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Behind the Wheel

How Do I Know When My Car Is Out of Alignment?

February 14, 2020
Potholes: The unavoidable bane of every driver’s existence. Hitting even the smallest little divots in the road can pop a tire, damage your suspension and throw your alignment out of whack. And once your vehicle’s wheels get misaligned, a whole slew of new problems will begin to arise.

However, wheel alignment problems don’t always rear their ugly heads the moment you run through a pothole. In fact, because there are no warning lights to indicate a problem with your alignment, it can take an entire pothole-hitting season before you begin to notice the telltale signs and symptoms. So how can you tell when your car is out of alignment and in need of some professional TLC?
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Behind the Wheel

Road Salt Damage: Your Car’s Corrosive Nightmare

December 29, 2019
Every winter, our quaint, Midwestern town of Kansas City spends $20 million and employs anywhere from 100 to 200 salt trucks to de-ice the roads. That’s a lot of dough and hard work to ensure we commuters can drive safely. Yet, as necessary as road salt is for drivers’ safety, it’s a certifiable, rust-raving catastrophe for vehicles. Short of becoming a hermit or moving to a warmer area, you can’t avoid road salt—but you can reduce the chances of it damaging your car.

Why does road salt damage vehicles?

It’s all science, really.

Road salt—typically sodium chloride—mixes with ice—solid dihydrogen monoxide—to lower the molecules’ freezing point and melt ice and snow. But as sodium and chlorine ions disengage to do their oxidation jobs, they become food for metals, particularly iron and steel. The addition of free hydrogen molecules, as well as other chemicals, only increases the corrosive effect road salt has on a vehicle’s frame. Continue Reading…
Behind the Wheel

7 Best Car Maintenance Reminder Apps for Android & iPhone

November 13, 2019
Here’s the deal: As someone who lives and breathes automotive, I should be caught up on all my car’s maintenance tasks. After all, I realize that getting my vehicle serviced regularly is the best way to keep it on the road. But life, as it turns out, always moves too quickly around the time my next service is due, resulting in a missed service appointment or two. Shame on me, I know.

But that was before I really embraced that phone I keep in my back pocket. With an auto maintenance app, I’ve learned that I can get by with a little help from my AI friends. (Thank the techie gods for smartphones!)

If you’ve been neglecting your vehicle, it’s time to overload it with some TLC. These 7 car maintenance apps for iPhone and Android should help with the “C” part—the “T” and “L” are all on you.


Free myCARFAX app

1. Free myCARFAX

CARFAX’s free car maintenance app alerts users when it’s time for any scheduled maintenance, including oil changes, tire rotations, and routine service. Users can add and track service for up to 8 vehicles by searching their VIN, making it a very simple auto maintenance reminder apps to use. And when it’s time to visit a mechanic or service center, the application can point you toward your car dealer or the closest auto repair shop near you.

Best for: Personal

Price: Free

Download: Android | iPhone

AUTOsist Car & Fleet Maintenance

2. AUTOsist Car & Fleet Maintenance

An amazing app for commercial vehicle fleets, AUTOsist micromanages everything so fleet managers don’t have to worry about downtime, costs, or inefficiencies. Users can manage multiple vehicles—this includes cars, trailers, boats, and any other asset—and receive reminders when service is due. Records are synced to the cloud, too, so service history is always backed up, shareable, and exportable. Its monthly subscription fee is nominal, making it a great choice for businesses. (The free version is a great choice, as well.)

Best for: Business & Fleet Owners

Price: Free-$49.99

Download: Android | iPhone

Digital Glovebox

3. Digital Glovebox

Like most applications, Digital Glovebox provides a paperless service history of multiple vehicles (up to 3). What sets Digital Glovebox apart from other car maintenance apps is its user-first approach. Some apps require users to utilize an in-network auto repair facility in order to track service and maintenance records. Digital Glovebox enables users to create records no matter how or where maintenance was performed. With the program, you can even schedule an appointment at a service center or shop of your choosing, and track service for anything, including machinery and motorcycles.

Best for: Personal

Price: Free

Download: Android | iPhone

Simply Auto by Mobifolio

4. Simply Auto by Mobifolio

Simply Auto: Car Maintenance & Mileage Tracker is a quality app that acts as your vehicle’s know-it-all buddy. The application allows you to manage nearly every aspect of vehicle maintenance. You can set recurring service reminders based date or mileage, attach fuel receipts for business expense reports, and analyze your vehicle’s gas consumption over time. The app, with its cloud-sync feature, also allows users to track multiple vehicles. And when it’s time for resale, these reports can be transferred to new owners.

Best for: Commercial or Fleet

Price: Free – $10

Download: Android | iPhone

motolog Mileage Tracker, Vehicle Log & Fuel Economy

5. motolog Mileage Tracker, Vehicle Log & Fuel Economy

Easily track your fuel and service expenses with motolog’s Mileage Tracker, Vehicle Log & Fuel Economy App. Solely available for Android devices, this vehicle maintenance app not only keeps records of service and fill-ups, but it also features GPS tracking software that can be paired straight through your car’s Bluetooth. Best of all, the GPS software automatically starts and stops when your vehicle does, so you’re always recording accurate data. When service is needed, the Android app notifies you.

Best for: Personal & Business

Price: Free-$0.99

Download: Android

Auto Care 1

6. Auto Care 1

For just $5 a month, you can track and manage as many vehicles as necessary via your iPhone or iPad tablet. Everything’s backed up on Apple’s iCloud, including refueling reports, service history, costs, and fuel economy statistics. Service reminders are provided at customized intervals. It also supports multiple languages and Family Sharing, the latter of which allows up to 6 family members to use the app in its entirety.

Best for: Business & Personal

Price: $4.99

Download: iPhone

Aurum Car Management

7. Aurum Car Management

If you don’t mind a few grammatic errors — we all make missteaks, right? – this free car maintenance reminder app for Android may be your cup o’ tea. The app tracks service and replacement parts, of course, and adds visual cues (car meter indicators) when service is needed. It even informs you of upcoming insurance renewals, registration renewals, and emissions inspections. Its unique software utilizes an algorithm to detect service dates based on your input and the vehicle’s make and model. Or, if you’d prefer a more hands-on approach, you can even add service reminders manually.

Best for: Personal

Price: Free

Download: Android

Other Car Service Reminder Apps

Newer vehicles have advanced systems in place that make vehicle maintenance simpler—and those systems are all accessible via a smartphone app (typically). Take a look at these few examples:
  • NissanConnect® – Available in select Nissan models starting in 2016, NissanConnect provides Scheduled Maintenance Notifications, Maintenance Alerts, and Vehicle Health Reports.
  • Hyundai Blue Link® – Hyundai’s On-Demand Diagnostics and Alerts feature allows you to run a full vehicle diagnostic check-up and schedule service with the tap of a button. Maintenance notifications are delivered by email, as well.
  • myChevrolet – GM’s car maintenance app has a Vehicle Status feature that monitors and tracks everything from oil life to tire pressure. When service is due, easily schedule an appointment through the app.
  • Toyota Owners – Access model-specific info, locate dealer service offers, and keep track of maintenance or parts through the Toyota Owners app.
  • MySubaru – Subscribed users can utilize SUBARU STARLINK® to receive vehicle service notifications in real-time, among other perks.
  Whether you’re too busy to remember oil changes or you feel like keeping a vehicle maintenance log is adult-sized homework, I promise there’s an app that’ll keep you on the straight and narrow. You’ve just got to pop into the app store for a test drive (or ten).

Did I miss your favorite? Hit me up with any other awesome apps that you’ve used to ensure your spare tires stay spare tires. I’m all ears.


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Behind the Wheel

11 Things to Do Immediately After a Car Accident

October 25, 2019
You’ve just been in your first automobile accident. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic. Collect yourself. Over 6 million people get through car crashes every year, and you can too. Here are the 11 most important things to do immediately following a car accident or collision:

1. Don’t Leave!

Even if the accident seems minor, don’t flee the scene of the accident. This is illegal, and you could be cited for a misdemeanor hit-and-run even if you weren’t the cause of the crash. This misdemeanor will come with a large fine and potentially even jail time, and if someone has been injured in that accident, you may be charged with a felony.

If you see a car speed away from the scene, go full Sherlock Holmes and mentally jot down the vehicle’s make, model, and license plate number. With any luck, police will investigate and substantiate your claim of a hit-and-run. Continue Reading…
Behind the Wheel

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

October 10, 2019
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…
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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Behind the Wheel

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

May 23, 2019
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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Behind the Wheel, Car Culture

Headlights FAQ: “What’s Wrong with My Car’s Lights?”

February 28, 2019
Having problems with your car’s headlights? Millions of car owners around the world are right there with you, shoddy headlamps and all. But if you’ve got questions related to your vehicle headlights, I’ve got answers—and solutions—that should put those problems in your rearview.

Why are my headlights so dim?

You’re in some automotive Twilight Zone episode, sitting between “headlights quit working” and “headlights are too bright” dimensions. Fortunately, getting out of this paranormal predicament is fairly simple. Although bad headlight switches and alternators can cause issues with hazy headlamps, dim headlights are usually caused by either old-bulb filaments or corroded ground wires.

  • To diagnose your headlight ailment, open your headlamp assembly and inspect the bulb. Notice any gray, brown, or black residue inside? If so, purchase new lights from your dealer or at a headlight store, and replace those suckers.
  • If your headlight bulbs look clear, check under the hood. Follow your headlight’s wires back to where they connect to the vehicle. With a wrench, unscrew the ground cable from its point of connection. Use a wire brush to scrub away any corrosion or dirt. Reconnect the cables and inspect your light’s brightness.
  • If neither solution solves your problem, consider taking a trip to your auto service center. They’ll help.

Why are headlights so bright?

If you feel like car headlights are getting brighter each year, you’re not crazy. With LED, halogen, HID, and xenon technology becoming a new norm, high-intensity headlights on the road today can cause temporary blindness, or “road dazzle,” putting other drivers at risk. Continue Reading…
Behind the Wheel

4 Vehicle Maintenance Skills Every Car Owner Should Learn

January 30, 2019
Tinkering with the car is a favorite pastime for some individuals. But most of us just want the car to start when we turn on the engine, stop when we hit the brakes, and get us to where we are going with no hassle. Owning a car requires a little more from us if we want to avoid frustrating delays, total dependence on road service, and being stuck in sticky situations. Here are the most important car maintenance skills anyone can and should learn.

  1. Check Tire Pressure

Checking your tire pressure is a critical skill to have. Regular pressure checks are the best way to ensure your tires are running at the optimal PSI and are not leaking air, which would obviously mean a flat tire is in your future. Continue Reading…
Behind the Wheel

Where to Report Curb Damage Near Kansas City

January 16, 2019
Potholes cause approximately $3 billion in vehicle damage per year, but let’s not forget about what curbs can do to tires, rims, and suspensions. One round with a busted curb has the potential to cause some serious damage to your vehicle. We’re talking about misaligned wheels, perforated mufflers, broken tie rods, pierced transmission cases, punctured tires. Do you really want to deal with those problems? I think not!

If you’re concerned about a specific pesky curb damaging your car in Kansas City or a neighboring city, it’s in your best interest to report it pronto. Here’s a HUGE list of official contacts and websites to submit street repair requests in Blue Springs, Sugar Creek, and everywhere in between. Continue Reading…