car care

3 ways to provide care for you car's appearance and resale value

Often when we think of car care, we think of the maintenance that is required for “under-the-hood” components. But there are other ways that we can practice care for our vehicles that doesn’t require automotive repair skills or maintenance expertise. Some of these things may seem to only benefit the car from a cosmetics standpoint, but there is actually great value to the health of your vehicle from things that can be performed to its exterior. Here are three easy ways to provide maintenance for your car, while also improving its appearance and resell value:

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1. Properly washing your vehicle. We all can agree that washing our vehicles certainly makes its appearance look nicer, but we often forget that a good wash can also improve the health of our car. Our cars come in contact with many foreign substances while driving, and regularly washing our vehicles can cleanse away contaminants like pollen, tar, dirt and other pollutants. Also, washing your car helps maintain a fresh look by preventing rust from occurring which adds to the resell value of any vehicle. Most car experts agree that washing your vehicle weekly or bi-weekly is the perfect frequency to properly maintain your car’s look and health.

2. Properly waxing your vehicle. Often times we have the mentality that waxing our cars is the same as the practice of flossing our teeth; an added bonus that is healthy but is not necessary. This is faulty thinking! Waxing our vehicles provides an added layer of protection that can shield our cars from minor dings and scratches. This means that when a rock or gravel kicks up on your car while you’re riding on the highway, the layer of wax protection can mitigate some of the cosmetic damage it may receive. Furthermore, this layer of protection can create a barrier between your car and the outside world to prevent contaminants from seeping in to the mechanical workings of your car. Studies have also shown that cars that are regularly waxed have paint jobs that are more intact with less chippings over time. Car experts recommend waxing your car approximately once every three months.

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3. Properly cleaning the interior of your vehicle. Let’s face it: from the looks of the insides of our cars, some of us appear to LIVE in our vehicles! Besides just being common courtesy to clean out the junk from your car’s interior, it’s also an important reminder to ensure that all objects are cleared from the driver’s floorboard, to prevent something from sliding beneath the brake pedal and locking up your brakes when trying to stop. Vacuuming your car can also be helpful to prevent a build up of dust particles that can fester in the ventilation system. Perhaps the most crucial aspect of maintaining your car’s interior comes with cleaning the fabrics on the seats. The first step is to identify whether the interior is lined with cloth, leather or vinyl. For a cloth material, you have the freedom to use basic cleaning materials to apply to any stains. Baking soda, salt and seltzer water can also prove a useful concoction for hard to remove stains. For a leather interior, there are special leather cleaners that can be applied using the motion of small circles. Remember to overlap these circles to ensure that all cracks and crevices of the leather are reached. For vinyl interiors, it may be necessary to scrub and stains with a brush before applying a vinyl conditioner with a damp rag. It is recommended that ALL types of interiors be treated with this process 3-4 times a year. This will maintain a fresh look on your car’s interior, and will drastically help with the resell value of the vehicle.

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

Summer can kill your car's battery

It’s safe to say that all of us have been there. In a rush to get to an important meeting at work, running out the door and jumping in the car. You sit down, stick the keys into the ignition, and turn to get it started… Instead of hearing the engine start up, all you hear are some soft clicking noises. Your car is refusing to start.Traditional wisdom suggests that dead batteries are the product of frigid winters, but did you know that the heat of summer months can be equally, if not more, damaging to your car’s battery?

A little known fact is that studies indicate that car batteries in colder areas have a life expectancy of around 60 months. On the other hand, those in hot regions, average only around 30 months. This is mostly due to chemistry inside the car batteries. In hot climates, the battery starts to discharge spontaneously within 24 hours. This same process takes place in colder climates, but it takes considerably longer – few days. A dead battery in hot weather is thus, a distinct possibility. Here are five ways to improve your changes and keep your battery alive in even the hottest climate.

Park in Shade

Because the high heat is so damaging to you car’s battery, always try to park in a cool, shaded parking spot. Of course, this one’s common sense. It’s a no brainer that parking in the shade will keep the interior of the car significantly cooler!

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Do Not Drive Short Distances

Always plan your trips accordingly. Taking longer trips will increase your driving time. You should opt for bicycle or walking for the shorter trips because short distance driving will destroy your car battery much quicker. The science behind this is that while driving, the alternator charges the battery. This process is takes a relatively long time which means that increasing your driving time will give the alternator more time. Short trips with many stops and starts don’t allow sufficient time to charge the battery.

Decrease the Demand on Car Battery

Our cars have become our second homes or offices. It seems like there’s always five things going on at once. Almost everything in our cars demand electricity, which of course, comes from the battery. Between satellite navigation systems, DVD screens, phone chargers, car’s own computer and electrical systems, we ask a lot of our car’s battery. Keep this in mind when you’re adding new devices or plugging new things into car’s charging sockets. Only use what you really need and this will lower the demand on your car battery, and in result, greatly prolong its life.

Keep Battery Clean

The battery is typically located within the engine compartment and this typically isn’t too pretty… It’s common to find this compartment covered in dirt, oil, and grease. These substances can build up on your battery’s terminals and act like insulators. This will potentially even lower the charging capacity of your battery even more which ends up in shortening its life. The build up of dirt and grease can also act like a heat trap; keeping the battery even hotter. It’s vital to clean this area regularly.

Use a Charger

It might be a good idea to invest in a car battery charger. When the car is parked for a long period of time, an external charger can help keep the battery topped up. Having this will assist in keep the battery from getting completely drained while it is not being used. In result, this will help extend its life and keep you from having to buy a new battery sooner than necessary.

How to Maintain Your Electric Car

There are tons of benefits to owning a fully electric car. First, there is the environmental factor, of course, then there is the lack of expensive gasoline and a total absence of toxic fume emission. This all leads to a cheaper, ongoing maintenance cost as well. It takes less money and effort to keep these electric cars running smoothly and trouble free. Of course, this is somewhat offset by the higher initial investment when actually purchasing an electric car, however in he long run, generally they will be cheaper to operate and maintain. Additionally, there are often government subsidies and tax breaks offered in order to sweeten the deal.

Because there are fewer moving parts, electric cars have a lower need for regular check up. however there a few things that should be monitored regularly.

1. Battery maintenance

Batteries in electric cars are huge and take up most of the space under the hood. They are complex, technical marvels but actually need very little care. There is no day to day need to keep an eye on it. It is understood that with time the battery’s capacity will decrease, meaning that it will not be able to charge as fully as it used to. In result, this can reduce the mileage over time. When this reduction is noticed, it should be time to start considering a replacement. Although with a typical eight year warranty (and expected life time), this is not an initial concern for many electric car owners.

2. Brake wear

Electric cars use what is known as the regenerative braking system, which means that they are able to harness energy from the parts stored in the system for later use. This actually means that brakes (rotors and pads) will wear much less than a conventional car, lasting twice as long. This means that brake maintenance, although still required, is reduced.

3. Tire wear

This is a standard type of care for any vehicle and it makes sense to inspect tires and tire pressure on electric cars as well. It should be noted that electric cars are typically heavier than conventional ones (because of battery weight) and thus, are harder on tires. Premature wear is possible and this makes tire check an important part of regular car care.

4. Update software

This is not something typically done on conventional cars, but updating software can be critical in electric cars. There could be major updates, improving battery life or car performance for example. Thus, it is very important to include software updates in the regular car care.

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.