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RepairPal Blog:

 General Interest

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

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 Overstock.com 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.

The number of traffic-related deaths has dropped to a record-breaking low, according to U.S. Department of Transportation report, released today. In 2009, highway deaths fell to 33,808, the lowest number since 1950, when the government began keeping track of traffic fatalities. The drop occurred even though travel increased in 2009 by 0.2 percent over 2008. Additionally, 2009 saw 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles—the lowest rate ever recorded.

Now that everyone in my social circle knows that I spend far too much of my life thinking about auto repair, I get a lot of car-related email and news--which is great!  There's a lot of it. I was just sent this auto repair shop advertisement from a 1928 newspaper, and while I can't verify that it is authentic, but for fun, let's just assume that it is.

For years I have taken it for granted that there had to be different grades of gasoline at the pump in order for your vehicle to run properly.  I used to drive a very high performance Camaro that required the highest octane fuel available because this vehicle had over 300 horsepower after it had been modified and Dynamometer tuned by a well known speed shop.  It was one of the original 1967 Z28 Camaros with the famous 302 cubic inch engine.  For years I have been filling up my vehicles with middle-grade, 89 octane fuel, even though it costs more than the basic 87 octane gasoline.  No more, and I will tell you why. I began following work from Bill Wattenburg, a well-known radio personality and scientist who has worked at the Lawrence Livermore Research Labs and at UC Berkeley teaching both Physics and Electrical Engineering.  He began speaking about the fact that the modern vehicles, especially the ones with Direct Ignition Systems and without Distributors, are required to pass a very stringent EPA-conducted test in order to be sold in the US.

According to the AAA, the depressed economy is keeping more people closer to home this holiday season. The number of Americans who plan to travel this season dropped 2.1% over last year. In fact, the U.S. hasn’t seen a drop in holiday travel plans since 2002.What’s interesting is that the average price of gas in the U.S. is $1.81 – that’s $1.39 LESS than this time last year.  Wouldn’t one assume that such a significant drop in gas prices would actually encourage more folks to travel?