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Shock absorbers 101

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Shock absorbers ensure that your car rolls along smoothly and the wheels adhere to the road. Here’s what you need to know about this essential component of your car’s suspension system.

How shock absorbers work
Shock absorbers are pump-like devices that work in conjunction with your car’s springs. When you hit a bump on the road, the springs bounce to absorb the impact. The job of the shock absorbers is to diminish the strings’ vibrations. They do this through a process called dampening, in which they dissipate the kinetic energy of the springs as heat.

Why they’re important

Without shock absorbers, your car would continue to bounce along after hitting a bump. This isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s also dangerous as it can cause your tires to lose traction, especially during turns.

By diminishing the springs’ vibrations, shock absorbers keep your wheels firmly on the road and improve the handling of your vehicle.

When to change them
Most manufacturers recommend that you replace your shock absorbers every 50,000 miles. Signs that your shock absorbers need to be replaced include pronounced bouncing and vibrations when driving and a longer stopping distance.

If your shock absorbers are past their prime, be sure to get them replaced by a qualified mechanic.

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Accidents and collisions: Turn to dent repair specialists for seamless bodywork

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Have you ever backed into a garage door after mistakenly putting your car in reverse rather than drive? Or perhaps you’ve clipped a garbage can while turning, or possibly scratched your bumper in a parking lot?

These types of accidents can happen to even the most careful drivers. What’s more, black ice and other hazardous conditions can easily result in a fender bender. Even if your car is parked, all it takes is a minor mishap to leave your door, hood, or bumper with a dent. In short, there are a variety of ways your vehicle can get dinged, scratched, or otherwise damaged.

Leave it to the pros
Depending on the extent of the damage, you might be tempted to deal with scratches and dents yourself. Certainly, you can pick up a body repair kit at any store that sells car parts, and there are plenty of tutorial videos you can consult online. Just keep in mind that removing dents is harder than it looks, and there are plenty of ways to get it wrong.

In addition to lowering the value of your car, a botched repair could cost more to fix than the initial damage, weaken the surrounding metal and leave your car vulnerable to rust. Rather than take this risk, it’s best to leave bodywork to a professional.

Auto body repair specialists have the expertise, equipment, and experience to get the job done right. If your car is looking worse for wear, make an appointment at an auto body shop or collision repair center in your area.

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Automotive

Should you repair or replace your car?

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Are you wondering whether you should repair or replace your car? If so, here are some tips that can help you determine if it’s time to invest in a new set of wheels.

Do the math
Compare the cost of the repairs your car needs to the current market value of your vehicle. Book an inspection to get an estimate on the repair work, and look online to determine the market value of your car’s make, model, and year.

If the cost of fixing your car is greater than its current estimated value, then it’s probably best to trade in your old set of wheels. However, if your vehicle is well maintained and the repairs will extend its lifespan by at least several years, then getting a skilled mechanic to fix your car is a worthwhile investment.

Be wary of major repairs
Certain types of car problems are more serious than others and serve as an indication that it’s time to trade in your current ride. This is often the case if the engine or transmission breaks down or if the body or chassis falls into disrepair. With few exceptions, major restorations are best avoided.

Evaluate your situation
There are a number of personal and financial factors to take into account when deciding whether to repair or replace your car. Ask yourself the following:

• Does your car still align with your values and lifestyle?

• Is your car reliable?

• Is it fully paid for?

• Are the needed repairs likely to be the first in a string of many?

• How much would it cost to purchase the car that you want?

By reflecting on these and other pertinent questions, you’ll be able to weigh the pros and cons and come to an informed decision.

Finally, when evaluating whether to repair or replace your car, keep in mind any anticipated future changes such as the arrival of a family member, starting a new job, or moving to a different town.

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Better headlights: Safety group makes awards

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Drive on an unlit road during the night, and you are putting yourself in a unique danger zone.

About half of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

That’s why the institute adopted headlight ratings in 2016. Since then, automakers have responded to the goal of making good-functioning headlights standard equipment. In previous years, automakers offered superior headlights but usually as an option.

IIHS rates headlights on the distance their low beams and high beams illuminate on straight and curved roads, IIHS reports. On a straight road, safe low beams light up the right side of the road to at least 325 feet. Poor headlights shine 220 feet or less.

IIHS deducts safety points for headlights that produce glare so strong that it momentarily blinds oncoming drivers.

Automakers get extra credit for high-beam assist. This is an automatic device that automatically switches between high and low beams. Research shows that drivers don’t use high beams enough.

In 2016, when the initiative was introduced, only two of the 95 IIHS tested models earned a good rating for headlights. For the model year 2020, 85 out of the 185 models tested had good-rated headlights. In eight of the models, the safe headlights were standard. In 42 of the models, headlights were rated good to acceptable.

For 2021 at least 10 automakers improved their headlight offering by eliminating or modifying interior choices. Since 2020, vehicles have only been able to qualify for the highest Institute awards if they come equipped with good or acceptable rated headlights for all models.

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5 handy accessories for your car

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Do you spend a lot of time in your car? If so, here are five accessories that can make your drives more pleasant.

1. USB adapter
This inexpensive gadget plugs into your cigarette lighter and ensures you always have a place to charge your phone and other devices. Single and dual-port versions are available.

2. Air purifier

With a car air purifier, you can breathe fresh air inside your car year-round and expel lingering smells. What’s more, some models allow you to monitor humidity levels and detect toxic fumes.

3. Portable Wi-Fi router
With a wireless router, your passengers will be able to enjoy using the internet while they’re on the road. This is especially handy on family car trips. Wi-Fi routers that plug into the cigarette lighter are also available.

4. Organizer
If the loose objects in your car get tossed around whenever you make a turn, consider buying an organizer to put in your trunk or between your seats. Your car will be tidier, and you’ll no longer have to fish for lost items under the seats.

5. Trash bin
If you struggle to keep your car’s interior clean, a simple trash bin can make a big difference. There are many types available, from flexible models that fit into cup holders to ones that hang on the back of your seat.

With these handy items on board, car rides will be more enjoyable for you and your passengers.

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5 tips to avoid driving-related pain

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Do you suffer from aches and pains after a long drive? If so, do your neck and back a favor by following these five tips.

1. Adjust your seat
Is your seat properly positioned? Here’s how you can tell:

• You can press down on the pedals using your entire foot, heel to toe

• Your elbows are slightly bent when you grip the steering wheel

• There’s one to two inches of space between the back of your knees and the front of your seat

• Your thighs and back are fully supported by the seat and backrest

If you find you need more lumbar support, place a cushion behind the small of your back.

2. Relax your posture
Sit comfortably against the backrest and place your hands on the steering wheel at the nine and three o’clock positions. Avoid leaning your head forward. If you’re forced to lean forward, it means your seat is excessively reclined and needs to be adjusted.

3. Take regular breaks
If you’re going on a long drive, stop every couple of hours to walk around and stretch. This will ease sore muscles and promote blood circulation. You can also move your arms, wrists, and neck when waiting at a red light.

4. Check the airflow
To promote blood circulation when driving, direct heat to your upper body rather than to your legs. Conversely, in summer, direct the air conditioning toward your legs.

5. Empty your pockets
If you have bulky items in your pant pockets, they can hinder movement in your pelvis or impede circulation in your legs. Before you get behind the wheel, remove your wallet, smartphone, and other objects from your pockets.

Adopt these good habits, and you should feel more alert at the wheel and be free of pain when you reach your destination.

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Your car is watching you–and that might be good news.

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Your auto insurance rates could soon be set based on how you, personally, drive–not on your statistical risk.

General Motors Co. (GM) has launched an auto insurance program with its OnStar subsidiary to match data on driving patterns and usage to insurance costs. Tesla and Ford have also announced initiatives, according to Claims Journal.

Right now, insurance companies use criteria such as age, gender, neighborhood, and/or credit scores to set insurance prices. Consumer advocates have found this unfair because a good driver could live in a neighborhood that is unsafe and have a lower credit score.

Statistically, a teenage boy is the world’s worst auto insurance risk and insurance rates reflect this. But with usage-based insurance pricing, even a teenage boy might be able to demonstrate he is a good risk.

The mechanism of future insurance pricing will come from telematics–devices that collect real-time information on driving patterns and use. According to JD Power, demand for insurance based on telematics has increased during the pandemic as customers, working from home, though they could save money on insurance.

What that could mean for good drivers and drivers who don’t drive much is lower rates. Bad drivers would get higher rates. Depending on how the technology is deployed, drivers might get real-time feedback about how they are doing, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). That could be like having a permanent back-seat driver who is always right. But drivers do respond when they have incentives to drive better, according to iii.org.

A study by Willis Towers Watson showed that, in commercial fleets monitored by telematics, crash rates fell by 80 percent.

But will drivers have privacy concerns or will they resent having their every driving move monitored? Another survey by Willis Towers Watson suggests not. Resistance to the idea of cars monitoring driving is low, about seven percent.

GM will use data from its onboard concierge service, OnStar. The service helps drivers in emergencies and with navigation, but it also collects data on driving patterns. It takes special note of hard braking and acceleration.

Tesla’s initiative hasn’t yet launched.

Ford Motor Company has teamed up with Allstate Corporation to allow customers to share driving data.

GM says its OnStar program has provided the company with more data from connected vehicles than any other carmaker, as quoted in Claims Journal.

The company’s insurance offer will start in Arizona and use braking, acceleration, and general usage data to help set insurance rates. The program is set to expand nationwide using more data, including tire pressure, lane-keeping, and automated braking. More use of connected car data could be used if regulatory hurdles can be overcome.

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Upcoming Events

Mar
9
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 9 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
13
Sat
10:00 am HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
Mar 13 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
The Humane Society of Warren County “Polar Plunge” delayed from February 20 due to “too-polar” weather here in northwestern Virginia has been rescheduled to Saturday, March 13 – Don’t worry, it will still be a[...]
Mar
16
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 16 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
23
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 23 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
28
Sun
2:00 pm Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 28 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Come join the staff of Warren County Parks and Recreation and get your picture taken with the Easter Bunny! Pictures will be taken and printed on site; upon departure you will be given an Easter[...]
Mar
30
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 30 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Apr
3
Sat
12:00 pm Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 3 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Eggs are popping up all over Sky Meadows State Park. Visit our egg-laying free-range chickens by taking our Chicken Walk. Go on an egg-citing Geocache adventure. Kids, use your scavenger hunting skills using clues from[...]
Apr
17
Sat
all-day Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Apr 17 all-day
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
This tried and true Epic 24-hour AR will test your biking, paddling, trekking, and navigation skills as you explore two state parks (one of them brand new!) and national forest lands. Join soloists and teams[...]
Apr
24
Sat
10:00 am Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 24 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Earth Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
On this Earth Day, celebrate safely by doing your part to restore our earth and joining the Great Global Cleanup. Stop by one of our tables at the Explorer Outpost, Picnic Area, or Lost Mountain[...]