Category Archives: Tips


It seems unlikely that when Danish King Harald Blatant united sworn enemies in the Middle Ages he could have ever predicted the influence of his actions or the postmodern use of his name – translated “Harold Bluetooth” in English. Seen as the electronic equivalent to the king’s unifying influence, Bluetooth is a new technology that allows different devices from different manufacturers (and, in the case of cell phones, different providers) to “talk” to each other on a shared wireless platform. Essentially an ultralow power radio signal, Bluetooth allows wireless access to certain devices within about 30 feet. This all sounds complicated and, perhaps rather boring, but the net effect of this technology is added flexibility and convenience for those who frequently rely on handheld electronic devices such as phones, cameras and PDAs. According to Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, “Bluetooth was founded on the principles of low power, low cost, security and ease of use.” News source: The advantage of Bluetooth-enabled devices is that Bluetooth is a standard operating “system” for lack of a better word. Various devices from diverse manufacturers can communicate wirelessly. Foley notes, “In many cases, involved companies may be competitors or have nothing in common except for Bluetooth. For example, Bluetooth makes it possible to use your favorite Microsoft keyboard with an Apple Power Book.” Also, with a Bluetooth-enabled camera (or camera/phone) you can wirelessly transfer photos to any Bluetooth printer and get instant prints. You can also compare and synchronize calendars in your PDA and transfer files, music or photos from camera to computer or computer to computer or from phone to phone. With Bluetooth-enabled phones you can wirelessly transfer contact information, meeting requests and e-mail messages to other paired devices.From an automotive perspective, Bluetooth offers the ability to utilize your personal cell phone through an in-car system. Cars like the Chrysler 300C, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Saab 9-3, Toyota Prius and others offer Bluetooth as a factory-installed feature. Other automakers that currently offer Bluetooth capabilities include Acura, Audi, BMW, Bentley, Cadillac, Dodge, Ferrari, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus Maybach, Mitsubishi, and Nissan. Expect many more models to offer Bluetooth by the 2006 model year. What makes Bluetooth so appealing (in addition to ease of use) is its relatively low cost. For example, Chrysler’s system is called UConnect; the option costs about $290 and consists of a Bluetooth receiver (mounted out of sight), a microphone and a small control pad mounted to the dash.Aftermarket kits are also available if you’re not in the market for a new car. A company called Parrot makes several adapter kits as does Motorola and others. The kits are very affordable with prices starting well below $200.Even if you do opt for an aftermarket system, Bluetooth offers all the safety and convenience of a factory-installed car phone combined with the freedom of a handheld cell phone. The user must have a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone in order to take advantage of the in-car feature, but those phones are becoming more and more common and are not significantly more expensive than phones without Bluetooth (some Bluetooth phones are even less expensive than a phone without the feature). Cell phone makers such as Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony-Ericsson currently sell phones with Bluetooth capabilities.With a Bluetooth phone, you can make and receive calls from your car using your existing cell phone number. You use minutes in the normal way and the charges show up on your regular cell phone bill. But perhaps the best feature is that to make and receive calls on your Bluetooth phone, you don’t need a docking station or hard-wired connections. OnStar has a similar feature, but it requires that you have an OnStar-equipped car (usually a General Motors product) and you must use Verizon as your cell phone carrier. Even then, your car will have a separate phone number and you will have to forward your cell phone calls to your car phone. With Bluetooth, if your phone is on and somewhere in the car, you will be able to make and receive phone calls. No call forwarding is necessary as the phone “sees” your car like any other external accessory – similar to a wireless headset. If the car’s interface or your phone allows the use of voice commands, you can make and receive phone calls while in the car without having to touch any buttons.The application gets even more interesting for motorcycle owners, as the availability of a Bluetooth-enabled helmet makes it possible to talk on the phone while piloting a bike – not that we’re endorsing that kind of thing. In cooperation with Motorola, Italian helmet maker Momo has developed a Bluetooth helmet that not only looks cool, but has an integrated speaker and microphone. This is not unlike preexisting technology that allows bikers in close proximity to talk to each other via two-way radio technology, but clearly the ability to make and receive phone calls pushes the technology forward by leaps and bounds. The BMW System V helmet uses similar technology but is a full-face helmet which makes talking on the phone a more realistic endeavor.While the potential for Bluetooth technology seems almost limitless, its introduction into the automobile could prove to be more than just convenient. Both the federal and local governments have been increasingly scrutinizing the wisdom of letting motorists talk on the phone while driving. Bluetooth could be a technology that offers a safe compromise between those who want to exercise their inalienable right to yak on the phone and those whose job it is to protect us from those who yak on the phone while piloting a two-ton chunk of steel and glass.Ease of use combined with increasing availability leads us to believe that Bluetooth will soon become as common as big hair at a Bon Jovi concert. If you’re shopping for a new phone, PDA or camera, find one with Bluetooth capability. In the end it will make your life that much easier.

How to handle minor car problems yourself

How to handle minor car problems yourself — and get back on the road.By ERIC PETERS We’ve all heard that cars are complicated — and that’s true — but that doesn’t mean you’re completely helpless when a problem arises. Some minor automotive hiccups can be dealt with even by people who don’t know a cold start injector from a pine tree air freshener.For example:1. The car feels “floaty”: Very often this is caused by nothing more serious than underinflated tires. Instead of supporting the weight of the car evenly and firmly, the under-inflated tire’s sidewall flexes excessively — imparting a slidey seasick motion. Your car suddenly handles poorly — and you find you need more time to stop. Plus, you’re also wearing out your tires really quickly. Solution? Top off the air in all four tires so that they are inflated to the recommended pressure listed on the side of the tire (or on the sticker inside the door jamb or your owner’s manual). Never assume tires are properly inflated just by looking at them — or by kicking the sidewall. The only way to accurately tell whether a tire is properly inflated is by using a tire pressure gauge to check it . You can buy a tire pressure gauge for less than $10 at any auto parts store. Keep it in the glove box — and use it at least every couple of weeks. News source: AOL Autos 2. The engine is making “clicking” or “tapping” sounds: Very often this is caused by low oil. It’s not a major problem — unless you continue to operate the engine this way. Being a quart or more down from the “full” mark on the dipstick can happen to anyone — and any engine, not just old, high-mile clunkers. All internal combustion engines consume some of their lubricating oil as they run. Check out various owner’s manuals and you’ll see that burning up a quart or so of oil every 3,000-5,000 miles is not unusual — or anything to worry about. The problem arises when the lost oil is not replaced, which can starve moving parts of oil, especially at start-up after the engine has been sitting overnight, when all the remaining oil is sitting at the bottom of the oil pan. So if your engine is making clicking or light tapping noises, the first thing to do is pop the hood and pull out the engine oil dipstick. It will have markings on it indicating “full” and “add.” If it’s low, add a quart, run the engine for a few minutes, then shut it off and recheck the level after the oil has had a chance to settle back to the bottom. Add more as necessary to reach the “full” mark — and the clicking noises should (hopefully) disappear. (If not, there may be a more serious underlying problem that you should have a trained mechanic check out.)3. The key is stuck in the ignition: This fairly common problem is caused by the locking mechanism in the steering column not lining up exactly right. You can usually unstick things by returning the key to the “run” position, centering the steering wheel, then returning the switch to “off” and pulling the key out. Don’t try to force either the key (it’ll snap or bend) or the steering column (you could break something there, too). It may help to spray a little aerosol lubricant (such as WD-40) into the locking mechanism, but if the key is still “sticky,” have your dealer look at it.4. The gearshift won’t move out of “Park”: This problem is caused by a safety device called the brake-shift interlock, which is designed to prevent the car from being put into a forward gear before the driver has his foot on the brake. Sometimes, though, the mechanism breaks — and it’s seemingly impossible to put the car in gear so you can get going. Luckily, the fix is easy. If you look around the area around the shifter handle, you’ll see a small tab that’s designed to be broken off in order to temporarily defeat the brake-shift interlock — and let you drive instead of wait for the tow truck. (Later on, you can stop by the dealer and have the brake-shift interlock checked and fixed as necessary — and the trim plate with the break-off tab repaired or replaced.)5. The turn signals won’t blink — or they stay on without blinking: If your left or right turn signal stops working — or starts acting funny — the problem is almost always with the flasher and not the lights themselves. The flasher is a small round thing that plugs into your car’s fuse panel. It’s a simple matter of finding the fuse panel (see your owner’s manual), pulling out the dead flasher and plugging in a new one, which you can buy for a couple bucks at any auto parts store. Just bring in the old one for reference — or ask the auto parts store counter man to give you what you need. It’s also a good idea to keep some extra fuses of the type your car uses tucked in the glove box for those just-in-case moments when a 15 cent fuse can be the difference between being stuck and out of luck — and making it home. Whenever any electric-related system suddenly stops working, the fuse box is the first thing to check. But if the fuse continues to burn out, there is probably a bigger problem here that will need an expert’s touch. Never crutch the problem by swapping in a higher rated fuse — a 20 amp in place of a 10 amp, for example. That’s just asking for a fried wiring harness and big-bucks repairs.Article ArchiveMissed the latest and greatest? No problem, find stories and news here:Autos Article Archive 6. Brakes “screech”: Any type of grinding or screeching noise coming from your car’s brakes is cause for immediate investigation — but more likely than not, it’s the wear indicators telling you it’s time to have new pads installed. Many new cars have tabs built into the brake pad material that are designed to make noise once the friction material has worn beyond a certain point. It’s no big deal — unless you ignore the warning. If you do and the brakes wear down to bare metal, you’ll dig ruts in the rotors and get to pay for new ones — instead of just for pads. As a general rule, front brakes will go for about 30,000 miles before getting on the raw side; rear brakes (whether discs or drums) tend to last longer because it’s the front brakes that do most of the work of stopping the car. It’s not unusual for rear brake pads or shoes to go for 50,000 miles or more before they need to be replaced.7. Engine never warms up: If the temperature needle seems to stay on “cold” no matter how long you’ve been driving and the heater hardly puts out anything more comforting than a tepid breeze — you may have a stuck thermostat. The thermostat regulates the flow of engine coolant through the engine, radiator and a part called the heater core — which is how you get warm air inside the car when everything’s working right. The thermostat helps the engine warm up faster by limiting circulation of coolant at start-up — but after it reaches a pre-set temperature, it should open up and allow the now-warm coolant to freely flow throughout the entire system, including the heater core. Sometimes, though, the thermostat will stick — and if it sticks, especially in winter, the engine will have a tough time fully warming up — and you will be one cold commuter! If you notice the engine running cool all the time –or the heater never seems to work very well — have a mechanic check out the thermostat. It’s an easy fix — and you’ll be toasty again in no time.

Stop Overtightening!!!

Stop Overtightening! Waaaay back in the day when my brother and I were getting greasy under the hoods of VW Rabbits and Jettas, we coined a term: “rednecked.” It’s a verb, and while it can be used to describe many a not-so-thought-out scenario, our definition referred to the overtightening of bolts. I’ll admit, there is something satisfying about pulling a wrench as hard as you can until it won’t move another millimeter. But you aren’t doing your car any favors. In fact, most of the torque (bolt tightness) specifications would really surprise you. Sure, they’re tight, but almost none of the bolts in your car are required to br rednecked News source: Auto Repair About Besides the obvious problem of the bolt being impossible to remove by the next guy, there are some more serious issues that arise when a bolt is overtightened. A rednecked bolt is undergoing more stress than it was designed to handle. This extra stress can cause the bolt or the nut to fatigue, weakening them and compromising the safety of your car. The most common victim of redneck tightening are your lug bolts. We sure do like to put a little extra grunt into tightening our wheel lugs. But if you don’t properly tighten your lugs you are risking damage to both the bolts that hold your wheels on and your wheels themselves! This is especially true if your car has alloy wheels, as most do these days. Overtightening the lugs on an alloy wheel can cause the metal to distress and weaken the area around the bolt holes. It would take an extreme situation, but you could seriously lose it if your wheel self-destructed at highway speed. Treat your car’s bolts with tough love. If you need to redneck something, grab the lawnmower and redneck the back yard. Your significant other will no doubt thank you for it.

Top 10 Mistakes

Auto Repair: The Top Ten Mistakes Made By Your Mechanic by: Theodore Olson Number One: Not confirming the concern. Confirming a repair concern is a basic diagnostic principle frequently overlooked. To fix a problem, the first thing one must do is recognize it. Number Two: Insufficient Road Testing. The importance of a thorough road test (even for an oil change) is well documented in automotive training manuals. Yet, many technicians consider driving the vehicle into the shop good enough. News source: Article City Number Three: Misdiagnosing. For the above reasons and a multitude of others, your vehicle is misdiagnosed more often than not. Mechanics will spend hours chasing the wrong problem, wasting your time and money. Number Four: Throwing parts at a problem. To compensate for lack of skills, mechanics often just throw parts at the problem in the hope of getting lucky. It’s common to hear mechanics say I replaced this, this, this, and that, and the problem’s still not fixed. This goes right back to mistake number one: confirm the problem with diagnostics, then proceed. Number Five: Not addressing primary concerns first. Technicians often spend an inordinate amount of time looking for easy sells that will fatten their paychecks. There’s nothing wrong with this provided there’s no charge for the inspection, it doesn’t conflict with your time, and the upsell suggestions are valid (they’re frequently not). However, this type of free inspection and the subsequent upselling too often overshadows the primary concern. So…what’s wrong with my car? Number Six: Overconfidence. Too often unqualified technicians get in over their heads. Rather than defer to a more experienced technician or facility, they often keep going and do more harm. How’s it go…The road to hell is paved with good intentions? Number Seven: Taking shortcuts. In the ongoing effort to beat the clock, technicians will create a host of problems: breaking parts, snapping bolts, short circuiting sensitive electronics. Refer to Auto Repair: How Can They Screw Up an Oil Change for a great discussion. Number Eight: Poor Repairs. Whether through incompetence or laziness, mechanics frequently don’t do repairs correctly. It’s often sloppy work. Forgotten bolts, parts not lined up correctly, or components not re-installed properly are common. It gets worse with computer repairs: incorrect software programming, coding, and resynchronization protocols are just a few. Number Nine: Not confirming repairs. After a repair is complete, it’s important to re-check to ensure that the problem is indeed fixed. Too often parts are thrown in and the car is pulled out only to pull in another victim. Number Ten: Making a mess. If the above nine mistakes weren’t bad enough, there are now greasy fingerprints on the hood and steering wheel, and two big greasy boot marks on the carpet

Car Deer collisions

As urban areas continue to push outward and displace animals from their natural habitats, and as formerly empty rural lanes become plagued with traffic, collisions between cars and the animals seem an almost inevitable consequence. Car-deer collisions, the most common throughout most of the country, cost an average of $1,500 in damage each, according to Michigan figures, and nationally there are thousands of injuries and more than 100 fatalities each year as the result of collisions with animals.With those figures in mind, here are some tips on how to minimize the chances of hitting deer — and other animals — on the highway:Take special care near deer-crossing warning signs. Be aware that deer adapt well to living close to humans and that populated areas are as likely to have many animals around. The signs are there for a reason.. News source: Autos.AOL Minimize your distractions from passengers, food and accessories like cell phones. If your full attention is on the road, you’ll be more likely to spot approaching animals with your peripheral vision. Get in the habit of scanning the roadside as you drive.Use your high beams whenever possible. They will give you more time to spot and react to animals in the road.Keep your speed down at night. Most collisions do occur on narrow, two-lane rural highways, but they can occur on any type of road. Just because an interstate highway has animal fences doesn’t mean animals won’t get inside.If you see one animal, expect that there are others nearby. According to the Animal Protection Institute, 70 percent of deer-car collisions result after the driver slowed down for one deer and then accelerated, failing to see another.Like Animals?Check out these animalrelated stories:The Prodigal Dog 10 Animal Related Jobs Know which seasons and times are worse than others. The period each day from an hour before sunset until midnight is the time when the most collisions occur, but the hours around dawn are also risky. Deer are on the move more in fall and early spring, but in the summer they tend to sometimes be out during daylight times. Be especially watchful for animals in fair weather periods before storms.If you do see a deer or other animal in the road ahead, don’t slam on the brakes. Keep your lane position and sound your horn while braking in a controlled manner. Sudden panic stops are not a good idea, as they could spook the animal, perhaps causing it to suddenly dart into the path of another vehicle.Do not try to swerve around an animal! You could lose control of your vehicle and hit a tree or another vehicle — both potentially much worse than hitting a deer. If you swerve, there’s also a chance that the animal will panic and run into your path.Always consider if the land along the highway could host large animals, and if you think it could, anticipate that they might run out into the road. It’s much easier to anticipate animal encounters and be ready to react calmly than to deal with the costly expenses, injuries and guilty conscience of a collision.

Brake Repairs

Heed these tips and you’re on your way to ensuring your brakes won’t fail:Tip #1: Keep the hydraulic reservoir at the proper level with the fluid type recommended by the car manufacturer. Never substitute or mix types of fluid. Remember also that hydraulic fluid absorbs water. Never use old hydraulic fluid – always use a fresh container.Tip #2: Keep brakes clean by washing them off at the same time as your car. This keeps squeaky dust and dirt off the pads and makes brakes easier to inspect and work on.Tip #3: Never spray, touch or drip any oil or lubricants on the brake friction surfaces. If this occurs, spray immediately with brake cleaner to remove completely.Tip #4: There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to brake problems. They either function properly or they don’t. Know your brake system – how it should work, feel and sound – before it acts up so you’ll know when something’s wrong.Tip #5: Most imports don’t have serviceable rotors. They must be replaced at the same time as the pads. The rotors cannot be “turned” to remove imperfections. There isn’t sufficient metal thickness to safely accomplish this.Tip #6: Keep a repair log with receipts when any service is performed on your car. It helps when you need to check if your warranty is still in effect. More importantly, it’s a great gauge of performance and an indicator of other problems.Tip #7: Whenever the pads are replaced, the hydraulic system must be bled to remove any air bubbles. Most specialists recommend changing the fluid with every pad replacement. If you’re unsure of the proper technique for bleeding the hydraulic system, don’t perform the job yourself. Seek help from a professional. ABS equipped cars should be bled only by professionals.Tip #8: Most noises are usually related to your pads. However, whenever replacing pads, you should also replace the sensors and seriously consider replacing the rotors at the same time.Tip #9: After installing new pads, remember to “set” them properly. This conditions them for maximum performance and prevents premature failure. Instructions for setting pads is usually provided in the package with your new pads News source: Autohaus

Throttle Body Cleaning

Many of the topics lately have had to do with hard starting poor or erratic idle these can usually be helped by cleaning the throttle body.Remove the Air tube and you will see the throttle plate this area should be free of carbon if not use a suitable cleaner (deep creep by sea foam is great so is just sea foam but the spray can is easier to use) using a soft toothbrush clean all the carbon and sludge from the area be sure to open the throttle and pay special attention to the small slit at the bottom of the body by the plate Be careful of the MAF and the MAF wire if so equipped this will be a thin wire running across the center of the body The engine may start hard and smoke slightly this is normal While you are cleaning it is also a good idea to clean the IAC same procedure without the plate and wire be careful on some models you dont lose the Oring

Keys and locks

Recently an excessive number of failures on lock,switch and pinions on ignition switchs are being caused by an excessive amount of unnecessary junk on the key ring also be sure to lube the cylinders mainly on vehicles with remote unlock they are not used until needed and then they are either impossible or difficult to turn

Hot Weather Planning

By Christina LeeSpecial to The GazetteThe summer heat has a way of wearing down any worries and cares of city residents, making a road trip sound so appealing.However, before any engines can be revved, residents must remember that the heat can also bring wear and tear to their vehicles.‘‘The heat in the summer, in a lot of ways, is worst that the cold in the winter,” said Albert Kreis, manager of A & A Automotive in Frederick.Luckily, combating its effects is not very difficult. Minor and regular procedures can better ensure a safe, enjoyable road trip.A car’s liquid coolants or antifreeze levels require special attention. Because of the increase in use of air conditioning and time spent on the highway, lowering levels of coolants or antifreeze will cause the car to overheat and break down, said Darlene Valderson, a manager of Family Auto Repair Inc. in Frederick.Checking on coolants or antifreeze levels, along with replacing worn hoses, are the two more important procedures to take care of this summer, said Kreis.In addition, a road trip can easily be put to a stop because of worn tires. The summer heat dries tires out, causing them to wear down a little more quickly, said Mark Reynolds, manager of Carriage House Automotive.Reynolds points out though that the Maryland climate should not pose as much danger to the tires as the climates in other areas would.‘‘It doesn’t get as hot here as it does in the West,” he said. ‘‘You can actually fry eggs on the roads because they become so hot.”Brake fluid changes are also a necessary procedure that needs to be done every couple of years. The brake system produces a lot of heat by itself, so as the temperature outside increases, the effectiveness of the brake fluid decreases.Even a car’s aesthetic qualities may need a little more attention. The heat and sunlight causes the paint’s color to fade and the clear coating to flake. The remedy is a simple wax, said Reynolds.All in all, the summer heat stresses the motor and the rest of the car components in a factor greater than that of other seasons. Getting regular procedures is strongly encouraged.‘‘The weak links… tend to go at this time,” said Kreis. News source: The Gazette