2013: The year I resolve to get my projects done!

Advance Auto PartsIf there was something you could do to make your life easier, you would probably do it, right? That’s the position I’ve found myself in frequently this past year, and I’m frustrated that I haven’t made it a priority—to perform those tasks that will simplify my life, save me time, and protect my investments. Now that the New Year is in full swing, I am resolving to accomplish a lot of things, three of which are automotive-related.

First, I’m going to get those vehicle projects done that have not only been on the list for way too long, but are complicating my life. The short list? Headlight restoration on the 1999 Honda Odyssey.

I replaced the bulbs recently because they both blew out, but I’m not getting the full benefit of brighter bulbs because the lens covers are so cloudy. The fix for that is a fairly inexpensive headlight restoration kit. It’ll make my life easier, because I’ll be able to see further in the dark and my vehicle will look better in the daylight, too. I’m also going to have new wiper blades installed. The new blades are way overdue and because of that, I can barely see when it rains or snows. Luckily I have Rain-X helping to compensate for my poor wipers.

Next, I’m going to keep better track of my vehicle manufacturer’s recommended car maintenance schedule, thereby better protecting my investment. I need to commit to a car maintenance checklist so I know exactly what my vehicles need and when they need it. Right now, I know off the top of my head that my 1999 Honda Odyssey needs a change of coolant, oil, brake fluid, and transmission fluid, a new timing belt, new tires, and some other TLC that I’m sure I’m forgetting, in order to keep it running past the 200,000-mile mark it just hit.

To help me accomplish the resolution listed above, I’m going to get some help in developing that car maintenance schedule. The Advance Auto Parts site has a decent car maintenance schedule as well as a car maintenance checklist that I’m going to take advantage of this year since I’ve already proven previously that I can’t, or won’t track this without some help.

This year, taking better care of my vehicles translates into taking better care of me—from both a safety and a sanity perspective—and I resolve to get it done. Happy 2013!

Editor’s note: If you’ve resolved to have more clarity in 2013, you’ll find the parts and free services you’ll need to get the job done right at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store.

A road trip 18 years in the making

Ladies, if you’re behind the wheel, you better know the basics supporting that steering device. That wisdom from my dad still resonates with me. Dad never shooed me away whenever he was bent over the engine of our lime-green station wagon, coaxing a new timing belt into that behemoth V-8 motor. I credit him for my fondness of cars and hope to instill the same with my own kids, starting with my first baby (well, she’s actually 18, but you know how Moms are).

She starts college in a about a week—five states away. Too many borders to cross, too far away from me. Rather than weep all summer, I’m planning ahead: she and I will be hauling her things to the dorm this coming weekend. We are a bit on the late side, but this final summer travel session should be good for some mother-daughter bonding time.

I expected her to cringe. Instead, she loves the idea of us driving late in the summer, just before the semester starts. Her dad said it’ll be a long haul during the summer travel season, especially with our neighbor David’s trailer hooked up to our car. Given that she hasn’t been doing a lot of driving, that’ll require some safe driving techniques that may be new to her. I’ve got that covered—part of my bonding plan is to instill all sorts of safe driving tips as we take turns driving.

The three of us went over the car maintenance schedule to ensure mishap-free late summer travel. David later joined us to show how to: engage and disengage the trailer’s ball-and-hitch; ensure trailer lug nuts are tightened correctly and bearings are greased properly; install the trailer lights, connect safety chains from the trailer to our car. He discussed good driving tips for trailer hauling and what to do at every rest stop, such as safety inspections and checking car and trailer tire pressure.

A few more safe driving tips we talked about were:
• Use the side mirrors constantly
• Reduce speed gradually
• Keep a steady hand on the steering wheel
• Never slam the car brakes!

My daughter and I put our safe driving tips to use during some short practice runs across a few cities, from wide, traffic-jammed highways to thin, two-lane roads in the hills. We even took a drive during a rainstorm–something you don’t really expect when driving during the summer! It got to the point where wild winds forced us to use every safe driving tip in the book.

With good driving tips under our belts and a car maintenance schedule list checked off, I’m looking forward to driving across five states, peppering our conversations with my mind’s vast library of driving safety tips, with my baby at my side (yep, she’ll always be my “Baby). Maybe this is how Dad felt when he, that V-8 station wagon and I were driving during the summer of ahem, late 1970-something, hauling my things to the dorm for my freshman year? I’ll have to ask him, that is when I’m done cleaning up the mess I made in the garage!

Editor’s note: You’ll score high marks in car maintenance when you’ve got the best tools and quality auto parts on hand. Advance Auto Parts can help. Check out our site for latest coupons and deals.

Summer’s almost gone – now let’s hit the road!

Man oh man, has this been a quick summer. I’m not worried. In fact, now that most folks are getting back into their routines, I’m thinking it’s a good time to actually hit the road. It’ll be less hot (hopefully) and far less crowded out there, and that’s never a bad thing.

If you plan on still hitting the road, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First off, even if you’re not a seasoned mechanic, it’s good to know a little about how your car works and how to do basic maintenance. It helps build your confidence during summer travel, and let’s face it: It never hurts to get your hands dirty. When I met her, my wife didn’t know a dipstick from a lipstick, but she’s paid attention to my tips and I’ve taught her some basic car maintenance. She feels more confident and feels more confident on the road. Heed this, ladies. The more you know, the better prepared you will be when it comes time to bring your car in for service. You’re a lot less likely to get ripped off, too.

End-of-Summer Driving

Traveling is stressful enough. You don’t need a breakdown. Keeping an eye on some basic things and adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule will keep your car or truck running smoothly and best of all, keep you from breaking down. Bear in mind that none of these things equate to rocket science. The suggestions I make are important, but also easy to do.

Tire Pressure

The first thing I’m gonna cover is checking tire pressure, because it’s not only vital to your car’s health, but easy to do. Your tires are, after all, your car’s connection with the road, so it’s very important to keep the pressure correct and even. Low tires can affect the car’s handling, wear unevenly and need more frequent replacement but also negatively affect your fuel mileage. This affects not only your wallet but the environment. And if your wife is anything like mine, she’ll appreciate both saving money and doing something good for mother earth.

First, check what your pressure is supposed to be. This information will be in two places: in the owner’s manual and on a sticker on the body of the car behind the driver’s door, measured in psi (pounds per square inch). The psi may be different for the front and rear tires.

Get yourself a tire gauge (shouldn’t be more than $15; I’m partial to the simple digital LED models) and keep it in your glove compartment. Unscrew the rubber cap over the air nozzle on the tire and stick the gauge over it firmly and straight. You’ll hear a quick hiss as a tiny bit of air comes out, but if you stick the gauge on correctly it will stop after about a second.

Read the number on the gauge, pull it off and then do it again. It takes a couple times to do it right before you get the handle of it. Do it for all four tires. If any of them is off by more than 2-3 psi, put some air in and then recheck. You can fill the air at any gas station.

Most importantly, make sure to do this first thing in the morning. The heat of the day and particularly driving will inflate your tires a little and you want to check them when they’re cold. And get in the habit of doing this every few weeks, as tires naturally lose some air pressure. Maintaining the right air pressure is not only good for the car but it’s key to safe driving, particularly driving in the summer.


Remember: Drive safely, enjoy your travels, and check back for more basic car maintenance tips.


Editor’s note: Car maintenance is easy at Advance Auto Parts. We carry a wide selection of quality auto parts, from tire gauges to car brakes, car batteries and more.


Why Car Maintenance tops my list of Safe Driving Tips

When it comes time to teach my kids vacation driving safety tips, I’ll begin with this nugget—summer travel is great family fun until the car breaks down, leaving you stranded in a parking lot, baking under Florida’s July sun. Some nugget, huh? But, I experienced it firsthand, and I’m sure you’ve had similar situations. And given that the average age of cars on the road today is 11.1 years, as compared to 8.4 years in 1995, according to the Polk research firm, one of the most important tips I can offer—especially for summer travel—is regular vehicle maintenance.

The top offenders leading to vehicle breakdowns are battery and cooling system failures, and possibly the most obvious, car tire issues. Sad thing is, most of these situations can be prevented, especially the latter. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, under-inflation is the leading cause of tire failure, and on top of that, low tire pressure can reduce gas mileage. For tire safety and maintenance, a digital tire gauge and a can of Fix-A-Flat can go a long way in preventing summer travel disaster. That, and just making sure you keep an eye on them from time to time.

Being stranded in a parking lot is probably not one of the safe driving tips I’d share with my kids. I can remember back to a time when I was just a little guy, when my family was headed to Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Campground. Dad, exhibiting excellent driving safety practices, piloted our 1974 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon, complete with faux wood-grain paneling, and a pop-up camper behind. To his credit, he was a very good driver, instilling me with safe driving tips, even though a car maintenance schedule wasn’t something he usually followed. As luck would have it, the car broke down, leaving us sitting in a parking lot hours away from Disney, our summer travel halted. A retired couple caught our plight, and as luck would have it, the solitary old husband happened to be a retired machinist and was pretty sure he could fix our broken part at his home shop. He also scanned our tires, which were a little worse for wear.

So off they went, my mom and siblings in tow. They’d sit in the couple’s air-conditioned home, sipping lemonade, while dad and I sat on the car bumper, talking, sweating, but most importantly, sharing time that would eventually become scarce between us. Hours later, they all returned with the part, our summer travel saved. Once mobile again, we hit the closest gas station to take care of our tire issues.

At the time, it wasn’t fun. Now, it’s a treasured memory, and is in large part why I follow a maintenance schedule, in addition to dad’s driving safety tips.

Editor’s Note: Advance Auto Parts can help you maintain your vehicle with expert advice and quality auto parts.