Wednesday, 14 October 2009

How to choose car insurance

How to find the right car insurance and save on the premium.

There are a number of different types of car insurance:

  1. Compulsory third party (CTP or green slip insurance) is the most basic cover and every car must have it. It provides essential cover against claims for compensation if you injure or kill someone in a motor accident.

    If your car is not worth much you may think taking out CTP is enough. However, it doesn't cover you for damage caused to other people's property (if you're unlucky enough to run into a Rolls!)

  2. Third party property is the least expensive option. It covers you for the damage you may cause to another car and may include limited cover for damage caused to your car by an uninsured driver.

  3. Third party property, fire and theftalso covers you if your car is stolen or burnt.

  4. Comprehensive car insurance is the best cover option but also the most expensive. It includes the cost of crash repairs or replacing your car, even if you're at fault.

How To Change Your Air Filter

A clogged air filter affects your car's performance on a number of levels. It robs your car of power, something you need every ounce of when you're navigating a freeway on-ramp. Perhaps more important is the effect a clogged air filter has on your gas mileage. It takes 10 minutes and usually costs less than $20. These easy steps will get you there and back in no time flat.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 10 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Locate and Open the Filter Housing
    With your hood open and safely propped, locate the air filter housing. On any car made in the last 20 years or so, it'll be in a black plastic case with metal clips on the sides. You'll also see a black tube going into the plastic case on most cars. Flip the little metal clips downward. If they are tight, slide a flat-head screwdriver in between the clip and the case from the top, and pop it off. Some housings will also have a nut holding them from the top.
  2. Squirrel Your Nuts
    If you removed nuts from the top of your filter housing, be sure to put them in a safe secure location. You don't want to lose these! In the vehicle used in our example, the top of the filter housing comes off, so we put them in the housing top where they couldn't roll away. You can even stick them in your pocket. Whatever you do, put them someplace safe.
  3. Remove the Old Filter
    Your filter (round or rectangular) will be made of lots of folded paper surrounded by rubber. Before you remove the dirty filter, take a moment to note how it sits in the housing so you can be sure to put the new one in correctly. Carefully pull it out, being sure that nothing falls into the bottom of the box. I've seen sticks, trash and some really big bugs caught in the filter. If it looks anything like the filter in the above photo, you know you're doing the right thing.
  4. Put the New Filter in Place
    Put the new, clean filter in place, being sure to put it in the same configuration as the one you removed (as in which side is up, etc.). Don't worry about making a mistake here, if you have the filter in upside down you won't be able to get the top closed. Also be sure to press the rubber gasket of the filter all the way into its groove in the housing. If you find the cover hard to get back on, re-check this as it's often the culprit.
  5. Empowerment!
    That's it! You just saved money on gas, and saved a nice bit of cash by installing the filter yourself. That's 10 minutes well spent, and look at the difference you made under the hood. And it's all because you did it yourself!

What You Need:

  • Flat-head screwdriver (maybe)

Did The Repair Shop Do The Work They Said They Did?

One of the most common auto repair shop scams, and also one of the most dishonest, is charging for work that just wasn't done at all. It's not complex, but it's still disgusting.

If you suspect a repair shop or auto mechanic has charged you for a repair that wasn't performed, the best weapon at your disposal is your mouth. You should never be afraid to ask questions, especially when it comes to your money or your safety! There are questions you can ask that will alert you to a possible no-work-performed scam.

  • Ask to see what was done. Ask your mechanic to pop the hood and show you what they worked on. Were you charged for a new part? Then ask to see it. Don't be afraid to ask to have every step pointed out to you. After all, you're paying for it.
  • Ask your mechanic to save your broken parts.If you were charged for a new part and the labor to replace it, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to show you the old one. Compare it to the new part to be sure you got what you paid for.
  • Ask other mechanics. Before you go to the front desk of the repair shop, poke your head around back and ask a random worker what they did to the '99 Maxima today. If there are any dishonest practices at work, chances are not everybody is in on the overcharging.

Remember, ask as many questions as you want! If your mechanic doesn't like answering your questions, it's probably time to find a new repair shop.


10 Things to Think About at the Repair Shop

You want to be ready for your auto repair experience. We all want to repair our own cars, but if we need to take it to the repair shop for a professional job, we need to be prepared. Most shops are honest and are there to help you save money by keeping your car in top shape. But just in case, here are 10 things you should be thinking about when you walk through the door of a repair shop. Avoid any scams, upsells, overcharging, or incompetence by keeping your eye on the ball. We could fill a barrel with auto repair advice, both good and bad, but this list is an excellent start.

10 Things To Know About You And Your Mechanic

  1. Second opinions are great, but be sure to make it an anonymous trip. It's fine to tell the second mechanic that you're there for a second opinion, but don't share the diagnosis or the cost estimate. That's sure to muddy the waters.
  2. Never authorize work to be done on your car or truck without a written estimate that states you'll be contacted before any work not on the original estimate is performed. The estimate should be specific and include both parts and labor charges. Many states require this by law, so check to see where you stand on that.
  3. Beware the upsell. Automotive upsells are tough. On one hand we don't want to pay for work that our car doesn't need. On the other hand, preventive maintenance is the best insurance against future repairs. Your best defense is time. Don't be pressured into an upsell on the spot. If you're not sure, tell your mechanic you may want to do that, but to give you a couple of hours to decide. Do some research, ask around, and decide for yourself when things are quiet and the pressure's off.
  4. When buying tires, ask for details on differences in tire quality and guarantees.Our tire information guide will tell you what all of the markings on the tires mean, but there's often more to the story. Ask the salesperson to explain any warrantees to you. For instance, you might see a sign next to a tire display that says "60,000 Mile Warranty," and you think that they will guarantee you get 60,000 miles out of the tire. Wrong. The warranty covers the tire against manufacturer defect only. They should cover that anyway, right?
  5. Find a mechanic who is ASE certified. ASE stands for Automotive Service Excellence, and they take their certification seriously. If your mechanic opted to skip the ASE, this might reflect on their dedication to keeping you happy as a customer. There are lots of good mechanics out there who aren't certified by ASE, or even AAA, but why take the chance?
  6. If your check engine light has been haunting you, don't allow your mechanic to "reset it and let's see what happens." Your car's OBD (On Board Diagnostics) system will give specific codes relating to your check engine light problem. If your mechanic doesn't have the ability or knowledge to read these codes, or doesn't feel like it, you're wasting time and money at that shop.
  7. Take a good look at the shop's work areas. A good mechanic will refuse to work in a pig sty. They will keep a clean organized work area, and clean their tools and equipment on a regular basis, usually daily. The floor will be swept (oil stains are a fact of life) and free of old parts, peanut shells and soda cans. Don't worry about what the mechanic looks like, car repair is not a beauty contest.
  8. Follow personal recommendations, not coupons or flashy advertising. This applies to mechanics, dentists and real estate agents. There is no substitute for a thumbs-up from a good friend of family member. Good shops know this, and their customer service reflects it.
  9. If your mechanic shows you "tell-tale signs" of upcoming problems like metal shavings in your transmission fluid, don't assume the worst. This isn't always the sign of a problem, so be sure to ask more questions. If something's really wrong, you'll know it.
  10. Check to see if labor charges can be combined to get two repairs done at the same time. There are lots of jobs that, when done at the same time, can save a lot of money on labor. For instance if you are having your timing belt replaced, it's often a good time to take a look at your water pump since all of the belts will be removed anyway.
Remember, always stay on top of the situation and you won't be taken advantage of or miscommunicate with your mechanic. The more you know about your car and how it works, the more empowered you'll be at the repair shop.


How To Test Your Brake Lights ... Alone!

Are your brake lights working? Do drivers seem to be charging your rear bumper? Before you get a ticket, or worse, you should give the brake lights a test. But you're all alone, how can you do it? You could ask your retired next door neighbor, but you have other plans for the next 3 hours of your life. Here is your answer, and it's simple.

All you need is a broomstick. Any removable broomstick will do, or mop handle, or anything of similar length. You can even use the whole broom if you're ok with the business end being in your car seat!

Take one end of the stick and press the brake pedal, then prop the other end firmly against the seat cushion. Now walk around back and check your brake lights!


Why Won't My Car Start?

If you turn your car key and get nothing, or get anything less than an engine roaring to life, you might be in for a bad day. Starting problems can be very frustrating because there are so many things under the hood that can keep a car from starting. Heck, pretty much everything under the hood can keep the car from starting.

In order to troubleshoot a no-start problem, you need to start at the beginning of the line, the battery, and work your way back. Some tests for a no-start problem are simple, others are a pain in the neck and a technical nightmare. Nonetheless, you need to figure out why the car won't start, so we'll try to help. If your key won't turn in the ignition, try this fix.

Electrical No-Start Problems

  • Check Your Fuses: Few cars have a fuse associated with the starting system, but before you go monkeying around with everything, check your fuses to be sure it's not that simple.

  • Battery Corrosion: Over time your battery connections can become dirty, or corroded. This corrosion breaks the connection your battery has with the rest of the car, and it won't start. Trycleaning your battery posts and try to start the car again.

  • Dead Battery: The most common reason your car won't start is a dead battery. If you have a battery tester that can measure cranking amps, test your battery to see if it's weak. If you can't test it yourself, you can test the battery indirectly by jump-starting the car. If it starts right away, your problem is most likely a dead battery. Replace the battery, and clean the battery connections to ensure good contact.

  • Bad Igntion Switch: If your battery checks out, but the starter is still silent, it may be a faulty ignition switch. Turn the key to the on position (not all the way to start). If the red warning lights on your dash don't light up (and your battery connections are clean), the ignition switch is bad. If they do light up, turn the key to the start position. The dash warning lights should turn off at this key position (most cars). If you're not sure, turn on the headlights. When you try to start the car, the lights should either dim (a lot) or turn off completely. If they do, your ignition switch should be ok. If not, the switch will need replacement.

  • Bad Starter Connection: Corrosion can not only keep your battery from connecting, it can affect any electrical component, especially the ones exposed to the elements like the starter. If you have a helper, you can test the connection by holding a circuit tester lead on the wire that engages the starter. This is the smaller of the two wires connected to the starter. Be sure no part of your body is near the moving parts of the engine - it could still start at any time! Have a friend turn the key and check the current. If you're getting current to the starter but it ain't spinning, it needs replacement.

If your starter spins freely when you turn the key, the problem lies elsewhere. Now you begin to check the other systems that could keep it from firing up.


Eight Easy Jobs to Save $600!

You clip coupons, seek out cheap gas, cook at home rather than going out -- these are great cash saving practices. But if you aren't working on your own car you're missing out on the big bucks. By devoting just one weekend to maintenance, you can save a whopping $600. That's a real chunk of change!
I know what you're thinking. You don't know how to work on a car. You don't want to spend six months learning how. You're way off base. These maintenance tasks are beginner's level jobs that require only the simplest of skills. Did I mention you can do them all in one weekend? Did I mention you can save 600 dollars?
That's enough lecturing. If you're not convinced by now, you're not interested in saving money. For the rest of us, here we go:

Eight Easy Jobs to Save You $600

  1. It's dirt cheap and takes a half hour. Even at only three changes a year you're saving decent money.
    Annual Savings: $74.97

  2. This is one of the biggest money savers you can do. Brake shops really hit you hard when they do a 15-minute pad replacement.
    Annual Savings: $99.99

  3. Another 10-minute job that the shops charge big bucks for, and cooler cars wear more slowly, last longer and need fewer repairs.
    Annual Savings: $99.99

  4. This maintenance job can be performed in less than 5 minutes. No, seriously, do it.
    Annual Savings: $25.99

  5. Replacing your PCV valve does great things for your engine's health and efficiency. More money saved!
    Annual Savings: 59.99

  6. A clogged fuel filter is robbing your car of precious miles per gallon. Replace it and you'll not only save money at your house, but also at the pump.
    Annual Savings: 89.99

  7. The infamous AC check. A $5 piece of equipment and you can do it yourself.
    Annual Savings: $49.99

  8. This is one of the more intimidating maintenance tasks, but there's no reason to be scared. It's easy and safe.
    Annual Savings: $99.99

Total Savings: $600.89

If that isn't enough to get you excited about working on your own car, I can't help you. This is an opportunity to save money not just this year, but for the future as well. The small outlay of cash it takes to get going will be returned many times over in just the first year. After that, you're talking pennies on the dollar, six hundred dollars!