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Behind the Wheel

Locked Out? Here’s How to Unlock Your Car with a Smartphone

October 10, 2019
Open-locked-car-smartphone
In your rush to make that hot yoga session in time, you grabbed your smartphone but accidentally locked your keys in the car. Now you can see them on the driver’s seat, mocking you. Yep—you’re in quite the pickle.

Hey, don’t beat yourself up, mon ami. Millions of drivers lock themselves out of their cars every year. Heck, I’ve even made that mistake before. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Still, there’s the task of unlocking the car to see to, and it’s certainly not an easy one. Here are some options to unlock the doors so that you can give your car keys a stern talking-to.

Unlock with a Smartphone App

There’s an urban legend going around that you can magically unlock newer cars by calling someone who has your spare key fob. Sorry to burst your bubble, but this doesn’t work. Like, not at all. Remote keyless entry systems operate at a certain frequency, much lower than that of mobile phones, which makes it impossible for a phone to transmit the key fob’s signal to your car. The talented Mythbusters even proved this, and who would dare argue with them?

However, if you’ve got a new-ish vehicle with a remote keyless entry system, you may be able to use a smartphone app to unlock your car. (Thank you, technology!) Here are the most popular car apps to help you on your way. Continue Reading…
Money Matters

How to Get the Best Car Insurance Rates & Discounts

September 23, 2019
Best-Car-Insurance-Rates

All auto insurance companies have competitive rates. However, some companies are catered to low-risk drivers, and others are cheaper for high-risk drivers. Although Sally from Accounting swears by Insurance Company A, you may find that Insurance Company B offers better rates. It’s not because Sally is a terrible person who wants you to pay more for insurance; it may just be that she’s a high-risk driver while you’re a low-risk driver.

To ensure you’re getting the best and cheapest auto insurance policy possible, don’t just rely on Sally’s advice. Instead, do your research and read these people’s anecdotes. Car insurance discounts are in your future—I can feel it.

 

Take a Defensive Driving Class

“Years ago, I took defensive driving classes at a local police department. The classes ran about 90 minutes each, once per week, for a full month. After completing the course, I received a certificate and faxed it over to my auto insurance agent. That discount knocked about $25 off my monthly premium, and the class was $25.” – Jacob

Check for defensive driving courses in your area here.

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Under the Hood

Motor Oil FAQ: How to Properly Dispose of Used Car Oil

September 9, 2019
Motor-Oil-FAQ

So, you’re sticking it to the man and changing your car’s oil at home? Good for you, you savvy DIY-er! But if it’s your first time performing an oil change, you might have some questions about the “disposal” process that typical how-to YouTube videos won’t answer. Before you simply toss out that motor oil and filter, it’s important to realize that just 4 quarts of motor oil—the average amount coursing through the veins of standard SUVs—can contaminate 1 million gallons of water. Do you really want that hanging on your conscience? I think not.

Read through these FAQs to ensure your conscience—and the environment—stays clean as a whistle.

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Behind the Wheel

Are Car Dashboard Cameras Legal in Kansas City? Here’s The Lowdown

August 22, 2019
Dash Cams Legal Kansas City

Unlike cassette adapters, fuzzy dice, and automatic seat belts, the car dashboard camera – or “dash cam” if you’re one of the cool kids – is no fad. As a matter of fad-ct, these little gizmos are some of the most useful car accessories I’ve come across in all my years behind the wheel. They can be installed in any vehicle. They are surprisingly affordable. They are incredibly simple to use. And the footage they film can help drivers win their insurance claims — or sometimes even put the kibosh on an insurance scam altogether.

Yeah, my love of dash cams is (now) well-documented. But are they illegal to use here in Kansas City? Here’s everything you should know before you go and buy a dashboard camera for your vehicle.

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Under the Hood

How to Buy the Right Car Tires: 15 Expert Tips

August 9, 2019
Car-Tire-Buying-Tips

Like any first-time purchase, buying a set of new tires can be quite nerve-racking. You’ve got to worry about things like tire brand, ratings and grades, longevity, size, tread, type, price, retailer, installer – and the list goes on. Yikes! But don’t worry, friend, because I’m here to help you make the right call. Review these 15 how-to tips for choosing the best tires for your car, and drive onward.

Check Your Tire Tread

When should you replace your tires? Perform the Penny Test (or similar) to see how much tread you have left. This will give you an idea of when you’ll need to install new tires.

Say “No” to Used Tires

Yes, used tires are cheaper. Yes, cheap tires are attractive to anyone on a budget. Yes, old tires will probably work in a pinch.

But used tires are also dangerous – you never know what they’ve been through or how much longer they have left to live! It’s always better to install new tires, even if your pockets don’t like it. Safety first.

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Under the Hood

Do Retail Dent Pullers Really Work?

July 19, 2019
Do-Dent-Pullers-Really-Work

Some goon smacked a shopping cart into your bumper. Bummer. Instead of bringing your vehicle to an auto body shop for a quick repair, you decide to go the DIY route by purchasing a retail dent puller gizmo. But do these cheap dent removal kits actually fix car dents, dings, and dimples? Or are you just wasting your money?

For the most part, these simple dent repair kits only fix minor dings in certain areas of a vehicle. They require the area around the damage to be flat, thin, and flexible, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to pull a dent out of bumpers, fenders, mirrors, and other angular parts of your vehicle. But, if you have a small depression in your hood or door, these products can save you money on repairs.

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Under the Hood

Identify What Fluid Is Leaking from Your Car by Color

July 10, 2019
car-fluid-leaks

What’s black, white, and red all over? If you said, “my driveway,” then your car may be leaking…something. But what, exactly, is that hideous pool of liquid?

Don’t go dipping your pinky in a puddle of driveway-goo. There’s an easier way to figure out what your car is leaking; unless you’re colorblind, you can probably identify car fluid drips by eye. In fact, you don’t even need a particularly well-trained eye to get to the bottom of a car leak, as there are only a handful of fluids that could be the culprit.

Dark or Black Fluid Leaks

Brown, amber, or black fluids, especially when sludgy or thick, usually indicate an engine oil leak. (The smoking gun is if soaks into the ground and stains it black.)

Cars can leak oil – this is just a fact. Typically, a little drop of engine oil is not serious enough to warrant a trip to your auto mechanic. Your car’s oil may seep out of your oil filter’s gasket or seal if it’s not fastened well enough. Apply some elbow grease and you should be good to go.

However, drips can be a sign that something is awry under your car. If your car continues to leak oil, you could have a punctured oil pan, faulty oil filter, corroded drain plug, or any number of damaged car parts. A visit to your auto service center or a local oil change shop should set you straight.

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Under the Hood

10 Essential Electric Vehicle Maintenance & Service Tips

June 20, 2019
Electric-Vehicle-Maintenance

Electric cars are a rare breed within the auto world. Unlike “normal” cars, EVs don’t require regular oil changes, nor do they need new spark plugs or yearly emissions inspections. Heck, it’s unusual to even change the brakes on an EV thanks to regenerative braking technology and the electric motor’s ability to stop without any mechanically based friction. They truly are works of art that also reduce auto maintenance costs significantly.

While electric car maintenance is easier and costs less than that of gas-powered vehicles, it doesn’t mean EV owners can forego trips to their local auto service center. Electric vehicles have their own list of auto service demands – some of which are shared with conventional vehicles – and if those demands are not met, you can assume a very costly repair will be right around the corner. Here are 10 of the most vital EV maintenance tasks that should never be skipped.

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Car fun

Auto Parts 101: Car Component Functions & Terminology

June 10, 2019
car-parts

Can you name any of these car parts? Take the quiz; I’ll wait.

So, how’d you fare? Are you as knowledgeable as a mechanic or did you flunk your exam in spectacular fashion? If you’re part of the latter group, it’s time to enroll at the Lauren McCarthy Online Summer School, where you’ll receive an introductory lesson on the most common car parts and how they function to make a vehicle do what vehicles do.

And when I say “enroll,” I of course mean “review this huge list of car parts and terms that I’ve compiled.”

auto-parts

1. Turbocharger – The function of a turbocharger is to significantly increase an engine’s horsepower without affecting its overall weight. How does it work? They are a forced induction system that compresses the air going into the engine. When the air is compressed it allows the engine to squeeze more air into the cylinder. This, in turn, allows more fuel to be added, which then results in a powerful explosion in each cylinder.

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Behind the Wheel

Kansas & Missouri Child Car Seat Laws by Age, Height & Weight

May 23, 2019
child-car-seat-laws-mo-ks
Every state has crafted its own set of child car seat laws. For instance, Florida’s laws are quite lax, allowing kids older than age 5 to be fastened with a seat belt, whereas New York’s laws strictly state children through age 8 must be secured in a child safety restraint system. (To each their own, eh?)

But what about child car seat laws in Missouri and Kansas? Are you buckling up your child properly? To ensure your kids are safe in their infant, convertible, or booster seats, review the states’ most recent child passenger safety and restraint laws by age, weight, and height.

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