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Car Care Essentials: Back to School Edition

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To the dismay of many teenagers and young adults, another year of school is approaching quickly. For some in high school, this may be the first year you’ve had a car and been able to drive to school. Most teenagers LOVE the privilege of having a car but HATE the idea of taking care of the car’s maintenance. Fear not! There are a couple easy things you can do to keep your car running smoothly while also keeping your parents off your back. Here are just a few SIMPLE things teenagers and college students can do throughout the school year to keep the car running smoothly:

Monday Morning Maintenance

Pledge to yourself that at the start of every school week you’ll take 5 minutes to walk a lap around your car and check for anything out of place. Check for obvious things such as broken tail lights and anything dragging from the undercarriage of the vehicle. One of the main things you’ll also want to check is tire pressure. While using a tire gauge is the most accurate and effective way to check your tire pressure, the eye alone can also see when tires are getting dangerously low on pressure. August is a GREAT time to keep this in mind because tires tend to lose pressure when the temperature sees drastic swings.

Oil change

Sometimes as a teen or young adult, it’s hard to find the value in something we can’t see. Getting your oil changed is a great example of this! It’s easy to think that because your car appears to be running fine that the oil doesn’t need changing. This isn’t the case! Check the sticker on your windshield and do your best to ensure that you are getting your oil changed every 3000 to 4000 miles. It will improve the longevity of your car on the road, and is a relatively inexpensive piece of maintenance.

Drive in silence

One of my favorite things about getting my very first car was that it meant I had full control over the radio. I could jam out to whatever I wanted! One tip that has been passed down to me, however, is to take 5 minutes a week to drive in silence. The reason for this is to listen to your car. Sometimes the problems are not visible to the eye and are best detected by the ear. One example of this is a high-pitched squeak when you apply brake pressure. This likely means that the brake pad is rubbing up against the rotor and needs to be replaced soon. Another example could be hearing a rumble and a roar from the rear of the car. This sound likely means that there is a crack in your exhaust system’s manifold and will need inspection as soon as possible. These are just a few benefits of SLOWING DOWN to take notice of some things that could save you from massive problems down the road. Another tip is that while you are driving in silence, it’s a great time to check your dashboard for service engine lights and to monitor the temperature gauge to ensure your car isn’t overheating.

Check fluids

The last tip, and perhaps the most tedious, involves checking your vehicle’s fluids. This isn’t as hard as it seems, I promise! First, you’ll want to locate the lever that pops the hood of your car. After propping open the hood, there are 5 fluid levels you will want to check. (a) A common one that is often overlooked is the windshield wiper fluid. This can be kept at a full level to make sure you have enough fluid to clean your windshield. (b) Coolant goes in the clear plastic container near the radiator! It’s important to keep this as an even mix of water and antifreeze. (c&d) Brake fluid and power steering fluid both have minimum and maximum lines on the containers. Monitor these to make sure they stay between the appropriate levels! (e) The last fluid to check is your oil level. Remove the dipstick from the slot marked “oil,” and clean it off with a dirty rag. Then reinsert the dipstick and remove it again to ensure a fresh reading. The dipstick will have sections labeled “add” and “full.” Ensure that your vehicle’s oil level is in between these two sections in order to properly care for your car.

For more helpful car tips and latest news, check out the rest of Hero's blog here.

 

Brake Light Replacement Essentials

It is easy to fall in to the trap of thinking that replacing a faulty brake light is simply a minor detail and that it doesn’t warrant immediate attention and priority, but this just isn’t the case! Remember that it’s incredibly important to your safety that you replace your burnt-out brake lights as soon as you know it is an issue. Not only is it a safety hazard, it’s also illegal to drive without properly functioning brake lights. With that being said, here are some easy steps to replace your brake light on your own.

First, you will want to be sure that you have a replacement bulb as well as a proper screwdriver. The next step is determining the access point to the lens cover. You are looking for a set of screws that hold the lens cover in place. Most newer cars have the access point on the inside of the car which means you will likely need to open the trunk of the car and access the screws from inside the trunk. One pro tip is that some cars will have the access point hidden beneath the carpet that lines the trunk. Simply peel this back to gain access to the lens cover. Many older cars have the screws on the outside of the car, meaning it can be accessed from the exterior.

Next, you will want to remove the screws from the lens cover. From personal experience, we can tell you that it is very easy to lose these screws—and a pain to replace—so take precaution when fully removing them from the lens cover. Once the screws are out, the lens assembly is ready to be removed. We recommend using the tip of the screwdriver to pop the lens cover out. Once the cover is off, it is time to identify the brake light. In some cars, it can be very confusing to determine which is the brake light and which is the tail light. Simply hold the lens assembly up and see which bulb lines up with the bottom socket where your brake light goes. Twist and pull to remove the brake light socket. This will expose the bulb that is ready to be replaced. When removing the bulb, be sure to grip it lightly to ensure that it doesn’t shatter in your hands. Most bulbs can be pulled straight out, while some rare cases require twisting the bulb as your remove it.

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Once the bulb is removed, check the socket to be sure that there are no visible burn marks. If there are burn marks in place, it may mean that there is a more serious problem than simply a burnt-out bulb. If there are no burn marks in place, insert the new bulb until it fits snugly in place. You will then twist the socket back in place and place the lens assembly back where it originally rested. At this point you will want to test the bulb before fastening the cover back. Have a friend help you monitor whether or not it’s working. If no one else is available, one life hack is to set your phone to record for a few seconds while focused on the brake light. Play the recording back to see if your applic ation of the brake yielded any results. Once the bulb is working, use your screwdriver to reinstall those pesky screws.

Congratulations on changing your own brake light!

5 Ways to Be Prepared in a Car Emergency

A good rule in life is to expect the unexpected. This is especially true when operating a motor vehicle. Auto emergencies can happen to anyone. A common misconception is that you only need to be prepared for these types of emergencies when taking long trips away from home. Emergencies can happen anywhere to anyone, and it’s important to be prepared should they come your way. Whether it’s due to an accident, inclement weather, or mechanical failure, we’ve listed 5 tips below to help you be prepared before auto emergencies come your way.

1. Have an action plan in place

This means that you, as the driver, know in advance what to do if an emergency should occur. Often times, this means having a roadside assistance service in place. If you do not have this service available to you, it’s important to know what to do in case of common auto emergencies such as a flat tire, a car breakdown, or running out of gas. For some that opt out of a roadside assistance service, this may mean knowing how to change a tire or add coolant to an overheated transmission. Another tip is to have an ICE (in case of emergency) number saved in your phone in case of an unthinkable incident with severe injuries involved.

2. Stock your vehicle

Keep useful items useful in case of unexpected occurrences. Plan for the worst! Imagine being stranded on a desolate road in the cold of winter. Useful items could include a flashlight, a blanket, towels, some water and even a spare phone battery or charger. Having these items stocked in your car can provide peace of mind before an emergency occurs and can provide invaluable comfort during an emergency.

3. Know proper roadside safety during an auto emergency

When you're able, pull far off on to the shoulder of the road with your hazard lights on. It’s vital to be pulled as far off the road as possible especially if on the highway. Immediately call a friend or family member to let them know your location as it’s always possible that other motorists will be stopping, and you as the driver will never know their intentions.

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4. Know what to do in inclement weather

Sometimes auto emergencies present themselves because of inclement weather. Whether it’s heavy rain, ice, snow, fog or thunderstorms, the weather can prove menacing to drivers. One of the best tips that can be offered for inclement weather is to educate yourself on how to navigate these conditions. There are many helpful videos and reputable articles that teach how to best drive in a specific type of weather.

 

5. Familiarize yourself with what to do in case of an accident or a police stop

It’s always a good tip to routinely confirm that your license and registration are with you. Remember that if you are being pulled by an officer, you have the right to put your hazard lights on and cruise into the nearest business with lights on; this is for YOUR safety. Also remember to document any accidents with pictures and a police report before moving your vehicle.

5 Tips to Pass your Vehicle Inspection

Currently in the U.S., there are nearly 20 states that require an annual vehicle inspection. Failing an auto inspection means more of your time and energy goes to waste. Here’s what the next steps look like if your car fails: make another appointment to correct the issue and this is followed by an additional appointment to pass your vehicle inspection. Not only is this tedious and time consuming, it may also cause you to miss your state’s inspection deadline. Hero has compiled 5 simple tips you can do as a vehicle owner to ensure a passing grade for your inspection. The following tips not only are easy fixes that can be done by anyone, but they will also help you avoid the headache of scheduling multiple inspection appointments for issues that could have been easily prevented:

1. Cosmetic check

Walk around your car to ensure there are no obvious areas of need that would prevent a passing grade. Verify that windows aren’t cracked and also make sure that your license plate is securely attached. An often overlooked area inside the car are the seatbelts. Make sure that the holsters are properly working and that each seatbelt is able to be securely fastened.

2. Exterior lights

Grab a family member or friend to help you out to make sure all of the car’s exterior lights are working. This includes your brake lights, headlights, taillights, and high beams. Also, remember to check the lights that illuminate your license plate because they are also required for passing inspection.

3. Internal dash lights

Your car cannot pass inspection with a service engine light on. While fixing this issue might not be something you personally can do, it’s important to know that your car will need to complete a “drive cycle” before the internal computer resets and will register a passing grade on your inspection. This drive cycle can be anywhere from 50-75 miles, so knowing this in advance can be a major time-saving help.

 4. Tires

Most states require tires to have at least 1/16 inch of tread to pass inspection. An easy way to check this is with the penny tire tread trick. According to Bridgestone Tires, a person can place a U.S. penny upside down in the groove of the tire tread and if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires. This trick takes no more than a minute and can really help you plan your inspection in advance.

5. Brakes

You don’t need to be a car expert to determine when your brakes need replacing. According to J.D. Power & Associates, one of the best ways to know when your brakes need to be replaced is by listening carefully to them while applying heavy brake pressure. While driving, turn off the radio and listen to see if you hear a high pitched screeching sound during the application of pressing your brakes. This sound is called a metal shim. Even the faint noise of a metal shim is an indicator that your brakes need to be replaced. Having your brakes replaced can take some serious time, so knowing to check for them in advance can assist you in scheduling a brake replacement appointment to guarantee you meet your inspection on time.

For all of the latest car tips and hacks, make sure to check out the rest of Hero's blog

Atlanta on a Tankful

As you may know, Atlanta is the capital city of of Georgia. It is the economic and cultural center of the state and was founded in 1837. What many don't know is that it mostly burned to the ground during the Civil War. However, it rose from the ashes to become a beautiful new metropolitan city and should be on any tourist’s ‘to see’ list. For the budget minded, or for those with less time on their hands, there is now a way to see many amazing things in Atlanta on just a single tank of gas. Here is an itinerary of Atlanta’s fascinating Midtown:

1. Ansley Park and Piedmont Park

Ansley Park is a very affluent area of Atlanta, filled with luxurious and expensive houses. This will be a fun and interesting drive for the start of the tour. Stop by the urban and grassy Piedmont Park for a quick and leisurely stroll before the next stop.

2. Atlanta Botanical Garden

Located next to Piedmont Park, the Atlanta Botanical Garden opened in 1976. It serves as a sanctuary and education center for many different species of plants. Make a quick stop at the Fuqua Orchid center to see the largest collection of orchids on permanent display in the U.S.

3. Margaret Mitchell's Home

Next, drive to the nearby home of Margaret Mitchell, where she wrote the famous book ‘Gone with The Wind’. This is a definitely must for both history buffs and movie lovers.

4. Hop across for a quick drive by of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta which is the sixth district of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks of the United States.

5. EAT!

By now it will be time for a quick lunch so check out the nearby restaurant district for some delicious local cuisine and a refreshing beverage. There is a restaurant on every corner and this area is home to some of the best eateries in the city. So enjoy!

6. Fabulous Fox Theater

This is our next drop on the drive tour of Midtown Atlanta. This theatre is a former movie palace and is currently a performing arts center. It is a part of a larger Fox Theatre Historic District.

7. Centennial Olympic Park

Finally, to complete our tour of Atlanta on a single tank of gas, visit the Centennial Olympic Park, which hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics and is still a popular site for large events. Today this 21 acre area is a public park. Currently performance includes several summer pop music concerts serious and an annual Independence Day concert and fireworks display.

Check out our blog for the latest in car care and Atlanta.

Top 5 Fuel Efficient Cars in the USA

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With today’s ever increasing gasoline prices, a question must be asked: which cars, currently sold in the United States, are the most fuel efficient? In other words, which top five gasoline powered cars (including hybrids but not plug ins) provide the most bang for you buck? It should be noted that this list excludes electric cars which tend to be the most efficient. Therefore, if buyers are strictly looking for efficiency, electric cars should take priority. However, if range is also important, this list will be very helpful.

1. 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Blue (Hybrid) - 58 MPG combined

This is the number one, most efficient car currently for sale in the US. Its price starts at around $22,000. This is the lowest available trim level for this model. This  models amazing fuel efficiency is mostly due to its incredibly low weight. It also features an extremely low drag coefficient of just 0.24 an ultra low weight 12V battery and regenerative braking. All this is supported by a 1.56 KW lithium polymer battery pack.

2. 2018 Toyota Prius Eco Hybrid - 56 MPG combined

Starting price for this model is $26,165. The Prius is the forerunner of hybrids and by far the most famous and popular model, which at least partially explains its higher price range.

3. 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid — 55 MPG combined

Another top five entry is from Hyundai. Pricing for this model starts at $23,950. This is basically a more feature rich version of the Hyundai Ioniq Blue, adding a bit more luxury and connectivity, while retaining most of the efficiency features.

4. 2017 Toyota Prius Prime — 54 MPG combined

This model starts at $27 100. It is a plug in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) which includes a heavier battery and on board charging system. The gas engine is DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 1.8-liter inline-4, 95 hp, 105 lb-ft. The electric motor used is permanent-magnet synchronous AC motors with an 8.8 kWh lithium ion battery pack. It should be noted that this efficiency rating, for the purposes of this list, does not take into consideration the plug in option. Using PHEV would basically turn this car into an electric car, which is not part of this list.

5. 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV – 52 MPG combined

This is a similar model to Toyota Prius Prime in that it is also a plug in hybrid vehicle (PHEV). If this feature were taken into consideration, the efficiency would be even higher. This model feature a massive 8.9 kWh battery pack. The gas engine is DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 1.6-liter inline-4, 104 hp, 109 lb-ft , whereas the electric motor is permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor, 60 hp, 125 lb-ft. Starting price for this hatchback is $27,000.

 

Ways to Break in a New Car

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So you finally decided to buy that brand new, shiny car but have big concerns about
how to properly break it in? There are certain tips and tricks that are easy to follow
and will go a long way to properly braking in your new car.
Breaking a new car in is a long standing practice, recommended by all auto
manufacturers. It involves different processes such as: correct driving techniques,
precautionary measures, maintenance tasks and general care. What this will do is
prolong the life of your new car. It sets the foundation for how the car will perform for the
rest of its useful, working life. The basic idea behind the new car break in period is to
allow all moving parts to settle in properly and begin to work together as a team in the
right way.


1. Low Revolutions
Initial driving style should be gentle, avoiding extremely high engine revs (the so
called red lining). This will prevent your car’s moving parts from overstressing
during this initial, crucial period. The revolutions of the engine should be kept
below 3000 revolutions per minute (RPM). This can be monitored via the
dashboard tachometer.


2. Low Speeds
On a related topic, car’s speed should initially be kept reasonably low. There
should be no harsh accelerations, racing from the red lights (should never be
done!) or any other activity involving extreme speeds. Recommended speeds
during the break in period are between 30 and 50 miles per hour.


3. Proper and Regular Oil Changes
First oil change should take place very early in the car’s break in period, much
sooner than even the manufacturer’s manual instructs you to do. To be extra
cautious, the first oil change should happen somewhere between 50 and 100
miles, but somewhere within the first 500 miles should be very acceptable. The
reason behind such a quick first oil change is that there is a strong possibility of
excess particles and wear on the engine’s moving parts. These potentially loose
debris could pose danger to the engine, causing irreparable damage.

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4. Regular and Correct Maintenance
To further extend the life of the car, proper and early maintenance is
recommended. This includes regular inspections and simply tasks. Examples
include: changing the air filter, oil filter, checking of all fluids (level of transmission
fluid, antifreeze, oil, brake fluid, and power steering fluid). Fluids should be
topped up as needed.

For more of the latest car news and tips, check out the rest of Hero's blogs

Top Signs of Engine Oil Leak

Oil leaks are not fun. Those gross, greasy stains on the garage floor or that nasty burning smell and smoke coming from the tail pipe – these are not things any car owner looks forward to. And on top of that, the annoying oil light flickering on the dashboard which signals the beginning of a possible long, time consuming battle. Although there are other causes of these symptoms, there is a good chance they are caused by an engine leaking oil. This may sound simple, but it should never be ignored since it can be a sign of something much more serious. Repairing an engine oil leak should never be put off as it can definitely lead to bigger headaches down the road and serious engine damage can happen. It can even lead to engine overheating and you getting stranded on the side of the road. Review the following signs of an oil leak so you can recognize it early and deal with it efficiently. This will also help you realize how big of a role oil plays in the engine’s life.

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1. Dark puddles under your car
When you drive out of your garage in the morning, check to see if there are any dark
brown/yellow spots or puddles where the car was. If the oil is leak straight out of the
oil pan, it will drain onto your garage floor (or wherever the car happens to have been
parked for a period of time).


2. Smoke from the engine
If the oil leak happens to be around the exhaust manifold, it will cause smoke to come from the engine compartment. This could easily damage the oxygen sensor or make the gaskets break down and disintegrate, if left unrepaired for too long.


3. Oil light on the dashboard
If the oil light flashes on the dashboard, do not ignore it. This is an alert that oil level or pressure has dropped to below what is considered normal. It may not indicate a leak necessarily, but it's very likely. This should be looked at immediately by a car mechanic.


4. Smell of oil burning
If oil is leaking anywhere on the hot parts of the engine, it will burn and you will likely smell it or even hear it sizzle. If you notice this smell (which is bitter) have the car inspected as an oil leak is very likely.


5. Engine overhearing
Oil plays a very important part in ensuring engine does not overheat. It lubricates all moving parts, including the pistons which ensure proper and smooth movement and gliding. Without lubrication, friction would very quickly increase the temperature of the
engine, causing it to overheat.

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