Auto Advice

Enjoy a smooth ride: The Road Best Traveled is here to help with auto advice.

What do I do if my vehicle is recalled?

  You received a recall notice. Now what? First, don’t ignore the recall notice. It may seem like an inconvenience to have to take your vehicle in to have it fixed. Tossing the notice aside and forgetting about it may seem easier. But the notification was issued for a reason so taking care of it as quickly as possible is important. Making consumers aware of recalls and the resources available to them is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s mission to increase what they deem unacceptably low recall completion rates. “Recalls are only successful and can only save lives if they end up getting the cars fixed, but we know that 20 percent of vehicles that are recalled – and possibly more than that – go unrepaired,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This is a safety risk to the drivers of those vehicles and all the people they share the road with, too.” Does receiving a recall notice mean that driving your vehicle puts you in immediate and imminent danger? No. But the recall was issued because there is a risk associated with driving your vehicle in its current condition and either the manufacturer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or both have determined it requires attention. Read the information included in the notification thoroughly. Make sure you … Read More

First-time car buyer’s battle of the budget – finance calculators reporting for duty

Creating a budget is easy. Sticking to it is a whole different story. But when you’re a first-time car buyer, it’s critical to understand how much car you can afford and what an estimated monthly payment could look like. All too often, in the 14 years I’ve worked in the auto industry, I’ve seen people buy cars on emotion. They fall in love with something they test drove (or worse, saw on television) and simply MUST have it, regardless of price. Six months later, when they discover giving up “a few things” to make a car payment isn’t as easy as they thought it would be, the infatuation with the car quickly loses its luster. Being able to afford a car sounds practical, responsible, maybe even a little boring. But think of it this way – by doing the right thing today, you’re building the foundation for buying the dream car of your future. If you’ve never created a budget before, the task can sound daunting. But luckily, there are tools available to help you, starting with By the Numbers, the budget calculator on Simply plug in your monthly net income (your “take-home pay”), along with what you actually spend in each of the six expense categories, to determine how much you can budget for a car payment. Once … Read More

Simple steps to prepare your vehicle for winter

It seems odd, as I look at the temperature gauge that reads 90 degrees, to be writing about how to prepare your vehicle for winter. But it is October and for most, winter is right around the corner. Sometimes the first snow creeps up from out of nowhere. Suddenly we realize the tires might be a little too worn to handle the winter snow. And that brake job we’ve been meaning to get – well, there’s no time like the present. But there’s really no reason to rush. With just a little planning, you can be prepared for winter well before the first blanket of white hits the ground. A quick check of the tread should tell you if you need new tires. And call to make that brake appointment now, before you do anything else. If you have a 4WD option on your vehicle and didn’t use it over the summer, now is a good time to get that checked out too. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check the lights, including the hazard warning lights (aka “flashers”) to make sure everything is in working order. And when was the last time you ran the heater? My guess is it was probably last winter. You don’t want to find out it’s not working the first time the temperature … Read More

My first car-buying experience was cringe-worthy

“If I knew then what I know now…” How many times have you heard that? Or worse – SAID that? For the most part, I’m okay with the learning experiences I’ve had. But if there were one do-over I could have, it would be my first car-buying experience. What did I do wrong? Pretty much everything. For starters, I needed a car. Instead of taking some time to look around, do some research and get some advice from people I trusted, I jumped in with both feet. Then, I opted to get something that would get me from point A to point B for which I could just pay cash. (At the time, that was the equivalent of spending almost every dime of my savings.) One big mistake after another. Huge. Why? Because while it did get me to work and back, I was constantly checking the gas and filling the oil. I could have fixed the car, but it was an expensive repair. I wasn’t willing to put a bunch of money into the car. Even if I were, I’d spent my savings purchasing the vehicle so it really wasn’t an option. Six months down the road I traded it in on the vehicle I really wanted – one that was in good condition, ran properly and was financed … Read More

Tis the season to… travel

Ahhhh…the holiday travel season. What fun it is! NOT. As with almost every year for the last five years, AAA is projecting near-record travelers to be on the roads again for the 2013 holiday season. “While economic growth has stagnated and consumer confidence has fallen Americans will not be Scrooges when it comes to traveling this year,” said AAA Chicago Regional President Brad Roeber. “Of all the travel holidays, the year-end holiday season remains the least volatile as Americans will not let economic conditions dictate their travel plans to celebrate the holidays.” With this in mind, you almost have to ask yourself, “Am I ready to hit the road with all these other folks?” I did, and suddenly I found myself mentally going through Dad’s checklist of getting the car ready for a road trip. Starting from the ground up:  How are the tires? Are they worn? Do you need to check the air? When was the last time you had them rotated? Don’t put this one off until the last minute. If you’re like me, you might need a couple new tires! Make sure your headlights, turn signals and flashers are all in good working condition and clean. Dirty or dingy lights and signals make them dim and more difficult for other drivers to see. Are you due for … Read More

Staying safe this winter season

Winter weather started early this year and we saw news clips from around the country of vehicles slipping, sliding, spinning, and – in some cases – tumbling into ditches or medians. These aren’t pretty sights for anyone. Of course, the best advice, the advice heard most often, is to just stay put, wherever you are (hopefully in the comfort and warmth of your home). But sometimes that’s not possible. When staying home isn’t an option, taking the time to ensure you pack a few extra items can make a significant difference if something does happen during your travels. And, if you follow Murphy’s Law, bad things only happen to the unprepared. Look at taking 15 minutes to toss a few extra items in the car as your “insurance policy” against Murphy’s Law. If you’re traveling a long way or staying for a few days, you’ve probably already got additional clothing packed. Either way, extra warm layers are always good. Toss some blankets in the car, if you don’t already have some in there—warm ones. Take extra socks, mittens/gloves, hats (stocking caps, if you have them) and scarves—even more than you’ve already got packed. Granola bars and trail mix are great road trip snacks anyway, but they’re even better “in case of emergency” food. Pack extra. And some bottles of water … Read More