Tips for choosing a roadside assistance plan
Roadside assistance provides you with 24-hour towing and other car-related services. Here’s what you need to know about it and some advice on choosing the best plan.
What do you get with roadside assistance?
A roadside assistance provider can help you in the following situations:
• Your car breaks down, and you need it to be towed to a garage
• Your battery dies, and you need a jump start to get moving again
• You have a flat tire that needs to be changed
• You run out of gas and need fuel to be delivered
• You lock your keys in the car and require a locksmith to get back in
• Your car is stuck in the snow or mud, and you need another vehicle to pull it out
Roadside assistance provides these and other services free of charge for members. You simply call the provider on a toll-free line or use a smartphone application, and they’ll come to your location as soon as possible.
Who provides roadside assistance plans?
Most new vehicles automatically come with at least several years of roadside assistance through the car manufacturer. However, if you want more extensive services than what your car manufacturer provides, or if your plan has expired, there are a number of other companies that offer roadside assistance services, including certain insurers, credit card companies, retailers, the AAA, and other organizations.
What factors should you consider when choosing a plan?
Here are some questions to ask when selecting a roadside assistance plan:
• If you have several vehicles, does it cover you in all of them?
• Does it matter if you’re the driver or passenger?
• Does it cover your motorcycle, RV, trailer, or ATV?
• Is there a family plan available?
• Does it cover you if you travel to Canada or Mexico?
• What distance can your car be towed free of charge?
Everyone has unique needs, so take the time to shop around and find the right roadside assistance plan for you and your family.
4 car deodorizing tips
Keeping your car windows closed during the winter can trap nasty odors in the cabin. As you welcome warmer weather, it’s time to deodorize your vehicle. Here are four tips.
1. Vacuum your car from top to bottom. Include under the floor mats, in the trunk, and between the seats. Use the upholstery attachment to rid your vehicle of smelly dirt and debris in hard-to-reach areas.
2. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer. Make a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. Then, spritz the mixture on your car’s dashboard, cupholders, seats, and carpets. Let the solution sit for 30 minutes, then wipe it away with a clean, damp rag.
3. Baking soda lifts unpleasant scents. For example, sprinkle some baking soda on your vehicle’s carpet or upholstery if you’ve spilled something on your vehicle’s carpet or upholstery. Rub the baking soda into the area and leave it for a few hours. Then, vacuum it up.
4. Charcoal absorbs impurities and nasty smells. That’s why it’s commonly used in air and water filters. Pick up a charcoal briquette at a local store, like the ones used for grilling. Leave the briquette in your car for a few days. Charcoal is highly porous and absorbs any nasty odors floating in the air.
Lastly, spray down your car vents with a specialized cleaner. Over time, your car’s vents build up dirt and debris that can cause an unpleasant smell. If any bad smells persist, take your car to a cleaning professional.
How to fix scratches on your car the easy way
No matter how well you maintain your car, minor scratches are bound to happen. The good news is that there’s an easy way to fix them, and you don’t have to be an auto body technician. Here’s what you’ll need from your local auto parts store:
• A can of clear coat
• Polishing compound
• Fine sandpaper
• Touch-up paint
• A clean cloth
• Car wax
Follow these steps to eliminate scratches:
1. Wash your car with soap and water, especially around the damaged areas you want to fix. Dry it thoroughly. The products will adhere better to a clean vehicle.
2. Using fine-grit sandpaper, sand the scratched areas until the paint is level with the deepest part of the scratch.
3. Find the paint shade that matches your car exactly. Distribute it evenly with a cotton swab. Allow the paint to dry completely.
4. Sand the touchup paint until smooth and level with the surrounding area.
5. Apply a layer of clear coat, and let it dry for 10 minutes. Apply another layer of clear coat and wait an hour to let it dry completely.
6. Sand the area with fine-grit sandpaper and apply the polishing compound. Dab a small amount on a clean cloth and apply it circularly to smooth the area.
7. Apply car wax to the painted area to make it shine and protect the paint.
If you don’t have the time to fix the scratches on your car, visit your local auto body repair shop.
Spring tune-up essentials
After a long, cold winter, spring is in the air. This means giving your car a little TLC before cruising in the sunshine is time. Ensuring everything is in tip-top shape before hitting the road can help avoid costly breakdowns. Here are eight essential spring tune-up tasks.
1. Battery. Most batteries last five to seven years. However, cold winters are notoriously hard on batteries. With warm weather on the horizon, ask your mechanic to check the condition of yours.
2. Windshield wipers. Ice, snow, and freezing temperatures can take a toll on your wiper blades. Therefore, when the weather warms up, it’s a good idea to check your blades for signs of wear and replace them if necessary.
3. Tires. If you installed winter tires on your vehicle, now’s the time to have them swapped out for summer ones. The rubber treading on winter tires wears out faster in warm conditions. If your car is equipped with all-season tires, inspect them for tread wear, cracking, or other signs of damage and replace them if necessary.
4. Hoses and belts. Harsh winter weather can affect the life of your car’s hoses and belts. It’s best to have them inspected by a trusted mechanic for cracks, leaks, fraying, and stretching to ensure they’re ready to go the distance this spring.
5. Filters. Ask your mechanic to look at your vehicle’s engine and cabin filters and replace them if needed. A dirty cabin filter can cause your air conditioning system to malfunction; a dirty engine filter can put undue stress on your engine.
6. Brakes. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before getting your brakes checked. Have the pads and rotors professionally inspected to keep them in good working condition.
7. Lights. When you take your car in for a spring tune-up, have the mechanic check the turn signal bulbs, brake lights, headlights, marker lights, and daytime running lights.
8. Fluids. Several fluids must be changed when you go through your spring tune-up routine. For example, the engine oil, power steering fluid, brake, transmission fluids, coolant, and windshield washer fluid should all be checked and topped up as necessary.
When you’re ready to get a spring tune-up for your vehicle, contact a local mechanic to get the job done right and keep you safe on the road.
Why you shouldn’t drive around with a chipped windshield
A chipped windshield can happen anywhere at any time. You may think a little star-shaped chip is nothing to worry about. However, driving with a chipped wind¬shield can lead to some significant problems and safety concerns.
Chips can lead to cracks
Driving with a chipped windshield on rough roads or through potholes will cause the windshield to vibrate, and the tiny chip can turn into a large crack. Temperature fluctuations caused by air conditioners on hot days also cause the glass to expand and contract, worsening the cracks in your windshield.
Chips can limit your vision
A windshield chip may interfere with your field of vision, making it difficult to see animals, cyclists, or pedestrians. This is dangerous and could cause an accident.
It compromises the car’s structural integrity
The windshield plays a crucial role in your vehicle’s structural integrity and is designed to protect people inside from rollovers. If you roll over with a chipped or cracked windshield, the entire windshield could collapse, potentially causing passengers to be injured or ejected from the vehicle.
A chipped or cracked windshield can also prevent your airbags from working properly, as airbags are designed to inflate against the windshield.
If your windshield is chipped, visit an auto glass repair shop as soon as possible. Most chips can be quickly and cheaply repaired while you wait.
How to clean your car’s undercarriage
Your car’s undercarriage accumulates dirt, debris, and road salt. It also periodically gets wet from rain, mud, and snow, leading to rust. Spring is a great time to give the undercarriage a good cleaning. Here’s how to do it.
1. Lift the vehicle. Lifting your car with a jack makes accessing every part of the undercarriage easier. Skip this step if you have a lifted truck.
2. Remove the tires. This optional step allows you to move more freely around the vehicle and get into all the nooks and crannies.
3. Rinse the undercarriage. Wash the undercarriage section by section using a pressure washer or garden hose with a spray attachment. Start from the front, moving toward the back. Hold the spray attachment or pressure washer wand at a 45-degree angle for the best cleaning action.
4. Clean stubborn areas with a degreaser. To remove persistent dirt and debris, spray degreaser on the undercarriage and let it sit for 20 minutes. Scrub with a brush and then rinse the surface.
5. Dry the undercarriage. Rust can develop if moisture is left behind on the metal. Dry every part of the undercarriage with old towels.
6. Apply a protectant. This helps protect the metal of the undercarriage against damage. It‘ll also keep it cleaner for longer.
If you don’t feel confident washing your car’s undercarriage, look for a local car wash that offers the service.
Why you should avoid potholes on the road
It can become tiresome to steer around potholes every spring. However, driving through them can severely damage your car. Here are the areas of your vehicle most susceptible to pothole damage.
• Tires. Driving through deep potholes can lead to a blowout or flat tire. It can also cause your tire to bulge and inflict premature wear, shortening your tire’s lifespan.
• Wheels. Hitting a pothole can cause bends, dents, and cracks in the wheel where the rim meets the tire. Driving on a compromised wheel is dangerous.
• Suspension. Ramming a pothole can hurt your suspension, causing your vehicle to pull to one side. This can drastically shorten the lifespan of your suspension. If you notice your car pulling to one side, take it to an auto repair shop as soon as possible.
• Steering. A pothole can knock your steering mechanisms out of place, causing your steering wheel to vibrate. It can also make your car more difficult to control.
• Exhaust. If you hit a deep pothole and your car bottoms out, you can damage the exhaust pipes, muffler, or catalytic converter, causing your car to make dreadful noises and release harmful pollution into the air.
Avoid potholes when you can; your car will thank you. If you hit a sharp and deep pothole, visit a local auto repair shop for a check-up.
Wind: 8mph NW
UV index: 4