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RepairPal Blog:

General Interest

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

I think I have mentioned before that I am a worrywart. And now that the rain has started again in the Bay Area after lying dormant for eight months, I am worried about my tires, especially after doing an unintentional little squealy at a light the other day. How do I know when it’s time for me to change my tires? Can I look at the tread and know? Do I replace them after a certain time? After a certain amount of mileage? Does it depend on where I live?

I wanted to tackle this subject before it rains again, which might be as early as this weekend. Here’s what I came up with.

When most of us heard about the recent death of celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan due to texting while driving, we were saddened, but not surprised. Many of us thought that Twittering about a dog while navigating the sharp curves of a Malibu highway was an unfortunate way to go, but few of us could judge him considering how often we do it ourselves. A recent study revealed that 81 percent of drivers admit to texting while driving—and that’s just those who admit it.

Here are the facts:

When I first started driving, I was worried about everything. What if I have to parallel park? What if I hit something when driving through a tollbooth? What if I get stuck on a big hill with a manual transmission? What if I start to skid on black ice? Do I turn into the skid? Away from it?

I have mentioned before that I am a worrywart, but luckily, most of those car-related fears have gone away in my nearly twenty-year driving career.

The constant and erratic rise and fall of gas prices over the last few years has always bothered me. During this time, we have never experienced gas shortages like we saw in the 1970s, yet “supply and demand” has always been blamed for the rise and fall of oil prices. I find it hard to believe that simple “supply and demand” can cause oil prices to change so quickly and dramatically, especially when the available supply of gasoline has remained steady.

Common sense suggests there is more to this than just supply and demand. It is my belief that speculation in the oil futures market is what has caused the dramatic rise and fall of gas prices over the last few years.

Even after all of the discounts for being a good driver, having home owner’s insurance, and being a long-time customer, Americans still pay an average of $1,000 a year for auto insurance and rates have been climbing even faster than inflation in the past few years. So, how do we keep up? What discounts are on the horizon?

Apparently, the next big step in reducing the cost of auto insurance will be the installation of new driving monitoring systems, such as in-car video cameras. Various systems, including GM’s OnStar, have already been checking up on drivers, including how many miles they have driven, but the new technologies will go further—much further—by gathering data on how people drive.

I am a lucky girl. I don't have to go into the office that much, and when I do, it's a reverse commute. I have to drive from San Francisco to Emeryville in the Bay Area of CA, and while I am driving a steady speed, I see the poor folks who have to sit in traffic on the Bay Bridge, at the toll booths, and all of the arteries that feed into the bridge. It's awful; they barely move and there's nothing they can do about it.

I can't imagine having to do that five days a week. Something inside me would break and I am extremely fortunate to have a job that lends itself to telecommuting. But some folks don't have a choice, and I always wonder what they do to entertain themselves and keep from going crazy, having to do that day in and day out.

Recalls are rampant. As a shop owner, I get daily email updates about recalls and they are starting to fill up my inbox. For many of us, purchasing a car is one of the most expensive decisions we will make in our entire lives—shouldn't it be worth it?

At least we know that under federal law, auto dealers cannot sell vehicles that have been recalled, but did you know that this restriction does not extend to rental cars? Whenever you rent a car, you could be driving around in one that has been recalled.

When my best buddy, David, moved his family into a new place in Orange County, CA, he was curiously excited about giving me a tour. When I finally made it down there, we took about thirty seconds to check out the three-bedroom townhouse before he beckoned me out the back door.

Off the back patio, we came to the garage door and his smile widened when he said, "Check this out ..."

When I was seventeen years old, I was driving in Virginia on a cold winter day. Though it wasn't snowing at the time, there was ice and snow on the road. People were generally moving the speed limit, which was about 55mph.

In the car with me was my best friend, Jan. We were following her parents, on our way to a weekend getaway. Everything was going well ... until a sea of red brake lights suddenly appeared before me. I had no choice but to slam on the brakes, something I had never done before in my short driving career.

On Wednesday, crude oil prices jumped to more than $100 a barrel for the first time since September, 2008. Analysts believe that the instability and fighting near key oil ports in Libya is to blame and worry that the fighting might go on longer than previously thought, which could inspire unrest in surrounding areas.

While there is enough oil in storage worldwide to meet short term needs, a prolonged Libyan conflict could drive oil prices even higher. Helima L. Croft, an oil and Africa analyst at Barclay's Capital, says, "The conventional wisdom a week ago was that Gaddafi would go in a week. But now, Gaddafi is digging in and is holed up in Tripoli with African mercenaries. ... So there could be a significant outage for a significant period of time."