Archive for August, 2007

Don’t Let Dusty Roads Get You Down

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

(ARA) - Face it — dusty, unpaved roads are a way of life for rural and urban dwellers. In fact, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2005, over 1.4 million miles of public roads in the United States were unpaved — more than 1,800 times the length of California.

The fine dust particles that blow off gravel roads and construction areas are a nuisance to local residents, but many people aren’t aware of the health and safety concerns associated with dust pollution — or that there are some efficient and cost-effective ways to combat the dust.

Why Dust is an Issue
Dusty roads can cause problems for nearby residents and affect local transportation. For example:

* Dust from unpaved roads often makes its way into nearby homes, worsening symptoms for people with respiratory ailments, such as asthma, and those who are allergy-prone.

* Dust particles kicked into the air by traffic on unpaved roads can form dark and dense dust clouds, severely limiting visibility and making driving unsafe.

* When the top-most dust layer blows off road surfaces, the larger, abrasive rocks and stones left behind are often thrown into the air, causing cracked windshields, broken headlights, chipped paint and other kinds of wear-and-tear on automobiles.

* Dust is an important part of the road structure. If it is blown away, potholes and other kinds of road deterioration can develop that can be dangerous to drivers and costly to repair.

Combating Dust
While paving gravel roads is the surest way to control dust, it is an expensive option for many municipalities and townships with limited budgets. Instead, townships sometimes turn to unprocessed oil field brine, but this requires frequent applications and there is a risk of negative environmental impact from the impurities found in this by-product of oil well operation. Here are some reliable and cost-effective ways to reduce the impact of dust in your community:

* Block it out: Keep the doors and windows of your home closed, especially during times of the day when road traffic is high, to help keep the dust particles out. Indoor air filters and purification units can also help control dust in the home.

* Reduce driving speeds: Drive at slower speeds on unpaved roads to reduce the level of dust blown into the air by vehicles.

* Water it down: Watering down dusty roads can offer short-term relief for mild dust problems by causing dust particles to stick to the road temporarily.

* Apply a calcium chloride dust control product: To address more persistent dust control problems with fewer applications, a moisture-thirsty calcium chloride product in either a liquid or flake form can provide a longer-lasting solution. High-performance products like LIQUIDOW liquid calcium chloride or DOWFLAKE Xtra 83 to 87 percent pure calcium chloride flakes from The Dow Chemical Company ( work by attracting moisture from the air and binding dust particles tightly to the dampened road surface, helping to keep airborne dust at a minimum, even in dry, hot climates. In addition to keeping dust in check, calcium chloride can also reduce grading intervals and the need to replace displaced road gravel.

For more information, visit

Tips for Getting Around Safely in the Winter

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

(ARA) - Looked at a calendar lately? Time sure is flying! It seems like just yesterday you were enjoying those long, sunny days out by the lake. Now you’re counting down the days till Thanksgiving and Christmas; but the holidays aren’t all you should be thinking about. The most wonderful time of the year is also the most dangerous time of year to be on the roads.

According to the AAA, loss of visibility, slick roads and poorly maintained brakes lead to thousands of accidents every year, and the highest number of weather-related injuries and fatalities occur during the wet and snowy months of winter. But there are precautions you can take to help prevent accidents, and to be prepared, just in case.

Now — before the flakes start flying — is the time to winterize your vehicle! Start by making sure it is well maintained and in good working order. Here’s a checklist of things to inspect:

* Check all fluids and replenish if necessary.

* Have your vehicle’s battery checked to make sure it is strong enough to make it through the winter.

* Check tire tread depth and tire pressure; consider special tires if snow or ice are a problem in your area.

* Check to see that all lights work and headlights are properly aimed.

* Be certain the heater and defroster are working properly.

* Change your windshield wiper blades if your current ones are worn or UV damaged to ensure good visibility during the season’s rain or snow storms.

It’s always good to be a defensive driver, but it’s especially important in inclement weather. Good winter driving depends on using common sense and adjusting your driving to weather conditions.

* Keep your gas tank full to minimize condensation, and provide an extra margin of comfort and safety in case of delays.

* Don’t use your cruise control or overdrive when it’s freezing (or colder).

* Trucks take longer to stop, so don’t cut in front of them.

* Don’t get overconfident with four-wheel drive. It helps you get going quicker but won’t help you stop any faster.

* Add weight to the rear of your car or truck for better traction. If you drive a car, add weight to the trunk by using sandbags. If you drive one of the more than 38 million registered trucks on the roads, you should add weight to the truck bed. This can be done with a Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliner. The liner adds about 50 pounds of weight to deter rear wheel skids. It also provides lifetime protection against the rust and corrosion that can form quickly in winter weather.

Finally, keep emergency supplies in your vehicle. Here’s a list of some items that will come in handy if you’re stranded:

* Basic safety equipment such as emergency cash, scraper and brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain, and bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction.

* A breakdown kit that includes road flares, blanket, gloves, boots, warm clothing, flashlight, extra batteries, food, water, and first-aid kit.

* A CB radio or cellular phone can be a lifesaver for you or another stranded motorist in the event of an emergency or collision.

These tips and a little common sense will keep you and your family safe on the road this winter.

For more information on Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners, or to find the dealer nearest you, visit or call (800) 831-3232. Line-X has close to 500 locations across the United States.

How to Keep Your Gear Safe and Your Truck Looking Like New

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

(ARA) - Whether you’re hauling for work or for play, it’s important to protect all the gear that goes into your truck bed. Truck owners frequently use their vehicles to haul all kinds of cargo that could potentially be damaged or stolen.

“People invest a lot of time and money into the equipment they use,” says Peter May, from Lund International. “Keeping it securely in your vehicle ensures it will work to its full potential and eliminates worry.”

One inexpensive, yet effective way to protect your gear is with a tonneau cover. Assuming you have installed a bed liner for basic protection, adding a tonneau cover will help protect the gear that goes into the bed, protecting it from debris and moisture. Whether hinged, roll-up, tri-fold or with snap closures, they protect your gear from extreme elements. Not to mention keeping everything safe from theft. Out of sight is out of mind. If something isn’t visible, it’s much less likely to be stolen.

When you’re hauling work tools, furniture or hunting, fishing or camping equipment, cover the side rails and tailgate to help keep them safe from the wear and tear of loading and unloading. Side rail caps, tailgate caps and tailgate protectors in polished diamond plate aluminum protect the bed’s finish and enhance your vehicle’s appearance.

If you are frequently loading ATVs, lawnmowers or other motorized equipment, a folding aluminum ramp is the way to go. With an extruded hole surface for a solid grip and raised edges to help keep tires safely on the ramp, it’s the safest, easiest way to load the vehicles. Ramps also eliminate the need for a trailer, saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The ramp’s heavy-duty design has a 1,000-pound distributed load capacity per ramp and yet, weighs only 17 pounds. The rubberized tailgate protector guards the tailgate finish, and easy fold-and-go design with carrying handle allows for convenient storage.

Taking your ATV along for hunting, camping or mending fences typically means you need to carry other equipment with you. ATV boxes mounted to your vehicle help to keep it all in place, free from the damaging elements and locked up safe. Binoculars, ammunition, a GPS unit, a two-way radio, tools and anything else that needs to stay clean and dry fits easily in the box.

The ATV boxes have aluminum diamond plate construction with a black powder coat finish that resists cracking and fading, and minimizes reflection from the sun. Sturdy latches and locks keep gear safe, and drain and ventilation holes for air circulation make cleaning a breeze.

With plenty of secure storage for work and play, you can put your mind at ease wherever you are and no matter what you’re doing. Your truck and your stuff will last longer and still look great.

Tips for Caring for Your Vintage Car

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

(ARA) - Caring for a vintage car takes a bit more time and effort than maintaining a car built today. Materials like leather, rubber and even the metal parts, need extra TLC to keep them from wearing out and cracking from age and sunlight damage.

Here are a few basic tips to help keep your old auto looking its best.

Keep it out of the elements. Freezing temperatures and sunlight do the most damage. While in the garage, it also helps to keep it covered and closed up to reduce the dust build up and to keep out the critters and bugs who may want to set up house in the seat cushions. If you live in a cold climate, you may want to connect it to an engine warmer if you plan on starting it up, to keep the battery alive.

Leather Care and Rubber
Like skin, all soft materials need moisturizing now and again. Old cars’ leather interiors need special care and cleaning and so does the rubber, and not just the tires. Hoses and all rubber parts need lubricants and moisturizers to keep them supple, strong and in tact.

Finding the Right Parts
Replacing vintage parts is not as easy as it sounds. While you may think finding any new replacement part may work, but keeping it in line with the make, model and year of your car keeps the auto’s value higher than if you replace your parts with dissimilar car parts.

Protect Your Engine
The new levels of ethanol in gasoline may have adverse effects on the metals in your car’s antique engine. Older engines were designed to run on straight gasoline, and using ethanol without protection may cause corrosion of some metals in the engine. It also may damage natural rubber and cork parts.

Things You can Do:

* Run a non-alcohol based fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL year-round. These older engines were designed primarily for straight gasoline, and using ethanol without protection may cause corrosion of some metals in the engine. It also may damage natural rubber and cork parts. “STA-BIL Brand Fuel Stabilizer contains additives to protect against rust and corrosion caused by ethanol fuel blends,” notes Tom Wicks, project engineering manager for Gold Eagle Co.

* Install a water separation filter and fuel filter — keep spare filters on hand.

* Replace fuel lines and gaskets or o-rings with new ethanol resistant materials.

* Repair or replace the fuel tank if it has been damaged.

Many old cars owners tend to baby their vehicle and therefore don’t take it out very often. While it’s good to keep the mileage low, it’s important to get the engine’s RPMs running high. This cleans out the carburetor, valves and circulates oil and helps the engine run better, longer. So take your vintage beauty out on the highway and get it up to speed. With all your special care, you’ll want to show it off.

For more information on caring for your vintage auto, log on to

Simple, Quick Solutions to Car Repairs

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

(ARA) - Approximately 50 percent of people say a lack of time is a bigger problem in their lives than a lack of money, according to the 2006 Yankelovich MONITOR “Finding Time Perspective” report. Seventy percent of consumers 16 years and older say they don’t have enough time to do all the things they need to do.

With such a lack of time, things like servicing a vehicle tend to take a back seat. Because of hectic schedules, drivers seek simple, quick solutions to car repairs so they can focus on daily commitments. Searching through an owner’s manual is time consuming and confusing for many people. And when time becomes more valuable than money, technology can help.

Yankelovich also reports that the use of technological tools is one of the top strategies time-starved consumers rely on most to buy back time in their lives. There are a number of automotive technologies that make it easier for vehicle owners to maintain and service their vehicles.They help save time by preventing unnecessary maintenance, make it easy to travel safely, as well as preserve gas and oil.

“GM has the right equation of automotive technology to simplify service and maintenance,” says Peter Lord, executive director, GM Service Operations. “Each of the industry leading technologies GM has implemented is intended to make life easier for the consumer.”

Simplified Maintenance
GM’s Oil Life System informs the driver when an oil change is due based on driving conditions and not on a predetermined time or mileage basis (three months or 3,000 miles as was recommended in the past). The system monitors engine speed and temperature, and the computer continuously examines engine conditions to determine when it’s time to change the oil.

This system can double or even triple the time between oil changes. If used properly, it can help to save time and money connected with unnecessary oil changes. “A driver whose fuel tank is still two thirds full wouldn’t empty the tank and refill it, or a driver whose tires are half worn wouldn’t replace them,” says Lord. “It is the same idea with prematurely changing oil that still has life.” Simplified maintenance based on the system is a convenience to drivers because it takes the guesswork out of when to change oil and it eliminates decision making for other routine maintenance.

OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics
OnStar provides free monthly diagnostic reports via e-mail, including crucial information on tire pressure, remaining engine oil life, emissions, engine, transmission and braking systems, as well as air bag system checks. Subscribers can enroll at the Web site ( or press the vehicle’s blue OnStar button and sign up through an advisor.

Save Fuel with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)
Nearly 1.2 billion gallons of gas are wasted each year due to under-inflated tires, according to a recent U.S. Department of Energy statistic cited in a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. They also estimate drivers can improve fuel economy by up to 3.3 percent just by making sure tires are properly inflated.

Checking tire pressure is something drivers often forget or don’t make time to test. The TPMS helps alleviate this issue by tracking tire wear and pressure and helping motorists avoid tire failure and potentially dangerous, costly breakdowns. The system uses sensors mounted in each wheel to monitor tire pressure. Drivers are alerted to tire pressure changes so the issues can be checked and remedied quickly. is a great online resource to learn more about these technologies and get helpful vehicle safety and maintenance tips.

Garmin Nuvi 350 Pocket Vehicle GPS

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

What if one device could help you navigate anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, while offering travel tips, storing your favorite tunes and photos, providing translation assistance, and more? That device is here, and it’s not much bigger than a deck of cards. The Garmin nuvi 350 is set to revolutionize what we expect from a GPS navigation device, or from any device for that matter.

The nuvi 350 is first and foremost a personal GPS device. Wherever you go — in your car or on foot– the device offers extremely accurate position data, thanks to a high-sensitivity integrated GPS receiver by SiRF and WAAS-enabled, 12-satellite reception. Combined with detailed maps of the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico the nüvi 350 provides automatic routing, turn-by-turn voice directions, and touchscreen control– making it easy to find your way anywhere. Plus, the unique “text-to-speech” feature calls out turns by street name, and you can choose from either 2D or 3D mapping perspectives when you’re viewing your route on the display. Additionally, the nüvi 350 is compatible with Garmin’s GTM 10 FM TMC traffic receiver*, which allows users to avoid traffic tie-ups by simply pushing a button that will calculate a new route.

As mentioned, the nüvi 350 comes packed with mapping data for North America, but you can can also load up your custom points of interest. Set up proximity alerts for school zones, safety cameras, and more using Garmin’s free POI (points of interest) loader program (available from

Navigation is just part of the journey, and the nüvi 350 is one of the first devices to recognize that. The built-in “Travel Kit” offers an MP3 player, an audio book player from, a jpeg-format picture viewer, a world travel clock with time zones, a currency converter, a measurement converter, and a calculator.

In addition to the included travel tools, additional software add-ons are available, such as the Garmin Language Guide, with data provided by Oxford University Press. This software suite contains a multilingual word bank, phrase bank, and five bilingual dictionaries. The multilingual word bank and phrase bank supports nine languages and dialects, including American English, British English, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, European Spanish, and Latin American Spanish. Now you can look up and translate more than 17,000 words or 20,000 phrases per language — right in the palm of your hand. Through the unit’s text-to-speech interface, users can get a spoken pronunciation of each entry in the word bank, along with gender and part of speech information.

Another useful add-on software package, the Garmin Travel Guide, is loaded with information provided by Marco Polo. These guides put in-depth travel information such as reviews and recommendations for restaurants, tourist attractions, and more at your fingertips. The software allows you to navigate to an address or search points of interest– places like hotels, restaurants, shopping, and tourist attractions. The nüvi 350 automatically calculates the fastest route and provides voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions along the way. The unit also audibly announces the name of upcoming streets– letting you keep your eyes on the road while navigating through busy traffic and tricky roadways. And if you stray off course, the nüvi 350 automatically calculates the quickest way to get back on track.

*Traffic services available only in select cities where RDS-TMC coverage exists. Requires the GTM 10 FM TMC traffic receiver and subscription fee to enable traffic capability.

Tags: ,

Defects dull dream home’s luster (Inside Bay Area)

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
Experts estimate that the average new house will exhibit three to 14 construction defects. Some builders stand behind their work, others don't.

Tire Care Saves Gas, Gas, Gas

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

(ARA) - Summertime is drive-time across the USA. Millions of vacation-happy Americans hit the road during summer, logging more driving miles on the pavement than any other time of year.But with gas prices climbing toward $4 a gallon (or more!), folks are concerned about the costs of driving. Can families still afford to pile the kids into the car and ride to summer’s favorite hot spots? Will a kids’ chorus of “are we going?” replace the standard endless chants of “are we there yet?”

Savvy drivers say “no!” They’re constantly seeking ways to increase fuel economy and to squeeze out more miles per tank. Instead of focusing purely on the fuel gauge, though, experts suggest paying more attention to tires, those black, rubbery objects that connect vehicles to the road. Yes, the right rubber on the road can save gas in the tank.

According to Fred Koplin of Yokohama Tire Corporation, manufacturer of everything from ultra-high performance tires for passenger cars and SUVs to tires for buses, trucks and airplanes, “Tires that are under-inflated by just 6 to 7 psi (pounds per square inch) can reduce fuel economy by 2 percent or more … and tread wear life by as much as 10 percent.

“When a tire is under-inflated, the car’s weight rests more on the tire’s shoulders than its center, causing poor fuel economy, uneven wear and a less-than-firm ride, which can significantly reduce driver control.”

Koplin says most people aren’t aware that today’s tires are scientific marvels, holding up under extreme heat and freezing conditions, cruising over pavement, rocks, dirt, water, snow, mud, gravel and all sorts of road hazards. Tires boast advanced tread designs, sidewalls, belts and compounds, and they work so well, they’ve practically become an afterthought in most households.

The Auto Club reports that as many as 86 percent of drivers don’t check their tire inflation properly. However, this percentage is likely to start dropping as gas prices under-inflate consumer pocketbooks and former tire novices learn how to maintain proper pressure levels.

“The tire’s proper inflation level can be found on a placard in the glove box or on the car door or in the owner’s manual,” Koplin says. And while there are about 3,500 sizes and types of tires on the market, he suggests some simple procedures to aid proper tire wear.


* Once a month, when the tires are cold, or at least 3 to 4 hours after the vehicle has been driven, check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. (Normal driving causes tires to heat, raising air pressure. Releasing air when tires are hot may dangerously under-inflate the tires.) And be sure that the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep out dirt and seal against leakage.

* Tires should be rotated at least every 5,000 to 8,000 miles and the alignment should be checked once a year. Misaligned tires can cause the car to drag, which lowers mileage and causes unnecessary tire wear.

* An over-inflated tire puts less tread on the road and increases wear on the center of the tread. A tire is designed to run with the vehicle’s weight spread evenly across the tire’s width.

* Consumers can go to ( for additional tire care and safety tips or visit the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s Web site at

“Even though tire technology has advanced as much in the past decade as almost any other facet of automotive engineering, only the discerning consumers understand the high-tech realities of tires,” Koplin says. “However, with escalating fuel prices, the time is fast approaching when drivers are going to focus on simple things like proper tire pressure to maximize tire performance, increase fuel economy and boost tread wear.”

And start heading back down the highway of summer travels.

Fall Car Care Helps Forgo Frosty Frustration

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

(ARA) - The cooler days of fall are an excellent time to prepare your car for the potential ravages of winter. According to the experts at the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), “Cold weather will only make existing problems worse.”A few minutes in the garage this fall could help prevent a much more time-consuming and unpleasant experience this winter. First, read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules. No one knows your car better than the company that manufactured it.

Here are a few items that are easy and simple to check before fall turns to winter:

Motor oil — The easiest way to protect and improve the performance of your car is to upgrade to a high-performance synthetic motor oil and change it regularly. Synthetic motor oils have better low temperature fluidity and a lower coefficient of friction than mineral-based motor oils. This will help ensure easier start-ups on cold weather days.

Some motor oils, such as Royal Purple, are actually formulated with molecules that chemically bond with engine components for continuous engine protection. Additionally, Royal Purple motor oil has been proven in independent tests to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and increase horsepower and torque. Data about independent testing of their products is available at

Tires — Worn tires can be extremely dangerous on rain, snow and ice. Examine tires for remaining tread life and uneven wearing. Be sure to check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks as well. All-season radials or winter tires are a wise investment for those who must drive in inclement weather regularly. Check tire pressure once a month and rotate tires as recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t forget to check your spare and be sure the jack functions properly.

Cooling System — It may be time for a flush and refill if it’s been more than a couple of years since the coolant has been changed. The level, condition and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. Additionally, the condition of hoses should be checked for cracks and leaks.

Windshield Wipers — Check the condition of your wiper blades and replace them if needed. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad, winter blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on winter-formula windshield washer solvent. You’ll be surprised by how much you use. If you don’t have an ice-scraper, buy one before you need it.

Battery — A dead battery can make a cold winter morning a miserable one. If your battery is beyond its recommended service life, replace it. Top any low battery cells with distilled water. Cleaned and tighten battery terminals to ensure electricity gets from the batter to the starter on chilly fall mornings. If corrosion is present, clean it with a mixture of baking soda and water, and put on a set of battery washers to keep corrosion from coming back. Make sure the battery terminals and hold downs are tight. It’s also good to clean and lubricate hinges and the hood latch.

Fuel — It’s important to keep gas lines from freezing in cold weather. No vehicle can run if it can’t get fuel. A full gas tank will help prevent moisture and ice from forming. Particularly cold weather may warrant using a fuel deicer to prevent fuel lines from fuel line. A block heater is another option that is fairly inexpensive and easy to use.

Properly preparing your car for winter is simple and doesn’t require a lot of time or technical expertise. The payback in reduced risk of a preventable breakdown and improved performance is well worth the minimal effort.