aware of cyclists coming behind you (they should be on your left, but may not always be) and to look for pedestrians crossing at the light.

● Never pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk; you may not see the pedestrians crossing in front of them.

● If you see a vehicle pulled over or parked on the side of the road, leave enough room for a door to open or a pedestrian to enter or exit the vehicle, just in case they do.

● Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles around you. Potholes or other road hazards can cause abrupt stopping or turning.

● When parallel parking, check your mirror before opening the door; approaching cyclists may not know you’re about to exit.

● If you can, fold your mirror in, especially on tight streets, when parallel parking so that cyclists have room to get by.

● Avoid distracted driving. Pedestrians and cyclists are already more difficult to see because they’re smaller than vehicles, so it’s up to you to stay focused on the road.

● Follow the speed limit. Driving too fast increases the likelihood that pedestrians and cyclists will misjudge the time it takes you to arrive at a crossing and the likelihood of an accident.

● Always use turn signals when turning or changing lanes so that other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists can see where you’re going.

● Always check your blind spot for cyclists.

● Only pass a cyclist when there is an open lane next to you; it is safe to pass a cyclist when it is safe to pass a vehicle.

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Collision Repair Parts Terms

When you’re having your car repaired after a collision, there are bound to be a lot of auto parts related terms thrown around. We’ve put together a list to help you understand some of them that are less common outside of the collision repair world.

Aftermarket Parts – Replacement parts for a vehicle that were not built by the original equipment manufacturer.

Basecoat – This is a layer of highly pigmented paint that goes over the primer and under a clear coat. It provides color, but requires the protection of a clear coat.

Body Filler – A material that is used to fill in dents on car panels.

CAPA – The Certified Automotive Parts Association, located in Washington D.C., exists to manage testing and inspection of auto parts used in collision repair.

Clear Coat  – A top layer of clear paint (it contains no pigment) that protects and covers a pigmented basecoat.

Collision – The loss that occurs when a vehicle hits or is hit by another vehicle or moving object.

Competitive Parts – This is another term used for aftermarket parts.

Ferrous – This describes metal that contains iron.

Filter – A filter removes contaminates from a material. Your vehicle contains many kinds of filters, like an oil filter, a fuel filter, and an air filter.

Finish coat – Another name for a top coat, clear coat, or gloss coat. However it can also be flat, or without gloss.

Frame – The skeleton of the vehicle is called the frame. It is usually made of steel or other strong metals and holds things like the suspension system, the engine, and the body together.

Galvanized – A steel that is coated with zinc is galvanized.

LKQ – Like Kind and Quality describes an auto part that was salvaged from another vehicle – usually another of the same make and model, or one that uses the same exact part.

Panel – The outer parts of a vehicle. The painted surface that you see on a completed vehicle is made of different parts, each of these is called a panel.

Putty – A plastic material used to fill deep holes and wide gaps.

OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturers make auto parts for new cars. If your vehicle is damaged and the part is replaced with an OEM part, it’s being replaced with a piece made by the same place that made the original part.

Substrate – An unpainted and uncoated panel.

Quality Recycled Part – An auto part salvaged from a yard.

Quality Replacement Part – Also called an aftermarket part, this is a new part that was not made by the original equipment manufacturer.

 

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Alignment and Collision

Having poor alignment can lead to a collision, and a collision can lead to poor alignment. There are many other things that can lead to both, but it’s important to understand how to identify, correct, and maintain proper alignment of your vehicle to keep it, and its passengers, safe.

Sometimes, after a collision, your vehicle can suffer damage that doesn’t directly affect alignment, but it can affect things that will rapidly decrease your alignment.

What is alignment?

Alignment, when used in terms of a vehicle, refers to how well the wheels line up with the steering wheel. Simply, poor alignment happens when the steering wheel is straight, but the tires are aimed to one side. There are varying degrees of misalignment depending on how vast the difference in direction is.

What causes poor alignment?

Poor alignment can be caused by many things, from a collision, especially one involving the front end of the vehicle, to a repair involving the parts surrounding steering, tires, suspension, etc. Over time, alignment will vary especially if tires aren’t maintained, roads are bumpy, or the car is accustomed to rough driving.

Why is alignment important?

● With properly aligned tires, it’s easier for the vehicle to navigate any road. You’ll save on gas and repair costs by maintaining alignment.
● Because a car with aligned tires doesn’t work as hard, it uses less gas, saving the environment.
● Tires that are misaligned tend to wear unevenly (uneven tires can also cause misalignment), which means they’ll need to be replaced sooner.
● Misaligned tires make the vehicle harder to steer and control, which can lead to accidents. Alignments make your vehicle much safer to drive.

How to identify alignment issues after a collision

If you’ve recently been in a collision that involved the front end of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked as you have your vehicle repaired. Look for damage to the following systems as well, because they can cause poor alignment.

● As you drive, does the car pull to one side or the other when the steering wheel is straight? Alignment and steering are directly related.
● Do you hear a squealing noise during slow turns? Your wheel well, brakes, or steering and suspension system may be affected.
● Is your steering wheel off center?
● Does the steering wheel vibrate as you drive?

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