Car Care – Frugal Novice
Browsing Category

Car Care

Why You Should Get Your Tires Rotated

This is a sponsored post partnered with Williams Brother Dundee. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When you own a car, there are many aspects of its care you have to consider. Some things may be more common sense to people, like getting the oil changed – but many people don’t think about having their tires rotated. This is an important part of car care (you should have it done every 5,000-7,500 miles), though, and here’s why:

  1. You want your car‘s tires to wear as evenly as possible. If you don’t rotate your tires, the front tires might wear more on the outside edges, and those front tires will wear down more quickly overall. If you have your tires rotated, the front tires will be switched to the back, allowing you to keep the wear from being largely on two of the tires.
  2. When your tires are rotated and are wearing evenly, your ride will be safer and you’ll have better handling of your vehicle. While your tires are being rotated the air pressure will also be checked.
  3. One other reason to have tires rotated regularly is that your tire warranty may require it. Be sure and check warranty details to make sure if this is something you should be doing!

When you have tires rotated, here are the things that should take place:

  • Tires should be examined for wear and tear, and treads should be looked at to see if they’re too low.
  • The tire’s date code should be checked. The last four digits indicate the tire’s age – safety experts recommend not using tires older than six years, so it’s good to know what you’re working with.
  • Tires will be shifted to different positions on the vehicle than where they were before.

Get your tires rotated regularly and keep your car in tip-top shape!

Keep Your Pets Safe in the Car

This is a sponsored post partnered with Charlie’s Dodge. All opinions are honest and are my own.

If you’ve got pets (dogs, especially) you’ve probably driven down the road with your furry friends in tow – at least to the vet’s office, if nothing else. You may not know it, but you might have put your pet at risk if you weren’t following proper safety protocol. Here are a few tips to make sure Fido is safe and sound:

  1. Use a restraint on your pet while in the car. If you’re in a fender bender, dogs can suffer broken bones or other injuries if they’re not properly restrained. There are easy step-in harnesses you can use on your dog – no matter what its size.
  2. One problem we have with our large lab/golden retriever is that she loves to try and get right up next to us while we’re driving. If she starts nudging us with her nose, or bumping into the steering wheel, she can create an unsafe driving situation, which isn’t good for anyone. There are products called back seat barriers to keep your pets in the back where they belong. This also makes it safer for passengers if there is a car accident of some kind.
  3. Make sure your pet is getting plenty of air conditioning pointed their way so they don’t get overheated. There’s a product called the Noggle which lets you extended the A/C from the front to the back seat – it’s meant for babies and young children, but works great for our furry babies too.
  4. Make sure your windows aren’t rolled down too far. Dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows and feel the breeze on their faces, but they could fall out – in fact, one of our dogs once jumped right out of a moving vehicle – thankfully he wasn’t injured, but it totally freaked my husband out!

Make sure to keep your furry friends safe while they’re on the road with you, and then take them out for lots of fun this summer!

Get Your Car Summer-Ready

This is a sponsored post partnered with Roberts Honda. All opinions are honest and are my own.

While summer doesn’t officially hit until mid-June, it’s basically here now temperature-wise for many states. And although we talk a lot about preparing our vehicles for the winter, summer preparation tips can get overlooked all-too-easily. It’s just as important to get your car ready for the hot months ahead. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Check your car battery. Heat can be hard on your battery, so have it in tip-top shape ahead of summer. Clean any corrosion off terminals, and make sure that the clamps are still secure. If you can’t remember when you got your battery, it’s a good sign that it might be time to have it checked. You can have this done at your local dealership or at many car-part stores, and it’s a quick and easy process.

2. Check your fluid levels. Make sure your oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and more are all at appropriate quantities.

3. Make sure your filters are clean. You’ll be using the cabin air filter a lot as you blast the AC, and you want to make sure clean air is piping into your car for your family to breathe.

4. Check your tires. When the temperature changes rapidly your tire pressure can drop, and you can end up with tires that aren’t safe to drive on. Summer can often be rainy, and you want to make sure your tires are properly inflated (and that the tread isn’t too low) so you can maneuver slick roads with ease.

5. Change your windshield wipers – and put some Rain-X on your windshields, too – to be ready in case you encounter any sudden summer storms.

Now go take care of your car a bit and make sure its “beach bod” is ready to go!

Tips for Planning a Successful Family Road Trip

This is a sponsored post partnered with Miller Auto Group. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I’ll fully admit that I’m a planner, so when my family goes on road trips, I’m in my happy place getting us ready for a smooth journey. I thought I’d share some of my planning approaches that have helped us have successful trips:

  1. Plan your overnight stops ahead of time. If you’re going on a long trip that requires more than one day of driving, a hotel stay – and a break from being in the car – is inevitable (if you all want to stay happy and sane, anyway). I like to use Google Maps to plot out the estimated drive time for the whole trip, and then I break our days down into reasonable chunks of driving. I don’t like for us to drive late at night, so I keep that in mind, too. By planning which cities we’re going to stay in, I’m able to research hotels – which leads me to my next point.
  2. Research hotels! I spend a good chunk of time doing this ahead of road trips, and it is totally worth it. I look for hotels that aren’t too far off our route, but I mainly look at ratings, reviews, and amenities. If we have a little wiggle room in our schedule I like to have us stay at hotels with great pools. Free (and decent) breakfasts are another amenity I look for, because it can save us money AND time by eating down in the hotel lobby instead of having to stop somewhere once we get loaded in the car.
  3. Pack separate suitcases for hotel stops. It makes life much simpler if you just have to unload one suitcase with clothes for everyone rather than several separate bags. This also allows you to contain dirty clothes in separate containers, leaving your big suitcase uncluttered for the main part of the trip.
  4. Look up fun stops along your route. These don’t have to be afternoon-long excursions, but can be something as simple as a scenic overlook to stop and stretch at, or a fun ice cream shop the kids would enjoy. These little moments break up the monotony of being in the car, and they re-energize everyone. They can also be used as rewards for kids if you’re having a hard time with behavior in the car.

Hopefully these tips will help your road trips be smooth and a lot of fun!

Texas Road Trips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Star Dodge. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Texas is a HUGE state. It would take 10-12 hours to drive from the most Eastern point to the most Western point, and even a little longer to drive from the Southern tip to the top of the panhandle. You don’t have to drive your car to the ends of the earth Texas to have a vacation, though – here are a few great road trip options all within 2-3 hours of the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Waco: Roughly 90 minutes away from Dallas/Fort Worth, this city has gained popularity recently due to a certain show from HGTV. People are flocking to Magnolia Market, and it’s a fun stop for shopping – and now Magnolia Table is open for dining, too. The store sits alongside a plot of land that houses food trucks and benches with tables, and a big patch of faux grass for kids to run and play. The adjacent lot houses a bakery so you can satisfy your sweet tooth. You can visit the Cameron Park Zoo for a less-crowded animal-viewing experience, stop by the Dr. Pepper museum, enjoy a stroll across the suspension bridge, and even take the kids to see a real mammoth excavation site.

Rough Creek Lodge and Resort: This resort is nestled on 11,000 acres in Glen Rose, in the foothills of the picturesque Texas Hill Country. Located 90 minutes southwest of Dallas Fort Worth, Texas the lodge boasts exquisite grounds. There’s hunting, fishing, paintball, and even a spa.

The Inn at Dos Brisas: This luxury resort is located in the Hill Country. Visit the full service equestrian center for carriage tours, riding lessons, and trail riding, or play a match at their tennis court. Relax next to the outdoor heated infinity pool. The inn’s romantic restaurant is the only Forbes five-star restaurant in Texas, serving organic dishes made with ingredients from the resort garden. You can have an action-packed outdoor vacation or a quiet escape, complete with private accommodations and a patio for taking in the panoramic views.

If you feel like you can’t take a long vacation this summer, venture out for a weekend getaway to one of these locations, or the many other options available across Texas.

Make Your Car Feel New Again

This is a sponsored post partnered with Legacy Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When you’ve had your vehicle for a while, it’s easy for the “shine” to feel like it’s faded since when you first drove it off the lot. If you take a few steps, though, you can freshen your vehicle right up and make it feel almost like new again! Here are a few suggestions to spruce up your ride.

Get it detailed. If you’ve never had this done before, you may think it’s just a glorified car wash. You’d be thinking wrong, my friend. A car detailing gets into every single nook and cranny. Your dashboard will be gleaming; your upholstery will look refreshed. This can cost a lot, but do your research and you can find good deals. There’s one place in my city that charges around $150 for detailing, but I recently discovered another that charges half that (and has a good reputation; you want to make sure you’re putting your car in good hands.

Change out your floor mats. This can be a safety issue as much as an aesthetic one, so you can kill two birds with one stone by replacing your vehicle’s floor mats. They can easily look grungy, but for drivers it can be a danger if mats have holes in them that feet could get snagged on.

Scrub your upholstery. Think about it – upholstery makes up the largest surface area for most vehicles. So even if you don’t see noticeable stains on your seats or floors, giving them a good scrub can really brighten the fabric and give it new life. You can buy cans of cleaners with a built-in scrubber, or you can use a carpet cleaner machine with an upholstery attachment to get it really clean.

Wipe down all windows inside and out. Often times our vehicles’ windows only get cleaned on the outside, but it’s just as impactful to clean the interior side of windows. Fingerprints, smudges, and more can make your car feel dingy and dated. When your car’s windows are sparkling, they’ll look brand new.

Drive Safely on Rainy Roads

This is a sponsored post partnered with Reedman Toll of Drexel Hill. All opinions are honest and are my own.

In the spring season it’s not uncommon to encounter a patch of rain while you’re driving your car down the road. Sometimes it’s just a drizzle, but you might just get caught in a downpour, and it’s good to be prepared with tactics to navigate wet roads safely.

Check your tires. Before you even get on the road this spring, take your vehicle in to a tire shop to have a check-up. You want good, deep treads on your tires to help channel the water out of your way.

Double up on keeping your windshield clear. You’ll want to have good windshield wipers, of course, but it’s also a great idea to put a water repellant like Rain-X on your windshield. On one road trip my family was stuck in a multi-hour rainstorm. We were able to stop about an hour into the trip and buy some Rain-X, and the difference was just amazing – we barely needed to use the wipers because the rain just beaded up and rolled off almost instantaneously.

Watch out for hydroplaning. This is always the thing I worry about most when driving in the rain. The feeling of losing control of your vehicle, even momentarily, is a scary one, and it could lead to a dangerous situation. If you start to hydroplane, let off the gas pedal slowly and be sure to steer straight. If your car begins to spin, turn your wheel slowly in the direction that the vehicle is spinning. This will feel counterintuitive, but it is important. Do not turn your wheel against the direction your car is spinning, and don’t turn your wheel sharply – this could easily turn into an overcorrection and lead you to flip your vehicle.

Stay farther away from other vehicles than you normally would. You absolutely do not want to have to brake quickly on wet roads, because it can send you into a tailspin, and because you don’t have the traction to stop in as short of a distance as you typically would on dry roads. When you’re approaching a stop, try to take your foot off the accelerator earlier to make braking easier.

Pro Tips for Road Trips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Pearson Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Summer is just 2 months away, and that means a lot of you are probably already thinking about your family vacations. In our family, we have 3 kids, so road trips are always the most economical option. And honestly, I kind of love them anyway. We try to fit in some fun stops along the way, we play games as a family, and it is an opportunity for lots of memories.

That being said, it’s important to plan well to make your road trip successful. First of all, pack well. You need your essentials, like clothes and toiletries, of course. If you are making multiple stops along the way, rather than packing one suitcase per person, pack one suitcase per night. This way you only have to get one suitcase out of your vehicle – so much easier!

It’s also good to be prepared just in case any problems arise on the trip. Pack a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, jumper cables, foam tire sealant, blankets, and water so that you’re ready for almost anything.

Another aspect of road trips to consider is entertainment. When you’re on a long trip, it can be easy for kids to get restless. There are easy ways to keep things from getting boring even while you’re driving down the road for hours. My very favorite tip for road trip entertainment is to take advantage of Redbox. Movies are about $1.50 to rent, so it’s a cheap option – and you can return discs to any location, so you can rent a movie in one city and return it in another – no need to take up valuable space in the car with a bunch of DVDs. Let the kids take turns picking a movie – or you can even devise a way for them to earn the opportunity to choose. I also like to make “road trip binders” for my kids with blank comic book panels, puzzles, coloring sheets (for my daughter) and other activity pages. When there are puzzles involved I sometimes have inexpensive prizes available, which adds another layer of fun.

I hope these tips help make your road trip stellar this summer!

Gas (& Money) Saving Tips

This is a sponsored post partnered with Puente Hills Chrysler Dodge Jeep. All opinions are honest and are my own.

If you’re like us, springtime often means more driving on a day-to-day basis. We’ve got rehearsals and practices and all sorts of activities to drive our kids around to each week, and with all that driving the amount of money we’re spending on gas can really add up quickly. You can’t always help how much you’re driving, of course, but you can take steps to make your dollar stretch further. Try these easy tips to maximize your gas in the tank and minimize the amount of money you’re spending on gas each month.

  1. Avoid the “lead foot” driving style. When I was a teenager, I was the worst about this. I didn’t think one bit about how much gas I was wasting with this habit! Rapidly accelerating your car can guzzle gas quickly. Our current vehicle – and many others – now have a feature that shows you if you’re using your gas economically. In our vehicle, a green light that says “Eco” shows up on my dashboard. If I press on the gas pedal to speed up, I’ll notice that light turn off. Try to accelerate gradually, drive at a consistent speed (be sure and take advantage of cruise control) and not pound on the gas pedal at lights or on the freeway to pass someone, and your tank of gas will last longer.
  2. Idle cars make for lots of wasted gas. I’m guilty of this often, especially during the school year! When I’m waiting to pick up the kids from school I sit for 10-15 minutes at each campus with the car – and air conditioner – on. Idling can use a quarter to a half a gallon of fuel per hour, and if you’re using your air conditioner while you sit like I do it can use even more fuel. Turn your engine off when you’re parked, and roll down your windows. If it’s the fall and a little chilly, keep a jacket in the car  rather than keeping your heater running. 
  3. Take advantage of fuel savings programs. Our grocery store lets us accumulate points that translate into money off our gas costs – we can earn up to $1.00 off per gallon if we save up our points. There are other savings card programs through gas stations and credit cards, too. If you’re loyal to certain gas stations, points can really add up quickly if you always take your car to those stations – and they can save you a lot on each tank of gas.
  4. Search for the best prices before you fuel up. This used to mean driving around from gas station to gas station, which seems somewhat counterintuitive. Now, though? Apps abound to help you find the best price to fill up your tank. A few minutes of research can end up really saving you a good bit of money over time. When you’re traveling, take the time to drive a little farther from the freeway and you’ll likely find better prices than right along the interstate.

See how easy it is to save money on gas? A few small changes in your habits can really add up.

Pamper Your Vehicle with DIY Detailing

This is a sponsored post partnered with Thompson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Baltimore. All opinions are honest and are my own.

In another recent post I talked about “tidying up” your car a la Marie Kondo – but this post takes it one step further. We’re talking about car detailing. Have you ever had your vehicle detailed? It is the most in-depth cleaning you can think of; once it’s done, you’ll almost feel like you’re driving a new car. There’s just something nice about having a pristine-feeling vehicle, right? No matter what your circumstance, detailing your vehicle is a way to pamper yourself – and your car. If you’re not willing, or able, to shell out the money for someone else to detail your car, don’t worry! Here are some steps to do it yourself and save money:

1.     Buff your vehicle’s paint. A good car wash goes a long way, but use an oscillating buffer with some polish to really make your car gleam. Follow up by waxing your car and you’ll get a great shine to your car’s exterior that will definitely make it feel new! If you don’t have a buffer, you can buff by hand (added bonus: a workout!).

2.     Use an air compressor to really get all the crumbs and dust out of your car. There are lots of nooks and crannies you just can’t reach with a vacuum. Our minivan has tracks in the floor for the second-row captain’s seats to slide back and forth, and they’re notorious for catching crumbs and dirt. An air compressor can really make a difference in the depth of cleaning you’re able to achieve. Borrow one, rent one, or invest in one – regardless of how you acquire one, you’ll be glad you did. An air compressor loosens dirt from the carpet and seats, making it easier for you to clean.

3.      Remove all mats from your vehicle before vacuuming. Vacuum the interior well (after using the air compressor, of course) and take care of the mats while they’re outside of the car. While the mats are out, go ahead and wash them with a steam cleaner to get them looking great before you put them back in your vehicle. If your mats are looking kind of sad, this would be a good time to replace them with new mats. It’s a cost-efficient way to really spruce up the look of your car (and you don’t want any loose threads or tears to become a safety hazard for the driver).

4.     Use glass cleaner inside and out. Y’all, the inside of our car windows are often dirtier than the outside, thanks to children who love to wipe their fingers along steamy glass to make drawings on the windows. You might not really think about cleaning the insides of your windows, but that’s where all the fingerprints are (or, another issue we have – nose prints from dogs that ride in the vehicle). Get your windows sparkling by using glass cleaner (a spray or wipes) on the interior and exterior of your windows. Be sure to follow up with a dry cloth to avoid streaking.

5.     Wipe down all hard surfaces with a cleaner. You’ll remove any grime or dust settled on the car, and then you can finish off the job with something like Armor All to give a little added shine. Wipe your dashboard, of course, but also think about wiping off other hard surface areas you might not typically consider like around the doors where people put their hands, or on area where you clip your seatbelt in. Make sure to clean out all cup holders, too. Our kids often spill things in the cupholders by their seats, but even if there aren’t any spills, cupholders tend to attract a lot of dust and crumbs.

On the next nice Saturday, take a little time to detail your vehicle using these steps and you’ll feel like you’ve got a brand new car!

Why the Subaru Ascent is a Perfect Family Vehicle

This is a sponsored post partnered with Reedman-Toll Subaru of Downington. All opinions are honest and are my own.

We love Subarus in our family. We’ve owned a Forester and loved it. And we own an Impreza that is 11 years old, and that we are saving to be our son’s first car once he’s old enough to drive. Both my mother & mother-in-law bought Foresters at our suggestion. We love the dependability and safety that Subarus provide, along with the top-notch quality of every element that goes into each vehicle.

The one thing we’ve always hoped for is a larger vehicle from Subaru. With three kids, the Impreza, Outback, and Forester would all fit our family, but we really want three rows and a little more space for hauling gear or going on road trips.

Well, our car prayers have been answered – the Subaru has released the Subaru Ascent, and it’s a great vehicle for slightly larger families like ours. Here’s why the Ascent is a perfect family vehicle:

  • It has flexible seating. We really wanted three rows, which the Ascent offers, but it also allows you the opportunity to fold seats down as needed so you can configure it for different situations. You can also pick whether to have captain’s chairs or a bench seat in the second row. I love the idea of the captain’s chairs for our family, because it makes it even easier to get back to the third row.
  • It has Standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. The stability that this provides makes for a safer drive, which we all want especially when our kids are in the car with us, right?
  • It can get up to 27 MPG. I am amazed by this, because a lot of times I think we equate SUVs with lower gas mileage. When you’re a parent, you’re always looking for ways to save money, and gas efficiency is a big part of that.
  • It has available WiFi connectivity and loads of USB ports. It’s just a fact – people want to be able to stay connected on their devices, even while on the road. These features are awesome for day-to-day use, but can you imagine how much more pleasant they’ll make road trips with kids?

We haven’t gotten an Ascent yet but it’s on our wish list – we can’t wait to get one for our family!

Spring Cleaning? Don’t forget your car!

This is a sponsored post partnered with Reedman Toll Chevrolet. All opinions are honest and are my own.

With the popularity of Marie Kondo and “tidying up” people all over the country are paring down – and cleaning up – their homes. I’ve actually been working on our own home, going room by room to purge and freshen up each space.

It’s easy to just focus on our homes for a spring cleaning, but the truth is our cars should be a part of that process too. After all, we’re in our vehicles almost every single day! With three kids, our car can get messy fast but I like to keep it presentable in case someone else rides with us. Plus, doesn’t it just feel better when your car is clean?

Let’s talk about a few tips for tidying and freshening up your vehicle ahead of spring:

1.     Take your car to get washed. You like to go to the spa, right? Think of this as your car’s visit to the spa – it’ll get sparkling clean on the outside, and most places either vacuum for you or provide vacuums for you to do it yourself. When we have company coming, I always take our car to be washed first. If you’re adverse to spending money on a car wash, you can schedule a weekend day to do it yourself at home – or better yet, make the kids do it! It can be a fun task that they might actually enjoy.

2.     Get into the habit of throwing trash away each time you get gas. You’re standing around waiting for the gas to pump anyway – why not be productive? This will help keep trash from piling up and seeming like a daunting task to tackle. And when we’re on road trips, we make the kids throw trash away at each stop. When you stay on top of things, it’s a lot easier to clean than if you let it all pile up.

3.  Use baskets and tubs to organize.  Go to the dollar store and get some small baskets, or shoebox-sized tubs with lids. Marie Kondo is a big fan of categorizing items in drawers and closets, and this can be just as effective in vehicles. Some ideas for things to keep on hand: first aid kit, changes of clothes, nonperishable snacks, and simple cleaning products.

4.  Even if your kids are grown, keep wipes on hand. These are great for cleaning spills, wiping down the hard surfaces in the car, and cleaning up the kids, too. Quick wipe-ups help prevent stains from setting in and can curtail a sticky mess before it spreads. If you have wipes handy, it’s easy to take a second here and there to clean up messes you see… if not, it’s easy to forget about them and never really get around to cleaning up.

5. Change your cabin air filter. This doesn’t provide a visible effect, but it’s just as important as the other items on this list for keeping your car in tip-top shape for spring. With all the pollen that can be in the air during the spring, you want to be sure you and your family aren’t breathing all that in while you’re driving your car down the road.