The New Drivers Crash Course in Driving: How to Properly Change A Flat Tire

Though memberships to motor clubs are quite popular and a very smart idea to have in case of a breakdown or emergency; there can be times that waiting for a tow truck just isn’t possible. For safety – and saving time and money – you can take care of of a lot of it yourself, especially changing a tire. Unfortunately this isn’t something taught in drivers ed, and many parents don’t pass down the knowledge either. But it’s a pretty simple process that every driver should know how to do.

This post is sponsored by Roberts Honda.

Knowing some of these basic steps can get you back on the road and hopefully avoid any incident or emergency. If you do have a flat, try and stop somewhere safe. Obviously away from traffic, and preferably on a flat firm surface (NOT grass or dirt) and be sure you are not in a blind spot or on a curve – and DO NOT TRY THIS AT NIGHT if you are on a highway or busy road. Be sure to engage the emergency brake and turn on your hazard lights.

If you are stressed and can’t remember these steps, check your cards owner’s manual. Sometimes these manuals will have some information on how to change your tire!

So here’s what you will need:

Wheel blocks
Lug wrench (usually comes with your vehicle, so double check to make sure you have one and it works)
Car Jack
Pressure gauge
fix-a-flat (just in case)
Spare tire

Once you have your tools ready, you can follow these simple steps to change your flat tire:

Secure Wheel Blocks. Wheel blocks are just triangles made of a sturdy material that you just wedge under your tire so the car doesn’t roll. They go on the front and back of the tire that is diagonal from the one you need to change.

Remove Hubcap. When you start to remove the tire remember that the hubcap and lug nuts could be hot because of the friction of your car, so be careful or wait a few minutes until they cool down. If your hubcap doesn’t have screws use the flat end of your lug wrench and just pop them off. If it has screws, undo them and remove hubcap.

Loosen Lug Nuts. Lug nuts are what holds your tire in place – you just need to use your lug wrench and loosen them, BUT DON’T TAKE THEM OUT! Do this before jacking your car up since some lug nuts can be really tight and you have to use your whole body weight to loosen them up. IF you have a wheel lock on your tires, you actually may need to have a special adapter to get them off (so maybe check your manual and make sure you have that in your car too!)

Jack it Up. Usually the owners manual will tell you where to put the jack – those spots are called jack points. You can usually tell by the notch in your vehicles frame. Use the right jack location so you have more stability and you do less damage to your car. You turn the jack handle clockwise to jack the car up and make sure you have enough room to put on the spare tire.

Remove the Lug Nuts and Tire.  Once you have the vehicle secured on the jack go ahead and remove the lug nuts and put them somewhere close by; then remove the flat tire (you may have to give it a really good pull to get it off). I usually put my lug nuts in the hubcap so they don’t roll away or under the car and make changing my tire that much more work.

Put the Spare On. You put the spare on by lining up the wheel with the wheel studs, which are the threaded fasteners for when you put the lug nuts in.

Tighten Lug Nuts. Replace the lug nuts, tighten them by hand but not too tight. You will use the lug wrench once you get the car off the jack.

Lower the Car. Slowly and I  mean S-L-O-W-L-Y lower the jack by turning it counter clockwise. Once you are SURE the wheels are touching the ground ,remove the jack.

Tighten Lug Nuts Again. Use your lug wrench to tighten the lug nuts into a crisscross pattern. Don’t tighten them fully, but tight enough and make sure they are all secure before driving off.

Remember that spares are to be used sparingly. They are smaller tires and meant to be used temporarily. You should try to not drive over 55 mph on them, and get your regular tire repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

If you run into a problem, or you aren’t sure that you did it right, go ahead and call the professional. It’s not worth your life! Just remember practice makes perfect, and you can keep trying until you get it right!

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Keeping Your Car Cool in the Summer

The past few weeks around the country has been pretty brutal – the heat plus humidity is giving us temperatures well above 100 degrees. Now I love the summer, but this humidity has made enjoying it a bit difficult.
The worst part? Opening the door of your car to be met by a gust of heat that could nearly knock you down. But there are a few things you can do to help keep your car cool in the summer.

This post is sponsored by Reedman-Toll Subaru of Downingtown.

Block Car Windows from the Sun. As you know, cars trap heat which causes the inside temp to rise rather quickly. It takes less than a few minutes for the temperature to start increasing.  In fact, cars can heat up to 200 degrees! You can reduce the amount of heat that enters your car with these few simple tricks:

Sun Shade: not only can they be cute, but they are super effective. A sun shade
helps block the direct rays from coming into your vehicle, which can
significantly decrease the temperature which helps the AC run a bit
more efficiently once its running.

Tinted Windows: A bit more expensive, but a nice constant way to block the suns                 rays. Just make sure you know the laws for your state before you get them done!

Cracked Windows: Since windows hold warm air, leaving them open slightly will
create air flow. Same way with a sunroof – just crack them                                                            enough (about an inch or so) to keep anybody from getting any                                                    ideas to break in.

 

Keep Your Seats Cool. HOT seats can be miserable to sit on – and can even cause             burns! If you have leather seats, you may want to cover them with a towel or use cloth seat covers to help keep them cooler during the summer. Or even cooling gel covers or pads would work as well. If you are lucky enough to have air-conditioned seats – put them to work! That will definitely help with the cooling down of your vehicle.

Use that AC.  If your cars AC isn’t working right or you don’t use it right – it will take longer to cool down. To be sure and maximize your car’s cooling ability, turn the AC on full blast for a few minutes as soon as you start driving and roll down your back windows. This will help push the hot air out as the cool air comes in -genius right? Once you get your car nice and cool, use the recirculating feature along with the AC to maintain the temperature.

Park in the Shade. Whenever possible park in the shade, or with your windshield facing away from the sun – this will help elevate some of the suns rays entering your car and causing the temperature to hike up as well. Even if I have to walk further, I always park under trees or tents when possible so that my car isn’t unbearable when we get in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The New Drivers Crash Course in Driving: What to Do If Your Brakes Go Out

When I was younger my car was in the shop and I had to borrow my Dad’s old truck to get to work. As I was driving down the road the light ahead turned red, and I pushed on my brakes and nothing happened – I pushed them down all the way to the floor and still nothing. I panicked! I had enough sense to turn right and thankfully no cars were coming and I was able to guide it until it stopped on its on without incident – but I will never forget the fear that overwhelmed me when I couldn’t stop the truck.

There was never anything in drivers ed, or even what my parents had taught me to prepare me. It never came up – I guess no one thought it would ever happen; but it did , and it could. So here’s a good crash course (no pun intended) in driving for new drivers (and drivers who may just not know) what to do if your brakes go out.

This post is sponsored by Reedman-Toll Subaru.

Don’t Panic. I know that’s easier said than done; but panicking could possibly make things worse. It’s for your safety – and others – to remain calm so you can have a clear head on what to do next.

Try the Brakes – one more time. Your car probably has a dual braking system which controls the front and back brakes separately. In order to not to be able to stop at all, both brake systems would have to lose all braking power. (which can happen, obviously). But if it’s only one set of the brakes, being able to at least use one of them – at least you’d have some braking power. Apply strong and consistent pressure to the pedal to see if you can stop the car (or at least slow it down significantly).

Engage Emergency Brake. This is one thing for some reason I didn’t think of – emergency brakes are there for exactly that – an emergency. Engage the emergency brake to help your vehicle stop; though it won’t stop as quickly or suddenly as your regular braking system, at least it will get you stopped and hopefully to safety.

Downshift.  Keeping your foot off the accelerator and down shifting so that the engine can help slow the car down; whether you are in an automatic or manual.
If you have a manual transmission, work your way down through the gears to slow the car down.
If you have an automatic transmission, taking your foot off the accelerator should cause your car to shift to lower gears as it slows down. Now if you have a newer car some of those transmissions allow you to drive manually as well. You would have to use the paddle shifter (if your car has it) which are levers on the steering wheel of cars or put your transmission in manual mode and switch to the lowest gear.

Safely Get Off the Road.  Look for the safest opportunity to get off the road; If you are on the high way or on a road with multiple lanes, get over to the right as far as possible. Use your turn signal and hazard lights to signal to other drivers you are in distress. Hopefully you can get over into the ‘break down lane’ or over onto a side street/exit/ grass/ etc and get yourself off the road where other drivers are coming. 

Don’t Turn Your Car Off. Though this may sound like a good idea, when you turn off your car most of the time you are also turning off the power steering which is going to make it a lot harder to steer your vehicle off the road. Not to mention the steering wheel could lock up completely. Keep the car running until you are at a complete stop.

Get it Towed and Checked Out. Even if they just locked up, it’s not worth driving again to ‘find out’. Call a tow truck and have it towed to a trusted mechanic who can check out your brakes for you and get you back into running (and stopping) shape! 

 

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The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List for Families (Part 2)

So continuing from my very long part 1 of the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List for Families. I think this is a super important part of the whole vacation because it can definitely effect the moods of everyone you are traveling with. The better prepared you are, the more fun you will have (in my opinion). Not to mention the more money you will save, and time as well.

This post is sponsored by Reedman Toll Chevrolet of Springfield.

Lets Talk about Snacks. 
Though I did a quick mention about snacks in part 1, I think it’s important to elaborate on the snack situation. First off, the ‘snacks’ we bring also usually cover breakfast for our trip, because again – saving money. If you have the room and a big cooler, packing like you are going on a camping trip can really pay off. We always pack lunch meat and cheese, crackers, fruit (grapes and apples and bananas are the least messy), chips or pretzels, granola bars, maybe some candy. I would recommend NOT bringing things that are too messy. (trust me, you and your car will thank me). Not too much sugar since you don’t want them bouncing off the car doors, but it is vacation after all).Also water bottles (so important to stay hydrated while traveling) and maybe some juice or pops if you drink those. I also use a Thirty-One tote to carry all the snacks and I bring grocery bags for trash. On occasion depending on how long we are gone, we will stop at a Walmart or local grocery and stock back up on snacks. Way cheaper than gas stations, or eating out for every meal or every time someone is hungry.

For Safety and Emergencies.
So as I said being prepared is one of the most important aspects of a road trip – including preparing for the unexpected (or the worst). Having a car safety kit can save you a LOT of time. The kits usually include things like jumper cables, air compressor, tow rope, first aid kit, etc. Also of course a full size first aid kit.
Make sure you have a spare tire, and that its inflated and good condition. (and a tire jack).
Having a Motor Club Membership, such as AAA or something like it just in case you do need assistance.
Flashlight.
Swiss Army Knife.
A Tool Kit.
Small empty gas can (in case you run out and need to go get some)

Entertainment. 
So this is a bit easier with older kids – but you need to make sure you have enough variety to keep the kids entertained during the long drive. We played the classic driving games like spotting the license plates from different states, ‘Road Trip Bingo” where you get to mark your card with things you see, and of course I spy with my little eye” But sometimes you can’t always spend the time interacting if there’s traffic or bad weather. So the kids being able to entertain themselves is important. We always bring coloring books and colored pencils (crayons can melt all over your seat and carpet, so I wouldn’t recommend them) books to read, cross word/word search puzzles, hand held video game devices, portable DVD player with PLENTY of movies, etc. Make sure you bring the chargers and extra batteries – also book lights are great for them to be able to continue to read or do word searches when it starts to get dark. I used to buy special coloring books/movies that I would give them when they started to get restless. Also whoever behaved the best between gas/restroom stops got a ‘prize’. Keeping them busy makes everyone happy! 

And like I said before – the most important – keep a good attitude, a sense of humor, and go make memories that will last a lifetime!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List for Families (Part 1)

With a boat load of kids and 2 adults, flying to our vacation destination isn’t always affordable. Most vacations consist of us driving to wherever it is that we might be going; which can be hours upon hours in the car driving, and driving..and driving. If you aren’t prepared for being on the road a long time, it can make the drive seem like an eternity. 

So with all our experience and lessons learned, we decided to share our ultimate road trip packing list for families.


This post is sponsored by Reedman-Toll Chevrolet of Exton.

Essentials.
Now before I get into a big long list of what you should plan to take on your trip, don’t forget the most important. 1. a sense of humor – things will go wrong; kids will fight, and hey you might actually get lost or run into an awful bit of construction and traffic. But keep a sense of humor! My kids laugh at me for laughing a the most ridiculous of things, but you know what? Those are the memories I want them to have. Not of Mom yelling or arguing or being upset, but laughing and enjoying life! 2. snacks – while its all fine and dandy and a bit fun to go into the gas station to get snacks, it will KILL YOUR BUDGET! I can’t tell you how many times we just have left for somewhere in a hurry and had to do this. Gas station snack prices are RIDICULOUS! So be sure to stock up at the store before you leave. 3. comfortable clothes & slip on shoes – I’m pretty sure my entire summer wardrobe consist of nothing but cotton, but for real, no one likes to travel in jeans or tight clothes. Make sure you and the kids are comfortable. .oh and slip on shoes make going to the bathroom wayy easier – plus it saves you tons of time. So on to the rest of the list…

Paperwork.
As much as this shouts OBVIOUS! be sure that you have all the paperwork you need for your trip. Drivers license, insurance cards, health insurance cards, paperwork for your  check-in, or tickets to any destinations you may have already booked in advance, credit cards, back-up emergency cards or money, etc. Double and triple check!
Also – a back up credit card, even if you don’t like using credit, is a really good idea. A few years ago I was on vacation with my parents and my debit card I had been using was compromised (pretty sure it was in one of those shady gas stations where I bought my kids snacks while my Dad filled up the van with gas). I saw it in my bank account the next day, and called my bank who immediately cancelled my card. I had no credit cards, no other bank cards, and my bank was a credit union that was only in Ohio – not in Florida where we were. Thankfully my Dad had a back up credit card he gave me to use for the rest of the trip. I can’t imagine what we would have had to do if I had been traveling alone! Ever since then I have always always carried a back-up card , even if my plan is to use my debit card or cash.

Tech.
This list seems to just be getting bigger – so you know the drill. You need your cell phone, your cell phone charger – a portable charger if you don’t have one, get one – your GPS (if you don’t use your phone for it) , the iPad, tablets/electronics for the kids – and all the charger cords. I usually bring a portable DVD player so the kids can watch movies, make sure you bring plenty of movies because they get bored quickly. Back-up batteries in case you need to unplug from the car (Those charging elements can get hot). Don’t forget the camera! Capture those memories (and don’t forget the memory card either). We have a waterproof camera that has captured some awesome pictures of swimming/snorkeling, and I would completely recommend getting one! I also like books on tape as well, for me. I like listening to music, but sometimes you just need to change gears.

Extra Clothes/Toiletries. 
Depending on how long you will be in the car – and what ages you are traveling with – bringing an extra set (or 2 ) of clothes handy in the front seat, or easily accessible is a good idea. It’s not always easy to unload a vehicle once its been packed to grab a tshirt or an extra pair of undies from your suitcase. Keep an outfit with undies and socks and even a light jacket in a bag near the front so you can get your clothes easily if you need to change. I also do this with our toothbrushes/toothpaste, hair spray, body spray and deodorant (try traveling 16 hours in a car with a teenage boy – ick!) We always take time to ‘freshen’ up, and it’s a lot easier if you don’t have to unpack the whole car just to get what you need.
It’s also nice to have sunscreen handy, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, grocery bags (for garbage, and dirty clothes) chap stick, bug spray, Tylenol, allergy meds, bandaids, neosporin, etc. Trust me – you’ll be glad you had it on hand  and didn’t have to stop somewhere and pay outrageous prices (plus it slows you down when you have to stop again!)

 

The list goes on – see part 2 here.

 

 

 

 

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