A Closer Look At The Bandit Towing Scam

As much as we would like to believe that the world is good and full of goodness, we must be very practical. It is well and good to believe the best in people but that doesn’t mean we should be remiss in arming ourselves with the necessary knowledge to protect our property.

In this context, we’ll be speaking of towing scams. You can never be too careful when it comes to taking care of your vehicle. It is a fact of life that there are dishonest tow truck operators that don’t even think twice about hauling away more than illegally parked cars. Today, we’ll be talking about a very real towing scam that still persists today.

The Bandit Tow Scam

This refers to unscrupulous tow truck operators that tow anyone away from business parking lots, even legitimate customers that do have the right to park there.  “Bandit” tow truck operators are differentiated from legitimate tow operators in their practice of monitoring private parking lots in order to tow away vehicles whose owners are not patrons of the businesses associated with that lot. Often, the tow operators dismiss the fact that the car owner does patronize a business associated with the lot before going elsewhere.

It is not uncommon for local police departments to receive complaints from individuals who had their car or cars towed out of a private parking lot when they “went somewhere else shortly” after patronizing the business that is legitimately associated with the parking lot.

These complainants often share the same story of returning to their vehicle only to either find it gone or in the process of being towed. What follows this significant inconvenience is a rather large fee, which balloons every single day that the vehicle is held at an impound lot.

Most states have laws wherein property owners do have the right to remove cars from the private parking lots after the car has been parked there for more than one hour. However, what most people may not know is that the owner or representative must be at the scene of impounding to sign the authorization to do so.

It’s important to know beforehand what you can and cannot do during such a situation. If you ever think that you find yourself a victim of a bandit tow scam, remember these pointers:

  • If you car is already on the tow truck, but still in the parking lot, the tow operator can ask you for half of what an Official Police Garage would charge for towing.
  • If you will not or cannot pay the requested amount, the issue becomes a civil matter, and the tow operator must release your vehicle.
  • If the tow operator leaves the lot with your vehicle because you would not or could not pay the requested amount, the tow operator is in violation of many US State codes, which is taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent.

Here are some tips on how you can avoid being scammed by horrid tow truck operators:

  1. Know the local laws concerning towing
  2. Do not leave the property of a business you are parking at. I know this is easier said than done but if a bandit tow truck operator is watching that particular parking lot your vehicle could be hooked up and towed away in minutes.
  3. If you think you are the victim of a towing scam, take the time to fill out a police report. If you just let it go, not only are you out hundreds of dollars but the bandit tower can continue to prey on people. So do your part to fight these scams and get your report filed with the police!

The Check Engine Dashboard Warning Light Refresher

It has come to our attention that a lot of new drivers on the road aren’t quite familiar with what the check engine light warning is for. This can be quite dangerous not only for the safety of the driver but also for the other drivers on the road. So today, we’ll be doing a discussion of the what it could mean when the Check Engine Light comes on.

OBD2: Every new car now comes with OBD-II or OBD2 (On Board Diagnostics 2). This is a fault-registering system connected to sensors all over the car, engine, fuel and emissions system. When the check engine light comes on, it can mean many things. There are something like 4,000 unique OBD2 codes that can be stored.

Handheld OBD2 diagnostic tools can be plugged in to the OBD2 port which is normally under the dash on the driver’s side. These tools can read out the fault code and/or reset the system to contain no codes. Codes are split into two categories – historical/inactive, and active. The historical codes are lists of things that have been detected in the past but are no longer an issue, whilst the active codes are things that are a problem right now. Codes are subdivided into B-codes (body), C-codes (chassis) and the biggest list of all – P-codes (powertrain).

P0440 OBD2 Code: This is the most common code you’ll find and it’s the first thing you should check. P0440 is the code for Evaporative Emission Control System Malfunction–which can cover a number of issues.

The one thing it covers that you can check is your gas cap (petrol cap). Most new cars have a pressurized fuel system and vapour recovery loop. If you’ve filled up with petrol and not twisted the gas cap until it clicks, you’ve not sealed the fuel system. It won’t pressurize and the OBD2 system will log a P0440 code. In fact, on a lot of cars, that code is so common they’ll actually have some way of telling you to check the gas cap. In the Honda Element, for example, if a P0440 code is logged, the dash scrolls “CHECK GAS CAP” across the odometer display. So if you get a check engine light, check the gas cap first and see if the light goes off. Note : even if the light does go off, the code will likely still be stored in the OBD system and will show up next time it is checked.

But what if it wasn’t the gas cap?

If tightening the gas cap didn’t do it, you’ll need to find someone with an OBD2 diagnostics tool or reader. Some garages will charge you just for plugging the device in and reading the code. If they do, walk away. They’re ripping you off. Better to find a garage or mechanic that will read the code and actually give you a diagnosis rather than just making you pay to find out a number.

Smaller garages and local mechanics will normally do this for you for a small fee, and being independent, the diagnosis won’t be predicated on you buying some expensive parts from a corporate chain. If you’re a do-it-yourself type used to working from shop manuals, then a lot of places that will give you the diagnostic code for free.

The alternative for this is to buy a reader and learn the codes yourself. From a personal perspective, this is ultimately the best thing you can do as a responsible car owner.

Car Care Tips for Spring

We don’t know about you but we’re looking forward to the end of the cold months! We’re getting prepped for the incoming sunshine, road trips, and picnics! We’re talking about Spring, of course!

Since a different season is inbound, it’s important that your care routine for your vehicle changes as well. Today, we list off a few car care tips you should get started on once winter ends.

Wash and Wax Your Car Thoroughly

When the cold temperatures start to wane, it’s best to give your car a thorough washing. Winter driving has always been the source of grime, debris, and heaven forbid–road salt.

Road salt is highly corrosive so it’s really important that you get that stuff out before it decides to settle in your car’s chassis. Leaving debris or grime on your car can damage your paint and finish.

So as soon as it’s warm enough for you to do so, give your trusty car a much needed wash and wipe down. Don’t forget to put on a solid coat of wax to give it extra protection from the elements and inbound spring showers.

Check Your Car’s Battery

Winter is notorious for causing batteries to go dead. So when the season changes, it’s best to take your battery and have it tested. It’s also important to make sure that it’s securely fixed upon its mount and the connecting lines are clean and secure.

if your battery is hitting age five or is older than that, you seriously need to consider getting it replaced.

Inspect Your Tire Pressure

When temperatures shift, the pressure within your tires may shift as well. When air temperature gets cooler in the winter, your tire pressure decreases–this leads to filling up the tires more during the winter months.

The tricky thing is that as soon as it gets warmer, the tire pressure increases again. If the pressure increase is more than your manufacturer specification, it will end up seriously affecting your car’s safety and fuel economy. When you aren’t sure on how to check your tire pressure, it’s best to bring it down to a gas station or tire provider. There will be people available to check and correct your tire pressure for a low price or even for free.

Inspect Your Car’s Fluids

It’s crucial for your car’s performance and your safety that all your car’s fluids are in good shape. Be sure to check out your power steering, brake, transmission, windshield washer, and coolant–all the fluids that go into your car.

If the levels are low, it’s best to do a flush and a refill.

Check If Your Wiper Blades Need Replacing

The temperature shift can seriously affect your wiper blades as well. So it’s best to check these out before you go out on a drive. Carefully inspect the blades for any signs of cracking or wear.

It’s important to remember that spring time can mean a lot of unexpected rain and showers. So make sure that your wipers are in stellar working condition or have them replaced before you go out for a long drive.

Car Wax 101

One of the very best things a car owner can do to protect their vehicle’s paint and outer casing is wax. It may seem unnecessary and something to just add a bit of shine to a car but waxing your vehicle is more than just that.

Why wax your car?

The exterior of any vehicle requires as much TLC as the engine and the interiors. While neglect of the exterior will not affect the mechanical performance of your vehicle, it will affect your car’s resale value. Taking proper care of your car’s exterior will keep it looking new for years to come.

Other than aesthetic purposes, fairly regular waxing helps to protect the paint by preserving oils in the paint that help to prevent oxidation.

Now, given that wax is pretty much a partner in making sure a vehicle is well taken care of–now comes the question of “how will I know I’m buying the right wax?”

What kinds of wax are there?

Yes, there is more than one type of wax. Wax can come in the forms of liquid, paste, and spray. Each one differs in its application with one being easier than others. Paste type wax is fairly easy to put on. Liquid type waxes are well-known to be quite thorough in its cleaning properties. Spray type waxes is the least likely to leave stains, however, can be quite tricky to apply and buff out.

How often should I wax my car?

This response is probably different every time you ask a different person. Most wax manufacturers will tell you that it is recommended that a car be waxed around every 45 days or so.

For us, cars that are parked in a garage can go longer without waxes unlike those that are placed at the mercy of the elements. When your car is parked outside, we would recommend that a car be waxed at least once a month or at the most, every 40 days.

It is also important to note the recommendations in the brand of wax that you buy. Some of them are made to last a year while others offer around several months worth of protection.

How will I know that my car needs waxing?

There are a couple of tests that you can do if your previous coat of wax has waned. The most tried and tested method is the water beading test. Don’t worry, it’s fairly simple despite its fancy name. When you’re washing your vehicle, just keep a sharp eye on how the water is when it hits your car. If it forms little beads and roll off the surface, your previous wax coat is still pretty much intact.

If the water starts to pool in several areas, you should take that as a fairly strong indication that a new coat of wax is needed.

The other method is done after your car has been washed and dried. Personally, I call this one the Squeaky Squeal test. Make use of a cotton towel and fold it to a manageable size. Place it down on the surface of your vehicle and apply firm pressure. Twist the cloth back and forth in a clockwise and counter clockwise direction. If you end up hearing a squealing noise, that’s the signal that you need a new coat of wax.

A Car Maintenance Task You Can Do Yourself

When you invest in a vehicle, it’s important that you never skip out on its maintenance. Leaving it can cost you big later on whether its in maintenance bills or having to buy a new car altogether. For larger maintenance tasks that can seem pretty daunting, it’s often better to head down with your car and make a beeline for your trusted car service company.

As a car owner, however, it will ultimately be better for your car if you learn how to do certain maintenance tasks yourself. You’ll be arming yourself with valuable knowledge and will be saving yourself from some costs. So today, let’s discuss the car maintenance task than any car owner can do themselves.

Flushing the Radiator

The radiator is what keeps your vehicle and its engine from overheating. An engine has a lot of moving parts and the radiator uses coolant to make sure temperatures are manageable. However, with time and use, deposits might build up in the radiator–this can compromise the cooling system and you’ll be in for a rather upset engine. A radiator flush is a rather quick and inexpensive way to keep the cooling system in shape.

You’ll need a phillips-head screwdriver or a wrench that works for you, some rags to clean up, radiator flush solution, new coolant, a funnel, and a tray or bin to catch the used coolant. You will also need to check with your owner’s manual if you need to flush the radiator yearly or every two years. That way, you’ll be sure when you should schedule a little TLC for your radiator. Now, when it’s time to flush your radiator, these are the steps:

1.) Ensure that your car’s temperature is cool.
2.) Find your radiator’s drain plug. Place your tray or bin to catch the used coolant. Unscrew the plug and let the contents drain away completely.
3.) Plug back the drain receptacle and remove the radiator’s cap.
4.) Use your funnel and add the radiator flush/cleaning solution. Fill the rest of the radiator with water and replace the radiator cap.
5.) Start your car and let it run until it gets warm.
6.) Switch on your heater and turn it up to max. Continue to run the vehicle for 10 minutes.
7.) Switch off your car and let it cool down.
8.) Drain the contents of the radiator and refill the radiator with the fresh coolant.
9.) Safely dispose of the old coolant and the radiator flush liquid.

Getting yourself used to working with coolant is a firm step in the right direction of caring for your car properly. All in all, when you really get used to it, the entire procedure should take you around 45 minutes. Radiator flush cleaning solutions aren’t very pricey and goes for around $25. If you aren’t sure which brand to use, it’s always best to ask around. Get recommendations from friends or family–they’ll be less inclined to try to pitch you something they haven’t tried for themselves.

High temperatures can be dangerous for you and your vehicle so it’s crucial that your radiator is clean and working properly.

 

Winter Care Tips for your Car

Winter is the perfect time to stay home and bundle up which also means that it’s pretty easy to neglect your car. If you have some driving to do over the winter season, it’s important to keep your vehicle in tiptop shape.

Today, we discuss some tips to care for your car during winter.

Opt out your regular tires for winter tires
With snow and cold come icy roads—this can mean precarious driving to the unprepared car owner. To be on the safe side of things, it’s important to check if your tires are season appropriate. Winter tires—otherwise called snow tires—are suitably designed to have more sipes which increase traction on snow and ice. Grip is crucial in icy roads and can be quite needed for sufficient safety.

Ensure that your Windshield washer fluid is refilled
The last thing you’d want while driving in snowfall is to have your windshield washer fluid run out. To keep your view clear, always double check if your windshield washer fluid amount is near to full capacity. There are several brands now that offer multi-season protection so you don’t have to buy different liquids for different seasons. A good key to saving extra money is to buy early as most forgetful car owners do a panic buy in the late autumn season.

Check your Radiator Fluid Levels and make use of Antifreeze
As any savvy car owner will know, the radiator is the heart of your car’s cooling system. It pumps much needed coolant to the parts of your engine that suitably heats up when in use. In the winter months, that very same liquid can be subject to subzero temperatures so it’s important to add antifreeze to your radiator fluid before winter sets in. If winter is already in progress, don’t forget to pack a bottle in your trunk just in case.

Use your car
It may seem a bit silly but making use of your car during the winter months is a good way to ensure that it stays alive. While it is easier to just stay indoors most winter days, not using your car actually piles up the probability for a dead battery or frozen brakes. Even if it’s only for around thirty minutes a day, start up your engine and make it idle to keep your investment running. It is recommended to go on a long run at least once a week so it’s a good excuse for outings!

Carefully check your vehicle for any animals
This is actually a tip that most winter drivers overlook! Warmth is scarce during the winter months and after use, your car’s engine is a pretty good source of heat. This attracts small animals like cats to seek shelter beneath your car’s hood. There’s been many a grisly accident because a driver didn’t take the precaution to tap out the hood to flush out any uninvited guests slumbering within. Not only will you safe a furry life, you save yourself from a gruesome cleanup!

These are just some of the sure ways that you can keep your vehicle in tiptop shape during the winter seasons!

Car Crashes From Low Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is simply a measure that describes the volume of air in a tire.  The max amount is listed on the sticker of the door panel that no one tends to look at very often.  The tire pressure can be checked using a standard gauge that can be purchased for a few dollars at Walmart, or by some of the automated air pumps that many gas stations now carry.  Now, seeing that the max amount is what’s listed, the ideal amount will be lower.  It’s best to research this online or actually read the manual for proper procedure.

Maintaining the proper tire pressure is imperative for your safety because it affects everything from turning to braking.  Low tire pressure can severely impact handling to the point of loss of control.  Additionally, specifically with braking, the car will not slow down as fast as it would if the tires were inflated.

If tire pressure is more than it should be, there is less contact with the pavement.  This means that the vehicle will not be stable, and will “jump around” as your run over rough road, bumps, and any other standard hazards that don’t normally impact driving on a daily basis.  The quality of the ride will be impacted as well because the vehicle will not absorb bumps and potholes as it normally would.

The best time to check the tire pressure is when the tires are cold.  That means that the air should be measured when the vehicle is sitting and hasn’t moved.  When driving around, the tires heat up and throw off the gauge readings; it will then be more inaccurate.

When checking the tires, check all of them to ensure that the air volume is even across all four tires.  This is something that can be visually checked frequently, and of course, manually reviewed with a gauge.  Visually, look for a flat looking tire.  If it’s sitting down more than normal, it may be wise to check for real.

Improper tire pressure leads to numerous car accidents each year, as vehicles lose control.  Towing companies constantly report checking car tire pressures and seeing a low volume of air in vehicles that crashed.  The evidence is overwhelming and it clearly shows that the vehicle handling is negatively impacted by decreased levels of air.

If you’ve done everything right, checked your gauges, and you still experience an issue, call for help.  It’s important to have a trust worthy towing service on speed dial in case of emergency.  However, now that this article has been published, we sincerely hope that the cause of the next accident is not low tire pressure.

 

3 Ways Tire Pressure Affects Your Car

Everyone knows that tire pressure affects the handling of a car, but it does a lot more than that.  Here are 5 ways that tire pressure affects your car, whether you know it or not.

1: Gas Mileage

tire pressure

Every car has an optimal tire pressure level, which is listed on the driver-side of the vehicle, usually on a sticker.  That optimal tire pressure level ensures that the vehicle performs up to the specifications that were presented to you when you bought it.  Not maintaining the proper tire pressure level has been estimated to waste an average of 5% more gas annually, which equates to roughly $500 if you’re driving around 12,000 miles for the year.  That’s not chump change, and it can be kept in your pocket simply by looking for the “free air” sign at your local gas station and filling the air level to the right amount.

2: Braking Time

Everyone knows that braking time is heavily influenced by the environment.  Dry roads allow for good grip, so the car will be able to perform to optimal levels and stop sooner.  Wet or snowy roads minimize grip, so the car will slip and slide, causing the necessary braking distance to increase significantly.  How does tire pressure affect it?  If the tire pressure is too low, the car will not brake as quickly.  Additionally, lower tire pressure will lead to more body roll on turns.  Over-inflate the tires and the car will stop at the expense of your treads, which can be costly.

3: Tread Life

Tire pressure levels are set for a reason.  The right amount of air pressure in a tire allows it to perform up to par.  With proper inflation, the majority of the surface area of the tire comes in contact with the ground, allowing for maximum performance.  Inflate the tire pressure too low and tread life will decrease at an increased rate.  Increase the tire pressure too much and the tread life will disappear even faster.  Over-inflation pushes out the center of the tire, wearing the treads in an uneven fashion.  This not only ruins the treads, which means costly new tires, but it also decreases the handling of the car because less surface area is touching the road.

For your safety and the safety of those around you, check the tire pressure on your vehicle.  It doesn’t take much to do it.  You have many different options.  (1) Go to your location gas station and check the pressure with the air pump. (2) Go over to your local convenient store and buy a $5 pressure checker tool.  Or (3) check the level the car should be at and ask the person doing your car’s maintenance to set the tire pressure to that level.