RepairPal Blog:

 General Interest

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

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, 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.

Automatically, without a doubt, the first thing I do when I get in a car is put on my seat belt. I am sure most of us do. But it wasn’t always that way. The first time the world even heard about seat belts was for their use by stunt pilots who flew upside down. The jump from that to making them standard in automobiles seems unlikely at best. So how did seat belts go from stunt planes to automobiles?

My late grandpa, whom I loved dearly, had lots of wonderful qualities—humor, intelligence, forethought, compassion—but being a good driver was not one of them. I remember riding in his car, white-knuckled, shooting worrying glances at my mother as we narrowly avoided perilous accidents and helpless pedestrians. My mom used to offer to drive, but he always refused, stubbornness being another one of his qualities.Even when I was young, I had a feeling he really shouldn’t be behind the wheel. When I got older and started diving myself, I knew he shouldn’t be behind the wheel. The issue of seniors driving is an important one, one that is going to get even more attention as the Baby Boomers hit their golden years.

Consumer Reports just published its 2010 Annual Auto Survey, which rates the reliability of foreign and domestic vehicles based on subscribers' experiences. While Toyota and Honda still dominate the list, some U.S. brands have made great strides in their reliability ratings. Here are some of the findings.Despite the recall of nearly 10 million vehicles over the past year for such problems as sticking brake pedals, defective electronic control modules, and leaky master cylinders, Toyota still tops the list of most reliable cars. Honda and Acura, which have both suffered many recalls as well, also remained at the top of the list. Other Asian models—the Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan—rated high in the report, but did not show big improvement over the previous year.

For as long as I have been driving, I have topped off my gas tank when refueling. I think I started doing it so I could be sure I had filled up my car all the way to the brim because refueling was always kind of annoying. I also remember topping off the tank so I could round off to an even dollar amount—for some reason, $26.00 seemed much better than $25.47.The other day though, I was filling up my car and when the pump clicked, I removed the nozzle, put it back in its holder, and went on my way. After nearly twenty years of driving, why would I suddenly change my mind?