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Automobiles :Cheaper, Better, Faster- Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day

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Accident preparedness
Carry a camera, pad of paper, and pen in the glove box of your car. In case of an
accident you’ll have what you need to collect information and take on-the-spot
photos even if you have left your cell phone with a camera in it at home. Be sure
to draw a map and record all the details while they are still fresh in your mind.
Air-conditioning vs. open windows—4/40 rule
Not sure whether it’s more cost-effective to use the air-conditioning or open the
windows? Rule of thumb: If you’re driving under 40 mph, open all four
windows and turn off the air-conditioning. Over 40 mph, close the windows and
run the air-conditioning.
Battery terminal—cleanup
Pour club soda or Windex on the battery terminals. It’s a great way to quickly
clean and neutralize the acid residue at the battery terminals. Remember to
disconnect the battery before cleaning.
Battery terminal—protection
A car’s starting problems are frequently related to corroded battery terminals.
Clean the battery terminals occasionally with a paste of baking soda and water,
and then reduce the corrosion problem by smearing them with a thin coating of
petroleum jelly. Remember to disconnect the battery before cleaning.
Have your brakes replaced before the rotors have to be turned. You’ll save
hundreds of dollars. Your mechanic should check for free and tell you how much
of the pad is remaining. Don’t push it past 5 percent.
Brakes—when stopped on a hill
When stopped on a hill, always use your parking or foot brake to hold the car
still. Don’t hold it by applying gas to the accelerator or, in the case of a standard
transmission, by riding the clutch and applying gas. These bad habits accelerate
wear of the engine, clutch, and transmission. Use your brakes. That’s what
they’re for.
Bumper sticker removal
Remove a decal or bumper sticker by first softening the adhesive with a hair
dryer. Use a medium-heat setting for a few seconds until the adhesive softens
and the sticker starts to peel. Continue with the heat until the entire sticker peels
off easily.
Buyer consideration—cost guide for any car
Find out what it will cost to own a particular vehicle at
Part of Motor Trend Automotive Group, IntelliChoice evaluates depreciation,
gas consumption, insurance costs, and frequency of repairs to derive the average
five-year cost of operating each car.
Buyer consideration—current vs. new car operating costs
Keeping your old car instead of buying a new one can save you a lot of money
over the years. Example: A four-year-old, four-door American sedan driven
fifteen thousand miles per year on average will cost about half of what a new car
will cost to operate over that same four-year period.
Buyer consideration—insurance
Check insurance rates before you make a decision to purchase a particular car.
Call your agent with a couple of choices and get quotes.
Buyer consideration—older car with low mileage
Old cars with relatively low mileage are choice buys. Age pushes the value
down, but the mileage is more representative of the vehicle’s true age. A
properly maintained car with fifty thousand miles on it is likely to have the same
kick whether it is three years old or eight. The eight-year-old car, however, will
be much cheaper.
Buyer consideration—safest colors
In the market to purchase a car? Insurance actuarials say that if you’re interested
in safety, you should drive a greenish-yellow car to avoid being hit accidentally
by another vehicle. The next safest colors are cream, yellow, and white—in that
order. The least-safe colors are red and black. Light-colored, single-tone cars
stand out from their surroundings, making them easier to see and avoid.
Buyer consideration—warranties transferable?
If the seller says the vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty or
any dealer service contract, double-check that these benefits can be transferred
from the original owner. Take no one’s word for it—read the contracts.
Buyer negotiation—contract scrutiny
Before signing a final auto purchase or lease agreement, check it with a
magnifying glass. The folks who write up the final agreement often make
mistakes. Occasionally the agreed-upon price gets listed incorrectly, or extras
you crossed off get added back in, or a higher financing charge than the one you
settled on finds its way back into the deal. Give the contract a brutal
Buyer negotiation—dealer add-ons
Factory-installed options are good buys, but think twice about any option the
dealer wants to add, such as a stereo or sunroof. Typically, specialty shops do
better work and charge half the price.
Buyer negotiation—dealer option, rust-proofing
Rust-proofing as a dealer option is not advisable. Cars are rust-proofed at the
factory, and unless you live in an area that goes heavy-duty on the wintertime
salt, contemporary automobiles don’t need extra protection. It isn’t uncommon
today to find new cars coming with five-, seven-, or even ten-year rust protection
warranties. In many cases this option will invalidate any rust warranty that came
with the car from the manufacturer.
Buyer negotiation—dealer option, upholstery protection
The dealer fabric protection offered as an option when purchasing or leasing an
automobile amounts to a can of Scotchgard sprayed on the upholstery. Save
money by skipping the option, picking up a can of Scotchgard, and doing it
Buyer negotiation—don’t divulge bottom line
Don’t tell a dealer you can afford, say, a $300 monthly payment. If you tell him,
he’ll gladly increase the interest rate or lengthen the terms until it exactly
matches what you can afford. Either way, you lose. Before you go car shopping,
figure out what you can afford, but don’t reveal it at the dealership. And
negotiate for the lowest interest rate you can get too.
Buyer negotiation—get it in writing
If you want something fixed on the car you are buying, get it in writing the
moment it is offered or agreed upon. Do not expect the dealer to pay for
something you didn’t get in writing.
Buyer negotiation—point by point
When shopping for a car, negotiate one point at a time: the price of the car, then
the dealer add-ons you want eliminated, the trade-in value of a used car, then
financing. If you try to cover all these points at once, you’ll be so thoroughly
confused you’ll lose your leverage.
Buyer negotiation—willing to walk away
As a consumer, one of your greatest strengths when negotiating to buy a new car
is your willingness to walk away from it. Unless a salesperson believes you will
walk away, you are not likely to get the best deal.
Buyer’s Guide sticker
If you are considering buying a used car from a dealer, become familiar with the
Buyer’s Guide sticker posted on every used car offered for sale (for-sale-byowner
cars excluded). It was originated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
as a consumer protection device. Download the Consumer Buyer’s Guide from
the FTC website at
Cleaning—aluminum mag wheels
If your car has aluminum mag wheels, check with the manufacturer to see if they
are protected by a clear-coat finish. If yours are protected, as most are, do not
use a brush to scrub them. This will scratch the clear coat and give the wheels a
fuzzy look instead of the brilliance you paid for. Use only a mild, nonabrasive
cleaning wax or polish.
Cleaning—bugs off windshield
To remove stubborn bug residue from a windshield, sprinkle the surface with
baking soda and scrub gently with a wet sponge.
Briskly scrub rust spots on car bumpers with a piece of crumpled aluminum foil,
shiny side out. (This tip also works well on the chrome shafts of golf clubs.)
Cleaning—floor mats
Some carpet floor mats will fit into your home washing machine and come out
really clean after a wash in warm water with mild detergent. Spread them out flat
to air-dry.
Cleaning—tar and tree sap
A little dab of butter, margarine, or even mayonnaise is great for removing
unhardened sap or tree pitch from the surface of your car.
A paste made of Bar Keepers Friend (a household cleaner available in most
stores) and water works well to clean tires. Spread it on and allow to sit for about
10 minutes. Rinse. This works as well as special whitewall cleaner, but for a
fraction of the cost.
Cleaning—vinyl dashboard and upholstery
Clean a car’s vinyl upholstery with a damp cloth dipped in baking soda. Follow
with a mild solution of dishwashing liquid and water. Rinse thoroughly.
Cleaning—wax marks
Car wax can be removed from automobile trim with ammonia that has been
carefully applied with a rag or a cotton swab.
Cleaning—windshield wiper blades
Before you toss out those windshield wiper blades, clean the rubber part with
rubbing alcohol. You may be pleasantly surprised to find they were not worn out
at all—just gunked up.
Clutch first
On standard or manual-shift cars, get into the habit of always pushing in the
clutch before starting the engine, whether or not the car is in gear. Besides being
an obvious safety practice, holding the clutch in while starting the engine lets it
turn over just a bit more easily, lessening the power required from the battery
and starter motor.
Condensation on windows
To take care of the condensation that builds up on the inside of car windows
during the cold winter months, leave the air-conditioning on with the
temperature in the heat position and windows will clear like magic. Or carry an
ordinary chalkboard eraser in the car. Simply erase away the condensation.
Coolant, always
Always keep a mix of equal parts antifreeze and water in your car’s cooling
system, even if you live in a mild climate where it never freezes. Not only does
antifreeze keep your cooling system functioning well, it also contains valuable
rust inhibitors.
Crime—avoid being followed
A great way to avoid a possible carjacking is to be aware of what’s going on
around you. If you think someone is following you, make four right turns, which
will in essence have you driving in a circle. If that suspicious car makes the same
turns, immediately drive to the nearest police station, busy store, or service
station to seek help.
Crime—cars thieves shun
Choose a car not coveted by criminals. A phone call to your local police
department will reveal which cars are most likely to be stolen in your area.
Crime—parking habits make a difference
A car that’s parked in the same place for the same amount of time each day and
night lets thieves know where to look for it, and this gives them plenty of time to
figure how much time they’d need to make off with it.
Crime—registration location
Never leave your car registration in the glove compartment. It gives a car thief
automatic proof of ownership. Keep it with you.
Dealer repairs to avoid
Need a brake job, muffler repair, or front-end alignment? Head for shops
specializing in these jobs. They offer lower prices than dealers, and polls show
they deliver better customer satisfaction.
To keep your car smelling fresh, put some of your favorite potpourri in a mesh
bag and tuck it under the front seat. No more dangling pine trees from your
rearview mirror.
Dipstick readability
Save the guesswork when checking your car’s oil by making the dipstick easier
to read. Drill tiny holes at the lines that read “full” and “add” so they’ll never get
Driving—automatic transmission shifting
Give your automatic transmission a little break by learning how to help it shift.
Ease up slightly on the accelerator when you feel the transmission begin its shift.
This increases engine vacuum and helps the transmission into a smooth,
effortless shift.
Driving—don’t downshift
If your car is a stick shift, don’t downshift as a standard alternative to braking.
Downshifting uses more gas and wears out the clutch and transmission.
Generally it’s cheaper to replace worn brakes than a worn clutch.
Driving—don’t use overdrive or fifth gear
Don’t use overdrive or fifth gear until the car has warmed up sufficiently—
approximately 10 minutes under normal driving and weather conditions. The
rear axle and transmission fluids must be adequately warmed for these units to
work properly and efficiently.
Driving—hands off the gearshift
Don’t drive with your hand resting on the gear shift. It may feel good, but it adds
unnecessary wear to the transmission selector forks.
Driving defensively—as if driving for five
Drive for five drivers: yourself, drivers in front, drivers at both sides, and the
driver behind you. Be prepared at all times for at least four of them to do the
Driving left-footed
If your car has an automatic transmission, you may be tempted to brake with
your left foot. Bad habit. Left-footed braking leads to riding the brakes, which
results in a slew of problems: poor gas mileage, reduced engine life, and worn
Driving shoes
Keep a pair of driving shoes in the car. Sharp heels and sport shoes wear holes in
the carpet. Use a carpet sample or remnant under the pedals to prolong the life of
your vehicle’s carpet.
Driving too slowly
Don’t poke along in city driving. The slower you go doesn’t mean the slower the
car will wear. Actually the opposite is true. Slow driving costs you miles per
gallon and increases engine deposits. Keep your city speed in the economical 35
to 45 mph range when possible. Most cars reach their maximum mileage
potential in this range, so this practice not only ensures top miles per gallon in
the city but also promotes longer engine life.
Engine care—avoid super-short drives
You drive home and leave the car parked out front. Later you put it away for the
night by starting the engine and putting it in the garage. Because 90 to 95 percent
of engine wear occurs in the first 10 seconds after starting the engine and before
the engine becomes fully lubricated, that start-up and short drive into the garage
causes the equivalent of 500 miles of mechanical engine wear.
Engine care—no revving
Do not race your engine out of gear or in neutral. Revving an engine while the
car is not moving can only do harm; it will never help. Many people like to rev
the engine a few times just before putting it to bed. The old theory held that the
extra revs pumped extra oil through the cylinder walls and made the next start
easier. Actually, the opposite is true. Those high rpms allow unburned fuel to
dilute the oil, wash away protective cylinder coatings, and contribute to sludge
buildup and oil contamination.
Engine care—park on pavement
Try to always park on pavement, even at home. Don’t park in the alley when you
can park on the paved street. You’d be surprised how much dirt and dust can be
sucked into your car’s engine compartment when it is parked in dusty areas.
Abrasive wear caused by grit, dust, and dirt is one of the major causes of engine
failure. Keep away from dirt and dust-producing areas, and you will enhance
your car’s longevity.
Engine care—short trips in cold weather
If at all possible, don’t take your car on short trips of less than five miles on days
when the temperature is below freezing. Really cold weather can affect the
pressure, plugs, and oil, and short trips don’t allow the engine to warm properly.
If a bus is available, take it, or if you can accomplish your goal with the
telephone or internet instead of going in person, do it.
Engine care—unplug electrical devices
Unnecessary use of electrical devices, such as headlights in the daytime (unless
required for safety), or anything plugged into the cigarette lighter like a cell
phone, hair dryer, curling iron, or electric razor will actually make an engine
work harder by making it more difficult to turn the alternator.
Fan belt emergency
Pantyhose can come through as an emergency fan belt if your car’s fan belt
breaks. Cut away the panty portion and twirl both legs into a rope. Then wrap
the strong nylon rope around your car engine pulleys, tie your best knot, and cut
off the loose end. Start your car and drive slowly for several miles to a gas
station or phone or other sources of help.
Gadget caddy
A large handbag or other kind of handled tote with many zippered compartments
makes a dandy storage system for the trunk of your car. Fill the pockets with
battery cables, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, maps, window cleaner, paper towels,
and a plastic window scraper.
Gas cap replacement
Have you ever left your gas cap at the service station? You won’t be surprised to
know that many others have too. The next time you’re capless, ask the station
attendants if you might look through their lost-and-found gas cap assortment.
You’re sure to find one that fits, and they’ll be happy to have you take one off
their hands.
Gas fill-up—make it Wednesday mornings
On average, Wednesday is the cheapest day to buy gas and the earlier in the day,
the better. Many station owners wait to see their competitors’ prices to make
their own adjustments. While this is not always true, consistently buying gas on
Wednesday mornings has been shown to minimize the price you’ll pay over
time. Every little bit helps.
Gas grade—go with what is recommended
Make sure you use the octane grade gasoline recommended in your car owner’s
manual. Using a more expensive higher-octane gas than recommended will
deliver no benefit, and a lower-octane gas than recommended could damage the
Gas mileage—better with an empty trunk
Don’t carry more than you need. A light load results in much better gas mileage.
Clean out heavy items from the trunk, and leave only the spare tire and safety
equipment. Don’t make your car a mobile warehouse for stuff you can just as
easily leave in the garage.
Gas mileage—better with turns on red
Save gasoline and contribute to the long life of your car’s engine by taking
advantage of “right turn on red” laws. After coming to a complete stop, if the
way is clear, turn right on that red light and keep moving. Unnecessary idling
time spent at red lights wastes your fuel and that of the cars behind you. Cut idle
time and you cut carbon and sludge buildup.
Gas mileage—skip the roof and trunk racks
If you’d like to increase your gas mileage, avoid roof and trunk racks. These
things affect aerodynamics and significantly reduce gas mileage.
Gas pumping—keep your hands clean
Keep a box of baby wipes in the car to clean your hands after pumping gas.
Gas savings—go with smallest car
If economy is your first priority, buy the smallest car you can live with. Weight
is the biggest enemy of fuel economy.
Gas savings—park, walk, and save
When driving into a parking lot, take the first available space you see, and don’t
be afraid to walk the extra distance. Slow stop-and-go driving is the most gas
consuming; so be willing to walk a little, and you’ll save a lot.
Hubcap return—better your chances
With a permanent marking pen, write your name and phone number on the inside
of your car’s hubcaps. This way, if one goes flying you have a chance of having
it returned. Include the word “reward,” and you will greatly increase the
likelihood of a return. Even if it costs you 20 percent of the price of a
replacement, you’ll be 80 percent ahead.
Mechanics—opt for students
If your car has a ding, dent, or bent fender, check out the auto body department
of a local vocational school or community college. You may be able to have your
car repaired by the students—while under the watchful eye of the instructors. All
you will be charged is the cost of parts. There is typically no labor charge under
these circumstances.
Stockpile oil, oil filters, and air filters when they go on sale. Unopened bottles of
oil have a long shelf life.
Oil—filter size
The most effective way to prolong the life of your car is to install the largest oil
filter that will fit under the hood. Be sure to change the oil and filter often.
Oil—poor quality
Be very cautious if you are tempted to buy oil at a quick-service mart or food
store. Many of these outlets sell only cheap brands of oil. If only SA-or SBrated
oil is available, know that it is practically worthless if you are planning to put it
into a 1968 or newer car. Unless you have an oil burner, stay away from these
light-service oils. Look for an oil that carries the designation API Service SG.
Consider using an additive that increases the slipperiness of the engine oil in
your car. Workers at your local auto parts store will gladly make a
recommendation. If you infrequently take long freeway trips, inquire about fuel
additives that reduce carbon buildup as well.
Oil—top it off
Don’t wait until your car’s oil is a quart low before adding more. There is no law
saying you can’t add half a quart and put the other half away for later use. A full
crankcase guarantees the engine will have the maximum amount of oil available
to it at all times. Each time you add even a small amount of fresh oil, you are
recharging the entire lubricating system with fresh additives. Forty percent of the
engine is directly dependent upon the oil to cool it.
At the first sign of your car overheating, shut off the air conditioner and open the
windows to decrease the load on the engine and help it cool down. If the car is
still overheated, turn on the heater and blower to transfer heat from the engine to
the interior. If you are stopped in traffic, shift into neutral and rev the engine a
little to speed the water pump and fan. The increased circulation should help to
cool things off.
As a rule, car dealers charge 30 to 70 percent more for auto parts than auto parts
stores do. Make a habit of checking auto parts stores first before running to the
dealer. And don’t overlook the auto-wrecking yards. They’re the best deal going
when the part you need does not have to be new.
If possible, use reconditioned or secondhand parts for repairs, especially if you
are nursing an old car and you don’t expect to drive it longer than two more
Polishes to avoid
Avoid car polishes that contain abrasives and those that seal too well because
they close the pores of the paint. If the polish can says the product has a mild
abrasive cleaner or seals the finish, stay away from it.
A bedsheet (flat or fitted) makes a great cover for the backseat. Tuck it in well
and the upholstery will be protected from pets and kids. When it gets dirty, just
throw it in the laundry.
Protection—radio and CD
In cold weather it’s wise to wait until the car’s interior warms up before using
the radio or CD player. These units should be warm, especially the CD player,
before they are turned on. Be patient and allow the heater to warm the interior,
and your expensive sound system will work better longer.
Protection—vinyl dashboard and upholstery
The greatest enemy of your car’s vinyl dashboard and interior is the sun’s heat
and ultraviolet rays. Here’s what you can do to slow down vinyl deterioration:
First clean the vinyl upholstery and dashboard. Dry it well and apply sunscreen
lotion with the highest UV factor you can find. Just rub it in as you would on
your skin. When the sunscreen has had time to soak in, buff off any excess and
apply a commercial vinyl protector, which will help seal it in.
Radiator—draining and replacement
Drain and replace your car’s radiator fluid every other year. The anticorrosion
elements of coolant are spent in about two years.
Radiator—sealing hole
Put a teaspoon of ground black pepper into your auto’s radiator to seal a pin
hole. Sounds a little wacky but it is nonetheless ingenious. It may take more than
a teaspoon, but start with that. If you use too much pepper over time, however,
you run the risk of clogging the heater core and losing your heat during cold
weather. Consider this pepper trick a temporary measure to tide you over until
you can afford a more permanent repair.
Rubber and plastic—make black like new
When black rubber or plastic trim on your automobile fades or gets ugly white
spots, apply black paste shoe polish. It will look like new again.
Snow chains caddy
Start with an old pair of jeans. Cut off the legs like you’re making short shorts.
Then sew each leg shut, drop one chain into each “leg” compartment, and place
the tools required for installation into the pockets. Attach handles for easy
Snow removal
Scrape snow from car windows with a plastic or rubber dustpan. It won’t scratch
the glass.
Static—dryer sheets to the rescue
Use fabric softener sheets to clean and remove static from your car’s dashboard,
upholstery, and carpeting. Hide the sheets under the seat and enjoy their subtle
Sunglasses storage
Keep sunglasses handy when driving by storing them right on your car’s sun
visor. Attach the case to the visor by gluing adhesive-backed fasteners to each.
Your shades will always be within easy reach.
Sunroof—more headroom
If you’ve found the perfect car except for one thing—your hair touches the
ceiling—consider ordering it with a sunroof; or if it’s a used car, you could have
one installed. A sunroof typically will give you another inch or two.
Test-drive—after purchase of new car
When you finally take a new car home, give it a long and thorough test-drive.
Take the car back to the dealer immediately if you detect a major problem. The
courts have upheld demands for a refund when the car was returned within the
first few days.
Test-drive—before accepting new car
Insist on a test-drive of your new car before you accept delivery. Never take
delivery at night, because you want to examine the car carefully in full daylight.
Make sure there’s been no damage in transit and that the car has not been
repainted. Telltale signs of repainting are paint traces on the rubber striping or
trim, mismatched colors, and ill-fitting panels.
Test-drive—inspect for hidden damage
Looking for a used car? Check for signs of a repaired accident—damage on the
car. Vehicles that have been banged up and reconstructed will have telltale signs.
Have someone drive behind the car to see if the back wheels align with the front,
and look for water marks in the trunk. Check under the hood to make sure the
fender seams haven’t been sprayed over with paint. Most important, have the car
checked by your mechanic.
Test-drive—nighttime assurance
Before making a final car-buying decision, test-drive the car at night. You want
to make sure the headlights are powerful enough for your comfort and that
everything else that’s supposed to light up, does.
Test-drive—with rental car
If you are in the market for a new car, rent one or two of your choices for a
weekend when the rental rates are at their lowest. Drive it under a variety of
conditions and for long periods of time. A five-minute test-drive with a hovering
dealer sitting in the seat next to you may not give you a true representation of the
car’s performance and comfort the way a few days on your own will.
Test-drive—without radio or CD
When you are test-driving a used car, turn the radio or CD player off. The stereo
system can mask other car sounds that a conscientious buyer should be listening
for and creates a false sense of euphoria about the car. Listen to the stereo after
you have completely evaluated other areas of operation.
Tire—change without getting dirty
Store a sweat suit, sneakers, a pair of old socks, surgical gloves, and/or a
package of wet wipes in the trunk of the car next to the spare tire. This way, if
there’s a flat tire, throw the sweats on over your good clothes, change to
sneakers, and even protect your hands with gloves if you’d like. Change the tire
without having to worry about getting dirty. Another plus: If the car breaks
down, the sneakers will feel better on your walk to the nearest service station.
Tire plugs
Always stash a tire-plugging kit with your car’s spare tire. This is nothing more
than a few small rubber plugs and a special tool for inserting them. It is quite
simple to use following the directions on the kit. Often a damaged tire can be
sealed and plugged right on the vehicle. Kit manufacturers recommend that you
have the tire inspected by a professional afterward, but in most cases the plugs
are permanent. Be sure to air the tire back up to recommended specs, and if you
have removed the wheel, be sure to properly torque the lug nuts after you
reinstall it.
Tire pressure
Check the pressure of your tires frequently. Underinflation increases rolling
resistance, which increases tire wear and gas consumption by as much as 5
Tire rotation
Rotate your tires every 6,000 to 9,000 miles. The goal of rotation is to get the
tires to wear uniformly. Check your car owner’s manual for the recommended
rotation scheme. Some drivers get in the habit of rotating their tires every other
oil change.
Tires—retreads okay
Consider buying retreads or blemished tires, particularly for an older car. You
can save up to 50 percent of the cost of new tires, and the law requires that they
be safe.
Tires—spotting wear
Uneven tire wear often is easier to spot with your fingers than with your eyes.
Run your hands from side to side and up and down the tread. Uneven wear could
indicate misalignment or loose chassis parts. Beware of pieces of steel belting or
metal embedded in the tire that could cut your hand.
Touch-up paint
Liquid Paper (white correction fluid available at an office supply store) makes a
great touch-up paint for white cars. It covers beautifully, dries to a hard finish,
and holds up well through weather and washing. To apply, either use the built-in
applicator or tear a match from a book of matches and use the cardboard end as a
tiny paintbrush. If and when it wears away, simply reapply.
Traction—with cat litter
In winter weather carry a heavy bag of clay-based cat litter in your trunk so the
extra weight will help keep the vehicle stable. If you are stuck in snow or ice,
clear the area around your drive wheels, pour litter in front of the tires in the
direction you want to go, and then drive away slowly. Clay is handy for gaining
traction, but it is heavy. Once the possibility of snow is past, remove the litter
from your trunk in the interest of optimum gas mileage.
Traction—with floor mats
If your car gets stuck in the snow, slip one or more of the floor mats under the
stuck tire(s) to provide the traction you need to get out.
Trailer hitch
Don’t consider buying a used car that has a trailer hitch. Trailer towing indicates
heavy service, and you’ll be happier with a car that has been gently used, not
possibly abused.
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) matchup
Never buy a used car without seeing the ownership documents. Match the car’s
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the driver’s side of the dashboard with
the VIN on the title and registration.
Windshield—snow and ice removal
You won’t have to scrape snow and ice from your windshield if you place a
large, plastic, cut-open trash bag over the dry windshield when your car is
parked; secure the bottom edge under the windshield wipers and close the sides
in the car doors.
Windshield—washer fluid
Mix together 3 cups rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon liquid detergent in a
gallon-size jug. Fill with water, cover, and shake to mix well. Label it, cap
tightly, and keep out of reach of children. Shake well, then pour the mixture into
your car’s windshield washer compartment. You can use this in your car yearround
because the alcohol will prevent it from freezing in the winter.
Windshield wiper—blade renewal
To get a few more months’ use out of windshield wiper blades, lightly sand the
edge of the rubber blade with superfine sandpaper. Be sure to carefully remove
all traces of sand from the blades, reattach, and they’ll work like new.

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