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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.

Why Buying a Used Vehicle is the Way to Go

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

We’ve bought both new and used vehicles in our house, and there are pros and cons to each. My father always said buying used was the smart way to go, though, so in his memory, here are reasons buying used can be a really genius idea:

Less depreciation of value. A new car can depreciate about 30% in value within the first year you own it, but if you buy a one-year-old car you can take advantage of getting a lower price and minimizing your loss of value. This isn’t a detail that you notice when buying a new car, but a few years later (or even just one year later), trying to trade this new vehicle in towards a newer model will most likely affect its value by as much as 30%!

You can afford a better car with more “extras.” Many people buy used luxury brands that they could never afford new, or can get packages in vehicles that would just cost too much for budget in a new car. We have friends who bought a used minivan that came with a great DVD player system, and they never would’ve been able to get that in a new vehicle. By saving on the depreciation mentioned above, you can move your selection criteria up to a new tier of vehicle.

Better insurance rates. Can’t beat that, right? If you have a newer car, it has greater value, and higher insurance costs. On the flip side of that, a lower value vehicle costs less to insure. Not only that, registration renewal rates are cheaper for a used car, going down in price each year.

Broader choice. With used cars, your pool is opened up to makes and models from a variety of years rather than what’s currently out. You’re more likely to be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. It may add to how long the process takes, but you’ll end up completely happy with your find.

How to Save on Gas Purchases

This is a sponsored post partnered with Robert’s Chrysler Dodge RAM Fiat. All opinions are honest and are my own.

The cost of gas can add up quickly, right? Even when we’re not driving our car out of town we can blow through a tank of gas way more quickly than seems possible. You can’t always help how much you’re driving, of course, but you can take steps to make your dollar stretch just a little bit further. Try these tips today to see a difference in your spending on gas! 

1. Don’t have a lead foot. Rapidly accelerating your car can guzzle gas quickly. Many vehicles now have a light that turns on when you’re driving in a way that uses gas economically. If you press on the gas pedal to speed up, you’ll notice that light turn off. Try to drive at a consistent speed and not accelerate quickly at lights or on the freeway to pass someone, and your tank of gas will last longer.

2. Avoid unnecessary idling. 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 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. Look for fuel savings opportunities. Our grocery store lets us accumulate points, and we can earn up to $1.00 off per gallon. There are other savings card programs through gas stations and credit cards, too! My in-laws use points they earn on their credit cards to buy Sam’s Club gift cards and get “free” gas that way. So smart!

4. Drive less! Sounds simple enough, but think about what all you need to do next time you need to drive somewhere, and how you can best plan your route, along with what all you need to do in the near future. Any way to chain together a few errands at once?

5. Purchase your fuel either late in the day or early in the morning. This works especially well in the summer months. When you puchase your gas during the cooler hours of the day, the density is higher, so you will pump more. Also, if you time your fill up in the first part of the week (Sunday-Tuesday), traditionally those are the days with lower pricing. Later in the week/weekend is when prices are raised for more weekend travel.

6. If you are waiting for someone outside in the parking lot, turn off your vehicle. Sitting idle while waiting is another waste of the fuel, not to mention it is just adding more harmful pollution to the atmosphere that can be avoided easily by turning off the engine.

7. Keep an eye on the tire inflation. Driving your vehicle on underinflated tires significantly uses more fuel while driving, not to mention it also adds avoidable wear and tear on your tires, thereby adding yet another cost to your budget that could’ve been avoided.

Be Road Trip Ready!

This is a sponsored post partnered with King Chevy Buick GMC. All opinions are honest and are my own.

If you’re like many other people, you’re likely planning a road trip of some kind or another for the upcoming holidays. Before you get on the road, make sure you’re prepared with an emergency kit in your vehicle. It’s easy to put one together, and you’ll sure be glad you did – as my mother would say, it’s better to have one and not need it than the other way around! You can buy pre-assembled kits at many big-box stores, but you can save money by purchasing just what you really need – and then you have something that fits your family perfectly, so you’re more likely to have what’s crucial rather than extraneous items. Consider including these items when you’re putting your kit together:

First-aid kit. You might be thinking “duh!” but the majority of you reading this post now probably don’t already have one in your car, do you? It’s one of those things we know we need, but we never get around to purchasing. Do it now before you get on the road! You can find really basic first aid kits, or – like this emergency kit we’re putting together – you can assemble your own. Neosporin, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, gauze, adhesive tape, and aspirin are all great things to include. Think about kids’ versions of medicines, and consider any medical needs specific to members of your family. 

Fire extinguisher. Make sure you get one rated for Class B (those that involve flammable/combustible liquids, like gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene) or C (those involving electrical equipment like switches and batteries) fires. If your engine catches on fire, you’ll be glad to have this on hand.

• Jumper cables.  This is one of the most basic must-haves for any vehicle; even when NOT on a road trip we’ve had to use these to jump our vehicle or to help other people out. Jumper cables are inexpensive and compact, so it makes sense to have these in your vehicle.

Blankets and water. If you get stranded you’ll be thankful for the warmth. In the summer, if you get caught in a hail storm a blanket might be your only line of defense between you and the hail. Blankets can be used to cover expensive items in your car, too. Water is important to have if you get stranded on the side of the road (you don’t want to get dehydrated)!

Foam tire sealant, a spare tire, and all the necessary tools for changing a tire. Foam tire sealant is an inexpensive temporary solution when you get a flat, and it could mean the difference in you being stranded in the middle of nowhere or making it to the nearest town for help. We’ve had several flat tire issues on road trips over the years, so I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Make sure someone on the trip knows how to change a tire, too!

Five Questions You Should Ask When Buying a Used Vehicle

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

It can be intimidating making a car purchase of any kind, but when you’re purchasing a used vehicle there’s the added uncertainty of what has happened to the car before your purchase. We’ve bought several used vehicles, and here are a few questions you can ask to make sure you’re making a good choice with your purchase:

Was the vehicle ever involved in an accident? This is probably my number one question; if it has that can mean there are underlying problems as a result. Small fender benders wouldn’t scare me away, but a major crash in a car’s history could spell trouble. Not only that, some damage to the car could render it undrivable legally, so its best to know before you go.

Can I see service records? Find out if the car received regular oil changes and tune-ups; if any parts that wear down over time have been replaced. You want to make sure the used car you’re purchasing has been taken care of so you don’t have unforeseen problems down the road. You might also ask what work has been done on it since the dealership/person selling it prepped it for sale.

What’s the mileage? An average of 12,000 miles per year is considered the norm, so break down the total mileage by the age of the car to figure out if the car has a low or high average. Its always good to also ask what the majority of the miles on a vehicle are from, be it city traffic or longer road trips. 12,000 miles on the highway affects a vehicle much differently from 12,000 city miles.

Is this a certified pre-owned vehicle? Many dealerships offer these, and it can definitely bring peace of mind; it means that it’s been through an extensive & detailed inspection. Ask if you can see the inspection. Typically these require the vehicle only be a certain amount of years old, meet a maximum number of miles on the vehicle, free of any issues on the history report, and a clean title.

How many previous owners has the vehicle had? The more owners, the more likely it is that there is some problem with the car causing people to want to get it off their hands. And if the vehicle has had multiple owners, you might question why its been passed to new owners so many times?

Always be prepared before negotiating towards a new (to you) vehicle. By having the right questions prepared to ask, you are showing the seller you mean business in this transaction, and that you are serious about this process. 

Easy Ways to Reduce Pollution Inside Your Vehicle

This sponsored post will help you keep your family healthier by giving you tips to reduce pollution inside your vehicle.

You always are aware of the pollution outside your vehicle, but what about once you are inside? Even though you are closed off from the air outside, it can be just as hazardous, especially if you are in slow traffic or bumper to bumper driving.

Of course the first tip would be to regularly change out any air filters your vehicle has. Keeping on top of their maintenance schedule helps to ensure less toxins inside your car. In addition to that, keeping your vehicle regularly maintained will reduce both the pollution it produces (helping others around you) and the pollution you are closely exposed to.

What about how you drive? Doing things like driving in the carpool lane can help, since less traffic is typically in that lane. Also if you are in less traffic areas or open areas, keeping the windows cracked can help with air circulation and can keep carbon dioxide from building up in your vehicle. If you are stopped at a light, roll the windows back up so that you won’t be stuck breathing in the exhaust from any vehicles in front of you. Also try to keep some distance from the car in front of you, at least enough so that if it stalls, you can easily turn around it.

Try restraining from using air fresheners or deodorizers in the vehicle, and definitely don’t smoke while inside the car. Also keeping your car clean will help dust particles from combining with any potential pollutants in the vehicle, which can eventually be breathed in by passengers.

Hopefully these tips will help keep your vehicle a safe breathable area. If you have difficulty changing out the air filters in particular, taking the car to the dealership will guarantee its replaced correctly. Places such as the Len Stoler Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Baltimore MD offer services such as this, so you can get back on the road and breathing freely without worry!

How To: Change the Wiper Blades on Your Vehicle

This sponsored post will save you money by teaching you how to change your own wiper blades! 

One item on your vehicle that you don’t necessarily think about replacing on a regular basis, but perhaps should, is your wiper blades. What good is your vehicle in the rain, if you can’t see adequately through the windshield?

First, here are some signs that your wiper blades might need replacing. If you are using them and an audible sound is emitted each time they pass by. If you notice visible streaks when in use. If you see obvious cracks in the rubber material on inspection. Typically, every 6 months is a good practice for replacing the blades.

Be sure to check at the store that you are purchasing the correct size. You will need your vehicle’s make and model info to check the database on which blades to get. You don’t want to spend money on a set of blades and get to the vehicle only to find out they are either too long or too short, thereby forcing you to return again and potentially lose out on a set (if the store doesn’t accept a return).

So once you have a new set to install, its time to remove the old ones. Lift your blades off the windshield, making sure to pivot them correctly.

When you are about to remove the old ones, take care to note how they are attached to the metal arm. You will need to replicate the process once you have placed the new ones onto the arm.

Sometimes there is a locking tab underneath the wiper. Push the tab before removing the old blade, so that you don’t damage the arm. Typically then you can slide the old blade off.

Once the old blade is removed, repeat the steps used in reverse order. Once you have slid the new blade on, lock it in place and confirm its solidly attached. Be sure to gently place the wiper back down on the windshield, you don’t want to push the arm back down so that the blade slams against the windshield. Otherwise you could potentially damage the new blade and nullify replacing it, or even worse, damage the windshield!

If you notice any damage to your vehicle, be sure to drop by your local dealership to have a check on your ride. If you stop by a place like Reedman Toll in North Bethesda MD, they offer a FREE vehicle check and car wash with any oil change purchase!