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16 Must Have Tools for the DIY Car Owner

Whether you have an old beater car or a brand new truck, repairs can get costly when done by a dealership.  Many tasks are easy enough for the DIY car owner if you have the right tools.  We have compiled a list of 16 must have tools to get you started doing repairs and maintenance yourself.

·         Socket Set – This is arguable the most important set you will need to work on your car.  It is a good idea to get a set that includes standard and metric sizes as well as extensions and thin walled sockets.

·         Pliers and Wirecutters – Installing stereos, speakers or wiring headlights are all tasks that can be done with the correct pliers and wirecutters.

·         Torque Wrench – A good torque wrench is always needed when setting nuts to the proper torque.  Over torqueing a nut can sheer off the bolt and makes it much more difficult to remove.  Setting the wrench to the proper torque will make your job a lot easier.

·         Wrenches – A good quality wrench set, such as a ratcheting wrench set, makes life easier by ratcheting instead of removing the wrench on each turn.

·         Screwdrivers – Most people have these around the house but you may want to consider a larger flathead which you can use as a prying tool as well a very small screwdrivers that are delicate enough for electronic work.

·         Dead Blow Mallet – Sometimes this mallet is the only solution to removing stuck bolts.  A few smacks and maybe a little heat will loosen just about anything.

·         Work Light – Working in an area that is well lit is an absolute must.  You need to be able to spotlight the area you are working in as well as your work area to prevent losing parts.

·         Latex Gloves – Disposable gloves are preferable as they will keep the grease and grime off of your hands as well as allowing you to start with a fresh clean pair every time.  Reusable gloves get wasted pretty quickly and there’s no fool proof way to clean them.

·         Zip Ties – Got a group of cables and wires that you need to keep together away from hot and moving parts?  Nothing works better than zip ties to keep things nice and tidy under the hood.

·         Multimeter – Electronics make up a huge portion of vehicles.  No one wants to guess which wires are hot or how much juice is running through a particular wire.  Multimeters remove that guess work by testing each individual wire.

·         Impact Wrench – This is a must have for removing lug nuts in an instant.

·         Lubricants & Cleaners – Mechanical parts need to be cleaned and lubricated regularly.  A rust penetrant, brake cleaner, silicone lubricant and citrus degreaser can make your life a lot simpler for stubborn bolts, cleaning metal parts, eliminating friction and removing oil based products.

·         Drip Pan – Most DIYers do their work in their own personal garage or driveway and you want to keep it somewhat clean.  It’s always smart to get a drip pan (or at least a big piece of cardboard) to put under your car’s engine to catch any leaking fluids.

·         Desiccant – Keeping this product on hand (or a bag of kitty litter) will also help keep your garage floors or driveways in better shape.  Pouring some of either on that oil spill will help absorption and reduce the likelihood of that unsightly oil stain.

·         Duct Tape and Electrical Tape – Duct tape has a million uses but it’s also a good idea to keep electrical tape on hand to cover any bare or exposed wires.

·         Owner’s Manual – The most valuable tool when working on your vehicle is the owner’s manual.  All of the exact specifications of your vehicle are in this book and many times there are common tutorials on maintenance for your vehicle.

We hope you found this list helpful.  Maybe it will help you save a few bucks in the long run!

Benefits of Car Ownership

Many considering your mode of transportation an integral part of everyday life.  Between work, school, daycare, shopping and any other errands, we spend a good portion of our days needing to get from point A to point B.  In today’s day and age, we all have several options for that transportation which include owning, leasing, taxis, trains, public bussing, and up-and-coming options like Uber.  But they all boil down to money.  You need money for each and every one of these options.  While every person has their opinions on what works best for them, here are a few benefits of actually owning your own vehicle.

·         The first benefit is freedom.  Knowing you can hop in your car, truck or SUV whenever you need to go somewhere is priceless.  There is no waiting for the bus or taxi or train to show up and then have to sit through their respective routes to arrive at your destination.  You will arrive at your destination on your own schedule and your own convenience.

·         The chance to improve or establish your credit.  As long as you make your monthly payments on time, you can show other creditors that you are a reliable and dependable member of society that will help you make other purchases on credit such as houses, credit cards or other big purchases that you may not have the cash to front.

·         Some argue that vehicle ownership builds stronger families.  Having transportation at your fingertips means you can take your kids to that soccer game, or that family trip to the movies.  You can help your kids excel in school by getting them after school tutoring or driving them to that volunteer event.  And finally; road trips.  Hop in that truck and take a trip together as a family building memories that will last a lifetime.

·         Most people purchase a vehicle by financing through a bank or credit union.  If you finance for say a 5 or 6-year loan, the financial institution “owns” that vehicle for that amount of time.  But as soon as you pay that loan off, that vehicle is YOURS; no monthly payments.  As long as you do the routine maintenance on that vehicle, you can have reliable transportation for years and years to come.

·         Make it yours!  When you own a vehicle, you can make upgrades or changes to it to make it represent you and your personality.  If you want to paint it a different color, go for it!  If you want to put different wheels and tires on it, do it!  If you want to install a hitch so you can pull that 5th wheel or travel trailer or flatbed trailer with your toys, do it up!  You can make your vehicle fit your lifestyle!

We hope we have provided you a little bit of insight into the benefits of purchasing a car.  Let it help bring you the freedom you want to be you and live the kind of life you want!

Driving During Hunting Season

It’s that time of year again, Hunting Season!  People all over our beautiful state have their blinds set up, deer feed out, scent block on and weapons loaded to get a shot at that big buck.  With the days getting so much shorter, many of us are driving to and from work in the dimly lit hours of the morning or evening.  This is prime time for the deer to be on the move.  All the hunters in the woods or fields means that it’s got the deer moving into the streets and roads.  It is more important than ever to make sure you are completely aware of your surroundings.

Here are just a few tips to make driving in these last months of the year as deer/vehicle accident free as possible:

·         Don’t Just Rely on “Deer Whistles.” Research has found that in hundreds of trials, the high frequency whistles did not change deer behavior or responses.

·         Be Aware.  This is the best defense against deer/vehicle collisions.  You need to keep your eyes on the ditches and wooded areas as this is where deer are most likely to bound from.

·         Use Your High Beams. When traveling at night, use your high beams whenever possible as they give you the greatest amount of visibility.

·         Slow Down Early.  If you think you see a deer ahead, slow down in advance and don’t be surprised if you need to completely stop.  The bright lights may confuse the deer and cause them to react quickly by darting in any direction.

·         Use Your Horn.  Deer are keenly adept at pinpointing sound due to the shape of their ears and their ability to pivot each ear individually.  When you see a deer, it may help to blow your horn repeatedly to help them pinpoint where you, the danger, is.

·         Deer Don’t Usually Travel Alone.  Where you see one deer, you are likely to see more following.  Be cautious if you see one deer cross the road as there are probably others close by.

·         Don’t Swerve.  No matter how careful you are, sometimes you cannot avoid the deer in the middle of the road.  Whatever you do, do not swerve!  There is a good chance you could swerve into oncoming traffic or off the road into a tree.  If you have remained vigilante with your speed, hopefully the damage to your vehicle from a direct impact with a deer will be minimal.

We hope these tips will help make driving during hunting season a little safer for everyone.  Now go get that big buck!

Tow Vehicles

It seems like more and more people are investing in “toys” to vacation with or enjoy rather than the stereotypical pricey destinations of old.  Some of these toys include travel trailers or 5th wheels, boats, ATVs or dirt bikes, canoes or bicycles or anything else that they can take on the trails in the woods or on the water and the beach. 

One of the biggest things you have to consider when making a purchase like any of those listed above is what kind of vehicle and equipment you will need to get those toys to your destination.  There is a misunderstanding that if you have a truck, you can tow whatever you want.  This could not be further from the truth.  There are several things to consider when figuring out what kind of vehicle you need in order to have that fun.  But the first place to start is with the vehicle itself.

Tow Vehicles:

·         Towing Capability – Each and every vehicle is different for how much they can tow based on things like engine power, transmission type, number of drive wheels, axle ratio and wheelbase length.  To find your vehicle’s specifics, you can read through your owner’s manual as well as calling your local dealership and providing them with your vehicle’s VIN number and they can help find the information for you.

·         Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – maximum that the tow vehicle can weigh when fully loaded.

·         Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) – maximum combined weight of the tow vehicle including passengers, equipment, fuel, etc., as well as the trailer.

·         Gross Axle Weight Rating – maximum weight that a single axle can carry.

You need to know exactly what kind of weight you will be towing (trailer weight loaded, boat weight, ATV weight, etc) so you can make sure that your truck is rated to tow your toys without doing any damage to the mechanics of the truck.

Keep Your Vehicle Smelling its Best

One of our strongest senses is the sense of smell.  They can bring back memories, remind you of people and places, or even affect our moods.  There is nothing worse than the smell of something sour or stale when you get in an enclosed space such as a vehicle.  If you notice a bad smell in your car, try one of the 7 tips below and it might restore a pleasant smell in your car.

·         Vacuum – Most odors come from the upholstery in your vehicle.  Use a vacuum to vacuum the seats and carpet, especially in between seats where things can get lodged in and forgotten about.

·         Smoke – Cigarette smoke can get everywhere in a vehicle; even in the ducting system for your vehicles heater and air conditioner.  You can use an air deodorizer sprayed through the intake valve to get the smoke out of the system

·         Baking Soda – If you spilled something on the carpet or upholstery, sprinkle some baking soda on the area and rub it in, leaving it for a few hours.  It will absorb the smells and then you can just vacuum it up!

·         Charcoal – Charcoal is one of the best things you can use to absorb smells, which is why it is used in many air filters.  Grab a chunk of charcoal from the bag you use to grill with and leave it in the car for a few days.  You should notice a substantial difference.

·         Natural Air Fresheners – Choose a favorite scent of yours and see about masking the smell.  You can use a few drops of lavender, vanilla or citrus on a cotton ball and leave it in the car.  Or if coffee is one of your favorite scents, keep a small container of coffee grounds in your car. 

·         Chemical Smells – If you notice a gas smell in your vehicle, it is important to get your vehicle in for service to make sure there isn’t a dangerous leak.

·         Hiring Professionals – If you have tried all of these tips and still can’t get rid of the nasty odor, you may want to consult a professional detail shop.  Unfortunately, this is the more expensive option but they should be able to help eliminate the smell.

Between going to school or work, vacations, shopping or any other kind of trips, we spend a lot of time in our vehicles.  Keeping it smelling pleasant is one way to make those trips more enjoyable.

Prepare Your Car for Cold Weather

Now that the Michigan fall is upon, that inevitably brings the cooler temperatures.  No one wants to run into car troubles in the subzero temperatures that occur during the colder months.  We have compiled a list of things to make sure your car has in tip top shape to get your vehicle through the colder seasons.

-          Check belts, hoses, and fluids

o   Make sure that none of them are cracked, worn or torn to prevent things such as your heater not working.  Also make sure your oil levels and any and all other fluids are full.

-          Check your antifreeze

o   During those freezing winter months your antifreeze plays a very important role as it regulates your engine’s temperature to ensure it runs properly.

-          Check your fuel lines and tire pressure

o   Fluctuation temperatures can condense or expand pressure in your tires which can prohibit your car’s reaction and a faulty fuel line can get build ups of ice which can damage your car’s engine

-          Keep an eye on your fuel levels

o   You should never let your car sit in freezing temperatures with little to no fuel.  This can prohibit your car from starting and will leave you stranded in the cold.

-          The importance of vehicle emergency kits

o   It is important to make sure that you always have safety items in your vehicle in case you get stranded.  You should always have things like gloves, ice scrapers, blankets, flares, first aid kids and jumper cables with you.

Being prepared is key for safe travels during these cooler times of year.

Vehicle Cleaning Tips

As the summer, draws to a close and the leaves begin to change, we can find the remnants of our summer excursions everywhere we look.  And this most definitely includes our vehicles.  Sand from the beach, pieces of food from those on the road meals, smudges and smears on the windows and dash, and pollen or pieces of the great outdoors that flew in while cruisin’ with the windows down are just a few of the things that you can find when you look inside. 

Here are just a few tips on car detailing to get your vehicle cleaned up and ready for the next few months.

-          Hook up an air compressor and blow the dirt from all of the nooks and crannies in your car.  Blow it onto the carpet or floor mats so they are easy to vacuum up.

-          Keep your car smelling clean by using a portable air compressor to blow the dust and dirt out of the heating and air-conditioning ductwork.

-          Use a non acid-based cleaner to clean alloy wheels and use a degreaser, not detergent to clean as they can damage paint.

-          Handwashing your exterior is the best way to go.  But don’t use dishwashing detergent as it can strip away any protective wax coatings.

-          Protect your paint with wax.  Wax protects the pain from the elements.  It will absorb stains and small scratches before they make it to the pain.  Whether you prefer paste wax or liquids, make it a point to wax every few months.

-          Always clean glass last as it will have the grime and residue on it from cleaning the rest of the car.  Find a glass cleaner without ammonia, which most household cleaners contain.  Use a microfiber cloth as it will remove residue and oils from the glass.

Everyone wants their vehicle to look tip top shape; something you are proud to call yours.  Clean your vehicle frequently and it will hold up much better through the years.

Tire Care Tips

We’ve had to say goodbye to summer and hello to the cooler times.  It’s time to make sure your vehicle is prepared for those hard Michigan winters.  No one wants to have any kind of car troubles in the middle of a snow storm.  And one of the most important ways you can make sure your car is ready for the snow is to make sure your tires are in good condition. 

Here are a few tips to make sure that your tires handle the winter road conditions.

-          Maintain Proper Inflation Pressure

·     You need to check the pressure in your tires frequently (we recommend at least monthly) with an accurate tire pressure gauge.  You always want to make sure you have them inflated to the manufacturer specifications. 

-          Don’t Excessively Spin Your Tires

·     If you do get stuck, don’t just let your tires spin at high speeds.  It can cause tire damage or even explosion.  Use a gentle rocking motion to gain momentum to get yourself unstuck.

-          Check Your Tires for Wear and/or Damage

·     You should always check your tire tread depth to make sure you are getting the proper amount of traction.  If your tires have less than 3/32” of tread, it’s time for new tires.  You can use the Penny test; take a penny and put Lincoln’s head down in the tread.  If you can see the top of his head, it’s time to get new tires.  Also make sure there are no holes, or shredding anyone on the tire.  These are weak spots that could result in a blowout.

-          Make Sure to Get Regular Maintenance

·     You should have your tires rotated regularly.  A good rule of thumb is every other oil change or so.  Also make sure your alignment is correct.  If your vehicle pulls to one side or another or your steering wheel is not straight when you are driving in a straight line, it’s time to get it in and make sure adjustments are made.

Taking the proper steps to make sure your vehicle’s tires are in good condition will give you peace of mind when you look outside and see the snow falling.  Enjoy the beautiful sights of a Michigan winter!

Tips for College Car Purchases

College is a stressful yet exciting time in a young person’s life.  A new found independence comes with a new appreciation for frugality as most college freshman aren’t pulling in significant amounts of income, if any at all.  We thought we would help by giving a few tips for that college student that is looking for their perfect vehicle to get them through the collegiate career.

1.       Buy a pre-owned vehicle

·         Paying money for books and tuition, which can cost in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, is not the time to rack up a bunch of debt.  Although brand new vehicles look pretty, you can find just as nice of a vehicle that is just as dependable for way less money than you would pay for new.  New cars depreciate so quickly that you can end up owing more than the car is worth a lot quicker with a brand new one.

2.       If you do need to finance, finance smartly

·         Sit down and figure out your budget.  You need money to live on, food, rent, utilities.  You don’t want to put yourself in a position where your car payment is not leaving you with any money to live on.  Also consider that having a car, means insurance payments, fuel money and regular maintenance to keep your vehicle running in tip top shape.

3.       Research gas mileage

·         When looking for a vehicle, it is important to consider your daily commute.  Trucks and SUVs may look nice and be fun to drive, but if you have a 30 mile commute to and from class every day, you may want to consider something that is more fuel efficient.

4.       Make sure you check your insurance rates on a perspective vehicle

·         Take the time to call your insurance company to find our your premium before you buy your vehicle.  College students typically don’t get the best rates based on their age and lack of experience on the road.

5.       Do you research before you purchase

·         Check things like, how much a basic oil change is, how much do brakes and rotors cost, are there any known problems that you need to be aware of to prepare for up front; don’t be afraid to ask questions

College can be a stressful time but it’s also meant to be some of the best years of your life.  Let making a vehicle purchase be part of the good times!

Tailgating Tips

It seems like all year around people are talking about summer.  Beaches, boats, bonfires and everything else associated with the warm weather and sunshine is what gets people through the rest of the year.  But there is another group of people who love the “after summer” season.  Fall brings beautiful colors, sweatshirt weather, and a reprieve from those hot, humid Mid-Michigan days.  And for the sports fans out there, Fall = Football!

One of the number 1 activities correlated to Football, be it college or professional, is the all-important Tailgate Party!  A place for fans, sporting their team’s colors, to find camaraderie or a little good-natured jibbing at those supporting the opposing team. 

Since tailgating happens in the parking lot in the direct vicinity of our vehicles, whether yours sports an actual tailgate or not, there are things you can do to make sure your car, truck or SUV is going to give you the best venue for your own Tailgate Party!

Many of us have to drive 10s to 100s to even 1000s of miles to get to the venue of our favorite sporting event.  Make sure your vehicle is running in tip top shape with these few checks before you hit the road:

-          Check your oil levels.

o   Make sure your vehicle has enough oil and that you are following the manufacturer’s suggestion of how often to get your oil changed.  Your oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle.

-          Wiper Blades

o   We’ve all been to games where it is raining or even snowing this time of year.  Make sure your windshield wipers are in good working condition to keep you vision clear as you make the trek to the stadium.

-          Tire Condition

o   Nothing will throw a bigger kink in your road trip than a blown tire.  Make sure your tires have enough tread to make your travels safe.  Also make sure tire pressure is up to par and that tire wear is happening evenly.  Remember to have your tires rotated at regular intervals.

-          Roadside Kit

o   Make sure you always have your emergency kit in your vehicle and ready to go.  First aid kits, booster cables, blankets and flares should always be accessible to help you out if you do run into car troubles.

And last but not least…

-          Food and Ice

o   Now that you are safe and sound at the venue, it’s time to break out the food and drinks and have some fun.  Have your coolers stocked and all the fixings ready to go so you can just relax and enjoy the company of others once you arrive.

Now get out there and sport your team’s colors and be ready to share in the joy (and sometimes the hurt) of how the game turns out!