Top Tailgating Essentials

Tailgate Party PhotosWhen it’s time to tailgate at the big game, I know as well as anyone that you’ve got to have the right gear. We’re huge sports fans in my house, and nothing will take the wind out of your sails like showing up without the proper tailgating accessories.

Now, you might think that you’ve already got all the gear you need, but let me tell you, times have changed. I remember when a tailgate party just meant some cans of your favorite beverage, but these days, folks have taken tailgating to a whole new level. My family always wants to have the coolest tailgate party in the parking lot, and that means keeping up with the latest innovations. If you do it right, trust me, you’ll end up having more fun at the party than ever before.

What I want to do today is share with you what I’ve learned over the years, because I think our household has figured out all the vital pieces of the modern tailgate-party puzzle. Here are my top tailgating essentials that make every game a win for your crew.

Cooler

Need I say more? Cold beverages are the foundation of any great tailgate party, and you’ve got to keep them cold for the whole game. Plus, you need to bring more than enough for everyone involved. So get a big old cooler, fill it with ice, and keep it stocked with your favorite libations. That’s Job No. 1.

Grill

Arguably just as important as the cooler — well, let’s go with “almost” — is the portable grill. You can get all sorts of newfangled grills nowdays, but if you ask me, why mess with success? Just pick up a standard portable grill and a bag of charcoal, and you’ll get great taste and reliable performance, time after time.

Generator

This one’s for when you’re ready to take your tailgating game to the highest level. Anyone can bring a cooler and a grill, but it takes true dedication to bring your own portable generator, too. With a generator, you can power all sorts of handy appliances (including the final two items on this list), and some of the newer ones even have USB connectivity for recharging electronics. You’re in the tailgating big leagues when you show up with one of these.

Inverter

If you don’t want to go with a full-blown generator, consider an inverter, which (if you haven’t heard) is a nifty device that uses your car’s battery power to provide auxiliary power with household-style three-prong outlets. The downside is that if you don’t turn your engine on, you’ll drain your battery after a while — and if you do turn your engine on, the tailgaters might take a bit too much exhaust smoke to the face. But if you think you’ll only need electrical current occasionally at your tailgate parties, an inverter could be a perfect solution. It’s tiny relative to a generator, and it’s just the thing if partiers may need to plug in for short periods.

Blender

The bottles and cans in your cooler are all well and good, but imagine the possibilities if you had a blender, too. You’ve already got ice in the cooler, after all; how about some margaritas for the adults and smoothies for the kids? Plug it into your generator/inverter and you’re good to go. Warning: you might get some unwanted attention from neighboring parties wishing they had a blender of their own.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

Can you imagine a tailgate party without the Internet? I can, of course, because that’s the only kind we used to have! But I know we’re all spoiled today with our phones and iPads and what-have-you, and the best way to ensure that everyone can connect is to bring along a portable wi-fi hotspot. You can find a nice selection at Best Buy, for example, and they’re more or less giving them away if you sign up for a monthly plan. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a smartphone that doubles as a hotspot (check with your provider), you’ve already got a solution in your pocket.

Coffeemaker

You’re potentially solving two problems with this generator/inverter-powered machine. First, the games aren’t always exciting from start to finish, so napping partygoers can be a common sight. A cup of joe could be just the thing to help them stay alert. Second, tailgating season stretches through the winter months, and not everyone comes prepared with their subzero jackets and gloves. If you’re not already the most popular tailgater in town, you’re going to be when your friends find out you’re serving piping hot coffee on demand.

Your Turn

I know I’m not the only seasoned tailgater around these parts. What are your top tailgating essentials that I didn’t mention? Let’s hear about them in the comments.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for a top selection of generators and inverters, plus the essential parts to help get you to the game.

Pet Transportation – Top Tips for a Safe Trip

Booster seat for dogs

Our DIY Mom covers the basics of transporting your pets.

As a working mom, I’m always on the go, and that means I don’t have much time to spend at home with Bootsie, my beloved miniature labradoodle. But I spend plenty of time behind the wheel, so that got me to thinking:

Why can’t Bootsie come along for the ride?

The answer is, she can — and believe you me, she does. Now that she’s used to it, her little curly-wurly tail starts wagging whenever she hears the jingle of car keys. But there was a learning curve for me, because I had to figure out on my own how to keep us safe and sound at speed. Here are the three most important lessons I picked up along the way.

Secure Your Pet

My top concern when I’m traveling with my pet is to make sure she’s secured for the duration of the ride. I know folks have these romantic ideas about pickup trucks with dogs roaming freely in the back, but the truth is, that’s pretty dangerous — not only for the dog, but also for cars and people in the vicinity if the dog (poor thing) happens to be thrown out by a sudden stop. Responsible pet owners know that you’ve got to have some sort of special seat or harness that keeps your little munchkin in one place (and out of your way). For dogs under 30 pounds like my Bootsie, a booster seat is a great solution, and it keeps your upholstery clean, too. If you want to give your pet a little more room to groove while still maintaining your personal space, a pet partition will do the trick, though it’s less protective from the pet’s point of view.

Save Your Seats

As much as we love our furry friends, we know they can do a number on automotive upholstery if they’re left to their own devices. Especially for larger dogs that won’t fit in a booster seat, it makes sense to invest in some kind of a seat protector. I like the kind that covers the whole rear bench, seatbacks and all. You can get a quilted cover, too, for enhanced comfort. Both are claw- and bite-resistant, and you can even hose off the quilted one as required.

Keep Fido Fed

On longer car trips, you know you’re going to get hungry, right? Well, don’t forget that your pet gets hungry, too, and there aren’t many Doggie Drive-Thrus next to the highway. That means you have to be prepared, and it starts with a portable food container. I like this 8-cup model because it’s compact and easy to stow, and it also includes two dishes so you don’t have to bring them separately. If your pup’s got a bigger appetite, there’s a 36-cup container that features built-in food and water dishes. Now, if you’re like me, the idea of bringing a water dish in the car conjures up images of catastrophic spills. That’s why I’m a big fan of this 3-quart water carrier — it’s got a nifty reservoir that only makes a little water available at a time, and because the bowl’s part of the structure, it can’t be flipped over. That’s a win for both you and your pet.

Your Turn

Those are the best tips I’ve got, but I’m still learning. Do you have any suggestions for safe and successful pet travel? Let us know in the comments!

Editor’s note: Keep those cuties safe and secure on the road. Advance Auto Parts can help, with great savings and selection. Got a big trip coming up? Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

 

Can The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI Be A Family Car?

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.pngOur DIY Mom gets an inside look at one of the most buzz-worthy cars of the season, and ponders its usability for the family.

I want to start this column by thinking critically about the concept of a “family car.” Cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are traditionally considered to be family cars — yet the Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as large cars. And if you’ve driven them, you know the EPA’s not kidding. These sedans are big, no two ways about it.

So here’s my question:

Does a car have to be large in order to be suitable for family use?

Certainly, sedans like the Accord and Camry offer distinct advantages relative to cheaper, smaller alternatives like the Civic and Corolla. But what if there were a car that combined the refinement and versatility of a large car with the manageable dimensions of a small one? I drove the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI recently, and as both a mom and a car enthusiast, I think it just might offer the best of both worlds. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this VW tick.

1. Deceptively Spacious Cabin

Most folks dismiss the Golf as just another small car, and let me tell you, they don’t know what they’re missing. The way I judge a car is by how well it can accommodate six-footers front and rear, because Lord knows my kids will hit six feet any day now — and the Golf can swallow four of ‘em for hours at a time. Rear legroom and headroom is superb; I bet Golf owners hardly ever find themselves wishing for more. Yet this VW is compact enough to squeeze into any urban parking spot, unlike the mainstream “family car” behemoths that are a chore to maneuver through tight spaces.

And don’t forget about the handy hatchback body style. The Golf can swallow 22.8 cubic feet of cargo behind its rear seats, which is about seven cubes more than the typical family sedan. Plus, you can fold the Golf’s rear seatbacks to open up more than 50 cubic feet of space, a figure that no family sedan can touch.

2. Awesome Powertrain

Whenever you see “TDI” on a Golf, it means there’s a turbodiesel engine under the hood, and that’s a very good thing. The latest generation of VW’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter four is rated at just 150 horsepower, but the figure you want to focus on is the 236 pound-feet of torque. All that torque is available at low rpm, so the Golf TDI launches effortlessly from stoplights and always has some extra punch in reserve. Of course, diesels are known for their fuel economy, and the 2015 VW Golf TDI doesn’t disappoint, returning up to 45 mpg — way more than the most efficient family sedan.

3. Premium Character

Here’s the other thing that prevents more Americans from buying small cars. There’s a perception out there that small equals cheap, and it drives a lot of folks to buy bigger cars than they really need. If that mindset sounds familiar, trust me, go drive a Golf and see what you think. I’m pretty sure you’ll be astonished by how nice everything is in this car, from the materials on the dashboard to the precise, expertly damped knobs and levers — not to mention the crisp, well-lit gauges and displays. The Golf presents as a more expensive car, and that’s a rare thing these days. Whereas most family cars feel built to a price, the Golf feels like the engineers had the leeway to get everything just right. It’s like having a little luxury car at no extra cost.

The Best Family Car Around $25,000?

I think the 2015 VW Golf TDI is a strong contender for this prize, all things considered, and I’m a mom — so I should know. But am I wrong? Have you experienced the new Golf TDI for yourself? Tell me what you think in the comments.Driving 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.png

 

Editor’s note: Whether you’ve got a minivan, a muscle car or even a motorcycle, count on Advance Auto Parts to keep you running right all year long. Get back to work fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Top 5 Cleaning Products For Both Car And Home

Woman kneeling at the floor cleaning while smilingCleaners do double duty! Our DIY Mom explores the handy dual uses of common car cleaning products.

If you think maintaining your car is time-consuming, let me tell you, it’s nothing compared to keeping your house in order. Between my car, my house and my kids, I’ve got three full-time jobs, and none of them pays a dime! But what if you could use some of your car products to maintain your home, too? There are a lot of dual-use car products out there, and I want to introduce you to a few of them today.

1. Brake Cleaner Brake cleaner has always been an indispensable piece of the home mechanic’s arsenal, allowing you to prolong the life of your brake components by keeping oil, dirt and other contaminants at bay. But did you know that it can also remove tough grease and oil stains from your driveway or garage floor? Think about it: if it’s strong enough to get in there and clean your brakes, a little grease is child’s play. So next time you’ve got an industrial-grade spill to clean up, save yourself the trip to the hardware store and just pull out your brake cleaner instead.

2. Automotive Upholstery Cleaner Have you ever heard of a specific product for cleaning your couch? They’re out there, of course, but chances are you don’t already have a bottle in your cabinet. What you do have, though, if you’re into DIY car maintenance, is automotive upholstery cleaner. And if you think about it, the only difference between cloth automotive upholstery and the stuff on your couch is where it’s located. Here’s another fun trick, by the way, and I speak from experience: automotive upholstery cleaner also works great for carpet stains. Give it a shot before you spend a bundle on renting a carpet cleaner or having a professional stop by.

3. Car Wax I know what you’re thinking: “What could I possibly use car wax for in my house?” This one’s definitely not obvious, but when you think about it, it’ll make a lot of sense. What I want you to do is try applying some car wax to your kitchen and bathroom counters. Why? Because food’s less likely to stick to a waxed surface, for one thing, and also, if you spill anything, the liquid will bead up for easy cleaning. Moreover, with that layer of wax in between your counters and whatever’s on them, the likelihood of staining is greatly reduced.

4. Automotive Glass Cleaner Next time you’re about to buy some Windex or a comparable cleaning product, pause for a moment and ask yourself if you’ve already got some automotive glass cleaner in your garage. If so, guess what — it’s basically Windex for your car. So why not bring it inside and use it on your mirrors, windows and other indoor glass surfaces? In some cases, the automotive formula might even work better, because it’s specially formulated to cut through dried bug residue and all the other nastiness that ends up coating windshields over time.

5. Metal Polish Metal polish is a must-have for car collectors, and even if you just like to keep your car spic and span, it’s a good product to have around. But your car isn’t the only thing in your life that needs its metal polished. Think about all the metal in your house, whether it’s stainless steel surfaces, metal door knobs or handles, door hinges, cabinet knobs, even sink and shower faucets. You can use that automotive metal polish on all of the above, and just like the glass cleaner, it might even do a better job than an actual household product, since cars really need high-strength formulas to deal with all the grit and grime.

It’s time to get busy!

You all know I’m big into DIY, so I would love to hear your ideas. What are some dual-use car/house products that I didn’t mention? Let’s get creative and help each other get the most out of our car products. Happy cleaning!

Editor’s note: as you get ready to buff and polish your prized possessions, count on Advance Auto Parts for the best values in cleaning supplies, tools, accessories and more.

The Top 3 Minivans for Your Family

Phot credit: De Swert Nicolas.

Phot credit: De Swert Nicolas.

As a mom who knows a thing or two about cars, I can only shake my head when I see yet another growing family squeezing into a three-row crossover SUV. There’s a better solution out there, folks, and it’s called the minivan. Whereas those crossovers have conventional rear doors and cumbersome seat-sliding mechanisms for third-row access, minivans have dual sliding doors that make ingress and egress a cinch. Plus, they don’t ride as high, which makes them easier to load — and when you do load them up, you’ll find they can hold nearly twice as much stuff as many crossovers.

I’m telling you, moms across the country need to band together and get a minivan movement going. When it comes to family vehicles, function should be more important than form, am I right ladies? Moms know best, and minivans are undoubtedly the best vehicle type for families who need more than two rows.

Let me tell you about the three best minivans on the market today.

 

2014 Honda Odyssey1. 2014 Honda Odyssey

If you read car reviews, you’ll hear a lot about how the Odyssey has “sporty handling” or something like that. Let’s be honest: no one buys a minivan for the way it handles, whatever that even means. But the Odyssey does have a carlike feel from the driver seat, at least, and that’s no mean feat considering how large it is — the maximum cargo capacity is 148 cubic feet, dwarfing the Ford Explorer’s 80 cubes. The 2014 Honda Odyssey also comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming audio for your phone, and even a rearview camera. And its 248-horsepower V6 is rated at 28 mpg on the highway, making it considerably more fuel-efficient than most V6-powered crossovers.

2014 Toyota Sienna2. 2014 Toyota Sienna

The Sienna is similar to the Odyssey in many ways, but it’s got a trump card that sets it apart: optional all-wheel drive. That’s a pretty big deal, because all-weather capability is something that clinches a lot of sales for crossover SUVs. With the Sienna, you can enjoy a minivan’s superior versatility along with the security of AWD. It’s also got the best engine in the business, a 3.5-liter V6 that can really whisk this van along. If you’re looking for entertainment options, the 2014 Toyota Sienna offers a nifty split-screen monitor that flips down from the ceiling and allows two different inputs (a video game and a DVD, say) to display at the same time.

2014 Mazda5 13. 2014 Mazda5

Here’s a dark horse candidate for moms who think the Odyssey and Sienna are just too darn big. With three rows and six genuinely usable seats, the 2014 Mazda5 is a real-deal minivan, yet it’s barely larger than a compact crossover SUV. That makes it super simple to park and maneuver around town. On the fuel-economy front, it gets the same 28 mpg as the Odyssey on the highway, but it trounces the bigger van with up to 22 mpg in the city. You can even get a six-speed manual transmission if you ask nicely. If a full-size minivan just doesn’t fit your lifestyle, the Mazda5 is a great alternative.

What Do You Drive?

Do you all drive any of these minivans? Got a different family vehicle that you really swear by? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Editor’s note: Got a minivan in your driveway? You’ll find the best in parts and accessories at Advance Auto Parts. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Give Your New Used Car a Clean Bill of Health

Used car buyingDid I ever tell you about the time my husband brought home an old Toyota Tercel? I didn’t ask for it, believe me, but there he was, puttering into the driveway in that gold 1985 hatchback. I don’t know about you, but while my husband is smart, educated and ultra-handy, he can still be pretty darn clueless sometimes.

Anyway, I don’t want to cast any aspersions on the Tercel itself. Properly maintained, it was one of the most reliable cars ever built. But my husband just trusted that it would keep running fine, so he didn’t take these three simple post-purchase steps that could have saved us some headaches down the road.

Change the Oil

When you’re buying a used car, I don’t care how convincing the previous owner is when he or she tells you, “I changed that oil religiously every 3,000 miles!” I like to assume the best of people, but in this case, I always assume the worst. It takes time, energy and money to keep up with car maintenance, and folks don’t necessarily have all three at once.

So here’s my advice: pretend like that oil hasn’t been changed since the car rolled off the assembly line, and change it immediately, whether you do it yourself (my preference, of course!) or pay for the service. My husband dragged his feet on this for a while with the Tercel, since the oil level looked fine on the dipstick, and we had some strange engine issues that cropped up down the line. I don’t know for sure that old oil was the culprit, but I wish we’d just handled it and changed the oil right away. Today, tens of thousands of miles later, the Tercel’s running great with regular DIY oil changes, thank you very much!

Get Fresh Tires and an Alignment

Unless the existing tires are fairly new and a high-quality type that’s properly fitted to the car, I always advise starting from scratch with a new set. Hey, you’ll have to buy tires at some point, right? Why not do it right away? It’s the same idea as the immediate oil change: you want the car to be yours from the get-go, and that means buying a set of top-notch tires yourself. As a fringe benefit, the tire shop will balance the wheels, which should minimize any vibrations you’re feeling on the road.

Also, make sure you have a four-wheel alignment done, because a misaligned car will eat those nice new tires for breakfast. Finally, don’t forget to rotate the tires and balance the wheels at the prescribed intervals; ideally, try to find a tire shop that will perform this service gratis for the life of the tires. My husband decided to keep the tires that came with that old Tercel, since the car itself cost so little to acquire, and the result was that we lived with a jittery ride until the tires were so far gone that he had to get new ones. The difference with the new rubber was night and day. Don’t make the same mistake!

Take a Road Trip

With summer here, this one’s a no-brainer. This is the most fun DIY tip I’ll ever give you: after buying a used car, just hop in and drive! Most trips we take in cars are short, and that’s the worst thing for the engine and other drivetrain components, because they need plenty of time and heat to get properly warmed up. That’s why I think of long highway drives as spa treatments for my cars. Engines are happiest when they’re humming along contentedly for sustained stretches.

With the gold Tercel, we noticed that the more we drove it on trips like this, the smoother it felt (well, once we resolved those engine issues and put on new tires!). There’s nothing like a getting-to-know-you road trip in your “new” used car to knock out the car’s cobwebs and help the two of you get on the same page.

What Works For You?

I’m always eager to hear how you folks tackle real-world problems like “breaking in” a used car. Let me know in the comments! Are there any additional procedures you’d recommend?

Editor’s note: count on Advance Auto Parts to help keep your used car looking good and running right. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Three Good Reasons to Change Your Own Oil

Oil changeSometimes, handing your kids over to another caregiver is something you can’t avoid. You need a babysitter if you’re ever going to have a night out, right? Parents can’t be parents all the time; they’re going to need some help along the way.

Still, ask any parent, and I think they’ll agree: it’s always a little nerve-wracking to entrust your kids’ welfare to someone else.

Many of us car-lovers feel the same way about our beloved vehicles. And when it comes to things you can do yourself, one of the best examples is changing your own oil.

Here are my three reasons to start changing your own oil. Think about it: if you decide to DIY from now on, you’ll never be left wondering if your baby’s been in good hands or not.

 

1. It’s Cheaper

Typical cars take 4-5 quarts of oil, and you’ll also need a new oil filter to finish the job. Guess how much these items cost at an auto parts store. $30? $40? Actually, you can get out the door for barely 20 bucks, especially if you take advantage of the “oil change specials” that always seem to be running. Cheaper than you thought, right?

Now, you may see a $19.99 oil change advertised at the local Quickie Lube or what have you, but there are a few problems with that. First, they tend to use generic, one-size-fits-all motor oil that leaves you with no choice in the matter. One of the great things about DIY is that you get to buy whatever kind of oil you want. Second, they’ll try to hard-sell you on all sorts of “important” services that are really just a waste of your money and time. And third, can you really trust those guys to do conscientious work for $19.99 a pop? Won’t you be a lot more conscientious yourself?

In short, you’re going to save money changing your own oil, and you’re also going to gain a lot of peace of mind.

 

2. It’s Not As Hard As You Think

Let me explain the two possible scenarios as far as actually changing your oil is concerned. Number one is the old-fashioned way: you actually get under your car and do the dirty work. Even this procedure is very straightforward; in fact, we’ve got a handy dandy little video on how to change your own oil that walks you through every step. It’s fun, because you feel like you’re getting to know your car like never before.

But if you go with number two, you may even be able to stay on your feet. I’m talking about using an extractor, which is a simple device that sucks the old oil out of the top of the engine, letting you simply pour the new stuff in afterward. There are plenty available on the Advance Auto Parts website, and if you make this investment upfront, you’ll still save money in the long run. The only thing to be mindful of is the location of your oil filter — if it’s on the bottom of the engine, you’ll have to get under the car to remove the oil filter, though it’s a lot less messy without all that hot oil in the tank just waiting to spill out!

 

3. It’s a Gateway to Further Exploration

If you’re like me, changing your own oil could just be the beginning. I used to be scared of working on engines, as if they were these nasty creatures just waiting to bite my hand off. But the truth is, they’re just machines, and the more you know about them, the more you’ll be able to catch little problems before they turn into big ones. While you’re changing your oil, for example, it’s easy to check the drive and accessory belts, so why not learn about those, too? Maybe your spark plugs are overdue for replacement; why not get some basic tools and do it yourself? DIY’ing can be addictive in the best way, so give the oil change a shot, and see if it turns into a bridge to more exciting projects down the line.

Have You Changed Your Own Oil?

Tell us about your experiences! What would your advice be to a first-time oil change DIY’er? If you’re a first-timer yourself, got any questions for those of us who’ve been there before?

Editor’s note: Save more when you do it yourself! Advance Auto Parts offers Oil Change Specials to help you tackle your maintenance projects—and save. We’ll even recycle your used oil, too.

Three Apps to Stop Distracted Driving in Your Family

Cel phone appHey DIY’ers, after some much needed r-n-r for the holidays, I’m back in the driver’s seat, with a slew of DIY ideas for you and yours. For this first installment of 2014 (still can’t believe it!), I wanted to focus on something we can all relate to: keeping our families safe on the road.

As a proud mom and avid safety obsessive, I know that smartphones and cars can be a scary combination. When the teen driver or drivers in your household are old enough to get behind the wheel, they’re not going to put down their phones without a fight–and the temptation to text, surf and so forth while driving is almost impossible to resist.

So here’s one of the most important DIYs I’ll ever recommend: check out the following three mobile apps that aim to minimize distracted driving, and pick one as your first line of defense. Teen drivers might tell you you’re paranoid, but you know as well as I do: anything that discourages distracted driving is in everyone’s best interest.

DriveSafe.ly

DriveSafe.ly is so family-oriented that there’s even a “Family Pack” subscription option for up to four family members. The cost is $34.95 annually (or $9.99 per month), or you can get a single-user subscription for $13.95 annually ($3.99/mo.). So what does it do? Claiming to be “the #1 mobile app for texting while driving,” DriveSafe.ly reads up to 500 words per message in a digitized voice (male or female) and sends your spoken response as a reply, so you never have to take your eyes off the road. There’s also support for native Spanish speakers as well as the default English setup. If you want to keep costs out entirely, there’s a free version that reads up to 25 words in a female voice only–and can’t send replies.

FYI: I was unable to download the iPhone version, and the website talks mostly about the BlackBerry and Android platforms. Let me know if you can figure this out!

TextLimit

The thing about DriveSafe.ly is that you’ll never know whether your kid is actually using it. For parents who want a little more peace of mind, TextLimit is the best option I found. Here’s how it works: when you enroll your child’s iPhone, Android or BlackBerry phone (for $24.99 per year; Windows Phone coming soon), you choose a maximum GPS-measured speed at which the phone will be fully functional. Above that speed, you can disable as many apps as you want, including all text/email functionality. Furthermore, you can make your own phone exempt so that you’ll always be able to get through in an emergency. Also available is a “maximum top speed” function that sends an automatic email or text to you, the parent, if that top speed — 70 mph, say — is exceeded.

DriveScribe

If you prefer positive reinforcement, DriveScribe might be just the ticket. I love the concept: rather than prevent kids from using their phones at all, give them pats on the back for choosing to be responsible drivers. DriveScribe awards points for braking gradually, stopping fully at stop signs, and obeying the speed limit, keeping a lifetime driver-behavior log all the while. If you elect to sponsor your child with a paid plan (the app is free by default), the rewards get real: we’re talking gift cards and discounts at Amazon, Sports Authority and other popular retailers. That’s the kind of stuff that my kids want. The only downside is that DriveScribe doesn’t prevent texting like TextLimit–but with any luck, your kid will be too busy driving prudently to pick up that phone.

What Works in Your Family?

Tell us what steps you’ve taken to curb distracted driving in your family, whether it’s a mobile app or something else. The more we talk about this important issue, the better off we’ll be.

 Editor’s note: Ordering from Advance Auto Parts is an easy, seamless process–from a smartphone, tablet and otherwise. (Just don’t do it while you’re driving, please!) Buy online, pick up in store.

Learn more about prepping your teen driver with this article from DriverSide.

Graphic courtesy of Vintage Mobile Phones.

The meaning of Grateful

GratefulWith “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday officially behind us, the shopping season is in full swing. With that, it’s so easy to be seduced by the sales and lured in by the luxuries that all our loved ones want this time of year. (I’ll confess: I, too, can be mesmerized. Which camp are you in? Reveal all in the Comments box below.)

For me, I am most grateful for the simple things in life. And in light of the heartbreaking images of the aftermath in the Philippines after that horrendous typhoon, I have become all the more grateful for the roof over my head, running water, electrical outlets that work, knowing that loved ones are safe and sound. You know, the things we always seem to take for granted. Also falling into that category are our vehicles.

They do so much for me and are such timesaving necessities that I truly do not know what I would do without them, especially with my big family and growing small business. I’m not knocking public transportation. I believe in it and gladly support it, but my needs require more than they can offer!

My business partner and I rely on our delivery trucks, so naturally we are grateful for the ease in caring for them, thanks to Advance Auto Parts year ‘round savings and offerings. (Heads up: great deals on K&N filters and HID headlights!)

This time of year has us on the road constantly, delivering catered meals for partying offices and numerous other events. As a result, we’re constantly proactive in keeping the trucks in working order. Now that the rain and snow have arrived, having fully functioning wiper blades and headlights (especially HID headlights) are no-brainers. From filters of all kinds, to always-needed garage tools, we’re not shy about stocking up on all the great savings. And don’t let the cold weather stop you from keeping your vehicle in check. Oh, and don’t forget to rely on Advance’s many services, from free oil and battery recycling, to free electrical testing and loaner tools, and much more. Like a guiding light in the night sky that shines with all the brightness of HID headlights, they are here to help you come through in a pinch. Now, that’s something to be grateful for in this frosty weather!

Editor’s note: In this season of shopping, giving and receiving, please take a moment to tell us some things that you are grateful for.

 

Graphic courtesy of Hdesktopwalls.

 

Winter maintenance, the best windshield wipers, a side of breakfast and more

DIY MOmAutumn weather brings out commonalities in people: hearty appetites and the need to make sure our vehicles are prepped for winter’s upcoming onslaught.

Regarding appetites, my business partner and I noticed it once we changed our catering menus to reflect harvest season. What are your favorite fall recipes? Besides striking the perfect fuel/air mixture in one of my old carburetors, I’m partial to Italian…. but that’s another story.

Regarding maintenance for a car, yet again, we’re booked solid. From office parties to the high school’s annual Senior Breakfast, we’ll be on the road, complete with the best windshield wipers guiding our way during the worst weather. Naturally, our catering truck goes through traditional winter maintenance so none of our clients go hungry.

We always include Advance Auto Parts free services as part of our truck’s winter maintenance check-up. Maintenance for a car or truck includes the most optimal windshield wipers keeping things clean and clear. This time of year, investing in a new pair of the best windshield wipers is a must; Advance will even install them for free with purchase. Same goes for when you buy a new battery, making your maintenance for a car ritual easier. They offer free electrical system checks, too. This form of maintenance for a car helps pinpoint possible future trouble spots. Avoid roadside pitfalls — conduct winter maintenance repairs.

Keeping trays of food and beverage unscathed between our shop kitchen and each destination is a must, so our truck’s shocks must be in perfect order. We got great savings on replacements with the Shocktober rebate. However, this ideal step in maintenance for a car won’t last too long: you have until October 31, 2013 to make that initial purchase in order to get the rebate.

These shortened days mean extra dependence on the truck’s headlights. Don’t be like us when we were driving back from a catering gig recently: one headlight went out, cops issued us a fix-it ticket. Now, in between changes, we keep the light quality bright and strong by using a headlight restoration kit. It spares us from prematurely replacing yellow, hazy headlights, the result of many catering drives, especially in inclement weather. Incorporating this system as part of our winter maintenance repairs, plus using the right windshield wipers, keeps us safe on the road by improving visibility.

Keeping the truck looking good on the outside is also vital. For this, we always keep certain prep products on hand. They ensure our truck continues to advertise our business with a clean, sharp presentation.

But enough of winter maintenance talk. And more on that upcoming High School Senior Breakfast gig. We have kids in that group and decided to do a gourmet breakfast with all the trimmings just for the seniors, our gift to the Class of 2014. Go Mustangs!

Now that your stomach is rumbling, I wanted to leave you with a parting thought for your car. By checking into a few basic things before winter fully kicks in, you will help ensure that your family stays safe on the road this season.

Editor’s note: Rely on Advance Auto Parts for the best in service, selection and helpful store services. Buy online, pick up in store.

Advance free services available for most vehicles, at most locations, except where prohibited by law. Graphic courtesy of The Berry.