Hey 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 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!
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.
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.
With “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.
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.
September. Already. In our household, that translates into a whirlwind of activities. Getting the kids ready for back to school and college, creating new menus that reflect the fall harvest bounty for our catering business, flushing out our house’s gutters in anticipation of the weather change, setting the DVR to catch the new season of TV shows (anything from DIY repair to zooming away from zombies are viewing musts), and plunging into seasonal car care: focus on headlights, replace shocks, etc. Give me your best advice on how to juggle it all; Comments box is below.
This time of year is our car care Big Projects Month. Lucky for us DIY repair devotees, we can count on Advance Auto Parts for timely savings on countless key components and accessories.
Summertime travels put our SUV on more than a few semi-rugged county roads (we are fans of the road less traveled and love discovering new paths and places — no doubt the fuel for turning us into DIY repair advocates!), leaving it with a newly noticeable rough ride that meant only one thing: time to replace shocks. Though the kids enjoyed this different kind of bounce as we drove through our smooth, paved neighborhood streets, the last thing I needed was for it to escalate into “drift” mode (fine for racing tuners, but not for family SUVs). Being in a “Must Replace Shocks” frame of mind, I found Advance’s Shocktober DIY repair specials — their “Buy 4 shocks or struts for the price of 3” sale has been a budget-saver. Ever had to replace shocks on your own? How did it go? Use the Comments box below to confess how you long it really took you the first time you had to replace shocks!
This seasonal transition also brings on shorter days and that means it gets darker sooner. That’s the car care cue to see to your car’s headlights. Some simple DIY repair on your part will be a snap. Seriously, when was the last time they were replaced? Or cleaned properly? That milky, filmy layer on the lens can actually be cleared off easily with the right products. We’ve placed our confidence in Advance to provide the goods to help headlights do their job right.
That’s my short list on car care. I could go on, but I’ll save those for another time. Before I go, I want to ask: are you feeling lucky? I just entered for a chance to win the Moog Sweepstakes. I never pass up any opportunity to win something and neither should you! Speaking of Moog, if you’re experiencing any steering or suspension problems, they are the go-to brand we trust, especially when, a few years back, our minivan’s steering started to pull. Meantime, keep me posted on your Autumn car care tips and DIY repair jobs (especially that first time you had to replace shocks on your own). I love new advice; head to the Comments box below.
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for DIY deals, quality auto parts, accessories and more.
Graphic courtesy of HD Wallpaper Stop.
Lucky for our family, we’ll be indulging in them all, thanks largely to our niece. Yes, the perennially engaged niece, at long last, is getting married in a couple weeks at an outdoor resort—the kind that attracts lovestruck vacationers who love to go driving in the summer, whether it’s early, late, whenever. This destination wedding and newfound vacation spot is the perfect way for us to celebrate before sending our kids back to school.
While I love my niece to pieces, I have to admit, she’s gone a little crazy with her gift requests. Seems like the couple has all of their many bases covered except for one: cars. And it’s not hard to see why. I seriously doubt that either of them has ever completed an oil change or has even checked their own tire pressure. With that, my husband and I have resolved to buying them a ratchet set and roadside safety kit for their new life together, as we agreed that those would be good places to start.
As for us, we’re going to treat our four-wheeled baby to a few things for the trip. Towing products plus A/C accessories and parts to be specific. Driving in the summer for this wedding requires these essentials. The air conditioner will protect us from the heat, the towing products will enable us to create our home away from home.
We’ll be loading up our gear, provisions and wedding gifts into our caravan: the SUV and diesel crew cab truck (borrowed from our business that my partner and I will be shuttering for two weeks; she’ll be on vacation too and won’t be doing much driving, or have need for an air conditioner or towing products: she’s sailing on an Alaskan cruise!)
Hooked to work’s truck will be those towing products. These lifelines will be securing the travel trailer. By investing in this rental, a few towing products, and a space at a great RV campground and resort (complete with hook-ups and dump stations, thankfully) that’s also close to the wedding/reception site, our vacation is set.
Couple that with seeing relatives again, bonding with my own family, and attending the wedding of a delightful couple who will finally discover all the wonders of being married. And to think that towing products, a fully functioning air conditioner and a ritual of driving in the summer all have the power to make me feel complete.
As summer winds down, do you have any travel plans? Let us know here.
Editor’s note: If you’ve got a road trip in your future, check out this handy infographic for helpful tips.
Between all the multi-tasking that my husband and I do — you know, those responsibilities and obligations to our jobs, our kids, our families, our pets, our activities, our home and our vehicles — there is actually one thing that does remove the sting from the whole too-much-going-on-at-the-same-time dilemma. What is it? Making time to take in a movie. Or two when time luxuriously allows.
It’s a commitment. And one we’d never trade in for the world. It’s a simple way to carve out time together, just us two.
The latest movie titles embarrassingly escape us, and it’s no use trying to remember the numerous TV commercials for the latest crop of movies. So we head online to see what’s playing locally. Out of the handful that we barely recognize, the lone standout falls into the car movies category. I think you know the one: where today’s generation of fast and famous film cars share top billing alongside current Hollywood heavies (all of whom surely must derive some form or level of inspiration from Steve McQueen.) Fast cars, all furiously zooming around, driven by hot actors and pretty actresses, all engaging in tons of car-racing action and adrenaline-pumping rescues, fueled by a nonstop thumping soundtrack . . . and a heavy sigh from me and the hubby.
Not necessarily our style of film, but it’s how we now quell the craving for car movies. Truthfully, our style leans more toward the car movies (and their famous film cars which are now icons) from decades ago. Give us those car movies with Steve McQueen tearing around the streets of San Francisco, or Gene Hackman using the streets of New York as a high-speed obstacle course for four wheels, or, heck, even Lightning McQueen re-paving the streets of Radiator Springs for that matter, and we’ll be there with our bucket of popcorn in hand. Certain car movies are the greatest!
Famous film cars themselves will always have our attention, too. Surely, you can picture them as well. In the cool department, there’s no mistaking that 1968 moss-green 390 V8 Ford Mustang GT that has Steve McQueen written all over it. In the campy department, nothing can take the place of that late-1950s Cadillac stretch ambulance conversion that was vital in helping keep ghosts and their slimy green ectoplasm in check. And who says famous film cars have to be limited to cars? With another nod to Steve McQueen, there’s no forgetting the TT Special 650 Triumph motorcycle he used in that classic WWII escape scene.
What about you? Which car movies starring your favorite and famous film cars rank as your go-to choices? Maybe it was that first R-rated movie you saw. Or that memorable drive-in movie that truly had you engrossed in what was happening on screen. There’s a story behind them all. Whether it involved Steve McQueen or any of those famous film cars, share it! Start confessing in our Comments section down below.
Editor’s note: As you pine for Steve McQueen and the classic car films of yore, visit Advance Auto Parts for to maintain a cinema-quality car of your own. Mustang photo courtesy of The Mustang Source.
My auto interior needed a serious scrub down. I’m up for troubleshooting moving-part problems, but I’m still a work-in-progress with keeping it clean inside and out. Since I get engrossed with any car-related matter once I learn more about it, then keeping my crew cab truck immaculate should be no different. Because I spend more time in an auto interior as opposed to its exterior, I started inside.
Once in, it’s the first thing that assaults the senses. My kids have christened it Smell in Car. What got the odor in? Leftover smells from gorgonzola-and-onion tarts, curry-chicken empanadas, and deep-fried Italian rice balls — our catering company’s top-selling appetizers! We deliver all week to local cafes and other small eateries. Delish to devour, but when aromas mix and mingle, they become a stale, stagnant bouquet that lingers in an auto interior. My kids refused to get anywhere near the truck until I chased the odor out.
So it was me against this villainous Smell in Car. I needed expert advice on getting the odor out so I checked advanceautoparts.com and other trusty auto-care sites for tips on getting the odor out. Learned about the latest odors remover products that’ll keep the car interior upholstery looking and smelling good, too. After all, it’s the car interior upholstery that absorbs and becomes home to that notorious nuisance, Smell in Car.
To get the odor out, you need the right tools to usher out any fiendish Smell in Car from your car interior upholstery, like:
- Baking soda — use it the way you use it at home to deodorize your carpet: sprinkle some on, let it set for a few hours, then vacuum
- AC filter — if you haven’t changed it lately, install a new one and let it circulate and clarify the auto interior air
- Handheld steam cleaner — the natural power of high-pressure steam tackles odors without harsh chemicals
As for those latest auto interior odors remover products, they range from new, organic/environmentally-friendly formulations, to the tried-and-true names we grew up with that’re now amped up with added deodorizing muscle. All are safe for most car interior upholstery types. I liked:
- Turtlewax Oxy Power Out! Upholstery Cleaner — deep cleans and leaves behind that classic, protective shield
- Blue Magic Carpet Stain and Spot Lifter — its one-step cleansing action is just my speed
- Refresh Vent Sticks — easy to use, is long-lasting, and great for helping neutralize the appetizer-tray aromas
As a result, that scandalous Smell in Car has been lifted from my auto interior. I think I could like this concept of keeping a car clean and the odor out. And my kids will enjoy this nice breath of fresh air.
Editor’s Note: Advance Auto Parts can help you prevail in the fight against foul odors.Text “Spring” to 36898 to save now. Up to 5 messages per month; message & data rates may apply
Photo courtesy of Approved Gas Masks.
Not even a couple of days pass before the inevitable happens. Rain. All last night. And this morning.
Serves me right. The Wash Your Car Now gods are getting back at me for waiting too long. (Pity, the billions of bugs that met their fate on my front bumper. Alas, the caked-on muck and sludge atop the once proud clear coat.) Apparently, I haven’t sacrificed enough personal time in order to surround myself with car wash products to appease the auto overlords.
What can I say? I HATE when it’s time to wash my car, and don’t get me started on waxing. There, I said it, even though I love and value cars and I’m always on top of the maintenance part of ownership.
But looks-wise, I’ve no problem and no shame driving around with, not the cute little “Wash Me” message, but the far more serious command of “Wash Your Car” menacingly hand-scrawled on my back windows by some neat-freak.
Evidently, my family could no longer stand the embarrassment either. So on Mother’s Day (yes, last year), they presented me with a gift bucket filled with car wash products. For washing your car, drying your car, waxing your car, buffing your car, deodorizing your car. Yet not even one promise from my kids to help me put these Wash Your Car wonders into use. I looked with hope at my husband who gleefully said, “Waxing your car builds character,” and who also quickly ducked as I threw my new microfiber sponge at him.
Back to this past weekend: I unearthed my 2012 Mother’s Day gift. Prepared to defunk and degunk, my new car wash products were the arsenal at my side.
Mission “Wash Your Car – Waxing Your Car” was officially under way. The hardest part? Convincing myself that I know how to wash a car, and that waxing your car is a cinch. Not an easy feat when one’s past cleaning method didn’t even require car wash products. All I did was:
- Take the hose to it
- Then drive off
So I headed to the Advance Auto Parts Wash & Wax section of their website. I already had the car wash products. I just needed some tips. After a quick read on how to wash a car, waxing your car and more, my confidence grew. I transformed my old 2-step How To Wash A Car method into this better one:
- Wash and dry
- Surface prep
- Wax and shine
- Wheel and tire
When I was done, it was a beautiful sight. All clean and looking sharp for those couple of days. Next time I get the urge to reach for my car wash products, I’ll be sure to glance at the weather report first.
Editor’s note: Text “Spring” to 36898 for great wash & wax deals now! Up to 5 messages per month; message & data rates may apply.
My business partner and I have officially graduated from using each of our family’s minivans for our deliveries. She and I have put them through the roadway ringer and they now deserve to be reserved for family-friendly ventures once again. We loaded lots of food trays and logged lots of miles on the minis since our catering business really picked up. Weekday orders have increased and are now rivaling our weekend business–and we haven’t stopped smiling! Naturally, we’re now thinking diesel. Not diesel cars, but diesel powered trucks.
Why have they topped our list? Easy. Gone are the days of diesel cars and trucks being annoyingly noisy and irritatingly smelly, especially those behemoth trucks favored by large industrial businesses. High-tech advances have transformed them into easily accessible vehicles for the likes of us. In our case, small-business owners who are drawn to how modern diesel powered trucks have tempted us with:
- Awesomely impressive power (looking ahead, we’re thinking of adding a massive traveling barbecue grill that we can tow to most any event location, multiplying our menu-offering possibilities)
- Incredible fuel economy (we were impressed by how they, like diesel cars, are traditionally less thirsty for diesel fuel than gasoline powered truck options)
- The spaciousness of the flatbed (just right for our trays of edibles, chafing dishes, serve ware, folding tables, linens, the occasional ice sculpture)
Of course, we also needed to ensure the cab area was equally spacious. In addition to the eats, drinks and accessories we’re transporting, we sometimes recruit a few of our family and friends as banquet servers at our larger events. Having the extra room for them eliminates extra cars (and gets us into the carpool/HOV lanes!) After taking a look at various diesel powered trucks, it was easy to choose a crew cab model that seats six.
Another clincher that steered us to diesel powered trucks are the relatively low operating costs, thanks to their great fuel economy (must be why there are a lot of diesel cars on the road today). Though the diesel fuel price-per-gallon is generally higher than that of gasoline, diesel fuel offers an excellent miles-per-gallon ratio that more than makes up for what we’ll be paying for diesel fuel at the pump.
Safety factors are at the forefront of all moms who are behind the wheel. We are no exception. Today’s diesel powered trucks (and to be fair, diesel cars) are equipped with all the same modern-day safety features, as well as convenient and indulgent upgrades, found in minivans, SUVs and cars that aren’t powered by diesel fuel:
- Anti-lock brakes
- Air bags all around
- Stability control
- Rear-view cameras
- Parking sensors
With these great features now part of today’s diesel powered trucks (and diesel cars), we’ve been wondering if a driverless option could not be far off. While en route to our delivery destinations, it’d be nice to be freed up to do other tasks. Like taking turns with catching up on some sleep!
Editor’s note: Satisfy your hunger for savings by checking out the great deals at Advance Auto Parts today! Plus, check out our latest Facebook sweepstakes for great prizes! Brought to you by Advance and Melling.
It’s still here. That electric snow blower time of year that lingers just before the final spring thaw. That’s when my husband’s side of the family—his folks and his siblings with their spouses and kids—make a run for their annual break. With just a few weeks left before spring officially hits, we are that wagon train you see heading up the mountains.
Inside each of our minivans, trucks and SUVs are packed to the hilt with comfort provisions, plus that electric snow blower, as well as quite a few spare Power Sport Batteries, just in case. Because outside, we’re towing our toys. That’s right. We’re heading for an extended weekend of family freewheeling in—of all things—used ATVs! I’ve seen his family go from snowshoeing to cross-country skiing, to snowboarding. But since they’ve discovered a faster way to transport themselves, their favorite toys are these used ATVs they bought at a steal a few years back.
What’s my take on these? They can be fun when driven in a safe manner, but I’m not too wild about using them in a sporting way. Maybe it’s just the mom gene in me. Plus, I always remember the time that my cousin took a nasty spill in one of those used ATVs while speeding through some sand dunes down in Australia. Both he and that used ATV rolled down the hill. Together. Still sends chills down my spine just thinking how he spent the rest of his vacation in traction there.
Of course, my kids are mesmerized by these things. To my husband and me they plea their case around this time of year about them getting an ATV for kids. Not one to share, but one for each of them. We used to tell them to wait until they were big enough to drive them. That didn’t help. “They really do have an ATV for kids,” they keep reasoning back. An ATV for kids? Nothing doing.
So, we made them a deal. They’ll only get one ATV for kids that they’ll have to share, but only if they go about it the way their uncles and aunts did: by shopping around for a used ATV for kids. And it has to be at a price that’s a steal. After all, they’ll be the ones earning the money to pay it.
So, if you’re wondering about a certain trio of children who are kicking the tires of some used ATVs for kids, or are asking if you could hire them to clear a path from your front door to your driveway using our electric snow blower, they belong to my husband and me.
Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of ATV batteries and accessories, plus parts for RVs, lawn and garden vehicles, motorcycles and more. Speaking of which, if you’re heading out to Bike Week, be sure to check out all of the killer events in store!