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Tree Sap on Car

Question:

My new 2006 G6 was left under a pecan tree while I was on vacation for 2
weeks.  Upon returning I quickly washed it off, but now have brown spots
all over the finish.  What can be done to remove the brown spots?

Answer:

I would try bug and tar remover first.  Make sure to use a 100% cotton towel and make sure it’s clean.  You want to avoid grinding any dirt into the finish.  If that does not remove it, I would try a clay bar.  Most auto parts stores carry Mothers Clay bar, which should get your spots off.  Again, be cautious with the clay bar… read the directions and knead/fold the clay often to prevent dirt trapped in the clay bar from becoming like sandpaper.

Good Luck,

Kevin

Posted: 19th August 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Body, Car Care

How to find a good mechanic

Finding the best repair shop for you…

Sometimes it is not what you know but who you know that makes all the difference in the world. You may not be able to handle all the repair on your vehicle, so finding a repair shop you can trust is vital to the life of your vehicle and wallet. You do not have to be a master mechanic if you have a good repair shop that you trust. Let’s look at a few tips to finding a good repair shop you can trust.

- Ask friends and co-workers for recommendations. Word of mouth can be a great way to find a repair shop. Find out why they like their shop and ask them what kind of work they have had done there. Ask if the work performed was done on time and at the price quoted. Also ask if their vehicle was returned in a clean condition.

- Don’t always assume that a dealership is your best bet for service. Dealerships usually have the highest shop rate around and the newest equipment but that does not always mean the best service. There are plenty of independent repair shops with qualified mechanics and up-to-date equipment. If your car is under warranty, your best bet is to stick with the dealer. If you are not happy with the dealer you bought the car from, there is nothing stopping you from going down the road to another dealer, which has better service. Today’s dealers are selling their new cars at slimmer margins, and are forced to make money of service, so be aware of high prices and unnecessary work.

- Look for accreditation from groups like ASE and MAP. This certification shows that the shop has gone the extra mile to keep on top of their automotive education. Most mechanics will have a general certification and certain mechanics will specialize from there. Each shop may have an expert in Heating and A/C and one for Suspension. Not every mechanic can be an expert in all fields.

- When visiting, look for a clean well-organized work area and office. This should give you a peak into how the business is run. Can you really expect good and fast service if the place is a mess? A certain amount of clutter is to be expected in a shop, but old parts and trash lying around the shop is unacceptable.

- Your first job should be a small one, like an oil change or brake job. Get a feel for the shop and how they operate. When you have a major problem you will be comfortable knowing you have dealt with them before.

Once you have found a good repair shop there are a few things to remember. Always keep good records of the service performed. I prefer a small notebook in the glove box where I can jot down service dates and keep receipts in the back of the book. This notebook can provide a good history for your mechanic when he is troubleshooting your most current problem. He may be able to gain some insight based on past services. Also when you plan to sell your car, this history is a great selling point.

Make sure your repair shop knows you are happy. We always complain about the bad things, but never mention the good. A simple thank you when picking up your car, or a quick note after the service will go a long way.

Also keep learning about your car. A good repair shop will be happy to deal with an educated customer. The more you know about your car, the better you can discuss issues with your mechanic.

Kevin Schappell

Posted: 28th July 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Car Care

The Summer Road Trip

Summer Road Trip

Even with the high gas prices, people are planning their summer road trips. It’s essential that you are prepared for your trip and have the right supplies on hand to handle a roadside emergency. Here is a simple checklist to prepare your
family truckster for the long haul.

- Is your car close to needing an oil change? Get the oil changed
just to be safe. Fresh oil will help your engine run cooler and at
peak efficiency. I personally use synthetic oil in my vehicles for it’s long life and superior lubrication. While you are getting your oil changed, make sure that the mechanic greases all of the suspension points and inspects everything under the car for wear.

- Check the air conditioning system, nothing is worse than a family trip with no air conditioning. If your system is not blowing cold like it used to, consider getting it recharged to keep you cool on those hot summer roads.

- Check your tires for tread depth, unusual wear and damage. Nothing
is worse than having a blowout on a Sunday with no place to get a new
tire. Also make sure your tires are properly inflated, this will save
you gas and keep your tires from wearing prematurely. Also make sure
your spare tire is inflated and in good condition. Remember that if you need to use the small “doughnut” spare included in some cars, keep the speed below 50mph and only use the tire to get to the nearest garage to get your original tire fixed or replaced.

- Top off all the fluids under the hood. Windshield washer fluid, power
steering fluid and coolant are the most important. Also make sure you have
extra fluids in the trunk just in case. I usually carry a gallon jug of fresh water from the store. You can use it to fill a radiator or keep you alive if you are stranded and need water.

- Do you have an emergency kit in your car? You should have the basic band-aids, gauze and ointments included in most kits today. You should also have a blanket in the trunk. Flares and flags are also essential for roadside safety.

- A tool kit to fix minor problems is a good idea to have in the trunk also. An adjustable wrench, screwdrivers, and a vice-grips pliers go a long way when stuck on the side of the road. I also carry electrical tape and extra fuses incase any minor electrical problems pop up during the trip.

- Don’t forget a good set of jumper cables for when you leave the lights on, or your battery goes dead. A good set of jumper cables has a heavy gauge wire and sturdy clamps at each end. There are some new cables on the market, which have LED lights to show you if you have the cables hooked up properly. If you can find a set, it’s worth the price to know that you are jumping your car the right way. I get more questions about how to jump-start a car properly.

- How old is your battery? A dead battery is a common problem while on
vacation and a major inconvenience. If it’s older than 3 years, consider
replacing it. While you are under the hood, make sure the terminals are
tight and have a good coat of grease on them. The grease will keep the terminals
from corroding. A mechanic can test your charging system and battery in about 5 minutes. This extra test could save you a lot of headaches on your trip, if something was to go wrong with your charging system.

- Do you belong to a motoring club like AAA? Make sure your membership is current and you have the membership card with you on your trip.

Now that you have everything prepared for your summer road trip, get ready for a million “are we there yet’s and “Daddy I have to Pee” Aahh… the joys of the family vacation !road-trip

Posted: 1st July 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Car Care, Wheels and Tires

Gas Saving Myths

As with any hot topic there are tons of myths about gas and your car’s mileage. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common myths circulating today.

Myth #1: Buy gas in the morning when the gas is cooler, thus denser.

Gasoline is stored in underground tanks, which remain at a fairly constant temperature. I have personally reviewed the tank readings at my local gas station to confirm this fact. It’s like a cave, which stays at a constant temperature all year long due to it’s distance from the surface of the earth. The only factor that comes into play, is when the gasoline is delivered to the tank. When gasoline is transported in trucks, it will expand with heat. If you buy your gas right after the tank is filled, you will receive warmer gas, but I would not stake out your local gas station to find out when the gas truck delivers.

Myth #2: Driving with the windows down at highway speeds without A/C is better than windows up with the A/C on.

When at highway speeds, keep your windows up. On most vehicles, having the windows open at highway speeds will create extra drag and cost you gas. If it’s a hot day, running the A/C is a necessary evil, and will cost you gas mileage, but the loss is about equal to keeping the windows down on most cars. When driving under 45mph, keeping the windows open and A/C off will be more economical because drag from having the windows is not in effect at the lower speeds.

Myth #3: Keep your engine running if you are making a quick stop at the store, it takes more gas to start your engine than to leave it running for a few minutes.

This myth is not true, starting an engine takes very little extra fuel, and it is always better to turn the engine off.

Like anything in life, cheaper is not always better. When it comes to buying gas there are a few things to remember.

Name brand gasonline generally has more detergents, which help your engine run cleaner and more efficiently. I personally use Texaco due to some personal experiences and the fact that I used to work at a Texaco station in high school and college. At the time, the regular gasoline did not have the same additives as the plus and supreme grade. I switched from regular to plus grade, and got better gas mileage. I was driving a 1979 Mustang at the time with a 4 cyl. engine and went from 18 to 20 mpg just by switching grades of gas.

To find the lowest prices, there are websites online, which post almost real-time gas prices across the country. I would also shop at gas stations, which have competition, which will drive prices down. So the more gas stations in the area, the better the price.

When you are at the gas pump, start the pump and then take a walk around your vehicle. You should check all 4 tires for any signs of low air pressure. In all but the higher performance tires, you can see the sidewall of the tire bulge when air pressure drops. Once per month I would check the tires with a quality tire gauge to be safe. Low tire pressure can create more rolling resistance and will hurt your gas mileage. If you are not a good judge of tire pressure by looking at the tires, consider a cool new product on the market that replaces your valve stem cap. It shows green when your tires are at the proper pressure, and red when they are low on air.

Safe Driving,

Kevin Schappell

Posted: 2nd June 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Car Care, Fuel

How you drive can affect your gas mileage

We all like to race stoplight to stoplight, it’s a guy thing. But, did you know that nothing can affect your gas mileage more than your driving style? Studies have shown that you can save up to 33% on gas by altering your driving style.

Before we get into how you should drive for the best gas mileage, let’s talk about what you should do before you leave the driveway. The first thing you should do, if it’s hot outside, is turn off you’re A/C and roll down the windows. This will reduce the load on your engine, and clear out the super heated air that has built up in your vehicle. Once you are above 45 mph, roll up the windows and turn on the A/C.

We can now start our discussion on driving style and discover how you can save up to 33% on gas. The first thing to think about when driving is conservation of momentum. Consider the following two scenarios…

1. You are driving along at 45 mph and see a red light ahead. You wait until the last second and slam on the brakes, then accelerate away when the light turns green.
2. You are driving along at 45 mph and see a red light ahead. You let off the gas pedal, and coast into the light, while anticipating when it will turn green. If you time it right, you never stop and continue on your way, ahead of where you would have been in scenario #1

This type of thinking in scenario #2 will put money back into your pocket. Your brake pedal is your enemy when trying to get better gas mileage. If you can anticipate traffic ahead of you, and avoid having to push on the gas pedal hard, you will save gas. Any time you use the brakes, you are losing momentum and wasting energy.

I had a friend in high school, whose dad put a vacuum gauge in all of his vehicles. A vacuum gauge in simple terms, measures the load on an engine. It served to remind my friend’s dad how he was driving, and forced him to go easy on the gas pedal to save gas. Consider having your mechanic install one of these gauges, the cost is minimal, and you may learn a little about how you are driving. If you have a newer car with an advance engine computer, it may tell you your instant and average mileage. Use the instant gas mileage readout instead of a vacuum gauge, it’s just as good.

You want to accelerate as mildly and evenly as possible to get to your desired speed. If you have a tachometer in your car, you can watch engine RPM and try to keep it under 3,000. You should be able to get to your destination in a safe and speedy manner, using these techniques and save some gas in the process.

There has been a lot of debate about what is the best speed to drive on the highway. Politics and safety issues have clouded the issue even further. The fact is that every car has it’s own speed where peak efficiency occurs. I had a Corvette that got the best gas mileage at 70 mph. It’s not practical to drive this fast everywhere, so I compromised and kept it legal as often as possible. Depending on your engine, transmission and gear ratio in the axle of your car, you ideal speed will be higher or lower than my car. The most important fact to remember is to keep your speed steady and avoid abrupt stops and starts.

I have heard various automotive journalist report better gas mileage by not using the cruise control. There reasoning was that they were focused on driving for efficiency and could make better decisions that the cars cruise control computer. This theory is valid, if you are on a highway with a lot of elevation changes. If you are not using cruise control, you can allow your vehicle to coast down long hills and build up some extra speed, which will help you climb the next hill. Of course you need to use some common sense here and not allow your car to go too fast to avoid speeding tickets or dangerous driving conditions.

The last tip I can offer on driving, is make your vehicle as light as possible. The lighter your vehicle, the less you engine has to work to move you around. Remove any unnecessary items from the trunk and car to help keep your car as light as possible.

Posted: 2nd June 2006  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Car Care, Fuel

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