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It’s getting hot out. Time to break out the shorts, and swimsuits, and tank tops. Time to put away the coats and boats and Hot Chocolate. It’s natural to move things around our house in preparation for a new season, but what about your car?

Is there anything that should be done to your vehicle just because the weather is changing? Of course there is. Just like things in our home need to be moved around a few things in our cars need to be checked too.

Get Your Air Conditioning Updated

Thanks for the tip Caption Obvious! But seriously, a lot people are using air conditioners that need new filters or could work even better with a check-up. Do it now before it gets too hot. You don’t want to be stuck on a sweltering day with a broken air conditioner. A little maintenance can go a long way. If you live in a desert like I do, this is especially important. Even if you don’t really use your AC, get your filters changed. You don’t want the people in your car breathing in all the dirt and pollen and smoke that has come in through the air and your engine. It’s a simple and inexpensive check that make a BIG difference when you drive.

Fill Up Your Washer Fluid

This one applies to preparing your car for winter as well. Summer time is the time for bugs to breed. You may not notice them in your back yard, but you will notice them on your windshield. It’s always a good idea to have washer fluid handy so that you can have better vision and drive safer. If you drive past any standing bodies of water, you will have a big ‘ole bug smash in the middle of your windshield, right in the place you need to look out of the most. Again, this is something that doesn’t cost a lot of money, but can go a very long way.

Keep Your Car Clean on the Outside

If you live in a place that snows, it’s likely that your car has been driving over either salt or dirt that corrode the undercarriage of your car. Although you should be washing your car regularly throughout the winter to solve most of your corrosion problems, it’s not too late to start washing your car now. Washing your car is just as valuable as changing the filters and checking the tire pressure. Your car will last longer if you keep it clean. We all want our cars to last, and this is one little thing that will help preserve your car in the condition you want it to be in.

It’s a simple thing to get your car ready for the summer, and there is no excuse not to. The weather is nice, so take advantage of that to do a little work on your car. And remember, a little work can go a long way.

When we buy a car we are making a statement about who we are and what matters to us. Some cars are showy and ostentatious, others are understated or just plain old. No matter what the car is, it reflects our tastes. Most people spend months thinking about what car they like, what year they’re interested in, and what can fit into their budget. When you find a car, the one that you know is yours, you can’t help but feel a personality attached to it.

I don’t name my cars, but I know lots of people who do. That doesn’t mean that my car doesn’t have a personality.

I drive a minivan. This suits me as a mother. It’s easy to put my kids in out of the van and it’s not so huge that I feel like I’m invading the road. I fought long and hard with my husband to get my minivan but in the end practicality won out over personality. Considering the van is the only car we have, I understand how my husband doesn’t see it as a reflection of him, and it’s not a reflection of him, but it is a reflection of his choice in family life.

A few weeks ago someone rear-ended us at a red light. We couldn’t open the trunk of the van so we took it to the body shop and rented a Chevy Malibu for the week. The rental was nice. It was newer than our van and it had lots of bells and whistles. The sound system was killer and having a sunroof was convenient. When the day came that the car went back to the rental agency and the van was fixed my husband and I looked at each other with a new understanding and appreciation for our van. We knew then that we picked our van with good reason.

The Malibu was cool. It was everything we could want in a compact car. But it only had a four cylinder. When we thought about it we realized we actually liked driving the van more. It’s nice to have a little power behind the wheel. Not to mention the view is better when you’re off the ground a few more inches. I felt like I was in a sardine can when I was driving the Malibu.

Above all else, the best thing about having the van back was getting the kids in and out of the car. No more bending over, no more walking each kid to each side of the car to get buckled in. My kids know the routine with the van. The car was confusing to them, they couldn’t even see out the windows!

When it comes down to it, that van is a reflection of me. From the light blue color that reflects my happy state to the look of utter utility, it fits me and my family just how it should. Looking back, I’m grateful for everyday we’ve had that van and I know when the time comes to say goodbye, I’ll miss it more than I’ve missed other cars. That’s the thing about a car that fits you well, it becomes a part of your family.

You’ve driven this road a thousand times before. You’ve done it so much, in fact, that you feel like you could do it in your sleep. It’s so early in the morning, and you are so tired and sure that you could do the drive with your eyes closed that you let your eyes slip. It’s the perfect recipe for disaster.

If you drive enough, same route, same car, you can become complacent. This, in turn, is dangerous to the drivers around you. You’ve done it so many times that you can’t imagine it ever being different. Until one day it is. The day you get into an accident.

How can we, as experienced drivers, keep ourselves from falling into the lull of complacent driving? There is no miracle cure, but I do have a few suggestions.

Switch it Up

You can’t switch up your route, but you can switch up how you drive. Try using different surroundings to keep you alert. Audio books work really well for me. I’m a writer so I analyze the stories and what makes them good as I listen. I absorb the detail and store them away for ideas that may help me improve my writing. It’s a great way for me to stay alert.

Other ideas are learning a new language via audio or talking to yourself. Therapeutic, and a way to stay alert.

Make it a Game

Wouldn’t it be so much more fun if driving was like Mario Cart? Or how about Frogger? Thinking of driving in this way can not only keep your focus on the road, but help you stay alert. If only you had a blue shell for that idiot riding your tail, or an invincibility star for the two guys creating a road block in front of you.

Or maybe you could think of a game of your own. Looking for symbols in the street signs. Guessing where people are headed and why. It’s a great way to keep yourself entertained and alert.

Create a Playlist

If you’re a music buff like me, an energizing playlist can hit the spot. Something that makes you want to get up and go and drive for miles. Switch it up often so you don’t get bored and let the music take you to wherever it is that you need to be. I love using Spotify because it’s one payment a month with as many songs as you want to add or subtract to your playlist. Since I’m always looking for new music, this is the best option for me. I can get sick of songs easily, so I always need the latest and greatest.

No matter what you do, it is possible to have a safe and concentrated drive without becoming complacent. Make sure you find what works for you and apply it. We all want to have peace of mind on the road, and the first and best place to start is with yourself. Happy driving!

We all want the best for our kids. We want them to have more than we had. A better, safer, life. We also want them to be independent. There’s this fine line between keeping them safe and letting them be their own people. The younger they are, the firmer the barriers. As they get older how can we keep them safe?

Set Boundaries

As our children get older their boundaries get wider, but boundaries still need to apply. Most parents teach their kids good rules. Wear your seatbelt, look both ways before you cross the street etc. But just teaching them isn’t enough. We need to make sure they are following those rules when we aren’t around. Make sure they know how important safety rules are to you. Don’t back down when they want to deviate, but make sure your hand is gentle and firm at the same time.

Give them Something to Think About

Personal stories and experiences can strengthen your testament to why it’s important your kids stay safe. My parents crashed our car when I was ten-years-old. The SUV rolled three times, but the worst thing that happened to any of us was a bloody nose. Seatbelts really did save our lives that day. I tell my kids that now so they know how important it is to always buckle up. There are reasons for car and street safety laws and our kids should know what those reasons are.

Make it a Two Way Conversation

Asking questions can engrain subjects into your children’s minds. When they have to come up with an answer for themselves, it means that much more. Giving them the chance to think through a dangerous situation on their own will make them pause before making a bad choice. They’ll remember their answer before they choose something bad. It won’t prevent them every time, but it’s a good stepping stone.

Understand that They will Make Mistakes

No child is perfect, and no adult is either for that matter. You can push these things into your children’s minds, but ultimately the choice is theirs. They are going to make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t done your job as a parent. Sometimes the only way for children to learn is to make a mistake. Of course we don’t want harm to come to our children, and we only hope they won’t get seriously hurt, but don’t blame yourself if something terrible happens. The most important thing you can do is the teach them the best you can and be an example to them.

There is no guaranteed way to keep our children safe at all times. But we can impart our wisdom to them. Rules in the car and on the street are laughing matter, and children should know that. Teaching our children is tricky business, but it’s something that is important for their lives now and in their future. Never give up on helping your kids make good choices.

Ah, the wide open road. A place to contemplate the wonders of the world and enjoy the beauty of the earth. Unless you have kids. Then it’s more like hours upon hours of torture because they won’t stop fighting and they just have to go to the bathroom right now, even though you’re a good 30 miles from the next gas station.

Yes, taking a road trip with children can be hard, but that doesn’t mean it should be impossible. Although I can’t promise you a smooth ride, I can promise to give you a few tips to make things easier.

Be Prepared

The old boy scout motto applies to road trips for sure. Depending on your children’s age, have activities prepared for them. They will get bored of watching the DVD player, so make sure you’re ready for that. For my kids (who are two and four) I always pack a basket of toys, coloring books and crayons, and lots of little treats to keep them tied over.

For older kids consider puzzles and other games to keep their minds entertained. Find out what they might enjoy doing on the long car ride and make sure you have things handy.

Learn Some New Games

One of my fondest memories of childhood road trips involved playing games with my family. As a parent, I know how much I would just like to sit back and let the kids entertain themselves, but think of what a great opportunity it is to bond with your children. One of my most favorite games was looking for letters of the alphabet on road signs. We would have to find an ‘A’ then a ‘B’ etc. until we got to ‘Z’. I’m sure my parents appreciated this one as well because there would be long periods of silence while we concentrated on signs looking for a hard to get letter like ‘Q’ or ‘X’. It doesn’t hurt to have a few games in your arsenal should you need to keep the kids entertained.

Have a Backup Plan

We all want to have that image in our heads of everything going according to plan and no one being upset on the car ride to wherever it is you’re going. But road trips are unpredictable and therefore you should be flexible about your options. Sometimes you really do just need to get the kids out of the car and go for a walk to settle them down before hoping back in. I’ve found a little walk at every stops helps keep my kids from squirming too much the rest of the drive. It’s best to have a little breathing room in your driving schedule in order to keep the kids happy.

Road trips can be a fun and memory making experience for your kids. It doesn’t have to be something painful or just a way to get from point A to point B. It can be a truly rewarding experience that your kids will enjoy and cherish for a lifetime to come.

A few years ago my husband and I bought a 2001 Honda Civic. The previous owner had taken the liberty to add racing petals, Valcom decals, and an aftermarket sound system. My husband and I are a little more conservative than the previous owner so the racing petals and the decal were abruptly removed.

We kept the sound system.

I learned a few things having that sound system, the most important being, what I want in a sound system. The system the previous owner had chosen wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I thought that simply because it had a woofer, I would be able to turn the base up loud enough to shake the car.

Let’s just say this, not all sound systems are created equal. Besides the really annoying and distracting panel on the actual radio tuner, the woofer had little umph. My other car at the time was Nissan Altima and I was enjoying the sound system that came with that car more.

The fact of the matter is when it comes to choosing a sound system, make sure you aren’t getting taken. Just because it’s a woofer you can afford doesn’t mean it’s the right woofer for your car. If you want a kickin’ bass, you need to make sure you are getting something of higher quality.

Many aftermarket sounds systems do not have as a good a sound as the system already in your car. Make sure you test the sales associates and get something that will have better quality than you already have. Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting your money.

Do your research before you even walk into the store. Find out what systems people love and what systems lack that ‘it’ factor that makes the extra cost worth it. Don’t just get any old sound system for your image. Make sure you are getting the best ‘boom’ for your buck.

Making sure you are getting the right sound system is just as important as actually buying the car. No shortcuts should be taken because you think you’ve found a good deal. Your homework needs done before hand. Take your time, save your money, and do it right. That way you can be guaranteed to walk out of the store without worrying about buyer’s remorse.

I’ve done the research for my own needs and I came to the conclusion that I like the system that came with my car. It fit’s my needs exactly, since I’m not exactly riding low and trying to look cool. Not to mention how hard it would be to sell a minivan with an aftermarket sound system.

But even if I wasn’t driving a minivan, I might still stick with the sound system my car came with. More often than not, if you want to hear the music in best quality your cars stereo will have it.

You may do your research and come to the same conclusion, but the most important thing to remember is to do your research. Now go search for the system of your dreams, it will be worth it in the end!

Car buying can be a fun and excruciating process. Just the thought of what car is best for you can be difficult with the amount of choices out there. But whether you get an SUV or a minivan, a Toyota or a Honda, there are a few things that should be considered when buying a car.

Since not everything about buying a car is easy, here are three things to consider (no matter how annoying) before making the purchase.

Not all Interiors are Created Equal

That statement, no matter how obvious it may sound, has more to it than you might think. True, most would pick leather over fabric any day, but that’s not the main issue to consider (however great the issue may be). Some cars have ‘quirks’ about their interiors that are just plain, well, annoying.

I had a friend who wanted a certain car that shall remain unnamed. She believed it was her dream car, it had just the look she wanted, and it fit her needs. A couple years after buying it, she discovered something that really bothered her about the car. Lots of plastic parts that broke easily and were expensive to replace. It annoyed her to the point of selling the car and not wanting to own another one like it.

This can be easily avoided by looking up repair forums for the vehicle you want to purchase before buying the car. The average person has no problem venting online about everything that is wrong with their car, and it can make you a more informed consumer.

The Price of Parts

None of us want to face it, but cars break down. Those of us less mechanically inclined, like to buy new cars with warranties in hopes of avoiding a mechanical meltdown. But not all of us have the luxury of getting a new car, or purchasing a $5,000 warranty. For that category of people the price of parts matter. It’s not hard to research what common parts cost and it can make a difference down the road with the car.

It’s also something to consider if you are planning on keeping your car longer than your warranty. The price of parts might come back to haunt you, if you haven’t done your research first.

Previous Ownership and/or Recalls

Most dealerships these days include a Carfax report. It’s common sense to know where your car has been so you can judge how it will do in the future. But if you’re buying from a private seller, the research needs to be done before hand. When you talk to people on the phone about a car you’re interested in, don’t be shy about filling in the Carfax report. Yes, it does cost a little bit to run the report, but if you’re interested in it, the report is worth the cost. Many private sellers are printing out thier reports to show those interested in buying. But more often, they’re not. No matter how much we want everyone to be honest, they aren’t, so check the facts.

Also, a simple google search for the make and model of your car will show any recalls that may apply. It could save you some cash.

Where I grew up most kids had to purchase their own first car. For me that meant going in half-way with my brother and purchasing a 1986 Subaru GL. A clunker if there ever was one. It got us to and from school just fine, but we often fought about who got to take the car and hang out with friends.

Eventually the car became mine. My brother preferred driving my parents beat-up 1987 Suburban anyway. It was more manly. I took that opportunity to make the Subaru my own.

The first problem was that the radio didn’t work. Instead I pulled out a portable CD player (with a radio tuner) and got myself some cheap car speakers from Radio Shack, in bright yellow. I used Velcro to keep them to the dashboard, then hung various trinkets from the rearview mirror.

Alright, I know what you’re thinking. Is there a point to this post? Yes, and I promise I’ll get to it. The thing is, our first cars shape the way we drive. My first car was my freedom. I used to drive just for the sheer joy of it. Today, the practical side of me says that’s a waste of gas, but oh how I miss those days.

There is something about your first car that, no matter how beat up, makes you feel like you have the world at your fingertips. Unfortunately, the buzz fades.

Don’t tell me that you’ve been reading this post without thinking about your first car, because I know you have. Take a moment to let all the sweet memories sink in. Find that happy place of freedom and pull it inside you.

Doesn’t it feel good?

Back to my point. We don’t need to feel the exciting nervous jitters that we had with our first car. Learning how to drive and becoming comfortable with it is a good thing. But we do need to remember that driving is so much more than a chore.

How often are you on the road mumbling about how much you hate your commute, or the other drivers, or just wishing the guy in front of you would speed up already? My guess is, too much.

When did the magic of driving become something that is necessary and nothing more? When did we lose that high of gripping the wheel and feeling the power of the motor underneath the gas pedal? Driving is an amazing thing, something that should be treated with much more respect than it is.

Take that nostalgia of your first car and remember to be courteous on the road. Cars are still our freedom. Take note of how they improve your life. Yes, gas prices are crazy. Yes, cars break down. But could live without one?

It’s we were more grateful for cars and how they improve our lives rather than hinder it. Don’t forget the other drivers on the road either. All of us want to feel that driving euphoria again, but we can’t do that with angry and spiteful drivers.

It’s important that we see the good in driving and use it to our best ability.

Anyone who has been driving for any length of time has a complaint about driving. People drive too fast, people drive to slow. Those idiots don’t know how to merge. The light is green and no one is moving. Did that person really just cut me off? We could go for ages and ages about everything we hate on the road. But where is the good?

Is there any good when you are surrounded by people who don’t have the mental capacity to turn on a blinker? I’m getting frustrated just thinking about all the hazards on the road. I need to take a deep breath and step back to see the whole picture.

Driving is good. Before cars (and phones) you would probably spend the majority of your time with your family and you’re only contacts would be your neighbors. Most people worked on farms because they didn’t need to travel far to do it and it provided for all of their needs.

Because of cars we are able to do so much more. I wouldn’t mind having that closeness of neighborhood that used to exist before modern transportation, but at the same time, look at how the world has grown. Cars have enabled us to expand how we work and how we live. Who knows if we could have ever been able to enjoy things like curry and sushi without modern means of transporting items and paychecks rather than harvests.

The thing is, we lose sight of all that the invention of cars has done for us. Since it is part of our everyday culture, it’s lost the magic. Now when people get on the road they don’t marvel at where the car can take them, the only thing that matters is getting where you need to be, and getting there as fast as possible.

This can change. We don’t have to live in a world where people flip each other off and honk on their horns out of anger. We can change that. But it has to start with you.

Think about everything that bothers you when driving and start becoming the kind of driver you would like to see on the road. Let people in, instead of blocking the intersection. Slow down when you get around neighborhoods. Use your blinker well in advance, even if no one is around. Smile at other drivers rather than ignoring them.

We’ve all seen those ads that ask us to pass on service. We can do that on the road too. If we let someone in, they might be a little more forgiving to that driver who just cut them off. If we smile rather than flip someone off they might have a harder time getting mad at you.

It’s all about recognizing the drivers on the road as individuals, rather than just a group of things that exist purely to annoy you. We can have more courtesy on the road. The world can be a safe place to drive. But it has to start with you, and it has to start with me. Together we can change the world, or at least the road.

Being a mom of a two year old and a four year old, I know what it’s like to be a distracted driver. The kids are just begging for my attention and it’s hard to concentrate on the road when they are screaming at each other. But the fact remains that distracted driving is dangerous, really dangerous. I would put it up there with drunk driving. That may sound harsh, but most people don’t take it seriously enough.

There are so many things that can take away from driving, and it’s easy to let those things take you away. Especially when you commute the same route everyday and feels like you know how to do it with your eyes closed. DON’T CLOSE THOSE EYES! You need them whether or not you drive the same place surrounded by the same people every day.

The road is an unpredictable place that no one should take complacently. Here are a few things that are particularly dangerous.

Cell Phones

There is not a single person living in the United States who does not know what a hazard cell phones can be. Yet, I see people talking on their phones constantly. Not to mention texting. I knew a girl who told me she only stopped texting while driving after she got in two, yes, two accidents. Is that really what it takes to for us for use caution while driving? A near miss of an accident should shake us up enough to hang up our phones.

If you just have to talk while you drive. Please get a hands free set and keep it in your ear. For the sake of everyone’s safety, please. I know they look dumb and are quite uncomfortable, but it’s better than you swerving all over the road to answer the phone. To me, even talking on hands-free is dangerous because you still aren’t focused on the road. Be aware, and care about other drivers.

Music

Music is mostly good for drivers, it can help us stay alert when our eyes are drooping, a definite plus over having no music. But, and there is a but, when does music get out of control? Those cars driving down the street with the music pumping so loud they can’t hear their own horn honk. That’s dangerous. Image shouldn’t come second to good driving.

Music influences our actions. Turn on your favorite song and tell me you don’t feel something. It creates emotions, it can make us want to laugh or cry or just dance. It affects us while we drive as well. Sometimes a song comes on that just makes you want to push that gas petal, regardless of the speed limit. But we shouldn’t. Don’t stop listening, just start being aware of your actions during certain songs. Use cruise control if you need help keeping your foot off the gas.

Food

I love a good drive through as much as the next person, but food shouldn’t supersede good driving. If you can, find a place to park before you eat. If you can’t, don’t order anything messy. Your hands should be open to be on the wheel, not chowing down on a burger. Once again, awareness is key. Start thinking about how your actions are affecting those around you.

It never hurts to re-evaluate your driving habits to become safer. Take the time to take away the distractions so that we can all feel better on the road.

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