Tips on how to jump start a car

Advance Auto PartsBefore missing that important meeting, being late to pick the kids up from school or enduring first date embarrassment when you need to call to ask to be picked up, take the time to learn the basics of how to jump start a car battery yourself.

Many people are surprised at how easy it is to learn how to get car batteries running again, and quickly become confident in what to do if a battery gives out at a bad time.

Jump start with the following steps:

1)   First, park a working vehicle next to your car. It’s best to line them up side by side or hood to hood, but be sure they don’t touch. Then, turn off your car’s ignition and also turn off any accessories in your car such as a CD player, phone charger, dome light and so forth. Check to make sure your external lights are off, too, which can drain car batteries further.

2)   Then, with your jumper cables, connect the red positive clamp to your dead battery’s positive post. This is clearly marked by a plus sign on your car’s battery. Then, connect the other red clamp to the positive post on the good battery in the other vehicle.

3)   Next, make sure the cables are out of the car’s hood components and not tangled in any way. They should run along the ground and not rest on the battery itself, the engine or any other internal component of either vehicle.

4)   Take the black clamp and connect it to the good battery’s negative post. Then, connect the other black clamp (also known as the negative clamp) to any metal surface onto the inside of the dead car. Carefully check the cables entirely to be sure they are not lying against or tangled up with any moving parts of either vehicle.

5)   Start up the engine of the working car and let it idle for a few minutes. Then, start your dead car and wait a few more minutes for it to receive a bit more power from the good battery. If it is still unable to start up, give the battery a few more minutes to revive.

6)   When the car is started, undo the BLACK NEGATIVE clamps first. This should be the reverse order of how you placed them on the car and it’s essential you remove the negative ones first to avoid injury or damage. Continue to be careful to keep dangling cables out of the car’s internal parts.

7)   Drive your revived car around for a bit to make sure the battery is working properly. Do this in a parking lot or another area where you are safe if your car battery dies again.

8)   Do not turn off your vehicle until it’s had adequate time to run and recharge a bit on its own.

It’s really that simple to revive your car battery, and almost anyone can learn how to do it.

Also watch a video on how to jump start a car battery, created by automotive experts at Advance Auto Parts.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for more info on the quality car battery options available.

How to diagnose engine noise

Advance Auto PartsEven those with lots of experience in car repairs can be fooled by the meaning of engine sounds. To make matters more confusing, sometimes minor or innocent-sounding sounds may signal a severe problem–while a loud, menacing thud might be fixed with a $20 part.

But, here’s something that’s for certain: you shouldn’t ignore car engine noise. Doing so could lead to a catastrophic situation where your engine needs to be replaced. Plus, disregarding engine sounds could threaten your safety–and result in a breakdown at the worst possible moment.

While you always have the option of taking your vehicle to a mechanic for a diagnostics test, you can often get a good idea of what’s troubling your engine by listening to it.

Some general guidelines about engine noise:

See if the car engine noise you’re hearing matches any of the following sounds. Then look at some common reasons for that sound, and begin your investigation.

Whirring: Could mean a bad water pump, power steering pump or alternator, or low power steering fluid level.

Knocking: Could be an issue with the distributor cap, timing chain or spark plugs.

Pinging: Could indicate a problem with the crankshaft, timing gears or transmission mount.

Hissing: Could mean a problem with the cooling system, exhaust, catalytic converter or vacuum line.

Popping: Could be an issue with the ignition wires, air filter, distributor cap, ignition module or engine compression.

Grinding/screeching: Hearing these engine sounds when you turn the ignition could mean a starter issue. But, if these sounds occur when you apply the brakes, it likely indicates worn brake pads or rotors.

Here’s another way how to diagnose engine noise.

Check out DriverSide for some keen insights and helpful information. It’s a useful tool for both novice and veteran do-it-yourselfers. You can try to diagnose your vehicle’s problem by noise, smell, feel or look.

Again, don’t turn your back on car engine noise, and hope that it’ll just go away on its own. Chances are it won’t–and you’ll wind up with an even bigger problem.

Editor’s note: Don’t let car engine noise fall on deaf ears. Advance Auto Parts carries a wide variety of quality auto parts to help keep your ride running right.

Gettin’ down and dirty with artist Scott Wade

Advance Auto Parts

Photo Credit: Robin Wood.

Meet the Lord of the Dust–in fact the Da Vinci of Dust, the Michelangelo of Mud, the . . . well, meet the Dirty Car Artist.

Scott Wade has traveled to numerous places around the globe, from Istanbul to London, from Mexico to Toronto and more, and has been featured in or on multiple television shows, magazines and websites from around the world, including the History Channel’s program, Modern Marvels. Plus, people from other parts of the planet are thrilled to travel where he is “painting” to get an interview, as this outtake of a German television show demonstrates.

Although we’ll be happy to give more details later on, here is where the rubber meets the road. Scott is renowned for taking the ugly dust that layers itself on top of car windows in certain climates and conditions and turning this crud into remarkable pieces of art.

“It can take up to two weeks,” he says, “for enough dust to collect to create a good canvas, and then I get to transform something that’s usually perceived as ugly – a dirty car–into a thing of beauty.”

Atlanta Driver. Photo credit: Robin Wood.

Atlanta Driver. Photo credit: Robin Wood.

“People’s response to my art is almost universally positive,” Scott says, “partly because it is so unexpected. Most peoples’ reaction to dirt is to wash it off, to get everything clean, and I do something quite different. As time passed, Scott began diversifying, which includes painting storefront windows. Pretty amazing stuff, isn’t it? Although Scott’s art can be found online fairly easily, the information about him as an artist is limited. So, we decided to find out more…


Advance Auto Parts

Austin Storefront. Photo Credit: Nicole Zinn.

Birth of an artist

When Scott was young–young enough that he can’t pinpoint an exact age–he remembers using his finger to draw pictures on a dirty car window, something that plenty of other youngsters have done. “When I was a child,” Scott says, “we lived in Colorado, so I had more opportunities to doodle on frosty windows than in dust, but I did both.”

And, even though Scott didn’t consciously begin enjoying artwork until the third grade, he was always surrounded by joyful art. His father was a talented amateur cartoonist in the “Dick Tracy style.” And, every Christmas, Scott says, “my father would draw holiday images like Santa Claus, a wreath with candles, Rudolph and so forth. He’d copy his drawings at work and then make coloring books for all of the neighborhood kids.”

Then, third grade hit. “Mom bought me a book about Frosty the Snowman,” he explains. “I really liked the way the trees looked, so I got some paper and a pencil, and then I started to draw. I got a lot of encouragement from my mother and friends, while my father helped me with shading and perspective.”

As a young adult, Scott pursued a degree in art from Texas State University. After graduation (in 1982), he began playing music for a living, drumming in a wide variety of genres: country western, rock and roll, reggae, the blues – wherever he was needed. He also took on temporary jobs and illustrated menus, signs, album covers, posters and flyers on a freelance basis.

Advance Auto Parts

Kate and William, Photo Credit: Robin Wood.

“But,” he says, “I resisted having a computer for a long time. I knew that, if I got one, it would take over everything. Then, one day, Mom showed up at my house with my sister’s old Mac. My wife then got Photoshop 3 on 8 floppy disks, and that was that.”

He then began transitioning into more traditional graphic designer jobs. Currently, he is the senior GUI designer for AirStrip in San Antonio, Texas.

Whoa, back up . . .

What about the dirty car art? How does that fit in?

Well, by that point in his life, Scott lived by a long dirt road in Texas, where the limestone and clay in the dust clung to car windows, making the glass nearly opaque. “Cars were always dirty,” he says. “Washing them was futile, as they’d be dirty again the next day. And, thanks to the influence of my father, I would draw funny faces in the dirt with my finger. I’d try to shade parts of the drawings with the pads of my fingers and use my nails to create finer lines.”

Then, about 10 years ago, Scott was gnawing on a Popsicle stick and, when he removed it from his mouth, he looked at the feathery texture and wondered what would happen if he brushed the chewed-up end of the stick against a dirty car window. What he saw intrigued him, and so he headed inside to get his brushes–and that changed his life dramatically. This was, in fact, step one of his becoming the Dirty Car Artist.

Although, at first glance, what Scott does seems like a quirky form of art, he says it isn’t, not really. “This medium is almost like any other,” he explains. “The shadow inside the car is dark, while the limestone and clay mixture is light. So, there is natural contrast between light and dark and I work off of that contrast.”

Scott began attracting attention from other drivers as he drove in a vehicle featuring his art, causing his curiosity about dirty car art to grow. As a consequence, he began experimenting to see how far he could push this medium.

Media attention

Scott would photograph the windshield art that he’d created and then email those photos to friends, who would sometimes pass them onto other people. Through this form of communication, he attracted the attention of Austin American-Statesman writer John Kelso, who’d gotten a forwarded message from someone on Scott’s email list. Kelso, a longstanding humorist for the publication, wanted to profile Scott and his art in one of his columns. “My mom lives in Austin,” Scott tells Advance Auto Parts, “so I figured, great! Mom will like to read the article.”

In conjunction with the publication of the article, several photos of Scott’s art appeared on the Austin American-Statesman website. The next morning, he received a call from the publication’s photo editor who told him that his photos were “going viral.” Now, this was several years ago, remember. “I didn’t even know what ‘going viral’ meant,” Scott admits, with a laugh. “It ends up that 200,000 bloggers had linked to my photos in just one hour!”

San Antonio River Bridge. Photo Credit: Robin Wood.

Shortly after that, the National Enquirer contacted Scott and included a full-page spread of his art in their tabloid; Ripley’s Believe it or Not topped that media attention with a two-page spread and the momentum just kept building.

He began appearing on television shows and participating in magazine and newspaper photo shoots, and they always wanted – naturally enough – to see him in action with a brush. Being a gracious guy, he always complied. When one particular television crew showed up, though, cameras in hand, it was raining.

A problem solver at heart, he quickly came up with Plan B. The system that he developed to solve this situation and other ones like it involves cleaning the dirt off of a piece of glass (ironic, isn’t it?) and then coating the glass with almond oil; safflower oil, peanut oil and the like just didn’t work as well as the almond. He then creates a canvas with a material used as dirt on television shows and in movies. To apply the material, he simply uses a blow dryer designed to dry hair, and then the dust-like particles stick to the oil.

How long does the dirt art last?

A piece of artwork created on a windshield only lasts until the vehicle is out in the rain. And, many times after Scott takes a photograph of a completed piece of art, he simply washes the decorated dust off, calling that one of his favorite parts of the process. Keep on reading to find out why.

Spiritual Connection

Advance Auto Parts

Bulldog. Photo Credit: Scott Wade

In more than one of Scott’s interviews found online, he briefly mentions how the temporary nature of his art emphasizes the spiritual notion of enjoying today, as nothing lasts forever.

Wanting to know more, we asked Scott to elaborate on that idea. Did he hold that philosophy before he began his car art, or was it developed because of his car art? Scott pauses before responding with, “A little bit of both.”

He continues with, “I’ve always been interested in spirituality, in philosophy, in examining religions and belief systems. What I’ve done with dirty cars has given me a much better understanding of the nature of the world, and how things that arise out of form are only temporary. Even the world’s greatest monuments, as we speak, are crumbling and becoming dust again.”

This knowledge has affected Scott in multiple ways. “First,” he says, “I’m humbled. And, I don’t take my art quite so seriously.”

Other artists, he says, are puzzled by this attitude, wondering how he doesn’t identify with his art more significantly and how he can comfortably watch the rain wash his art away – or even hose it off the glass himself! “I understand that point of view,” Scott says, “and I can sympathize with it. But, there is so much more to be gained by simply allowing the art to be gone. Through my ephemeral art form, I have learned that very great lesson. I can now focus on opening my eyes to the beauty of the moment, allow that moment to pass – and then be completely open to the very next moment.”


Editor’s note: while we admire and appreciate Scott’s work, we also offer a wide selection of car cleaning products to help you keep your ride looking right. Buy online, pick up in store.

Car maintenance 101: show your child the basics.

Advance Auto PartsDealing with a bored teenager? Homeschooling a child?

It’s never too early to teach someone the basics of auto maintenance, or to answer common auto repair questions.


But, you need to be careful where you begin.

Teaching a youngster (who may not even know how to open the hood!) about how to replace a timing belt isn’t a smart move. Your child can easily become overwhelmed, and feel that do it yourself auto repair projects are too difficult.

That’s the wrong message to convey.

On the other hand, if you start with a simple project, your child can gain some confidence, along with a sense of accomplishment. That’ll make your child more eager to learn the next lesson.

Try these “starter” auto maintenance projects.

  • Test the condition of the wiper blades. Install new blades, if necessary.
  • Check the air pressure of the tires, along with the tread depth. Point out signs of tire wear. Rotate the tires if it’s time.
  • Inspect the air filter. Insert a new one if it’s clogged.
  • Check the fluid levels–such as oil, brake, windshield wiper, coolant and transmission–and top them off.
  • Complete an oil, lube and filter job.
  • Demonstrate how to put on the spare tire. Check its tire pressure.
  • Test your battery, and check its fluid levels.
  • Inspect the belts for signs of fraying or cracking.
  • Put together a car emergency kit.
  • Perform a tune-up (a little more advanced task).

Continue your car maintenance 101 lesson at our stores.

Let’s say you checked the air filter as one of your teaching lessons. You find that it’s filthy.

Next, you could take your child to your nearby Advance Auto Parts store where you can get all your auto repair questions answered. Show your child how to look up the correct size air filter for your vehicle, select the right brand and bring the filter home. Then complete your lesson by replacing the old filter with the one you just bought.

Again, completing these relatively simple do it yourself auto repair projects can give your child some confidence–and spark a desire to take on more complicated tasks down the road. Plus, if your child or teen is part of a homeschooling group, you could give lessons to all of them, positively influencing an entire group of young people and teach them valuable real life skills.

Editor’s note: it’s also time to get schooled in the art of savings cash! Visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on quality auto parts, accessories and more.

Graphic courtesy of

It’s time to name your car!

Advance Auto PartsThat’s right. October 2, 2013 is National Name Your Car Day. No one seems to know how this holiday got started–which means that you can’t really celebrate it in the wrong way. (Now, that’s my kind of holiday!)

History of vehicle naming

People have been naming their vehicles for thousands of years, with the oldest known example the formal-sounding Praise of the Two Lands, which was the name of an Egyptian ship in 2,613 BCE. Meanwhile, ancient Romans preferred ship names such as Mars, Hercules and Victoria.

And, as soon as cars began being manufactured for mass consumption, the manufacturers began brainstorming catchy names for different models. These names ranged from the Curved Dash Olds to the Model T, and from the Benz Velo to the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

Popular car names

A statistic floating around online says that 61% of people name their cars. If you surf around, you’ll even find advice from a self-proclaimed “automobile psychologist” suggesting that you wait to understand your car’s personality (and know its gender!) before choosing a name.

People in Great Britain have apparently taken to car naming with great enthusiasm, with listing the top 10 favorite names for male cars and the top 10 for female cars. Here is the entire list, with “Charlie” winning the jackpot for males and “Ruby” for females.

The site also offers another fun feature, whether you already have a name for your car or not:

  • If you don’t, use this car naming generator that asks you a few simple questions before giving you a name and then select the option to print out a birth certificate.
  • If you have already named your vehicle, then you simply enter in the name and print out your car’s birth certificate.

Famous cars

Cars that are featured in movies and television shows are often named, including:

  • General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard
  • KITT from Knight Rider
  • Batmobile from Batman
  • Bumblebee from Transformers
  • Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters
  • Christine from the Stephen King horror film of the same name
  • Herbie from The Love Bug

Editor’s note: What about your car names? Share the most creative ones in the comments below. 

Graphic courtesey of

Peace of mind with FREE electrical testing*

Advance Auto PartsWhile no one “invented” electricity, geniuses such as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla made amazing strides in harnessing it for human use and convenience. In fact, much of your car’s operation relies upon electricity, which includes your battery, starter and alternator–and much frustration occurs when any of these systems don’t have enough power.

Avoid the frustration through free electrical testing at Advance Auto Parts stores.

Auto battery testing

We’ve all heard horror stories about dead batteries, often in miserably cold (or hot!) weather and/or at a time when the driver needed to be somewhere, stat. Maybe it’s happened to you.

To prevent such scenarios, have your battery tested at Advance Auto Parts. It’s fast and it’s free, and will help to save you from being stranded.

Starter testing

If your engine is turning too slowly when you’re trying to start your vehicle and/or if it’s making some scary noises–or if you just want to be proactive about your electrical testing–stop by Advance Auto Parts today.

As far back as 1952, Popular Mechanics recognized the starter as a car’s “nervous system” and acknowledged that it’s the system that’s “most taken for granted” in a vehicle. Don’t make that mistake. Request starter testing at Advance Auto Parts today.

Alternator testing

The alternator transforms mechanical energy into electrical energy and works with the battery to power areas of a vehicle that rely upon electricity. It’s possible that your car will continue to run for a short amount of time, even after the alternator goes bad–that is, until the power stored in the battery is used up.

So, when your battery “dies,” it may in fact be an alternator problem. Ask for alternator testing at your local Advance Auto Parts store to keep track of this vital car part.

Get peace of mind by having alternator, starter and battery testing done on your vehicle today.

Find the Advance Auto Parts store closest to you now.


*Free services available for most automotive vehicles, most locations, unless prohibited by law. Free installation with purchase only. Visit your local Advance Auto Parts store for complete details.

Name That Part revealed – Starter Solenoid

If you guessed this week’s mystery part as a “Starter Solenoid,” congratulations are in order…because you are correct!

For more information about this Starter Solenoid, visit Advance Auto Parts.

We’ll see you on Facebook next Monday for another round of Name That Part!

Starter Solenoid

Starter Solenoid

Show what you know by playing Name That Part at the Advance Auto Parts Facebook page every Monday. How it works: we post a shot of an auto part, and you submit your best guess for a chance to win the admiration of DIY’ers across the globe.

If you’re a “pinner” on Pinterest, follow our Advance Auto Parts Pinterest boards!
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts to get those projects kicked into higher gear! Save time – buy online, pick up in store!


Auto battery recycling made easy

Advance Auto PartsWhen it’s time to replace your battery, it’s important to recycle your old one. That’s because auto batteries are basically made from three elements: acid, plastic and lead – and, when they are improperly disposed of, the chemicals and heavy metals found within them can seep into soil and contaminate groundwater, streams and lakes. If burned, these noxious substances pollute the air.

These chemicals and heavy metals can have dangerous consequences for people’s health and the environment alike. Because of these dangers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency helped to pass the Battery Act in May 1996 to encourage recycling of old batteries.

Fortunately, it’s easy to be green: you can simply drop your old battery off at the local Advance Auto Parts store (most vehicles, most locations, unless prohibited by law) and we’ll take care of the rest.

The battery recycling process

According to the Battery Council International, the first step in recycling auto batteries is smashing them to smithereens using a device called, appropriately enough, a hammermill. The pieces of the batteries go into a container, with the heavier materials, including lead, falling to the bottom and the plastic staying at the top. The plastic is removed and liquids siphoned.

A recycler then melts the plastic pieces and extrudes them into pellets. The pellets are sold to manufacturers who make new batteries out of them. Lead pieces are smelted and then poured into ingots, which are also sent to manufacturers for use in new batteries. The acid becomes neutralized with the addition of an industrial product that turns it into water; the water is treated before being released into sewer systems. The acid can also be turned into sodium sulfate that can be used in multiple ways, including glass and textile manufacturing, or in the making of new auto batteries.

This is considered a closed loop system, because it can be repeated over and over again, allowing new products to be made from the old.

Legal matters

Auto battery recycling is a great move for the environment, but it’s also smart from a legal sense. Thirty states, according to National Geographic’s Green Living site, ban people from throwing away lead batteries in their trash.

Automotive oil recycling

Advance Auto Parts also recycles used motor oil. And, according to the American Petroleum Institute and quoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (AAP), “Recycling just 2 gallons of used oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours.”

Editor’s note: Learn more more about automotive oil recycling, plus save with Advance’s Oil Change Specials.

Name That Part revealed – Fuel Injector

If you guessed that this week’s mystery part is a Fuel Injector,” you got it!

For more information about this Fuel Injector, visit Advance Auto Parts.

We’ll see you on Facebook next Monday for another round of Name That Part!

Fuel Injector

Fuel Injector

Show what you know by playing Name That Part at the Advance Auto Parts Facebook page every Monday. How it works: we post a shot of an auto part, and you submit your best guess for a chance to win the admiration of DIY’ers across the globe.

If you’re a “pinner” on Pinterest, follow our Advance Auto Parts Pinterest boards!
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts to get those projects kicked into higher gear! Save time – buy online, pick up in store!


Advance Author Series: Sarah Lee Marks and The Complete Internet Car Buying Guide

Advance Auto PartsSarah Lee Marks—also known as “MyCarLady”—has a grandfather who used to sell auto parts. Her other grandfather was in the oil business, so it makes sense that cars are in her blood–and not surprising that she grew up to create a consulting business (Automotive Business Services, Inc.) where she helps people buy or sell their cars at the best possible price, addresses their service issues, and advocates for them when problems arise.

And, in 2001, she wrote a book that discussed using the Internet as part of the car-buying process. “Nobody knew what info online was valid,” Sarah said, “or how to process that info.”

The book, The Complete Internet Car Buying Guide (previously titled The MYCARLADY Car Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know but Didn’t Know to Ask), has been updated five times, the last of which in an e-book form. Today’s she will be sharing current car buying trends and advice with Advance Auto Parts readers.

Car trends by MyCarLady

“The biggest trend,” Sarah says, “is that consumers are coming back into the car-buying market after an extended period of time, two to four years longer than they used to, and are shocked to find out there is less negotiation going on.”

That’s because, Sarah explains, there is less inventory. With less selection, the process becomes more of a “take it or leave it” situation; where once a buyer could negotiate a price down by $2,000-$3,000, he or she may only successfully negotiate the price down by $500 in today’s market.

As a tip, Sarah says that, if you have a choice between a rebate or zero percent financing, take the latter, as that will save you more money, unless you can pay off the car quickly. Zero (or very low percentage) financing is typically only offered to people with outstanding credit who can pay off their loans in 60 or fewer months. “Interest rates go up, by automatic default, if the loan will last for 72 months,” she explains. “And, nowadays, it’s very difficult to get a decent car loan if you’ve foreclosed or defaulted on a house. Banks are showing their muscle about being serious about credit.”

“Here’s a strange trend,” she continues. “Lately, I’ve noticed that people decide on a color for a particular car and pass up good deals because the color wasn’t right. The reality is that, in these uncertain economic times, manufacturers aren’t making extra cars, so you may need to go to multiple dealers to find the color you want–and, by that time, the incentives you were offered the first time might have expired. Do you really want to be inflexible about a color?”

When asked about finding quality car information online, Sarah warns that there is in fact a tremendous amount of DISinformation about car buying online. “Many times, a source borrows from another source who borrows from another, and then you don’t know who to trust or how to analyze the data.”

Then, there are the dreaded typos. “CarFax and AutoCheck, to use two examples,” Sarah says, “get some information from the vehicle registration processes, some from factories and so forth. But it is entirely up to the factories whether or not they will provide the info–and I’ve seen typos, including when a car with 8,000 miles was advertised to have 80,000 miles on the odometer. With incorrect info, buyers are negotiating from the wrong place. So, a huge trend is that people rely on online info as gospel without reading between the lines, and that can be dangerous.”

When asked for one more example of a trend, Sarah talks about buying American, which many people in the United States want to do. “It’s getting harder and harder, though, to define what buying American really means,” she says. “Do you want to buy cars that have their parts manufactured in the United States? that are assembled here? that come from companies that are wholly owned by Americans? that have plants that employ Americans?”

That’s a lot to think about. Let us know your thoughts on buying American, or any other car issue on your mind.

Editor’s note: As you’re pondering the latest in car trends, visit Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of quality auto parts, tools and accessories. Buy online, pick up in store.