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RepairPal Blog:

 General Interest

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

The year was 1991. The location—a vacant parking lot in Virginia. The mission … learn how to drive a stickshift.I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of my boyfriend’s Suzuki Samurai. He was teaching me how to drive a stick shift and as I sputtered and stalled my way through the parking lot in that tin box, I remember thinking—why does this have to be so hard? But after a while, I got the hang of it, and was glad I did. I knew that most people couldn’t drive a manual transmission, but I wanted to be one of the ones who did.

When I first turn on my car, I love it when all of the instrument panel lights illuminate briefly—they are so colorful. It’s kind of fun. Of course, it’s a relief once they go off, but one light seems to take a little longer to go out—the engine temperature light. Since it is a blue color, I assume it just means that the engine coolant is still a little cold and hasn’t reached proper operating temperature yet. And sure enough, once I have driven just a few blocks or so, it goes out. But since I worry about everything, I am wondering if I should let the engine warm up and the light go off before I start driving.

According to a recently published report that examined federal data on fatal car crashes conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and published in Traffic Injury Prevention, from 2005 to 2009, U.S. road fatalities dropped from 43,510 to 33,963, a drop of nearly 22 percent. Except for the reductions experienced during World War II, a drop of this magnitude in such a short period of time has not been seen since road safety statistics were first kept beginning in 1913. In short, it hasn’t been this safe to drive in peacetime America since Henry Ford introduced the assembly line.

The other night, I was suffering through the seemingly endless barrage of commercials in hopes of someday getting back to watching South Park when the strangest thing happened—I thought I heard the opening bars to the classic Judas Priest song, “The Hellion/Electric Eye.” Fearing I had fallen asleep and was having a Headbanger’s Ball flashback/fantasy, I sat up straight in my seat and turned up the volume.It was no fantasy. Here, on national television, the soaring twin solo guitars of Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing were shredding through my TV screen, taking me back to a time when all was right with the world, when heavy metal ruled and music was fun, when guys had prettier hair than girls and black leather and ripped T-shirts were the standard uniform, when only rock stars had tattoos and no one went to rehab.

Most warning lights are pretty simple to figure out—the battery light usually is a picture of a battery. The brake warning light usually says, “BRAKE.” And if the Check Engine Light comes on, it’s safe to say that you need to check your engine. But one light baffled me for a long time—the SRS light. I am sure you have seen it. It’s a picture of a person sitting in his seat, restrained by the seat belt, with what looks to be a giant beach ball resting on his lap. For the longest time, I tired to guess what that light was for. Sure, I could have looked it up, and when I started working here at RepairPal.com, I understood what it meant, but this was before and all I could focus on was why in the world does he have that huge ball on his lap?

It used to be that in America, you could buy a piece of furniture and it would last for one hundred years or a piece of clothing that would make it through more than one fashion season. Shoes would last for years and cars … well, what about cars?I once knew someone who owned a 1990 Honda Civic Hatchback CRX. Every week, Monday through Friday, he would commute eighty miles a day in that car, mostly highway miles. He didn’t invest a lot of money in it, nor did he lovingly wash and wax it every weekend. It was simply his mode of transportation—and it lasted over 300,000 miles. How long does the “average” car last? Right around 150,000 miles.

We all know the story—once you drive that brand new car off the lot, its value drops to below even what the dealer paid for it. Even though most of us aren’t thinking about the resale value of our new car when we sign the dotted line, we should be. No matter how much you love your new ride, there will probably be a time when you will have to part ways.So, what cars retain their worth? Kelley Blue Book teamed up with the Automotive Lease Guide (ALG) to rank 2011 models according to their resale value. Kelley Blue Book looked at the projected market value of 2011 models after five years and ALG projected residual values at the end of a three-year lease.

On Monday, we were looking at leasing a car versus buying a car. There are a lot of factors that go into this decision—let’s check them out.•    Like to drive a new car every few years

This weekend, we visited a Honda dealership where my partner’s uncle, Pete, works. We had been without wheels for a week since our car had been stolen and we were nearly out of our minds. We came to look at a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid. We had done all the research, crunched the numbers, and had decided this was going to be our new car. When we get to the dealership, turns out the car had been in an accident that caused damage to the front end—and—the work had never been reported on the CARFAX. We decided that maybe this Civic Hybrid wasn’t such a good idea after all. If they had managed to get front end damage repaired without it appearing on CARFAX, who knows what else was lurking under the hood.

Next month, the nation’s first mass-market electric cars will go on sale and while utility companies are happy for the revenue this will bring, they are also concerned about the impact it will have on the demand for electricity.When plugged into a standard 120-volt socket, an electric car can draw as much power as a small house. Some electric cars, like the first Nisssan Leafs and Chevy Volts set to be released in December 2010, will draw about 3,300 watts—for comparison, a microwave can draw about 1,000 watts. But Chevy and Nissan would like to boost that to 6,600 watts soon, so that the cars can charge faster. The Tesla Roadster can draw about 16,800 watts, which is the equivalent of 280 60-watt light bulbs.