Archive for February, 2010

Danica Patrick crashes in her NASCAR debut

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Indycar superstar Danica Patrick had a rough start to her NASCAR career on Saturday, finishing 35th out of 43 drivers after being caught up in a 12-car wreck at the 4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick, who started the race in 15th position in her number 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, had a difficult time adjusting to the bumper-to-bumper racing that sets NASCAR apart from open-wheel competition.

After Patrick dropped to 33rd place after a mere 40 laps, her crew chief, Tony Eury Jr, got on the radio to try to talk the media darling into driving more aggressively so that she could stay in the draft with the other cars, the Village Daily Sun reports. Just a few minutes later, Patrick stalled out while trying to leave the pits, dropping her even farther back.

On lap 69, several competitors in front of Patrick became involved in a large wreck, forcing her high up into the wall, ending her day.

“This is a lot more difficult racing,” she said following the wreck. “It’s never fun to crash up a perfectly good race car when it’s not your fault.”

NASCAR veteran Tony Stewart won his fifth Nationwide Series race in six years at Daytona International Speedway.

McMurray wins Daytona 500 despite multiple delays

Monday, February 15th, 2010

After numerous delays and cautions, NASCAR veteran Jamie McMurray finally took home the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, more than six hours after the season-opening race began.

NASCAR officials were left blushing after their hallmark race due to their failure to properly fix a pothole that developed during the competition. Attempts to mend the break in the concrete took a total of 2 hours and 23 minutes – “equivalent to the NFL halting the Super Bowl in the fourth quarter because a goalpost collapsed and taking two hours to right it,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“We’re the world center of racing,” said Robin Braig, the Daytona track president. “This is the Daytona 500. This is not supposed to happen, and I take full responsibility.”

The unfortunate racetrack conditions overshadowed a thrilling 45-lap finish that featured five drivers swapping the lead nine different times. Race champion McMurray only led the final two laps, a record low for a Daytona 500 winner, according to Auto Week. A total of 21 competitors led the race at some point, also a record.

NASCAR’s slumping superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr finished second to McMurray after successfully passing several cars down the stretch.

How to invest in the health of your used car

Monday, February 15th, 2010

With each year that goes by, a plethora of new automotive care products come on the market promising improved performance and reliability. The difficulty, of course, is differentiating which premium products are worth the cost and which are not.

There are a select few areas of car care where investing in a premium product makes sense. With wiper blades, buying a generic low-cost replacement is never advisable.

“There is a noticeable performance difference in low-cost wiper blades versus those specifically designed for rough weather conditions,” says CarJunky.com. “Premium wiper blades are significantly sturdier and more durable than low-priced blades.”

If you live in an extreme climate where rain and snow are commonplace, upgrading to high-quality wiper blades can actually save you money in the long run.

Moreover, you can increase the durability of your windshield wipers by taking proper care of them. Each time you wash your car, you should be cleaning your wipers.

When at a gas station, wet a paper towel with windshield cleaner and run it along the edges of the blades, HubPages.com recommends. Also, from time to time, use rubbing alcohol and a clean rag to remove the salt and dirt that accumulates on your wipers.

Another good place to invest your money is in your engine. Over the last few years, there have been significant improvements in synthetic motor oil technology. High-performance long-life motor oils can save money and time as well as improve fuel economy by as much as 3 percent, Car Junky reports.

Make sure to read your owner’s manual to find out which oil viscosity you should be using. Do not use a non-recommended viscosity unless the engine is very worn. In that case, always favor a thicker oil.

Finally, when it comes to gasoline, do not purchase premium grade unless your owner’s manual specifies that you do so.

“The bottom line is that if you use higher octane against manufacturer’s recommendations, you could be paying up to 40 cents more a gallon, which could add up to over $300 a year in extra expenses with no added benefits,” says the news source.

Remember, investing in your vehicle can save you money in the long run, but be careful. There are many premium products on the market today that won’t necessarily help the performance of your car.

Sesame Street’s Loretta Long doing well after being hit by car in New Jersey

Friday, February 12th, 2010

On Tuesday evening, longtime Sesame Street star Loretta Long was struck by a car while walking near her New Jersey home.

The veteran actress was crossing Route 130 at Dutch Neck Road when she was hit by a vehicle and carried approximately 70 feet on the hood of the car until falling onto the pavement. She was taken to Fuld Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey where she was treated for head injuries and a broken shin.

“I never saw the guy and I guess he never saw me,” Long told The Trentonian. “I have no idea what happened. I was crossing the street going to the Rite-Aid, and when I opened my eyes, I thought, ‘Am I doing an episode of ‘ER’?’ Because I was already in the ambulance.”

Long, 71, who played the character Susan on Sesame Street for 40 years, is still in the hospital but is said to be doing much better.

The East Windsor Police Department has questioned the motorist involved in the incident, although the matter remains under investigation.

Volkswagen Touareg and Suzuki SX4: Two of the best winter cars of the road today

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The recent snowstorms that have hammered the east coast are a nagging reminder that winter is still very much upon us. However, consumers in the market for a used car in New York or New Jersey should know that winter driving doesn’t need to be a bore.

The folks at AutoWeek.com recently unveiled their Top 10 Best Snow Cars list, reminding us all that with the right equipment, winter traveling can still be a safe, yet exciting adventure.

One of the cars at the top of that list is the Volkswagen Touareg TDI, the German automaker’s first entry into the sports utility vehicle segment.

The Volkswagen Touareg offers a unique mix of luxury, exceptional road performance and remarkable off-road capability. The 2006 model received a 3.6-liter FSI V6 engine, replacing the 3.2-liter V6 that came standard in the previous year, according to MSN Autos.

Those looking to do some off-road driving in winter conditions may want to check out the Touareg TDI, which is powered by a 5.0-liter V10 twin-turbocharged diesel engine that is capable of delivering 310 horsepower and 533 pound-feet of torque.

All Touaregs are equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that is designed for severe road conditions. Anti-lock brakes and an anti-skid system both come standard on each 2006 model. Also, each seating row includes front and curtain side airbags.

The 2006 Touareg possesses a strong physiology, say Edmunds.com. “Not strong in the old-fashioned, live-axles-at-either-end, give-me-your-worst sense, but strong as in carefully engineered using today’s technology to take on such conditions as rush-hour traffic in the city, steep off-road trails in the mountains and everything in between in an unflappable manner.”

For those car buyers that are looking for a smaller, less expensive used car that can handle the winter roads, the Suzuki SX4 might be the right vehicle for you.

The 2007 Suzuki SX4 replaced the previous year’s larger and more costly Aerio SX. It is equipped with a four-cylinder engine capable of producing 143 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque, making it one of the more powerful subcompacts in its class.

“For those on a tight budget, Suzuki happily points out that the SX4 is the least expensive new car you can buy with all-wheel drive,” said Edmunds in 2007. It also has plenty of interior room, a long powertrain warranty and available stability control.

Martin and Earnhardt Jr snag the pole positions at Daytona

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

On Saturday, NASCAR veterans Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr posted the two fastest qualifying times for this weekend’s Daytona 500, guaranteeing them both front row starting spots in the 43-car field.

Martin, who is the oldest driver to win the pole at Daytona, was the only competitor to turn in a lap topping 191 miles per hour. His number 5 Chevrolet will start alongside the 88 Chevy of Earnhardt Jr, who had a disastrous 2009 when he did not win a race. He finished 25th in the points race and failed to qualify for the season-ending championship playoff, according to the LA Times.

“Hopefully we can get the ball rolling,” said the 2004 Daytona 500 champion after his qualifying run.

Martin and Earnhardt Jr are the only drivers to have solidified their starting positions in Sunday’s race. Although the top 35 drivers from last season’s points race are guaranteed positions, their starting spots will not be decided until Thursday’s 150-mile qualifying races, the Mercury News reports.

The final eight spots in the field will also be handed out on Thursday.

How to best maintain the worth of your car

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

For most Americans, their vehicle is their first or second most valuable investment. However, many car owners continue to make maintenance mistakes that may affect their safety, the value of their investment as well as the look and feel of their automobile.

An often overlooked yet critical maintenance procedure is rotating and pressure checking your tires. Underinflated tires will hurt your fuel economy, wear out sooner and can be dangerous to drive on, says Tom Wilson of MSN Autos. Moreover, front and rear tires will wear differently and need to be rotated accordingly.

Also, while cleaning up your vehicle, there a few things that you should be aware of. Surprisingly, washing your car on a bright sunny day can actually be counterproductive.

When tepid water is applied to the scalding metal surface of your vehicle, the finish can actually be boiled off along with dirt and soap.

“The end result is not pretty,” says Eric Peters of AOL Autos. “Cosmetics aside, you’ve cut into the resale and trade-in value of your vehicle by flailing its finish. Only an expensive repaint will fix things.”

It is always best to wash your car in the shade, on a cloudy day or in the late afternoon when the sun’s rays are less strong.

When hosing down your new or used vehicle, always be certain to keep aggressive streams of water away from the engine. Although it may sound obvious, many owners will pressure wash under the hood to remove any debris that has accumulated.

In modern cars, strong jets of water can affect the sensitive electronics that are fitted to each computer-controlled engine.

“Excess moisture can short-out electrical parts, cause intermittent malfunctions (including stalling for no reason, hard-starting, rough-running) and make dashboard ‘check engine’ lights flash for no apparent reason,” says Peters.

He adds that it is reasonable to utilize a garden hose to keep your engine clean, but you should always avoid using a high-powered pressure sprayer as it can force water through rubber seals and weather stripping.

Finally, make sure to replace your wiper blades on a regular basis. If your blades are cracking, bent or simply not doing their job, replace them immediately.

For being one of the simpler and most inexpensive maintenance procedures, thousands of accidents occur each year due to driving with damaged wiper blades.

Toyota issues recall on several 2010 hybrid models

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

On Tuesday, Toyota Motor Corporation announced a global recall of more than 430,000 hybrid vehicles to fix problems with several anti-lock braking systems. The current safety campaign, which includes the extremely popular 2010 Prius model as well as the 2010 Lexus HS, is the latest of a series of international recalls totaling 8.1 million vehicles since October 2009.

The most recent recall comes just a day before the first government hearing regarding Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s handling of safety concerns raised by U.S. officials over the last few years.

“Let me assure everyone that we will redouble our commitment to quality as a lifeline of our company,” said Toyota president Akio Toyoda. “I apologize for causing trouble and concern for many customers over the quality and safety of Toyota vehicles.”

Dealers will fix the defect by upgrading each vehicle’s software to accelerate the transition from regenerative to antilock braking, according to Auto Week. Toyota has announced that the software upgrade has already been introduced in new cars last month, meaning the popular hybrid Prius will continue to be manufactured and sold.

GM donates 30 GMC trucks to Haitian relief effort

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Last week, the General Motors Foundation announced that it has donated 30 GMC trucks to the Haitian relief effort in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake that ravaged the island nation.

The U.S. auto giant is also contributing $100,000 cash and an additional $250,000 that was raised through the auction of a limited-edition Chevrolet Corvette at the 39th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction. All donations have been presented to the American Red Cross.

The first two GMC trucks to be donated arrived in Miami in time for the Super Bowl and were present at the NFL Little Haiti Outreach Event held at the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center.

“Immediate needs in Haiti include basic supplies and reliable transportation that can handle rugged and mountainous terrain,” said GM Foundation Chairman John Montford.

“We believe the donation of 30 GMC trucks can have an immediate and beneficial impact on relief efforts in Haiti,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Penske Corporation recently announced that they have donated more than $1 million worth of diesel-fueled flatbed trucks to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund for delivering food and lifesaving supplies to the people of the Caribbean nation.

Best ways to keep your car out of the mechanic’s shop

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Since the beginning of the economic recession, fewer consumers are purchasing new cars than in years previous. In fact, in 2008, new car sales in the U.S. dropped by more than 18 percent compared to 2007.

Fewer new car sales means that more people are now buying used cars and are taking greater care of their purchase. If you plan on buying a used car in New Jersey, there are several key methods of protecting your investment.

Almost every expert will tell you that the best way to insure the health of your vehicle is to change the oil on a regular basis.

“Changing your vehicle’s oil is one of the most important things you can do to avoid bringing large bags of money to your mechanic later on,” says Cars.com.

Owner’s manual recommendations for oil changes will vary anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 miles. However, you may want to consider changing your oil more frequently if you drive aggressively, live in extremely hot or cold climates or commonly carry heavy loads, according to the news source.

Another great way to increase the life expectancy of a used car is to change the air filter on a regular basis.

An air filter, which costs roughly $15 at any auto parts store, should be changed every 15,000 miles, says AOL Autos.

“What people don’t realize is that [driving with an old filter is] like choking your engine,” says Lori Johnson, owner of Ladies Start Your Engines, an automotive repair class for women.

“If air can’t get into the engine because it’s blocked by this dirty air filter, then you’re not going to get as good of performance, and you might even feel hesitation when you’re driving, or it will just feel like the car is dragging,” she added.

Moreover, keeping a careful eye on your transmission is one of the best ways to save costly trips to the mechanic. An automatic transmission is one of the most complicated and least reliable parts of a car.

To save wear and tear on your transmission, you should never change gears until the car comes to a complete stop, always hold the brake down when shifting from park and regularly check your parking spot for leaks. Also, an automatic transmission can be damaged if your vehicle is improperly towed. Be certain to take your car out of four-wheel drive before it is taken away.

Student crashes car into high-school, cruises down hallway

Monday, February 8th, 2010

On Friday evening, Seattle police arrested a 17-year-old boy after he intentionally drove his parents 2002 Subaru Outback right through the doors of his high-school.

The teen, whose identity has been withheld due to his age, drove the vehicle through the entrance of Shorecrest High School, cruised for about 75 yards down a hallway and eventually crashed into a vacant security office. Two school employees who were still on campus witnessed the bizarre incident and reported the crime to police.

Local authorities found the suspect on school property approximately 90 minutes after the episode took place. No injuries were reported.

After being arrested and interviewed, the boy was taken to Harborview Medical Center “for a mental evaluation,” according to Sergeant John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County Sheriff’s Office.

“He did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” added Urquhart, quoted by the Seattle Times.

Shoreline Schools spokesman Craig Degginger confirmed that class will go on as planned this week, despite what has been referred to by students as a strange “annoyance.”

Charlie Sheen’s Mercedes found at the bottom of a cliff

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The Mercedes sports utility vehicle belonging to actor Charlie Sheen was found early this morning at the bottom of a steep ravine near his home in Sherman Oaks, California.

According to the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Police Department received a 911 call early Friday morning regarding a vehicle that was found lying face down at the bottom of a cliff near Mulholland Drive. Shortly after 4 AM, Sheen called to report that his $160,000 Mercedes SUV had been stolen.

After searching the area, local authorities found no evidence that anyone was in the vehicle at the time of the crash. The LAPD is treating the incident as an auto theft.

Sheen, who was recently arrested after a domestic incident involving his wife Brooke, jokingly told The Insider this morning that “it was nice to have police come to my house and for once and I didn’t have to leave with them.”

Meanwhile, the celebrity gossip website TMZ is reporting that the 44-year-old TV star is going to be charged early next week with felony menacing and misdemeanor assault for allegedly putting a knife to his wife’s throat several weeks ago.

Toyota in hot water again, 2010 Prius may be recalled

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Toyota Motor Corporation is in the news again, and for the second time in as many weeks, it is for all the wrong reasons. After last week’s massive recall of faulty accelerator pedals on eight different models, the U.S. Department of Transportation is now investigating the 2010 Toyota Prius for reports of defective brakes.

The National Highway and Safety Administration has reportedly received more than 120 complaints from consumers, including four reports of minor accidents, two of which resulted in injuries, according to Business Week.

On Thursday, officials from the Japanese automaker hinted that they may have to issue a recall on the world’s best selling hybrid car.

“We are considering some kind of measure to take,” said Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi. “We would like to make an announcement as soon as an action has been decided upon.”

The news of the investigation came only a day after Toyota reported strong third quarter earnings that easily trumped Wall Street estimates, according to the Washington Post.

Most customer complaints involving the 2010 Prius are due to a split-second delay in switching between the traditional hydraulic brakes and the electronic braking system.

How to improve your credit score

Friday, February 5th, 2010

For consumers in the market for a used car in New York or New Jersey, having bad credit does not mean that you can’t afford your vehicle of choice. However, improving your credit score can make it easier to obtain a car loan and can lower your monthly payments.

If you have bad credit or even no credit, don’t feel that you are alone. Currently, there are over 30 million people in the U.S. that have significant blemishes on their credit report. Taking the steps to improve your credit score will take some time, but it is not an overly complicated process.

The easiest way to improve your credit is to pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments can have a negative impact on your score– being punctual with your bills can help eradicate past mistakes.

“The mantra for getting a great score is pay your bills on time [and] keep account balances low,” says Craig Watts, consumer affairs manager for Fair Isaac Corp, quoted by BankRate.com.

“People who do that faithfully have very high scores. It usually means you’re being conservative and cautious about credit. It’s not a toy and it shouldn’t be a hobby,” he added.

Moreover, be certain to pay off any past-due notices before they are forwarded to a collections agency. Any bill sent to a collector will stay on your report for the next seven years. If you feel that your bill is inaccurate or unjustified, make sure to contest it before it becomes past-due. Even if you are absolved of a particular charge, interest payments and late fees may show up on your credit report.

Another good tip for raising your credit score is to keep your credit card balances as low as possible. Holding on to debt from month to month will not only increase your interest payments, but will also harm your credit score. Also, do not simply move your debt to other credit cards – it will not help lower your score, reports MyFico.com, a consumer credit advice website.

Furthermore, check your credit card limits before making a purchase that will involve your credit score. “Your scores might be artificially depressed if your lender is showing a lower limit than you’ve actually got,” says Liz Weston of MSN Money.

The good news is that car loans can be much easier to obtain than personal loans. If you have good credit or bad credit, New Jersey State Auto Auction has the financing resources to get you approved.

Danica Patrick to promote COPD awareness

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

IndyCar Series star Danica Patrick, who will drive the number 7 Chevrolet in a limited NASCAR schedule in 2010, has recently joined on as a spokesperson for DRIVE4COPD, a public health initiative aimed at alerting million of Americans about the need for early detection of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Patrick was drawn to the cause due to the close relationship that she had with her grandmother, who passed away in her mid 60’s after suffering from emphysema, one of the two forms of COPD, according to USA Today.

“Being a popular person followed by a lot of fans gives me a platform I can use for good things,” said Patrick, while participating in a photo shoot for the organization with fellow celebs Jim Belushi, Bruce Jenner, Patty Loveless and Michael Strahan. “I want to use my celebrity to make a difference.”

Meanwhile, NASCAR has also decided to partner with DRIVE4COPD, which will be the title sponsor for the season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona Motor Speedway.

COPD currently affects approximately 24 million people, half of whom are undiagnosed, says Steve Phelps, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for NASCAR.

Spyker unveils business plan for Saab

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Just a week after agreeing in principal to purchase Saab from General Motors, Spyker Cars has announced its product plans for the Swedish automaker.

Officials from Spyker have said that the new brand will be built around the 9-3, the 9-4X and the 9-5. An entry-level 9-1 hatchback, similar to the Mini Cooper, is still under consideration but is not part of the current business plan, according to Fox News.

Saab will look to be competitive in the luxury mid-size segment against sedans manufactured by BMW and Audi.

Meanwhile, Spyker has recently been scrutinized by the European media amid questions regarding how the small Dutch sports car maker is planning on raising the $74 million cash payment due to GM.

Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker, has acknowledged that a $24 million payment due to General Motors in July has yet to be secured, but said that several potential investors have already contacted the company in regard to financing, the Financial Times reports.

“Nobody believed we could pull this deal off but now we have done it, people are approaching us wanting to be involved,” he told the news source

Economist: Used car sales likely to increase

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

In the January edition of the Manheim Consulting Auto Industry Brief, chief economist Tom Webb said that he expects used car sales to climb in 2010.

“Used-vehicle retail sales are inherently stable and are supported by the 250 million vehicles in operation and the 118 million households that own them,” said Webb, quoted by Auto Remarketing Magazine.

“That means, on any given day, there are literally tens of thousands of households that would like to trade up to something a little better, if they can do so for an affordable payment,” he added.

Over the past two years, the number of consumers looking to trade-up to a higher quality used vehicle has decreased due to a slow job market and tighter credit restrictions. However, Webb noted that he expects the availability of retail financing to improve in the coming year, making it easier for consumers to obtain used car loans.

Meanwhile, Manheim’s chief economist also mentioned that independent dealers of new cars may continue to experience financial issues due to the national struggle to obtain floor plan and capital loans.

Toyota dealers to begin fixing recalled accelerator pedals this week

Monday, February 1st, 2010

On the heels of last week’s massive recall, Toyota Motor Corporation announced a plan today to fix the faulty accelerator pedals on 2.3 million new vehicles.

The Japanese-owned automaker has stopped production on new cars and will ship parts to U.S. dealers who have been trained to fix the defective gas pedals. Toyota has said that it will install a precision-cut reinforcement bar as part of the mechanism to make sure that pedals return to the idle position, USA Today reports.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive,” said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota’s sales organization in the U.S. “We deeply regret the concern that our recalls have caused for our customers and we are doing everything we can – as fast as we can – to make things right.”

Lents added that some dealerships will be open for 24 hours a day to fix the recalled vehicles. Repairs are expected to take approximately 30 minutes and Toyota has said that it will cover all costs associated with the parts and labor.