6 Summer Driving Tips That Will Keep You Safe

summer driving tips

Statistics show summer is the most dangerous time to drive in the U.S.

Isn’t that weird? Most people worry about ice and snow in winter. They don’t even think about summer!

For safe travels, follow these six summer driving tips (every parent needs to see #4!).

1. Inspect your tires.

Heat causes your tires to deflate. Check their inflation to be safe. Also look for visible signs of damage. This is a must-do before any road trip. If you have any doubts about the condition of your tires, get a second opinion from a mechanic.

2. Look both ways.

School’s out for summer! That means more teens will be on the road.

Teen drivers cause more traffic accidents than any other age group. Don’t assume these teens will follow the rules of the road.

Look both ways before you drive through a traffic light (yes, even if it’s green). Put down the phone and keep your eyes on the road so you can react quickly and decisively. If there’s a new teen driver in your family, you might enjoy these posts:

3. Check your coolant.

Hot temperatures can cause your engine to overheat. If that happens, pull over immediately. Pop open your hood and make sure your coolant tank is filled up. No? Either go to a mechanic or top it off yourself. If your engine overheats again, that could mean you have a leak.

4. Be mindful of your child.

Every parent is familiar with the nightmare of forgetting about the baby in the backseat. This isn’t very common, but it does happen. Roughly 37 babies and toddlers die in hot cars every year. It’s easy to get distracted when you’re busy. Here’s a tip. Every time you travel with a child, put a toy or stuffed animal in the passenger seat. That should jog your memory!

5. Take lots of mini-breaks on long trips.

There is nothing “tough” about driving across the country without stopping. Pull over every two or three hours to prevent fatigue. Take a walk and stretch out anything that’s stiff. One more tip: take a water bottle so you can stay hydrated. Fill it up every time you stop at a rest area.

6. Give bikes and motorcycles plenty of space.

Warm weather means more cyclists will be on the road. Be considerate of these folks. They aren’t surrounded by a protective interior like you. If they got in a wreck, it could end very badly. Increase your following distance to four seconds or more.

Talk to me.

Do you have any summer driving tips that you would add to this list? If so, let me know! Click here to share these tips with your friends so they can have a safe summer like you.

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What to Do If Your Car Breaks Down

car breaks down

Image credit: Car breakdown by Andrij Bulba via Flickr

Here’s a question that shows up in my mailbox a lot: “What should I do if my car breaks down?”

If you drive enough, car breakdowns are bound to happen whether you like it or not — so it’s best to be prepared.

Scared? Don’t be. Here are five smart things to do during a car breakdown (#3 is so simple yet effective!).

1. Get off the road.

Please don’t play chicken!

The sooner you get off the road, the sooner you’ll be out of harm’s way:

If you’re in a neighborhood, try to find a church.

If you’re in a downtown area, pull over in a business parking lot and find someone to give you a jump.

If you’re on a highway or interstate, pull over on the shoulder. Keep moving until you get to a straight section of the road. Don’t stop on a curve where no one can see you!

If your engine comes to a sudden stop, it might be impossible to stop in an ideal spot. In that case, stay inside your vehicle. It’s dangerous to cross the street when there’s cars swirling past in every direction.

2. Call for help.

Got AAA coverage? If so, put that membership to use.

Blocking traffic? If so, call 911 and notify the highway patrol.

Flat tire? You could change it, but it might be better to call a towing service — especially if you’re stopped on the interstate.

3. Take a deep breath.

This is not the time to panic. Close your eyes and take a few calming breaths. Seriously. Conscious breathing is scientifically proven to reduce stress. You’ll feel confident and in control after you calm down.

4. Let people know you’re stuck.

Pop your hood, turn on your emergency lights, and hang a towel or plastic bag out of your window. If it’s dark light some flares so other drivers can see you. No flares? Buy a pair. Do everything you can to get the attention of a police officer or someone who might be able to help you.

5. Expect the best (prepare for the worst).

Invest in a first aid and roadside emergency kit just in case your car ever breaks down. Trust me. They’re really nice to have during a car breakdown! Has your car ever got stuck on the side of the road? How did you deal with it? Tell us in the comments. Please share this blog with your friends so they will be ready for car breakdowns like you.

4 Teen Driving Mistakes You Need to Know

teen driving mistakesTraffic accidents are the #1 cause of death for teens in the United States.

Smart parents can teach their teens how to stay safe on the road.

Here are the top four teen driving mistakes you need to know.

1. They drive too fast.

Remember when you were young? I bet you hated rules. I know I did.

Sometimes I did the exact opposite of what my parents asked just to spite them. That’s how youth works!

Expect your teen to break the speed limit. It’s hard to prevent this, because most teens are naturally rebellious. Here’s a tip that might help. Explain why the speed limit is necessary in words they will understand.

Use this script:

“I know it’s fun to drive fast. To be honest, I broke the speed limit when I was your age. That wasn’t smart, though. The speed limit is there to protect you. Sometimes drivers slam their brakes for no good reason. If you drive too fast, you won’t have enough time to react. I’m not trying to steal your fun. I just want you to be safe because I love you.”

2. They get distracted.

Distracted driving kills more teens than drunk driving. It’s amazing that a cellphone can be more dangerous than alcohol. Don’t let your child become a part of that statistic. First, you have to walk the walk. If you use your phone while driving, then your children won’t take your warnings seriously.

Second, be mindful of youth culture. Most teens expect texts to be answered immediately. If you just tell your teen not to text, they will probably ignore you. Instead, ask them to give their friends a heads-up. They could send a quick text that says: “Getting in the car. Might be slow to respond. I’ll text when I get home.” If there are several active chats, they could copy/paste that text and send it to everybody.

3. They take dumb risks.

Teenagers feel invincible. They naturally take more risks than adults. The human brain doesn’t fully mature until the early 20’s. That’s why young people are so impulsive. This can lead to bad driving decisions such as:

  • DUI
  • Running traffic lights
  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Not checking the blind spot

Don’t just tell them, “Don’t do that!” They will rebel. Make sure they understand why all of these decisions could end badly. You can use the script I shared in point #1 for inspiration.

4. They try to impress friends.

Peer pressure is a very real problem. Your teen might be a cautious driver alone. Add a friend to the mix and that could change in a hurry. This is especially true for boys, who are two times more likely to die in car accidents than girls. Girls aren’t innocent either. They also drive more recklessly with a male in the passenger seat. Here’s an interesting article about how gender affects the behavior of teen drivers.

Talk to me

Please spread the word to your parent friends so their teens can be safe, too. Click here to share this blog on Facebook. Thank you!

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Read More Blogs about Teen Driving:

Teaching a Teen to Drive: 8 Tips for Busy Parents

teaching your teen to drive

Image by State Farm via Flickr (the original was altered)

Kids grow up so fast. One day, you’re changing their diaper.

And before you know it, you’re handing them a set of car keys. Where did the time go?!

It’s scary to think about your teen driving for the first time. So many things could go wrong.

If you’re teaching a teen to drive, you need to know these eight tips.

1. Stay calm.

Teens are perceptive. If you feel anxious, they will notice. Try not to stress too much, because that will only make them more nervous. Take a few deep breathes to calm down when you feel stressed.

2. Be a good example.

Teens learn by example, so you better be a good one. If you run red lights, they will disobey traffic laws. If you drive too fast, they will break the speed limit. If you don’t focus on the road, they will text and drive.

3. Make a lesson plan.

Teens have short attention spans. That’s why I recommend starting with quick and simple sessions. You could start with something as basic as parking the car in an empty lot. You can move on to more complex stuff as you go.

4. Deconstruct driving.

Imagine you’re pulling out of a driveway. This task feels effortless now. It’s actually really complicated. You have to disengage the parking break, put the car in reverse, look out for pedestrians, gently push the gas pedal, and turn the steering wheel. Explain this process step-by-step.

5. Help them stay focused.

Teens are super distracted. They are used to checking their cellphones constantly. Don’t let them do that when they drive. Watch their eyes. Are they on the road? If not, remind them to stay alert. Your teen needs to learn how to anticipate accidents. That can’t happen when their mind is elsewhere.

6. Use positive reinforcement.

Teens can be a bit touchy. If you criticize them, they will get defensive and shut down. At that point, they won’t hear anything you have to say. Don’t make them feel bad for what they did wrong. It’s better to focus on what they did right. If you compliment safe driving techniques, they will turn into habits that stick.

7. Point out potential hazards.

Teens feel invincible. In their mind, nothing can go wrong. That’s not the case on the road. Accidents happen. Make sure they’re aware of common hazards. In downtown areas, ask them to scan the road for pedestrians. On the interstate, ask them to watch a vehicle’s brake-lights so they’ll be ready for sudden stops.

8. Get outside of your comfort zone.

Most parents make a dangerous mistake. They only ask their teen to drive in daylight. They only travel on familiar roads. That’s a good way to start, but you need to be more thorough. Let your teen drive in rain, snow, darkness, and big city traffic.Your teen needs to be prepared for every driving challenge they might encounter.

Talk to me.

Are you teaching a teen to drive? If so, how is it going? Are there any tips that you would add to this list? Tell us in the comments. Click here to share this blog on Facebook so your friends can raise a safe teen driver like you.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

read More Blogs about teen driving

Ask Audra: Should You Buy a Car for Your Teenager?

buy car for teenagerShould you buy a car for your teenager? Tough question. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it depends.

First and foremost to any driver is that you know how to open the hood!

You’ve got three options. Let’s take a look at each one.

Option A: Buy a car for your child and cover all of the cost.

If reliability is your primary concern, option A might be your best bet. This puts you in control. Teenagers put style before safety. If left to their own devices, they will probably buy the “cool” car. If it’s your money on the line, you have the power to make the unpopular (but smart) decision.

The downside? It’s easy to mistreat something you didn’t pay for. Teenagers aren’t known for being grateful. They might even be mad, because they didn’t get the car they wanted. That’s 100% illogical (they got a free car!), but it’s often the case. Also, this doesn’t teach your child how to manage money. Reality will catch up with them sooner or later.

Option B: Share the family car with your child and split the cost.

If cost is your primary concern, option B might be your best bet. This is a gentle transition into owning a vehicle. Make sure your teen understands what costs they are responsible for. Ask them to pay for gas and oil changes at minimum. You can cover tire changes and other auto expenses until they save a decent amount of money.

The downside? The full cost of vehicle ownership can still come as a shock. Every time you get a repair, take your teen to the mechanic so they can see exactly how much you’re paying to maintain the vehicle. Even better, teach them about the importance of having a “car jar” to  fund emergency and maintenance services. If you don’t teach them now, they will come begging for money later.

Option C: Let your child buy their own car and cover none of the cost.

If personal growth is your primary concern, option C might be your best bet. This is a brutal introduction to the real world. That said, your teenager might end up better off for it. They will get used to the responsibility that comes with owning a vehicle at a young age. And you better believe they will take very good care of that car!

The downside? Like I said, this is brutal. Most teenagers don’t have enough money to buy a good car. They would probably have to work a summer job. That could steal time and attention from studying. And they might get suckered into buying a car that isn’t safe or reliable if they are not taught how to care for their investment. If you choose to go this route, don’t let them go shopping without you.

Talk to me.

Do you plan to buy a car for your teenager? If so, are you going to cover the repair and maintenance costs? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments. Click here to share this blog on Facebook to invite your friends to the conversation.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

read More blogs about teen driving

You Don’t Need a “Tune Up” (Here’s Why)

tune upHave you ever asked for a tune up? Most people have.

That’s an easy thing to ask for when you want your engine to run better.

But cars have changed so much that tune ups are a thing of the past.

Today I’d like to share some fun facts about how your car works. Read this and you’ll never ask for a tune up again.

How Tune Ups Came to Be

Cars weren’t always as high-tech as they are today. Old cars included parts like carburetors, distributors with points & condensers, and mechanical fuel pumps. Do any of those terms ring a bell? If not, don’t feel bad. My kids don’t know either. These parts aren’t even included on modern vehicles!

Vintage cars required more frequent and thorough inspections. Why? They didn’t come with a fancy computer that monitors their performance. These cars were equipped with mechanical parts that literally made the car spark. Those parts needed to be replaced or adjusted every 6,000-12,000 miles.

Old car engines were very simple. Each spark plug attached to one ignition wire. For best performance, these wires needed to spark the same intensity. Ignition wires make a buzzing sound when they work. A mechanic could tell the adjustment was complete when they all buzzed in tune. That’s where the term “tune up” came from.

Why Tune Ups Are No Longer a Thing

Modern cars are completely electronic. They don’t even have mechanical parts that can be tuned up. Some auto shops continue to use the phrase “tune up,” because it is familiar to customers. Most people aren’t aware of how much cars have changed.

It’s marketing that needs a tune up. Your car is run by sensors and relays. A computer in your engine controls ignition. Dashboard lights alert you to a need for more specific maintenance. A check engine light identifies potential onset of fuel and emission problems.

Don’t ask for a tune up. That might not solve your problem. There isn’t a set standard for what that service includes. It’s different at every shop. If you have a specific problem, describe its symptoms. Your mechanic will offer a solution based on that information.

Preventive maintenance is the tune up of the 21st century. Find this post helpful? Share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to check out the brand new Women Auto Know.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

The Auto Body: How to Care for Your Car

the auto bodyCar care seems really complicated.

There are so many engine parts that it’s easy to get confused by how it all works together.

No matter how clueless you might feel, caring for your car isn’t as hard as you’ve been led to believe.

Read ahead and I’ll show you how to care for your car.

Prevention is always your best option.

Have you ever had a doctor or dietitian tell you to make healthier eating decisions? It’s tempting to call them a “bully” for trying to change your behavior, but that’s not the case. They were trying to save you from potential health problems that could break the bank.

A lot of people complain about how expensive it is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. These people fail to take the long-term into account. French fries might be cheaper than salads in the short-term, but they could lead to a wider waistline. Go overboard and you might end up needing new clothes, or worse, heart problems that require expensive medication.

This is an auto blog, so I’ll spare you a lecture about the virtues of physical activity and healthy eating. I just wanted to illustrate that it’s cheaper to prevent a health problem than it is to cure it (even if you have to spend more money in the short-term).

Your car is like the human body.

The human body requires essential vitamins and minerals to function at its best. If you don’t consume these nutrients, then your immune system won’t be able to protect you from viruses like the flu.

The auto body is very similar. It also requires nutrients (in the form of fluids like motor oil and coolant) to perform at its best. If you aren’t mindful enough to check their level at specified times, then your car engine might give out.

Both the human and auto body are responsible for protecting your life. A strong, healthy body can help you recover from injury and sickness. A well-maintained car can help you avoid a dangerous accident. However, these bodies can only protect you if you take care of them.

Self-care is a virtue.

A lot of women discount their own needs. We are so caught up in trying to take care of everybody else that we are left with no time for ourselves.

If you make a habit of neglecting your needs, then your ability to help other people will suffer. Failing to make time to eat healthy could lead to a debilitating disease like diabetes. As a consequence, you would have less energy to care for your children.

See your car as an extension of yourself. Make it personal. Name your car. It would be inconsiderate to neglect its needs, because it is responsible for taking you where you need to go. Being mindful of things like dashboard warning lights and the inflation of your tires could save you from an inconvenient (or even life-threatening) situation in the future.

Thoughtful women know they must take care of their car’s needs so it can protect them in the future. If you’d like to teach your friends to be car smart like you, share this article on Facebook. Click here to join Women Auto Know (it only takes a second!).

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Top 5 Common Causes of a Check Engine Light

check engineIt’s tempting to put off a trip to the auto shop, but that could result in a more expensive repair. You don’t have to be a victim of auto anxiety.

If you’re curious about the most common causes of the check engine light, this blog is for you.

1. Your oxygen sensor needs to be replaced.

Oxygen sensors analyze the air and fuel in your engine. It passes information along to the catalytic converter, which turns dangerous emissions into less harmful substances. In other words, they work together to prevent air pollution.

If your oxygen sensor function malfunctions, your gas mileage could decrease by up to 40%. It gets worse. Neglecting to replace your oxygen sensor could lead to the death of your catalytic converter. That would turn a $200 repair into a $2,000 repair. Don’t risk it.

2. Your fuel cap is loose.

It only costs a few bucks to replace your fuel cap… and the one you have might just need to be tightened! This is why you shouldn’t assume the worst when your check engine light comes on.

Leaks, odors, fumes, noises, or jerky motions tend to accompany serious car problems. Nothing like that? It might just be your fuel cap. Pull over, unscrew your cap, and put it back on as tightly as you can. Go to the shop if the “check engine” light stays on. Consider yourself lucky if it turns off.

3. Your catalytic converter crapped out.

You had to know this was coming, right (see point #1)? This is the most expensive repair on this list… and it’s completely preventable! Don’t procrastinate when it comes to auto repair. Trust me.

4. Your spark plugs are failing.

You might never have to replace your spark plugs. They could last 100,000 miles in vehicles that were made after 1996. If you’re striving for the 200,000 mile club, you’ll definitely need to change your spark plugs at some point. Delaying this repair could cost you thousands, since bad spark plugs can cause permanent damage to your catalytic converter. Are you a DIY sort? Replacing spark plugs isn’t very difficult (once you take everything apart to get to the plugs).  Watch this video for a demonstration.

5. Your mass airflow sensor is having some issues.

Your mass airflow sensor (MAF) measures how the mass of air is flowing through your engine. It uses that info to determine how much fuel your engine needs to perform efficiently. If your vehicle is stalling at the time of your “check engine” light, your MAF might be malfunctioning. This can lead to an increase in emissions and 25% decrease in fuel economy.

No matter what is causing your check engine light, get your car to a mechanic as soon as you can. Did you find this blog helpful? If so, please share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Watch Out! How to Prevent Pesky Potholes

Pothole_BigPotholes from hell are pestering Americans all over the country. Click ahead to find out what causes potholes and how you can prevent expensive repairs

Potholes can cause significant damage to your vehicle.

Don’t take potholes lightly. They can flatten tires, knock out hubcaps, and mess up your wheel alignment.

According to AAA, potholes caused $6.4 billion in damage last year. On average, potholes cause roughly $5.4 billion in damage every year.

Hitting one pothole probably won’t hurt your vehicle. If you drive over potholes on a regular basis, the damage could add up.

Why are potholes so much worse during spring?

Rain and snow sneak into roadway cracks during winter. If it gets cold enough, water freezes overnight. There isn’t enough space to contain a block of ice, so dirt and gravel get shoved out of the asphalt.

When that water melts, a hole is left in its place. The hole grows in size as people drive over it. Potholes can’t be eliminated due to limitations with the material used to make our roads. Some experts suggest following a strict road maintenance schedule can decrease the severity of potholes.

Cautious drivers can prevent expensive repairs.

There are a few ways to protect yourself. First, heighten your awareness. If you’re not paying attention, you might not see a pothole until it’s too late.

Keep an eye on the car in front of you. If it makes a sudden movement, the driver could be steering to avoid a pothole. Don’t follow them too closely or you won’t have enough time to get out of the way.

Slow down in areas where you know there are potholes. If you roll over a pothole, don’t slam your brakes. It’s better to gently roll over it. Finally, make sure your tires are properly inflated to make a flat less likely.

Share this blog on Facebook and Twitter so your friends can save money and be a safe driver like you. Click here to join Women Auto Know (it only takes a second!).

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Revealed: Thieves in NYC Are Stealing a Car Part That’s Worth More Than Gold

nycIf you follow the news, you probably know air pollution is a big problem. Some scientists believe air pollution could lead to global warming. Thus, the government mandates clean-air laws that limit the amount of pollution cars can produce.

This is how the catalytic converter was born. Some of the scrap metals used to make this car part are worth more money than gold.

Its theft is becoming a common problem in New York. Continue reading to discover how catalytic converters work. I’ll also share our ways to protect yourself (and your bank account) from thieves.

Auto manufacturers adopted the catalytic converter to comply with regulation introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1975. The function of the catalytic converter is contained within its name. It converts harmful pollutants into less harmful emissions before they exit your car engine.

The nuts and bolts of this process are a bit more complicated, but you get the idea. The catalytic converter consists of scrap metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Platinum is more valuable than gold, so thieves have taken note. According to the New York Times, stolen converters could be sold for $200 at a scrap yard.

It is easy to steal a catalytic converter for three key reasons. First, thieves don’t have to break into the vehicle to access the converter (that means your alarm system won’t make any noise). Second, thieves don’t have to jack up large vehicles like trucks or SUV’s to access the converter (that makes it easy to crawl underneath and saw it off). Third, the theft can be finished in less than a minute.

I don’t mean to scare you, but it is important to be aware. The NYPD offers several safety tips. I will summarize the best ones here. Park in busy, well-lit areas to discourage thieves. Find a parking spot as close to building entrances as you can. If you work in the city, secure a parking spot in a fenced in area (bonus points if there are security guards). You could also find a trusted auto shop on Mechanic Advisor to discuss additional options such as theft deterrent systems and securing that converter to your vehicle with steel.

Please share this article with the women in your life so they can be protected and informed like you.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra Fordin