A Checklist for Storing a Car for the Winter

A car is meant to be driven. However, there are sometimes reasons that a car needs to be taken off of the road and stored for the winter months. Sometimes the car owner lives in a warmer climate during the winter or maybe the car is too fancy to subject to the cold winter elements. Whatever the reason, there are certain precautions that should be taken when storing a vehicle to minimize the effect it can have. Follow these steps when storing a car for the winter months:

Cover It
Preferably, store the car inside a garage while it isn’t being used during the winter. If possible, the car should be kept away from rain, snow, wind, sun, and other elements. If the winter is bad and there is lots of snow, it can quickly pile up on the car, which isn’t good for it. Even if it’s in a garage it’s still worthwhile to invest in a car cover to protect the car from dust. If a garage isn’t available, at least cover it with a car cover.

Protect the Tires
If a car is sitting idle for long periods of time it can really take a toll on the tires. If they aren’t moving and are left in the same position for months it can potentially cause damage or ruin the tires. Remove the tires and store the car on jack stands. If that’s not possible, park the car on wooden boards which are better for the tires to sit on for months than the cold cement floor of a garage. In addition, let some air out of the tires to reduce the strain on them.

Take Care of the Liquids
As liquids sit idle in a car over time it can prevent damage. Add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank, fully drain the cooling system, and change the oil before leaving a car for an extended period of time.

Keep Animals Out
Animals and other small critters seek shelter during the cold winter months and an unused vehicle is a prime place to hide out. To keep animals out of the car put mothballs inside the vehicle and cover the tailpipe.

Lock It Up

This seems obvious, but is worth mentioning. When storing a car the car and the garage should be locked. A car that isn’t being watched over is more likely to be stolen so it’s important to be as cautious as possible.

Know When It’s Time to Replace Your Tires

The quality of your tires is very important. As tires begin to age the tread on them wears down meaning that they are less effective and a lot less safe. Tires aren’t meant to last forever. Once the tread starts to wear on the tire it loses performance ability and tire failure can lead to serious accidents and even death. Don’t ignore the warning signs and take the time to check your tires on a regular basis. Here are a few ways to know that it’s time to replace your tires:

Failed Penny Test
Put a penny upside down in the center of the tread of the tire. As long as you can’t see the top of Lincoln’s head, the tire is still OK to use. If you can see Lincoln’s head, it means that the tread is too worn and the tire should be replaced.

Failed Tire Tread Gauge Test
The penny test has been criticized for not being 100% accurate. If you are looking for more accurate results, purchase a tire tread gauge at an auto store for a few dollars and test that way.

Tread Wear Indicator is Visible
The tread wear indicator is located inside the groove of the tread. It should be located below the groove. If it is even, or almost even, with the tread around it, it means that the tire is no longer safe to use.

Follow Owner’s Manual
Every car is different so use your owner’s manual as a reference. Typically, 6 years is the shelf life of a quality tire. This can vary depending on the driving style of the car owner, but 10 years should be the absolute maximum for using the same tires. The age of a tire starts when it was manufactured, not when it was first used because they can deteriorate even while just sitting in a store.

Use Common Sense
Sometimes just looking at a tire can let you know that there is a problem. Keep an eye out for any deep cracks or bubbles and take a look at the wear. If it’s uneven on the front it could mean that there is an alignment issue. If the tire doesn’t stay properly inflated and loses air quickly or doesn’t maintain correct tire pressure, there is obviously a problem.

If the tread of a tire is down to 1/16 of an inch it’s time to replace the tires. In fact, in some states it’s a legal requirement that tires have proper tread above 1/16 of an inch. Another thing to keep in mind is your environment. Tires can age faster in warmer climates.

Keep These Emergency Items in Your Car at All Times

As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Anything can happen when you hit the road, including break downs and accidents. It’s important to always be prepared and have the following essential emergency items in the car at all times:

First Aid Kit
A first aid kit can come in handy after a minor accident. It can be purchased or home made. Be sure that it includes items like bandages and gauze pads.

Flashlight & Batteries
Breaking down or getting into an accident is bad enough, but it’s even worse when it happens at night in a dimly lit area. Always store a flashlight in the car with an extra set of batteries, just in case. If the batteries don’t work the flashlight is useless.

Flares & Reflective Triangles
Flares and reflective triangles are important because they warn oncoming traffic that there is a disabled vehicle on the side of the road. If the car is stopped near a bend in the road or in an area that isn’t very well lit there is always a chance that a driver won’t see it and may hit it.

Jumper Cables
It’s easy to make a simple error like leaving an interior light or the headlights on, which will drain the battery. Sometimes all you need is a quick jump from a friendly neighbor to get the car up and running again. Having jumper cables in the car can get you out of a jam. Just make sure that you know how to use them properly.

Air Compressor
Driving with low tire pressure isn’t safe. If the warning light is displayed on the dashboard it’s best to address the issue as soon as possible. Since it’s not always easy to find a gas station quickly, or to find spare change to pay for the air at a convenience store, it’s advisable to have an air compressor that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter.

Winter Items
Depending on the time of year and where you will be doing your driving, items like a shovel, winter gloves, a blanket, and sand or kitty litter can be helpful during the winter months if the car gets stuck in the snow or ice.

Tips for Transporting a Christmas Tree

Of course everybody likes the look of their Christmas tree once they get it set up and put the lights and ornaments on it. Unfortunately it takes a lot of time and effort to get it looking that way! Perhaps the hardest part of the whole ordeal is getting the Christmas tree back home from the farm or stand. Here are 4 tips to follow to make the process as smooth as possible:

Bring the Right Materials
While the place that you get the tree might have these items available, it can’t hurt to be prepared. You should have on hand: gloves, a sheet, bungee cords, rope, and a stepladder if you aren’t tall or are strapping the tree to the top of a large vehicle. Christmas tree needles can be sharp and a tree is difficult to maneuver without gloves. Depending on how the tree will be transported home, the sheet can be placed in the back of the trunk or on top of the roof to protect the roof from scratches. Obviously, bungee cords and rope are needed to secure the Christmas tree so that it doesn’t fall out of or off of the car en route home.

Inspect It
Check the tree for loose branches, insects, or even bird’s nests. There’s no sense in taking that stuff home with you or putting it in your car.

Get It Wrapped
Before leaving, get the tree wrapped in plastic netting. A Christmas tree is much easier to handle when it has been wrapped. Many Christmas tree dealers offer this service free of charge.

Consider the Size
Small trees can go in the backseat and medium trees can go in the trunk. If you are putting the tree in the trunk, put the backseats down if you can and position the tree at an angle. The base of the tree should be inside of the car, with the top of the tree sticking out if necessary. Since the base is the heaviest part, this will help keep it secure. Use the bungee cords and rope to shut the trunk gently on top of the tree. If you are putting the tree on the roof, place it on top of the sheet with the base facing forward. That way, the wind will blow off less needles and limbs.

How to Get Your Car Ready for Winter

Just thinking about driving around during the winter is enough to make any driver shudder. During the cold, long winter months it’s important to be that much more careful when driving and take extra precautions. This means that all car owners should spend the necessary time and money to get their vehicle ready for winter. Here are 5 important ways to do so:

Buy Snow Tires
Think about all that you drive through in the winter: snow, ice, slush, hail, freezing rain, sleet. It’s not a pretty picture and it always results in slippery road conditions. Depending on where you live and how bad the conditions can get, all-season tires might not be up for the job. Consider purchasing snow tires that will improve your traction. If you can’t make the investment, check the tire pressure of your existing tires often throughout the winter months to ensure that they are properly inflated. Tire pressure can drop in cold weather which can be dangerous.

Replace Wipers and Washer Fluid
Windshield wiper arms are only at their most effective for about a year, so consider buying new ones before winter. Lots of dirt, sand, and salt is going to end up on the window as you drive and you obviously can’t drive safely if you can’t see. Most people use more windshield fluid in the winter than any other season, so be sure to keep an extra bottle in your car at all times to fill up when needed.

Change the Oil
It’s important to get regular oil changes no matter what the season, but it’s a smart idea to get one before winter. Oil can get thicker in the cold air which diminishes its quality. Tell your mechanic that you want to use oil that works well in the winter.

Make Sure the Heat is Working
Driving around in a car without heat in the winter is uncomfortable but it’s also unsafe. The heater blower motor is what heats the car and defrosts your windshields and without a defroster you will have severely limited visibility. Check that the heat is working before it gets too cold and get it checked out if you notice a funny smell or noise.

Stock Emergency Items
It’s important to have an emergency kit in your car no matter what season it is, but there are certain items that should be added in the winter like a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, gloves, boots, and blankets. You may even want to keep some extra clothes in the trunk. While this may seen excessive, it will come in handy if you break down during a snowstorm!

Auto Parts: Should You Buy Used?

People rely on their cars on a daily basis to get them to and from work and other important commitments. Obviously, they want their car to run properly and they want to avoid car troubles. Unfortunately, things happen and repairs need to be made. When it comes to buying car replacement parts, consumers have two choices. They can buy a new part or a used part. Buying a used auto part may worry some consumers; just like buying a used car may worry them. After all, it isn’t new and everybody likes new and shiny things and there is always going to be some uncertainty about something that has been previously used. Likely worries are, “Who used it?” and “How well will it even work?” While these are understandable concerns, there are many reasons to buy a used auto part. You just need to know the best way to go about purchasing it.

The first step to buying a used auto part is to do your research and know exactly what it is that you need. People that don’t work with cars on a daily basis can easily confuse one part with another. If you are going to a junkyard, bring the old part with you, or if you plan on buying the part online make sure that you see a picture of what it looks like to ensure that it is indeed the part that is needed. It’s also important to research the place that you plan on buying the used auto part. There are many options and you can buy directly from a junkyard or purchase auto parts online. Do an online search and quick background check to see if the provider has been involved in any kind of scam or has negative feedback. Know what their return and exchange policies are. If there is no warranty, find a used auto parts dealer that will provide one.

When it comes to the actual part, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should know how old it is and how many miles the previous car went while using this part. If you are in the market for a body part like a back door, it’s important to consider its color. It may be hard to find an exact color match, but the retailer should be able to tell you if it can be painted or stained to meet your requirements.

When it comes to buying used auto parts, you don’t need to buy them from the well known national brand chain store. Due to their popularity they may increase prices and it’s very possible that you can find the exact part that you need at a more reasonable price from a local yard or a smaller retailer online. It’s possible that some retailers may even be willing to negotiate prices with you.

The decision to purchase a used car part or a new car part is personal preference, but there are many advantages to buying used. Not only will it save you some money, but it’s also good for the environment because it is one less part that ends up in a junkyard or landfill.

Top 4 Ways to Decorate Your Car for Halloween

Halloween is a fun time for both kids and adults. One of the best things about Halloween is that it gives you a chance to dress up in a costume. Many people also take the time to decorate their homes for the holiday. For Halloween enthusiasts that really want to take it to the next level, why not decorate your car too?

Here are the top 4 ways to decorate your car for Halloween:

Decals and Magnets
This is probably the easiest way to decorate your car. Many stores sell Halloween themed window decals. Most people tend to put them up on their front windows or door windows of their house, but they work well on the rear door glass or back glass of your car too, as long as the driver’s view isn’t obstructed! You can also purchase car magnets and place them on the exterior of your vehicle. Always remember to make sure that they are in fact, “car safe”. You don’t want them to leave marks or ruin the car paint in any way!

Creepy Passengers
If you really want to freak out that guy waiting next to you at a red light, why not give some spooky dummies a lift? Think skeletons, mummys, scarecrows, witches, etc. There are plenty of Halloween props that can be purchased in stores or online, but they are relatively easy to make with materials from the local discount clothing stores. You’ll probably get some strange looks as you drive around town, but you may get away with driving in the car pool lane!

Dead Guy in the Trunk
This one is pretty easy, but be careful, your car might get reported to the authorities! Simply buy a fake bloody arm or leg and leave it sticking out of the trunk. It’s gruesome, but all in the name of Halloween fun for those that have a good sense of humor.

Mini Haunted House
Cover the car with cobwebs, spiders, and other creepy crawlers. If you have a truck, set up a display in the back with spooky characters. Trick or treaters will certainly get a kick out of it. If you want to take it to the next level, real people can hide along with the fake characters and jump out to spook passersby. This is fun for those super Halloween enthusiasts.

When it comes to decorating your car for Halloween you can obviously be as tame or as crazy as you’d like. It’s just another way to enjoy the holiday!

7 Fall Car Care Tips

October is Fall car care month because it’s the perfect time to get your car ready for winter. Depending on your location, the winter months can be brutal and cause car owners lots of headaches. The car needs to be dug out of the snow, needs to avoid parking bans and snow plows at all costs, and often gets that dirty, grimy look. It’s just not fun. There’s already enough car related stresses to worry about in the winter that you don’t want a break down to be one more.

Here are 7 Fall car care tips to get your car ready for winter:

Fix a Tiny Problem
So your car has recently taken a few tries to start or is making a funny noise that you can’t place. While these don’t seem like huge issues worth spending money on right now, you will be kicking yourself when you are left stranded in the break down lane when the temperature is below freezing. A tiny problem now will usually turn into a bigger problem in the future if it’s ignored.

Check the Cooling System
Cars don’t only overheat during the summer months! If necessary, have the cooling system flushed and refilled.

Check the Heater and Defroster
For both comfort and safety purposes, it’s absolutely essential that these features be working properly during the winter. A defroster keeps the windows clear of snow and ice. Driving without 100% visibility is dangerous.

Replace Windshield Wipers
If the wipers are old or worn out, spend the money on new ones. Winter gives your wipers a workout. Think about it. It takes a lot more out of a blade to push snow and ice from side to side than it takes to push the rain away. You might even want to spend a little extra on special winter blades that can fight the ice.

Fill Windshield Washer Fluid

This will certainly need to be done more than once. All of that salt and dirt from the plows will continually end up on your windshield, limiting visibility and leaving a dirty mess.

Check Tires
Check the pressure and tread of your tires to make sure they are winter-ready. It’s one thing to drive with worn tires on dry pavement. Driving with worn tires on icy and wet surfaces on a daily basis is another story altogether.

Create a Winter Emergency Kit
You should have an emergency kit in your car throughout the year, but a winter kit will include a few extra essentials like gloves, boots, blankets, a shovel, and dirt or kitty litter. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.