Ideas for Old Tires

In the spring and summer, we think it’s great to have some fun projects in mind to keep ourselves outdoors and busy. For an auto-related upscale, look no further than the old tires you’ve had (or need to have) replaced.

Did you know that every year 290 million tires are discarded? But luckily for the environment (and for us), about 233 million of those tires are recycled in one way or another. For example, shredded tires can be used for playground surfaces, welcome mats, hot-melt asphalt, bark mulch, and even made into building materials for green construction. You can also recycle your own used tires by creating rustic and funky planters, tables, and more. Here are some ideas:

  • Do you have kids or grandkids? Do you have an old tractor tire or know someone with a farm or ranch in the Amarillo area? If so, fill a tractor tire with sand to make a great sandbox for kids, especially little boys who love farm equipment.
  • To make a cool planter with personality, stack a couple of tires on top of each other, bolt them together, and paint them a cheerful color (or two). Fill with dirt and plant your favorite flowers. (Just don’t grow vegetable plants in tires.)
  • Another way to do tire planters is to hang the tires and fill the bottom with dirt, or you can slightly embed them in the ground.
  • For fun and exercise, lay two rows of tires next to each other, somewhat staggered, and use them for broken-field running.
  • To make an instant patio table, bolt two tires together, paint them a fun color, and add a wood or glass top. We think a salvaged wood and salvaged tire table combo is whimsical, charming, and so much better than a generic patio table from the store.
  • Combine used tires with other building materials (and a little imagination), and you could set up an entire playground of climbing structures and obstacle courses.
  • And of course, we can’t leave out the classic repurposing of an old tire… what kid (or grownup) doesn’t love a tire swing? All you need is a rope and a tree, and sweet sunny afternoons.

Whatever you decide to do with your used tires, it’s important to recycle them somehow. (Definitely don’t leave them lying around, as old tires collect water and can quickly become mosquito breeding grounds in the summer.) Not only will you be doing your part to help the environment, you’ll likely have some fun in the process, and you’ll have something to show for it when you’re done.

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The Times They are a Fuel Filter Changin’

It’s possible you’ve heard changing a fuel filter is an easy job. (“You just need a screwdriver!”) However, any time you are handling raw fuel there is a risk of fire, and modern vehicles have fuel systems that are under a lot of pressure. The truth is changing a fuel filter used to be a relatively simple task. With newer cars it’s is much more difficult, and best left to an experienced mechanic. Read on to learn why.

DIYing a Fuel Filter Change isn’t Worth the Hassle or Hazard

On older vehicles, the fuel filter was located right in the engine compartment, making it easy to access and change. Since the 1980s and 90s, most fuel filters are located under the car on the frame rail, and some are located inside the gas tank. It’s also likely you’ll need more than just a screwdriver to get the job done. Removing a modern fuel filter often requires specific wrench sizes, and a lift makes a huge difference in getting the job done efficiently.shutterstock_330850982

There’s also the danger of handling raw fuel. If you don’t properly relieve built up pressure with the fuel pressure relief valve, when you loosen the fittings, fuel will spray everywhere. To stay safe, you also need to have some type of container to catch any gas that might leak out.

If it’s time to change your vehicle’s fuel filter, come by Aardvark Automotive to get the job done right, with no headaches, hassles, or hazards for you!

Back-to-School Safe Driving Tips

Already?!

Already?!

Kids are back to school on Monday, August 24—a big adjustment not only for children and parents but also for drivers on Amarillo roads. Traffic gets a little bit crazy during the school year, especially in the first few weeks as everyone gets used to buses everywhere, kids on bikes, and harried parents trying to drop their kids off before work.

When children are present, particularly before and after school, drivers must slow down and pay attention. Here are some more tips for driving safely during the back-to-school season and beyond.

Dropping Kids Off at School

Most schools have specific drop-off procedures for the school year. Make sure you know the rules for your child’s school and observe them for the safety of all kids. The following rules apply to all school zones:

  • Don’t double park (it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles).
  • Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school.
  • Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.

Sharing the Road with Young Pedestrians

According to the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, and they’re on foot—they are hit by the bus or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus. Here are precautions to keep young pedestrians safe:

  • Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you (this could put them in the path of moving traffic).
  • In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection.
  • Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.
  • Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas.
  • Don’t honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way.
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.
  • Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way.

Sharing the Road with School Buses

Watch for school buses starting Monday

Watch for school buses starting Monday

If you’re driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped to load to unload children. Here are some other guidelines for sharing the road with school buses:

  • Never pass a bus from behind (or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road) if it is stopped to load or unload children.
  • If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.
  • The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children (stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus).
  • Be alert at all times, as children are often unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.

Please follow these tips for a safe school year, and call Aardvark Automotive when you need auto repairs and maintenance!

Honor Earth Day with Eco-Friendly Car Care All Year Long

Did you give Mother Earth a little extra love yesterday? You can help protect the planet all year long by following a few simple strategies when it comes to driving and servicing your vehicle. Along with being good for the environment, these easy-to implement practices will help your car last longer and command a higher resale price.

Take care of your car; take care of the planet.

Take care of your car; take care of the planet.

  • Keep the engine running at peak performance. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30%. Replace filters and fluids as recommended in the owner’s manual.
  • Don’t ignore your “Check Engine” light. Today’s vehicles have much cleaner tailpipe emissions than they did 30 years ago, but a poorly running engine or faulty exhaust system will cause your vehicle to pollute much more than it would otherwise.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Not only will you reduce the engine’s effort and, thus, gasoline consumption, your tires will last longer too, saving you money and easing the burden at recycling centers.
  • Have your vehicle’s A/C serviced only by a technician certified to handle and recycle refrigerants. Older air conditioners contain ozone-depleting chemicals, which could be released into the atmosphere through improper service.
  • Avoid speeding and sudden accelerations. Both of these habits guzzle gas. When waiting for friends or family, shut off the engine. Consolidate daily errands to one trip to eliminate unnecessary driving.
  • Remove excess items from your vehicle. Less weight equals better gas mileage. If you have a roof-top luggage carrier, remove it when you’re not using it to reduce air drag too.
  • Make sure your auto repair shop properly disposes of engine fluids and batteries. Improperly disposed fluids, such as antifreeze can harm pets and wildlife.

Work Zone Hazards

Don’t Let Road Construction Do a Number on Your Vehicle

There’s always some kind of road construction going on in Amarillo, and with transportation officials announcing plans to work on the city traffic grid, we’ll likely see more construction projects begin over the course of 2015. While road construction will improve mobility and safety in the long term, in the short term, it can be tough on vehicles. Here are some tips on what to watch for when you’re frequently driving in work zones.

Symptoms of Road Damage

Loose stones and rough roads can harm your vehicle’s steering and suspension systems, and even throw out your alignment. Debris also has the potential to damage your vehicle’s exterior or windshield. The symptoms of steering and suspension or wheel alignment problems include:

  • Uneven tire wear
  • Pulling to one side
  • Noise and vibration while cornering
  • Loss of control

The main parts of the symptoms are shocks and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack/box, bearings, seals or hub units and tie rod ends.

Check Your Steering & Suspension

Have your vehicle checked immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms, as steering and suspension systems are key safety-related components significantly affecting your car’s ride and handling. Regardless of road conditions, these systems should be checked annually and a wheel alignment should be performed at the same time.

Drivers should also do frequent visual checks of their vehicle’s exterior and windshield to identify any chips, dings, or cracks. While these may seem like small problems, they can become costly repairs and safety hazards if they aren’t taken care of right away.

Stay Safe with Timely Repairs

Even the most careful driver, traveling slowly and cautiously through a construction zone, can hit an unexpected bump or other hazard. If you experience a problem, bring your vehicle to Aardvark Automotive, and we’ll make sure you’re in good shape to get back on the road.

Tips for Teenage Drivers

Teaching Teens Safe Driving Practices

Talk to Your Teens about Safe Driving

Talk to Your Teens about Safe Driving

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five 16-year-old drivers are involved in a car accident during their first year on the road. That’s about 20% of first-time drivers. And these accidents aren’t just minor fender benders. In the U.S., a classroom of teens dies each day as a result of motor vehicle crashes. This goes to show that while teens may think they know everything, it’s important for parents to teach and encourage safe driving practices.

What factors put teen drivers at risk?

Inexperience is the leading factor in traffic crashes involving young adults. Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations, and they also engage in risky driving behaviors, such as speeding and following too closely. Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use, with only 54% of high school students reporting they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.

In a nationwide survey, 24% of teens reported that within the previous month they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, and 8% reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period. At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash is greater for teens than for older drivers.

How can teen accidents be prevented?

Teach Teens Safe Driving Practices

Teach Teens Safe Driving Practices

Teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can help improve the safety of young drivers on the road. Here are five safe driving tips for teens that may seem obvious, but are often forgotten or disregarded:

1. Keep your hands on the wheel. Habitually keeping your hands on the wheel is not only important for navigation purposes, it can also help you avoid distractions. If your hands are on the wheel, they can’t wander to other places, such as your cell phone. Texting while driving takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road, putting both yourself and others in danger. If you’re easily tempted, shut your phone off entirely when getting in the car.

2. Know the speed limit. Speed limits are decided after careful evaluation and are selected based on the safest speed for each road. It is important to obey these speed limits in order to maintain full control of your vehicle. Cutting a few minutes from your drive is not worth the risk. To avoid speeding, leave to get to your destination a bit earlier than you would typically think necessary.

3. Be aware of each lane. It is important to know where you are in relation to other drivers. Every time you switch lanes, use your blinker promptly. Also, refrain from speeding up to get ahead of other cars. Unsafe lane changes often result in accidents.

4. Avoid slamming on your gas pedal or brake pedal. Learn to anticipate when you need to start and stop, so you don’t need to rush to make it happen. Not only is easing into a transition better for your car, it also makes you more aware of your surroundings. When a stoplight turns green, step on the gas pedal lightly at first and increase pressure slowly as you start moving forward. When approaching a stoplight, stop sign, or stopped traffic, begin applying pressure to your brakes from a distance, coming to a stop smoothly.

5. Don’t drive if you’re sleepy or emotional. We all know that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous. Your judgment and your response time are impaired. But we often forget that state of mind can affect driving ability as well. If you’re not feeling completely alert, awake, or focused, it’s a good idea to hold off on driving or have someone else drive you where you need to go.

 

Vehicle Recalls Prompt Auto Safety Bill

Automotive Safety & Rising Number of Recalls

This month, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Jay Rockefeller, introduced a bill to the U.S. Senate that would expand NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) authority to increase funding for automotive safety and recall unsafe vehicles. The bill was prompted by general vehicle safety concerns and recent recalls (such as General Motors’ recall on July 23 of over 800,000 cars and trucks.)

Increased NHTSA Transparency

Cadillac SRX

Cadillac SRX models were recalled as part of GM’s 800,000 vehicle recall.

Under the bill, the public would have improved access to NHTSA data and findings, such as:

  • customer satisfaction campaigns
  • customer advisories
  • recalls
  • consumer complaints
  • warranty claims
  • field reports
  • technical service bulletins
  • any other activity involving the repair or replacement of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment

The goal of increased NHTSA transparency is to help people become more aware of vehicle safety concerns, and in turn, to give automotive manufacturers greater incentive to build safe vehicles.

Early Warning Data

The bill also requires NHTSA to provide Congress with a report on the use of early warning data, which would evaluate the number of safety defect investigations opened by NHTSA based on early warning reports. The report would also look at the duration of each safety defect investigation and the percentage of the safety defect investigations that result in a safety defect or recall.

Increased Funding for Auto Safety

NHTSA would also receive additional funding for its vehicle safety programs under the bill. The funds would come from a manufacturer’s fee (based on automakers’ U.S. sales) of $3 per vehicle starting in 2015, increasing to $6 in 2016, and then $9 in 2017.

Learn more about the bill from this ASA blog. Aardvark Automotive is a proud member of the Automotive Service Association, the largest non-for-profit trade association dedicated to and governed by independent automotive service and repair professionals.