Category: Safety and accidents
If you have ever had the “check engine” light come on in your car, chances are you probably thought, “What is wrong with my car?” If you have ever asked that question, you have one thing correct, there is something wrong with your vehicle. A recent study shows about 10 percent of cars on the road currently have their check engine light on. The light has a variety of meanings and there could be a number of issues wrong with the vehicle.
A check engine light is one of the many lights on your vehicle’s onboard diagnostics. When the car’s computer system detects a problem, the light comes on, and the computer stores a code. This code can be read with a diagnostic computer at a repair shop to tell them what’s wrong.
What does the check engine light mean?
There are several reasons why a check engine light comes on in a car. In general, the light is an indication there is a problem with your vehicle’s emissions system. More specifically, it could mean there is a loose gas cap or the engine is misfiring. Other reasons include needing to replace the O2 sensor, catalytic converter, mass airflow sensor, or spark plugs.
What to do
If your check engine light illuminates, the vehicle should be checked by an automotive repair technician to determine the problem. If the light is blinking, there could be a serious problem with the vehicle, such as a misfiring engine, and the car should be stopped as soon as possible.
A steady light could be one of the less urgent issues, but the car should still be taken to an automotive repair shop for a diagnostics check. There may be a problem that could further damage your engine or consume excess fuel if not addressed. Either can cause more costs in the long run.
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By now you probably know how insurance works (hopefully). You pay monthly for a certain amount of coverage, and depending on what you pay, your insurance will cover part, or all, of your accident damage. But if you get in an accident that isn’t your fault, the other driver should have insurance to cover the damage.
Unfortunately, even though car insurance is required in almost all states, many drivers go without. This can result in additional fines or even a suspended license for uninsured drivers.
In some states, uninsured drivers are still required to cover certain costs of your accident. In New Hampshire, for example, insurance is not required, but a financial responsibility law requires individuals to show evidence that they have the resources to cover damages should an accident happen. However, buying the minimum car insurance policy is still easier and more financially responsible.
Some states also have no-fault insurance, which means that instead of determining who was to blame for the accident, each motorist is covered by their own insurance company. Your insurance pays regardless of who was at fault and you won’t have to prove it was the other driver to get covered. Texas is not one of these states, but they include Florida, New York, and Massachusetts among others.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
When you purchase your insurance, you’ll have the option to get uninsured motorist coverage (UIM). This will cover your costs if you get in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance.
UIM is required in some states and required to be offered by insurance companies in some states. It’s basically an extra guarantee that your accident costs will be covered should the worst happen.
If you get in an accident with an uninsured driver, you can also file a lawsuit against them. You have to build a case that shows that the other driver was at fault. This isn’t a guarantee you’ll get your bills paid, however. Many drivers don’t have insurance because they can’t afford it, let alone your medical bills. This route is often for more extreme cases of negligence and serious medical bills.
In Texas, we have a minimum requirement of bodily injury and property damage liability. This will cover up to a certain amount of damages to the other driver’s car damage and medical costs. The Texas minimum coverage is 30/60/25, which means it will cover the other driver up to 30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 in property damages.
It’s important to know what kind of insurance you have and how it will supplement your accident costs.
UIM coverage is not required in Texas, but it is a good idea to have it anyway. Even if the other motorist in an accident does have insurance, but it doesn’t fully cover your costs, UIM can make up the difference.
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Have you ever found yourself lusting over luxury car features you know you could never afford? New technology has made cars more comfortable, safe, and connected than ever.
The good news is that many of these features can be added to your older vehicle. We’ve compiled a few of our favorite add-ons that can make your car feel up-to-date.
On cold days, seat warmers are the envy of every bum. These seat warmers sit on top of your seat and often have extra cushioning as well. Just slip over your seat and plug into the cigarette lighter and your buns will be toasty in no time.
You don’t have to have a newer car to have a backup camera. Plenty are now available from popular electronic retailers. Just place the camera on your back bumper or license plate and you’ll be able to watch from your in-car screen. No need to be afraid to back into a parking space anymore.
Lane assist and collision warning sensors
Not only are these helpful to give you peace of mind, but crash-prevention sensors are shown to reduce collisions. These are often on the pricey side, but often cheaper to add on your own than buying the car with the features built in at the dealership.
This Garmin camera works as both a dash cam and a lane-assist device. Some devices come with sensors for each corner of your car that improve the accuracy of collision warning.
There are several options for connecting audio in your vehicle, but the easiest by far is using a Bluetooth receiver. The receiver sticks to your dash via magnet and plugs into the audio input in your car. It allows you to play music or make hands-free calls through your car speakers.
Bluetooth connection is a gamer changer for both convenience and safety – and in some cities/states making a call is only legal hands-free.
Though it requires installation, it’s easy and affordable to get a remote start system put into your older vehicle. Starting remotely can help you heat up or cool down the car before you get in. Many also come with a GPS component that can help you locate your car when you forget where your car is in the parking lot.
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Anyone who lives in the Central Texas area is no stranger to traffic and construction delays. Whether it’s construction, rush hour, or a wind turbine blade stuck in an intersection (yes, it’s real), traffic is all but guaranteed to be slow.
But just how slow? Texas A&M Transportation Institute has released their annual report on Texas roads for 2018, featuring the most congested roads in the state. Here are some of the highlights in Austin.
The cost of congestion
It’s apparent traffic is a problem when it makes us late to work, but it is also a problem for pollution and a waste of resources.
In Austin alone, the report found a cumulative delay of 66 million hours and 24 million gallons of wasted fuel. That’s about 37 olympic-pools-worth of gas.
Our time sitting in traffic also adds up – a commuter who spends 45 minutes a day commuting spends the equivalent of 15.6 days in the car per year. And that’s just for work travel, alone.
At the top of the list for Austin’s most congested roads is IH-35 from US 290 N to Ben White Blvd, where the annual delay per mile is 1.3 million hours. This is the span of IH-35 that goes from North Loop through downtown and south of Lady Bird Lake.
Anyone who has been through downtown could probably tell you it’s the worst stretch of traffic in the city, but the extent of its congestion is mind-blowing.
It is followed by the next segment of IH-35 south, from Ben White to Slaughter Lane, where the annual delay is nearly 500,000 hours per mile.
For freight-related traffic, IH-35 in Austin is also the most congested in the entire state.
Honorable road congestion mentions include:
- Mopac from US 183 to S Capital of Texas Highway
- IH-35 from Parmer Ln to US 290 N
- S Lamar from W 45th to W Cesar Chavez
- Cesar Chavez from S Mopac to IH-35
- US 183 from E Ben White to N Mopac
Texas A&M Transportation Institute has gathered this data since 2010 to measure traffic and monitor roadway volume and speed data, in order to reduce gridlock in the state.
The institute, along with many other sources, attribute a rising population with worsening road congestion across the state. A survey in 2016 found that 83 percent of Austinites are unhappy with our driving conditions in the city.
Many solutions have been attempted, and failed, and no feasible alternative has been proposed. Without a solution in sight, the best thing Austin drivers can do is shoot for non-peak hours to travel or use public transportation as much as possible.
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In collision repair, old parts that are damaged must be replaced with new ones. Customers generally prefer OEM parts, but don’t always know their options ahead of time.
There are three different kind of parts that can replace the damaged one. Each one being used can really affect the quality of the repair. The three types are: 1. OEM 2. Aftermarket 3. LKQ.
The first kind is Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEM parts are created specifically for your vehicle by the original manufacturer of your vehicle. So, if you drive a Ford then the OEM part would come from Ford. Using OEM means that the part should function exactly as the part you are replacing, and provides a quality fit and function.
Aftermarket parts are made by anyone other than the car’s maker. They could be a direct replacement or something to change how the car performs or looks. There are a wide range of manufacturers for these parts, and therefore a wide range of quality. Non-profit organization CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) tests and monitors aftermarket products. Aftermarket parts are the least expensive because they do not have to invest in research and development.
LKQ stands for Like, Kind, and Quality. These are recycled parts, and they vary greatly in quality and price. They are technically OEM, but can provide a lot of challenges due to previous damage or problems with paint matching.
When choosing a part, technicians are concerned with the 3 F’s:
Fit: This concerns with how well the part will latch onto the car. Many parts must either click into place or be screwed in.
Function: The new part must do the same quality of work that the old part had before being damaged. A plus side is a new part can go above the quality of a new part if upgrading. The negative side of choosing a cheaper part might risk the quality of function.
Finish: This is to make sure that the part looks like it is a part of the car and not an added-on part that sticks out that sore thumb.
Most auto body professions prefer to work with OEM parts because they have met Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and, frankly, they fit better. But if price is an issue, your auto body professional will know trusted aftermarket manufacturers to help keep repairs in budget.
Your insurance company, on the other hand, may mandate that they will only pay for a certain kind of part. You may still have the option to pay the difference for OEM parts if they will only pay for aftermarket parts.
As a consumer, always be aware of your options, and ask questions.
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With AAA and other emergency roadside services, it may feel unnecessary to know how to change your own tire. But especially on road trips, knowing how to change a flat can save you hours of waiting and worry. Here is your guide to changing a tire, from blowout to back on the road.
Items you’ll need
- Lug wrench
- Spare tire
- Vehicles owners manual
(Your vehicle should already come with these items check your trunk for them before you go out and buy anything.)
Stop Your Car
When you realize your tire is flat, do not abruptly brake or make sharp turns. Instead, slow your vehicle and try to pull over to a safe location away from heavy traffic.
Try to find a flat space to park. Do not try to change your tire on an incline. The level ground keeps your car from rolling while you change your tire.
Hazard Lights/ Brakes
Once you realize you have a flat, turn on your hazard lights. Especially if you’re in fast-moving traffic, four-ways let others know you’re not moving normal speed and they might need to slow down or go around you. Leave them on while you’re changing the tire if you’re parked near moving traffic.
When you park, apply your parking brake. This will minimize the risk of your car rolling away while you’re trying to change your tire.
Place a heavy object like a brick, wheel wedge or wheel chocks in the front of, or behind, the tires to further ensure the vehicle doesn’t roll while you fix the flat.
If you’re changing a rear tire, put these in front of the front tires. If you’re changing a front tire place them behind the rear tires.
Remove Hubcap or Wheel Cover
If your vehicle has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, it will be easier to remove the hubcap before lifting the vehicle with a jack.
You can use a screwdriver to pry the hubcap off. Just insert the point of the tool where the edge of the cover meets the wheel and apply a little force. The hubcap should pop off.
This works for most cars, but if it does not for yours, refer to your owner’s manual for the specific tool you should be using. You can also take it off with your bare hands if you need to.
Loosen the Lug Nuts
Using the lug wrench, find which measurement fits the lug nuts on your car. Once you’ve gotten the wrench onto a lug nut, use your weight to turn the wrench counter-clockwise.
Do not take the nut all the way off; you’ll want them just loose enough that you can take them off with your hands after you jack the tire.
Jack Up the Vehicle
Place the jack securely under car. The correct spot on each vehicle may vary, so consult your owner’s manual for the exact spot to place the jack.
Once you have the jack properly placed, pump the jack up and down using even strokes. Your car should start to lift, giving you the opportunity to change the tire.
Removing the Tire
Completely remove the lug nuts by hand and put them in a safe place. Grab each side of the tire and pull it straight toward you until it completely slides off. Place the tire on its side so it doesn’t roll away.
Placing the Spare Tire on the Vehicle
Pick up the new tire (it may be heavy), line it up with the rim and place it on the car. Grab the lug nuts and place each one back on, tighten them as much as you can by hand.
Lowering your Vehicle
Use the jack to lower the vehicle so that the spare tire is resting on the ground, but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t on the tire. Take the lug wrench and tighten all the lug nuts as much as you can going clockwise. Put all your body weight into tightening the nuts.
After all the lug nuts are as tight as possible you can remove the jack.
Replace the Hubcap (Optional)
If your spare tire is a full-sized tire (instead of a donut), you can go ahead and put the hubcap on. Put the hubcap in place the same way you removed it initially. If you have a donut spare, it probably won’t fit, or be worth messing with until you get your permanent tire.
Drive Away Safely
Donut spare tires aren’t made to drive long distances, or at high speeds, so drive cautiously until you’re able to get a new tire replacement.
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Whether or not you have a spare pool noodle lying around your garage, these foam tubes can be great for more than fun in the pool. We have a couple of ways to use them for your car.
Protect your paint
When you pull your car in the garage, it can sometimes be a tight fit. To prevent hitting your car door on a hard wall, cut the noodles in half and adhere a few horizontally against the wall of your garage. When your door swings open, they’ll provide a soft bumper between your door and the wall.
You can also put some at the front end of your garage, and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally hitting the wall in front of the car.
For the kid’s seat
Do you have a small child who still requires a car seat? If so, this hack is perfect for you.
For rear-facing car seats, most parents struggle with filling that gap between the baby’s seat and the backseat. This gap can cause the seat to wobble which is unsafe for the baby. Some car manuals suggest you use a rolled-up towel, but sometimes the towel does not fill the space tightly enough to secure the seat.
Instead, take two or three pool noodles (depending on the size of your car seats’ gap) and cut them to the width of the base of your car seat. Be sure to reference your baby’s seat manual because some car seats ask specifically ask that you don’t use the noodles.
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Are you planning a weekend getaway, or visiting your family for the holidays? It can get complicated just to load the car up with the family just to go to the movies, let alone a long drive. And when you have a long drive, there are other concerns to address before hitting the road other than music and snacks.
This list is meant to cover all the ordinary checks you’ll want to do before an extended drive, to make sure you and your family are driving safe.
1. Check your dash and lights
Make sure there aren’t any warning lights on your dashboard. If there are, take your car to a mechanic to will check the on-board diagnostics with a scanning device. It works like a computer and reads if there’s anything wrong with the vehicle. This step will help you find out the causes behind the warning lights and how they can be fixed.
Check your headlights too. Turn them on and off to make sure they are all working. If not, head to your local auto parts store to buy some new bulbs. Being visible to other drivers is a key safety issue, and drivers who use their headlights all day have a decreased risk of being in an accident.
Also, if you haven’t driven the car recently, take it for a test drive on the freeway, listen for noises, feel for shakes, and watch for trouble signs in the gauges.
2. Tire Pressure and Tread
Look in your car’s manual for the recommended tire pressure. People often think the numbers on the tire is pressure, but it’s the maximum amount the tire can hold. Overfilling the tire combined with hot weather can lead to a blowout.
Be sure to add the correct amount of air to your tires. Inspect the tread on your tires. Balding tires can increase your chance of a blowout and reduce traction.
3. Engine Oil and Coolant
Check your oil levels and the mileage you’re due for an oil change. If you’re nearing your mileage suggested for an oil change, go ahead and do so before you hit the road.
So be sure to check your coolant levels as well. You don’t want to be stranded with an overheated car.
Make sure to check your brake pads. If they squeal, or its been over 50,000 miles since you replaced your brakes, it’s a safe bet to just replace them before you get on the road.
You can also do a little at-home test looking at your brake pads through the spaces between the wheel’s spokes. The outside pad will be pressed against a metal rotor. There should be at least 1/4 inch of pad if you see less than that you may want to go ahead and replace them.
A transmission is what changes the gear of an engine, and both your transmission and drive axle have their own lubricant. Check them before you get on the road. Look to your owner’s manual for guidance or take it to a local transmission shop for a quick refill.
Most of cars have features that can’t run without the belt, like the alternator, water pump, power steering and even the air conditioning. You can easily check the belts by turning them sideways and making sure there are no rips or tears or by taking your car to a local auto parts store.
Get your belts changed out if the auto parts store recommends it. If you’re vehicle savvy, watch this video below on how to change them at home.
While it can be a bit difficult to spot if you have a good or bad battery, there are steps you can take to make sure there is a strong connection to the car’s electrical system.
Mix two tablespoons of baking soda in a clean container, use a toothbrush to clean your battery then wipe the mixture away.
Make sure your documents are up-to-date. Carry your insurance papers, registration, driver’s license, and any other vehicle information that might be helpful during your trip.
9. Emergency Kit
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Have an emergency kit with some essential items for if you get stranded or have car trouble.
A few things to think about include a few blankets, a bright flashlight, jumper cables, and some basic tools like a screwdriver or wrench.
Family road trips are a great way to bond and see parts of the world you’ve never been before. Make sure your car is ready to safely get you there and back. To find other great road trip tips follow us on Instagram.
Jump starting a car is something all car owners have to do at some point in their lives. Whether we left our headlights on overnight, or just need a new battery, it’s important to know how to start your car when it dies.
The good news is that the jumping part is pretty easy. The hard part is (often) finding another car to jump your own. But once you do, just follow these easy steps.
What you need:
The stalled car, a car with a working battery, and jump cables
Step 1: Make sure both cars are turned off: So the cables can reach, you want the engines of both cars near each other, but NOT touching.
Step 2: Connect one end of the red (positive) cable to the positive terminal (POS or +) on the car battery stalled. Do the same with the working battery.
Step 3: Connect the end of the black (negative) cable to the negative terminal (NEG or -) of the working battery.
Step 4: Connect the other end of the black (negative) cable to an unpainted metal surface on the car with the bad battery. Do not connect to the negative terminal of the car with the bad battery. This could result in the battery exploding.
Step 5: Start the car that has the good battery. Let the engine run for a few minutes before starting the car with the dead battery. If the car doesn’t start, let it run for a while longer. It may help to rev the engine of the good-battery car a bit to give it a boost.
Step 6: When it starts, remove the cables in reverse order and let the jumped car run for some time to give the battery a chance to properly recharge.
If your car does not start, you likely need a new battery.
For safety on the highway, we recommend you using a portable battery jumper. The process typically the same as mentioned above, except you won’t have to rely on another car for battery recharge power. This way, even if there is not another car available, or a safe place for another car to stop and help, you can get back on the road quickly.
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It’s been a full 8-hour workday and you’ve got to get to that family event back in your hometown tonight, several hours away. All you feel like doing is crashing on the couch with Netflix, but you brew yourself a fresh thermos of coffee and haul yourself into the driver’s seat. But with caffeine coursing through your veins and your favorite music blasting, you still feel your eyelids trying to close and your mind wandering from the road in front of you.
It’s not an unusual scenario, taking a trip after a long day, knowing you *probably* shouldn’t be driving? Sometimes it feels unavoidable, but we can, at the very least, do what we can ahead of time to make that trip safer and take care of our own well-being in the process.
And although long drives can be tough, the risk of falling asleep at the wheel can happen at any time, even in a 10 minute drive from work. Here are a few ways we can take care of ourselves to make sure we stay safe on the road.
This might be one of the most important factors of self-care driving.
Did you know that inadequate amount of sleep is equivalent to BAC of .08 or higher? Without proper rest, the areas in the brain responsible for concentration and memory are also affected. We start to have disconnected thoughts and become unaware of our surroundings.
Try to drive earlier in the day, or even take a nap midday, if you’re able. Even a short nap can make a big difference to your attentiveness. According to a NASA study, sleepy pilots who took a 40-minute nap experienced a 34% performance increase and a 100% increase in alertness.
Eat and Stay Hydrated
Always stay hydrated! Long drives are an opportunity to make sure you stay hydrated, but being hydrated ahead of time is just as important.
We want to be able to focus while driving and hunger is a big distraction. In addition, if you haven’t eaten, you probably don’t have enough of the nutrients you need to stay focused for the drive ahead. Don’t eat anything too heavy though, a food coma won’t help your focus.
We want to avoid as many distractions as possible while driving, and part of that looking after your driving needs ahead of time. Part of your self-care can be to keep your snacks and water within reach, and open difficult packaging ahead of time. If you don’t already, get a pair of comfortable sunglasses that reduce glare. If you’re driving in the winter, you might take off your top coat layer for a long drive (since the heater is probably going to warm things up before long).
Your phone is also a distraction while driving. You might use the GPS feature on your phone a lot, but instead of having to keep picking it up and looking at it, use the air vent mount for cars. This is one of the best purchases for hands-free driving, since it is easy to take on and off the mount, and is within your line of sight so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.
And for those other distractions on your phone, turn notifications off. If you have Bluetooth connectivity in your car, use it to pick up calls instead of holding the phone to your ear. Limit the things that make you take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. These self-care methods work to keep you safer and happier.
We want to feel comfortable while driving, especially during long drives.
Make sure you have comfortable clothes that don’t restrict your movement and shoes that are comfortable while operating the pedals. You don’t want to be in pain or feel like you can’t breathe or move freely. If this happens, we start to think about how uncomfortable we are, which means we are not focusing on the road 100%.
However, being too comfortable can have severe effects as well. We want to avoid creating an environment in our car where we just want to sleep instead of drive.
Keep Your Worries Off the Road
Despite all the risks involved with driving, never forget that driving can also be really relaxing! It can be a time to focus on yourself: Self-care within itself. Listen to an audio book, podcast, or some music you enjoy. You can find a way to use this time to unwind from your long day. Putting yourself in a relaxed, but enjoyable head-space can also reduce stress and make you less likely to react/act negatively toward other drivers.
Put all your worries behind you and off the road. You’ll be more focused to your surroundings and have a safer (and relaxing) drive!
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