Top Car Gadget Gifts for your Gear Head

car gadget

Top 10 Must Have Car Gadget Gifts

The holidays are just around the corner. Have you gotten all of your gift shopping done? Yeah, we haven’t either. For the gear head in your family, here is a list of must have car gadget gifts.

1. Scissor Lift (about $1,000)
For the serious car lover in your life, a scissor lift is amazing. It keeps you from needing to lie on your back on the cold concrete to check under the car or truck. It will lift a vehicle high enough to work on the brakes, suspension and body.

2. Swift Hitch Portable Back-Up Camera ($239)
Does your hubby have a trailer? This makes one-person trailer hookup easy, and even comes with night vision.

3. GearWrench Racheting Box Wrenches ($50)
This 7-piece rachet set only needs 5 degrees to move a fastener. Chrome-plated, it’s nearly impossible to strip a fastener with these tools.

4. Stanley Portable Battery Jump-Starter ($70)
This jump-starter comes with 500 amps of continuous power and 1,000 amps of peak power. That’s enough to get your car, truck, RV or boat charged. It also includes a 120-psi air compressor to fill up your tires and a powerful LED light.

5. Car MD ($70)
This gadget will read your check engine or any warning lights and capture the trouble code. It will even take you to a site that will explain the code and suggest solutions specific to your vehicle.

6. Accutire Digital Pressure Gauge ($15)
At $15, this digital gauge is a steal. It’s been reviewed to be as accurate as high-priced models.

7. GoLink iPod Cable ($99)
Like the Car MD, GoLink allows you to check trouble codes, diagnose problems and monitor various parameters but with your Apple device and a free app.

8. Craftsman Cordless Impact Driver ($100)
At just 4.5 lbs this impact wrench can develop 200lb-ft of torque and generate up to 3,000 impacts per minute.

9. Ram Drink Cup Mount ($37)
This cup mount is fully articulating, allowing you to place it virtually anywhere in your vehicle.

10. CG Lock ($50)
The CG Lock is an easily installed device that maintains seatbelt tension. It’s great for safety and can also improve your driving.

Top 5 DIY Auto Repair and Maintenance Tasks

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List of 5 Auto Repair Tasks You Should Do Yourself

Most auto repair scenarios you don’t want to tackle yourself. And sometimes it comes down to “do I have the time to do this myself?” Here are 5 auto repairs that you should absolutely do yourself. They’re worth the time and money-saving effort spent. Here is our top 5 “we won’t blame you if you do it yourself” maintenance and auto repairs.

1. Air filters

Generally speaking, your vehicle has 2 air filters. One behind the glove box in the cabin and one under the hood. If you think that either needs to be replaced, go ahead and do both. This is an incredibly easy task and air filters are not that expensive. And even though there are cheaper air filters out there, splurge on a quality one. They may be more expensive, but they will last longer and are more cost effective in the long run.

2. Tire pressure

Checking your tire pressure is an important maintenance task that you can perform yourself. Pressure gauges are inexpensive and you can easily keep one in your glove box. The recommended pressure for your tires is usually found on the inside of the driver’s side door. Furthermore, there are some gas stations that have free air pumps. There’s nothing holding you back from performing this maintenance task yourself.

3. Spark plugs

Depending on the make and model of your car, this auto repair task can be as easy as screwing in a light bulb. Check your vehicle’s manual for special instructions. And like with air filters, splurge on a quality set.

4. Windshield wipers

If you have unwanted streaks on your windshield or you can actually see the rubber separating, go ahead and replace your own blades. The instructions are right on the box. It takes five minutes and greatly increases your visibility and vehicle safety. However, if you don’t feel like doing it yourself, most auto supply stores will install it for you for free.

5. Battery

Car batteries can be expensive, so go ahead and replace this part yourself and save yourself some dough. However, you might not even have to replace your battery. If you just have some corrosion around the terminals, this is a task you can perform yourself. Auto supply stores offer special sprays that prevent this from happening. Disconnect your battery, get the terminals a little wet and then clean them with baking soda and a toothbrush. Rinse off the excess baking soda and dry off the battery/terminals. Apply the special spray, reconnect the terminals and you’re done! WARNING: If you notice any cracks in your battery that are leaking acid, your battery will absolutely need to be replaced.

hazardous conditions

Drive Safely in Hazardous Conditions

Driving in hazardous conditions does not require Nascar-grade driving skills. There is no class to train you to drive better in the fog, snow, rain or sleet. The only requirement in to be aware of hazardous driving conditions and adjust yourself accordingly. Plus, be aware that other drivers will most likely not adjust properly to the poor conditions and continue as if everything were a beautiful sunny day. Slow down, don’t follow other vehicles closely and know that the vehicles around you are more than likely going to do something completely unsuitable for hazardous driving conditions.

Rainfall is very dangerous for driving. However, most drivers don’t take it as seriously as they should. It is incredibly easy to hydroplane. It doesn’t take much at all—even with good tires you can hydroplane. It occurs when you drive too fast on rain-covered roads. It can also occur when your tires are worn down, even just a little. If a puddle is deep enough to fill in the grooves of your tires you can hydroplane. If you notice that your car is now surfing on the road, slow down. Your tires will regain traction. With anti-lock brakes, braking lightly is safe to do.

Driving in sleet, snow or ice is highly precarious. Each storm presents differently, so it’s even more difficult to drive in than rain. Furthermore, as more cars drive over the snow-covered roads, the conditions change. Just be aware of a few things when driving in the sleet, snow or ice:

• Bridges will freeze
• Change lanes only when necessary
• Stay in the far right lane
• Drive through the tire tracks of the vehicle in front of you
• Test your brakes when you first begin driving to gauge necessary reaction times
• Black ice: It’s nearly impossible to see, and incredibly dangerous. All you can do is take your foot off the brake and hope your vehicle stays straight.

Fog is also a hazardous driving condition. If thick enough, you won’t be able to see even 10 feet in front of you. It’s best to just avoid driving in fog altogether. But if you absolutely have to, treat it like any other hazardous condition and drive slowly. Do yourself a favor and turn off the radio, too. You’re going to need your ears to indicate what’s going on around you. The only other precaution is to turn on your fog lights. High beams will further obscure your vision. The fog just refracts the bright light and reduces the distance that you can see clearly. If you’re preparing to brake, tap them first to alert the driver behind you. And as with snow, stay in the far right lane. The less lane changes you have to make the better. Plan out your turns ahead of time and give yourself and other vehicles plenty of notice.

In conclusion, the best practice is to drive slowly and increase your following distance. Some accidents are unavoidable especially in hazardous conditions. Recognize less than optimal driving conditions, and adjust accordingly.


Understanding How Octane Levels Affect your Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is an important topic in the automotive industry today. But, when you fuel up at the pump do you think about the octane level that is best for your vehicle? Does it really make a difference if you fill your tank with regular instead of premium?

The name premium definitely promotes the image of better fuel economy. More oomph per gallon. The truth is that premium provides no more energy than regular. The real difference lies in the blend of hydrocarbons used to make the fuel as well as the list of additives that are mixed in.

Additives are used to reduce carbon build-up in your engine, thus improving combustion and allowing for easier starting in colder climates. A key additive in your petrol is ethanol. It is added to boost the fuel’s octane rating. A higher rating equals a higher “compression ratio”, which increases the temperature in your combustion chamber. This is where your high-octane petrol is needed to produce more power and is designed for performance vehicles. If you have a high compression engine, you would be ill advised to use regular gas. However, if your vehicle’s manual says that premium is “recommended” and not “required” then the choice is yours. Your engine will adjust to run on the lower octane fuel. It will just produce less power and have slightly higher fuel consumption.

For regular Joe’s without high-compression engines, 87 unleaded is fine. When gas prices are at a high, you’ll still save more at the pump fueling up with regular than fueling up with premium. To sum it up, there are no advantages in using premium gas in a car that doesn’t require it. Go ahead and save those 15-20 cents per gallon. You’re not doing anything to mistreat your vehicle. So, rest easy and get yourself a little snack at the pump while you’re at it.

Top 10 Tips for Good Auto Repair Service

auto repair service

How to Sniff Out a Good Auto Repair Service Provider

It can be difficult finding a good auto repair service. We know because we’re in the business of auto repair. We know how our competitors do things, and we like to do them a little differently. That’s why we have compiled this top 10 list of tips on finding good auto repair service. We know we fit the bill, and you deserve to know what to look for.

1. Keep your vehicle owner’s manual close
Your service manual is provided to you for a reason. It organizes all of the pertinent information specific to your vehicle’s make and model. It can sometimes lead to an answer to your car service questions.
2. Decide between an independent garage or your dealership’s service station
Dealership technicians are manufacturer-trained specialists that work exclusively on your make of vehicle. However, it is the most expensive route and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best. In fact, most independent corner garages hire technicians that used to work directly for the dealerships.
3. Keep your service records in order
You may have a tendency to throw away that receipt once you get your car serviced, but keeping meticulous records on what’s been done on your vehicle can benefit you greatly in the future. It can help your current mechanic diagnose your vehicle’s needs.
4. Check if the technician is trained on your specific vehicle make
From brand to brand, each car and truck has unique characteristics especially nowadays. Updates on vehicle safety has brought with it special tools and procedures. It’s best to see if your technician is privy to them.
5. Ask about labor and pricing rates
Most shops bill according to repair times established by the manufacturer. Just take a look at your estimate and make sure to check the labor rates for discrepancies.
6. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a repair. If you think something is fishy, it probably is. A good technician will take the time to explain the details of the repair to you in an educated manner.
7. Request OEM parts
OEM parts, or factory original parts, are specified for your vehicle for a reason. They are more expensive, but take the time to weigh the options of going with aftermarket.
8. Is the mechanic A.S.E. certified?
The National Institute for Automotive Excellence keeps up with vehicle standards, and provides rigorous tests to prove the mechanic’s personal excellence in the field. Your neighbor that works on his own cars frequently would not be able to pass these tests.
9. Ignore the 100,000 mile tune-up myth
Once again, check your owner’s manual! Each vehicle is different, and requires a tune-up at different intervals.
10. Look out for warning signs
If your mechanic can’t look you in the eye when providing you with an estimate, it’s a red flag. Look for warning signs of a greedy technician. They’re easy to spot.

Should You Warm Up Your Engine Before Driving It?


Don’t Warm Up Your Engine by Idling in the Driveway

With winter comes the popular remote start for your vehicle. No one likes getting into a cold car freezing your buns off until the engine warms up. This is why remote starts have become such a popular feature. You can start your vehicle from the warmth of your home and wait until those vents blow that sweet warm air. However, is warming up your car by idling it good for your engine? Traditionally, the answer would be yes. But for fuel-injected engines, the answer is no.

That wise old tale about lubing up your car’s parts by warming up your engine gently is outdated. It comes from the days of carburetors. These vehicles needed several minutes of idling to get to a smooth operating temperature. On the contrary, fuel-injected engines adjust to idle perfectly even in sub-zero weather. Besides, idling an engine doesn’t build up heat like driving it does.

Letting your vehicle idle in the driveway for extended periods of time can actually cause damage via engine oil dilution. When idling, raw gasoline can seep into the oil and break down the lubrication properties. So, while you may have thought that idling your engine before driving it helps lubricate your cylinder walls, it can actually promote wear and increase oxidation of the oil.

If you have an old carbureted car, keep on keeping on. Waiting until your engine heats up won’t cause any wear. However, if you have a fuel-injected engine just take your time to scrape the ice and snow off of your vehicle and then drive it. Don’t wait for the engine to heat up. Even so, it is still recommended to go easy on the acceleration as the engine gets up to operating temperature. Going full-throttle right off the bat is still not recommended even with fuel-injected engines.

Car Maintenance Myths

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That’s Gotta Be One of Those Car Maintenance Myths

You may have heard some of these car maintenance myths. Everybody seems to know what’s best for your vehicle. We are here to debunk a few of these myths that you may believe to be true.

Do you think it’s best to change your car’s oil every 3,000 miles? This is a very popular myth, but it is more of a sales tactic from oil companies and shops. Read your owner’s manual for the most accurate information about your vehicle maintenance, including how often to change your oil. Most vehicles can travel well over 5,000 miles before changing their oil–under normal driving conditions. It may be necessary to change your oil more frequently if you drive on destructive terrain such as dirt roads, rough roads, or even long-distance driving.

Another car maintenance myth we’re here to bust is the need to change your coolant with every oil change. Again, your owner’s manual is your best friend. Coolant changes are usually recommended every few years or at 60,000 miles. This doesn’t mean to forget about or neglect the coolant. It is still good to keep an eye on the coolant to be sure there are no leaks.

If you’ve heard someone say “just read the tire wall” to find the psi recommendation for inflation. JUST DON’T. This figure is the MAXIMUM amount of pressure your tire can handle. If you fill your tires to the max, you run the risk of them bursting. There are other ways to best decide the psi for your tires. There’s always an manufacturer’s recommendation for pressure. They’ve done their research for this vehicle to best perform. You can usually find this recommendation on a sticker located on the driver-side doorjamb, the glove box, or the fuel-filler door. If you can’t find it there, you can always call the professionals at Courthouse Automotive to help you out.

Here is the final and most common myth we know you have heard. Warm your car first before driving. This advice is a bit old-fashioned. This may have been true for older vehicles, but the fastest way to warm a car is to drive it. The sooner the better. However, don’t rev the engine during your first few miles.

If you have more questions about auto maintenance, give us a call at Courthouse Automotive.

Fall Car Care Tips

fall car care

Understanding Fall Car Care

These Fall Car Care tips will help prepare your car for winter. It’s important to understand preventative vehicle maintenance.

Tip 1: Battery
Bringing your car in for a battery check can help to determine the car’s battery life.

Tip 2: Tire Pressure
There are several factors for an accurate tire pressure reading. Tires that have just been on the road can affect the psi reading. It is always best to test tire pressure when the tires are cold. For every 10 degrees of temperature change, air pressure in a tire decreases 1-2 pounds.

Tip 3: Tire Tread
If you’re looking forward to a brutal winter full of snow and ice, it may be a good idea to check your tire tread. Tire tread can be measured using a tread depth gauge, or you can do the “penny test”. With the “penny test”, you insert a penny into the the tire tread grooves with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires are considered bald at 2/32nds of an inch.

Tip 4: Brake Check
It is important to check brake pads to avoid ruining your rotors. If you hear screeching while breaking, your breaks are in need of a change. Having worn break pads can decrease your stopping abilities and eat away at your rotors.

Tip 5: Washer Fluid
DO NOT USE WATER in the cold months. It will freeze. Choose a washer fluid that is meant for cold temperatures.

Tip 6: Heating and Cooling
Have your Heating and Cooling checked before the weather changes completely. It’s not just about comfort, but you need heating to defrost windows in the winter.

Tip 7: Headlights
Have your headlight brightness tested and be sure your bright lights are working properly. You can always have them cleaned to function more efficiently. Fall and Winter mean longer nights and you’ll be needing your headlights more often.

Be sure to use these Fall Car Care tips and to have your preventative maintenance check up to keep your vehicle running smoother longer.

Replacing Rear Drum Brakes

Tire Pressure

How to Replace Your Rear Drum Brakes

Most vehicles on the road today don’t have rear drum brakes. But if you do, here’s the low down. They aren’t as easy as replacing brake pads. With proper instruction, you can replace your rear drum brakes yourself. There are a couple of special tools that you may need to get the job done.

Here is a full list of the tools you will need:
1. New brake shoes of course
2. A jack
3. Jack stands
4. Lug wrench
5. Pliers (a pair of locking pliers are extremely useful here)
6. Screwdriver
7. Return spring tool/retaining spring tool (usually this comes as one tool)
8. A dust respirator and a nice tool bench
9. Bring your camera phone

Now that you are all equipped, it’s time to get started! We recommend taking off both rear brake drums so you can compare one side as you’re working on the other.
First off, loosen the lug nuts on both sides of your vehicle. Put a 4×4 or cinder blocks in front of your front tires, put on your parking brake and jack up one side of your car. Place one of the jack stands under the corresponding side of your vehicle. Jack up the other side of your car and place the other jack stand. Lower your parking brake. Don’t forget this step, as your rear brakes will be engaged because of the emergency brake.

Second, remove your lug nuts and wheels to reveal the brake drum. Grab the edges and wiggle those bad boys off. Some rear brake drums are held on by screws. If so, you’ll need to get out your trusty screwdriver and remove the screws first.

Putting New Shoes on Your Rear Drum Brakes

Now for the fun part! You’ll notice there are several springs holding your brake shoes in place. This is the perfect opportunity to bust out your camera phone and snap a few pics. Remember that the other side of your vehicle will be a mirror image. You’ll see that there are a couple of clips on the left and right side. Remove those first and then take off your springs. Before you get any further, compare your new brake shoes with your old ones. If they are off slightly, the drums won’t go back on. Remanufactured can sometimes mean defective, so you want to save yourself some trouble.

If your shoes are looking good, put them in place along with their corresponding springs. Don’t forget to add your clips back. You’ll also notice a self-adjuster clip. Engage it until it’s completely tight. Then, do the other side of your vehicle before you put the drums back on. Once your new shoes are in place, slide the drums back on, screw them in place (if necessary) and put your tires back on. Turn the lug nuts until they’re hand tight, lower your vehicle and tighten your lugs nuts further.

Then, you’re done! Just do a quick brake test to make sure that everything is working properly. Congratulations, you just replaced your rear brake drums!

Remove Water from Your Gas Tank

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How to Remove Water from Your Gas Tank

So, you’re fairly positive that your have water in your gas tank. Now what? How do you get rid of it? Surprisingly, there are a few different ways to remove water from your tank.

1. The best way to remove water from your tank is to completely change the contaminated gas out entirely. Replace it with a non-ethanol blend of gas. It’s a higher quality fuel with a longer shelf life. It will absorb the excess water within a few weeks.

2. A high-octane gas will also do the trick. It will exhaust the tank of all moisture and leave it dry.

3. Certain products can also be used that contain special fuel additives and methanol, which will help remove water from the tank. These may not work if the quantity of water left in the tank is too much. Some of these products include HEET® and Hydroburn G®.

4. Rubbing alcohol can also an effective method. It will sink to the bottom where the water has settled and absorb it. Once the water in absorbed, it will turn into a mixture that is safe for your engine. It will eventually travel through your system and get burned off through the exhaust. WARNING: Rubbing alcohol also contains water. This method should only be used under the guidance of your favorite mechanic.

If the water level on your tank is too high, you will have to drain all of the gas as well as replace your fuel filters. And remember, like most things concerning the health of your vehicle, if you’re not sure bring it in for an inspection. We’ll be able to tell you if you have water in your tank or not, and how much. We’ll let you know if it’s a job that you can do yourself.