RepairPal Blog:

 General Interest

Gas prices? The future of hybrids? Find out what's in the news today!

The first time I got behind the wheel of a car, I was 14. As a freshman, I made the varsity soccer team, so I was hanging out with girls who were much older than I was—girls who also enjoyed having a few beers on the weekends. I was out with some friends one night and they didn’t want to drink and drive, so I was unceremoniously put behind the wheel—luckily, no one got hurt. No one in their right mind would say that a 14-year-old is old enough or mature enough to drive, but I was fine and went on to become a safe and responsible driver when I got my license at 16. Things were also very different back then—no cell phones to talk or text on, for one thing. I also remember a school assembly where we were shown the morgue photos of a drunk driving victim—those images will never leave me and scared the crap out of me. I wonder if schools are so direct these days.

I remember a couple of years ago when the automobile industry couldn’t give away cars and companies started offering all kinds of incentives to get people to buy their vehicles. Like, if you lost your job, you could return your car, no questions asked. Some companies promised you could return your car in sixty days if you simply weren’t happy with it. Others would buy your gas for a year. Or you could get a $5000 rebate on the spot. How about interest-free financing for sixty months—that’s five years! It was a sweet time to buy a car.Now that things have calmed down (a bit) and the industry is slowly rebounding, those deals have gone the way of Yugo, but that isn’t to say there aren’t still good incentive programs. Here are some of the top free scheduled maintenance programs, one of the best incentives you can find today.

Parking in San Francisco is nothing short of a nightmare. I actually live in one of the easiest areas to park in—Twin Peaks—where there is no monthly fee/sticker for parking, but I often find myself circling the streets, searching for the elusive perfect spot. Don’t get me started on the Financial District, the Powell Street area, or the Castro—it’s more likely I would find a four-leaf clover springing up through a crack in the sidewalk than a meter anywhere near my destination. And if I did happen to find a meter, I have about 6.5 seconds to do my business before the meter expires and I get slapped with a huge fine.Think I am exaggerating? I’m not.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. Eating carrots improves your eyesight. A watched pot never boils. If you swallow gum, it will live in your belly forever. We’ve all heard these old wives’ tales since we were little, but which ones should we believe and which ones are simply fairytales?As far as car-related old wives’ tales go, none is more enduring than the recommendation that you must change your oil every three months or three thousand miles—whichever comes first. Obviously, your car won't grind to a halt if you wait until your 3,001st mile to change your oil, but does this adage hold true? And if so, are you damaging your vehicle if you wait too long?

We’ve all heard it—that nails-on-the-chalkboard-horror-movie-screeching sound brakes make when they have passed their prime. Where I live, I am pretty confident there is an unwritten rule that all cabs must emit this horrific squeal. You don’t even need to look for a cab in the city—you could walk outside blindfolded, listen for the screaming brakes, hold up your hand, and voila! Your cab has arrived.Even though cab drivers are deaf or just don’t bother to repair their brakes until they drop from the bottom of their vehicles, it’s not a good idea for the rest of us to ignore brake screeching. They are making noise for a reason, and it’s never a good one. Learn more >>

Last night, I traveled from San Francisco to Oakland to pick up my partner from the airport. On the stretch of 880 from downtown Oakland to the airport, the road conditions were so bad, I felt like I was riding a bucking bronco. At some points, I swear my tires left the road. Going the speed limit actually felt too fast. With what I pay in taxes out here, I expect better—or at least not to fear for my life every time I hit the highway. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s driven on a highway lately that our nation’s roads are in poor condition, but a report released last week by TRIP, a transportation research group, reveals that nearly a quarter of the country’s major urban roads are in substandard or poor condition.

When it comes to just about anything, people want to save money, and if we can save the environment along with money, all the better. While people buy hybrids for many reasons (they pollute less, buying one helps support new technology, you can sleep better at night), one reason many people purchase hybrids is because they save money. But do they really? Unfortunately, the initial sticker price will almost always be higher on a hybrid than its traditional cousin. Take the Honda Civic for example—the basic hybrid starts at around $22,000, while the regular Civic starts at around $15,000. You would have to load up the regular Civic with tons of options just to reach the starting price for the most basic hybrid.

Last night, my partner and I were looking on for home furnishings. We are moving in together this month and needed to buy a coffee table, a TV stand, a rug, and some bed linens. After a lot of vetoing and discussions over the merits of the color yellow, we submitted the order. We dropped nearly $800 and never even left the house—weird. Though I appreciate the convenience and the reduction in shopping time that the Internet provides, I also kind of miss going into an actual store. Sure, we saved many hours by shopping online, but what about the experience of touching a piece of furniture and running your hand along the grain of the wood? What about plopping down onto the floor model bed and rolling around on the comforter? When we bought our couch, we sat down on every single one until we found ours—and it was fun!

Back in 2002, I left California with my bandmate to head out to Nashville to pursue a music career. Driving a U-Haul and towing a car with our four cats, we set out one afternoon full of excitement and anticipation.After eight hours of driving, we were still in California, and much less excited, but we had a deadline, so we decided to drive through the night. The worst part of the drive was through Flagstaff Arizona at like 4:00 in the morning. It was snowing and the roadway had an erie white glow that was both enchanting and soothing—it was lulling me to sleep.

New California Law Aims to Save Fuel and Tires On September 1, 2010, a new law was enacted in California that is expected to save 75 million gallons of gasoline and 700,000 tires each year.