How to Protect Your Car from the Sun

July is here and that means a few things – Independence Day, fun in the sun, Shark Week and, of course, blistering summer heat. While getting close to the shark-infested waters might be your biggest fear at the moment, we’re here to tell you about something equally frightening…. the damage the sun is having on your car.

In summer heat, we’re constantly reminded to protect our skin with SPF and our bodies by drinking lots of fluids. And yet, we rarely think of the effects of the sun on our poor vehicles.

It’s about time we started treating our cars as well, or better, than we treat ourselves in the heat. Here’s how you can start.

Make sure the mechanics are running smoothly

It takes more to keep your car’s inner-workings healthy than just taking it to the shop for an oil change. While that’s important, you’ll also want to check that belts are working, the coolant level is satisfactory and all hoses are in good condition. In addition, you should check your transmission fluid and change it if need be.

The sun can also damage the part of you car that you don’t want to be without in the summer – your air conditioning system. Minor leaks often go undetected, so you’ll want to check on that regularly. If you don’t catch the leak in time, the AC can stop working altogether.

Protect the interior

There are a few simple tools you can buy to protect your car from sun damage. Perhaps you’ve laughed at people who put a reflectorized panel in the windshield when they leave the car. But this can dramatically lower your car’s interior temperature and keep the sun from bleaching it. You can even purchase funky panels like this one.

small_lightning mcqueen sunshades

(Photo Credit)

While we sometimes forget to dust our cars, it’s especially important to keep the dash and console dust-free in the summertime. You know how the sun can cook an egg on the sidewalk if it’s hot enough? Well, it’ll cook the dust in your car too, making it nearly impossible to remove later.

Check your tires

During the hot summer months, you need to check your tire pressure first thing in the morning when the tires are cool and haven’t been rolling over the scorching pavement. The combination of hot pavement and a deflated tire can lead to an ugly blowout. And that’s the last thing you need to happen when you’re driving to the beach.

CheckTirePressure(Photo Credit)

Think about where you park

If you can, park in the shade. Seems like a pretty common sense tip, right?

While parking in the back of the lot under some trees might increase the walk to your destination, this simple act can go a long way. When parked in direct sunlight, your car can reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day. Of course, you’ll want to be aware of summer storms and the damage a fallen tree could do.

Vehicle-protection-page-pic-1-850x4221(Photo Credit)

Wash and wax it yourself

Even though it can be fun, washing the car usually feels like a chore. But, using the right soap and drying the car correctly will keep your car looking better, longer.

Make sure you use specialty car washing soap and then hand dry. It’s best if you use a soft chamois for drying.

The other big rule-of-thumb is to plan on washing your car when it’s cool out. If you wash your car during the day, the sun will dry the car and give it a dull finish.

hand-wash-car(Photo Credit)

You can also protect your car’s shine by waxing it regularly, which locks in the paint’s natural oils. The wax also protects against staining, which can be especially fatal in the summer when the stain will set in quickly. It’s a good idea to wax your car around twice a year or at the end of every season.

Think about tinting those windows

Tinting your windows is an easy way to cool the inside of your car and protect from sun damage. Doing it yourself can be tricky, though, so it might be a good idea to take the plunge and leave it to a professional.

You should also be aware that many states have laws and regulations when it comes to tinting windows. Make sure to do some research beforehand and make sure that tinting your windows won’t lead to a ticket or fine!

blog_window_tint(Photo Credit)

“Summerizing” your car is just as important as winterizing it. Your car – and wallet – will thank you for the special attention!

Famous Father-Son Relationships in the Auto World

In case you haven’t marked your calendar, Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21. Before you scramble to buy Pops a tie or maybe a case of beer to help him achieve that Dad Bod, let’s take a second and think about what’s really important: your relationship.

It’s important to remember all those bonding moments and words of wisdom that Dad has provided over the years. We put together a round-up of our favorite father-son relationships in the auto world to get you thinking happy thoughts about YOUR poppa.

ricky bobby(Photo Credit)

Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr.

Perhaps the most famous father-son duo in NASCAR is Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. Growing up in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Dale Jr. often felt he’d forever live in the shadows of his superstar father. In 2012, Dale Jr. appeared on CBS This Morning in their “Note to Self” segment. He read a letter he wrote to his sixteen-year-old self and admitted that his relationship with Dale Sr. was often strained, but that it developed into something incredible over time.


No NASCAR fan can forget the sad day in February 2001 when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died after crashing his car on the final lap of the Daytona 500. In the years that have followed Dale Sr.’s untimely death, his son has upheld the Earnhardt legacy and has become a racing celebrity.

The Petty Family

If there’s a royal NASCAR family, it’s The Pettys. Patriarch Lee Petty started the family tradition and is considered one of the sport’s pioneers. A three-time NASCAR championship winner, he was one of the first superstar drivers.

After Lee came Richard, then Kyle and then Adam. Richard “The King” Petty won the Daytona 500 a record seven times and is statistically the most accomplished driver of all time. Kyle competed in the NASCAR Spring Cup series, was formerly the CEO of Petty Enterprises and is now co-host for NASCAR American on NBCSN. Adam, the first fourth-generation driver in NASCAR history, began racing at age eighteen and won his first ARCA race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

LEE PETTY(Photo Credit)

Sadly, Adam Petty died much too young when he crashed in a practice session for the Busch series Busch 200 race in May of 2000. In Adam’s honor, the Petty family has partnered with Paul Newman and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to begin the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Henry and Edsel Ford

The only non-driving duo on our list, Henry and Edsel Ford, are key to the auto world as we know it. Henry Ford founded the Ford Auto Group and developed the first affordable automobile for middle-class Americans. The development of this more affordable model transformed the automotive industry forever.

ford family(Photo Credit)

Edsel was Henry’s only son, and the father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye. When Edsel became the president of Ford in 1915, he and Henry almost never agreed on major decisions. While many say Edsel didn’t leave any lasting impressions on Ford Motor Company, others disagree. He founded and named the Mercury division, strengthened the company’s overseas production and introduced hydraulic brakes to Ford automobiles just to name a few of his accomplishments.

The Andretti Family

Mario Andretti has become a racing icon over the years and his name is often used to connote speed. In the racing world, though, the Andretti name is associated with the Andretti Curse. The Andretti family has had four generations of drivers: after Lee came his sons Michael and Jeff, nephew John and grandson Marco. The Andretti Curse began after Mario Andretti won the Indianapolis 500 in 1967, and the family hasn’t been able to reclaim the title since. Maybe Marco will be the one to finally break it…

Mario-Andretti-with-family(Photo Credit)

Nevertheless, you can’t ignore Mario Andretti’s impressive career. He was one of only two drivers to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sporscar Championship and NASCAR. Plus, we’re fairly certain his name is mentioned in more songs than any other race car driver.

Summer Driving Emergency Kit

Memorial Day, the unofficial/official start of summer, is right around the corner. Hopefully you’ll be hitting the road this year for a family vacation, romantic weekend or life-altering cross-country road trip.


Before you put the pedal to the metal, make sure you have a well-equipped summer driving emergency kit ready to go.

Many of us think that winter is the only time we need an emergency kit handy. While we might not need a shovel or ice scraper in the July heat, summer poses its own set of challenges for which we need to prepare.

Here are some items you should include in your summer driving emergency kit.

Cell Phone

Cell phones weren’t something your parents had to worry about when cramming you and your siblings into the station wagon. But, they probably wished they’d had one available when the car ran out of gas and they had to sit on the side of the road for three hours.

A fully charged cell phone is the most important component of a summer driving emergency kit. It is your lifeline to safety and security. You have the peace of mind knowing that, no matter what situation you find yourself in, help is only a call away.

cell phone gpsYour phone can also double as a map with a GPS navigation app. There are apps that can route you around traffic delays and some that even work when you have no data connection or cell signal. Again, these keep you safe and get you to your destination in tact and in one piece.


Long trips across hot asphalt roads under the unrelenting summer sun can be torture on your engine. If you’ve not properly maintained fluid levels, it can spell disaster.

Keep a supply of engine coolant handy and monitor your temperature gauge. If it starts creeping up into the red, pull over and pop the hood. Be very careful when adding new coolant, as steam is often released when opening the reservoir.


If you forgot coolant, water can be used as an emergency substitute. Don’t drive too far with only water as coolant and get your vehicle serviced as soon after as possible.

First Aid Kit

A no-brainer to have in the car year round. Band aids, gauze, hand sanitizer, sun block, emergency medicines and a cold compress are all essentials to include.


Beyond these basics, you can also include bottles of water and non-perishable foods, blankets (yes, it still gets cold at night), hats, sunglasses and a flashlight.

Common Sense

Just because you’re having fun and on vacation, doesn’t mean you can forget all the common sense driving behaviors you normally display.

Don’t talk or text while driving. Beyond the fact that it’s dangerous, it could also be illegal in states you’re driving through.

Turn around and don’t drown. If you’re caught in a downpour and the road looks flooded, don’t drive through it. You don’t know how deep it is or if the area is prone to powerful flash floods.

carchex - stuk in floodDon’t drive over downed power lines.

Slow down. Speeding increases the chance of an accident and it costs you more in gas. The beach will still be there when you get there.

Use these tips to have a safe, relaxing time this summer. And watch the video below for even more helpful info on preparing a summer driving emergency kit.

Bike Safety: What Drivers Can Do to Avoid Accidents

May is National Bike Safety Month. As the weather warms and the days grow longer, people of all ages will dust off their handlebars, grease their chains and pedal around the neighborhood, to work or down mountains.

Unfortunately, this also means there is greater risk of traffic accidents involving cyclists. In fact, in our home state of Maryland, 63 percent of all bicyclist crashes occur between May and September.

When a car and a bike collide, it’s rarely good for the cyclist. As drivers of much more powerful and dangerous vehicles, we must do our part to help prevent these crashes.

So, as a refresher, here are some rules of the road and precautions you can take to share the road and make it safer for cyclists.

Right of Way

While bicycle right of way laws differ state-to-state, some common regulations are:

  • A cyclist has full and sole right of way in a bike lane. An automobile may not travel in a bike lane and can only cross it at designated locations.
  • If there is no bike lane, a cyclist should travel as close to the right side of the lane as is safely possible.
  • If traveling to the right side of the lane isn’t possible, a bike has the right of way to the full lane.
  • If a cyclist is in a lane where it’s too narrow for a car to pass with three full feet of space, the cyclist can take the lane.
Photo credit:

Photo credit:

So while you might not like the fact that a rider is going 15mph and taking up the entire lane, they have every right to do so. Just relax and consider it more time to listen to your favorite song that just came on the radio.


Three feet. That is the minimum distance you need to allow when passing a bicycle on the road.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

You should always give riders as much room as you safely can. Check for oncoming traffic and for any potential obstacles that might cause the rider to veer more into the center of the lane.

Pay extra caution when passing near an intersection or when you are about to make a right turn. The rider could be going straight and not have time to react to your turn. Cutting them off could easily make them lose control of their bike in an attempt to avoid collision or not give them enough time to avoid slamming into the side of your car.

Opening Doors

We’ve all seen a movie scene where someone opens a car door, a cyclist hits it and goes flying. In the movie, the rider usually gets up, dusts off and goes about their business.

In real life, the situation isn’t funny. It can be deadly serious. Plus, once you open your door into a lane of traffic, you are at fault for any accidents that occur.

If you’re parking on a busy street, double-check your mirrors for bikes as well as cars. They can be tricky to see, but making the effort will save your wallet and maybe their life.

Be Aware

As with any other driving situation, being aware of your surroundings is critical to prevent bicycle-related accidents. Put down the phone and minimize distractions. Keep an eye out for low-profile vehicles (bike, scooters and motorcycles) and pedestrians.

Most accidents are preventable if you’re paying attention. So, keep your eyes sharp and share the road. You’d want others to do the same when you’re riding your bike.

Is Distracted Driving the New Drunk Driving?

Since the invention of the automobile, drunk driving has been a public health concern. Fatalities from drunk drivers hit epidemic proportions in the early 1980s. In 1982, over 21,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes.

These astounding numbers triggered a forceful public response. Through the efforts of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and concerted public education programs, drunk driving crash deaths have been cut by over half. In 2013, the last year for which we have statistics, 10,000 people were killed in drunk driving crashes. While we still have a ways to go, the trend is in the right direction.

But, just as we were 35 years ago with drunk driving, we face a growing problem of distracted driving. The use of technology, including smartphones, texting and in-dash entertainment systems, increases the likelihood of getting into a crash by three times. Between 2011 and 2012, there was a nine percent increase in the number of people injured in a crash involving a distracted driver.

Most worryingly is the fact that distracted driving is actually more dangerous than drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. An independent study conducted by the University of Utah concluded that, “The impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.”

These dangers are compounded when you consider the sheer number of drivers who are distracted behind the wheel. In the United States, at any given moment of daylight, approximately 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone or manipulating an electronic device.

Half of all teenagers and adults admit to riding in a car where the driver was texting. A quarter of teens respond to one or more text messages every time they drive. This compares to just eight percent of high schoolers who admitted to driving after drinking, a number that’s actually fallen by over half since 1997.

There is also a perception problem when it comes to distracted driving. The common notion is that the distraction only occurs when a driver is manually using a device (texting or dialing a number) or when their eyes leave the road to complete a task. While this does increase the chances for a crash, research shows that hands-free cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.

Hands-free conversation created what is called “inattention blindness.” It impairs reaction times and results in later breaking for vehicles stopped ahead. Talking on the phone, hands-free or not, is more distracting than conversing with a passenger in the same vehicle.

All of this research indicates that we need a national education campaign for distracted driving similar to those that have helped decrease instances of drunk driving. While texting and hands-free laws and regulations play a role in curbing this epidemic, we need to change the mindset and culture that enables it in the first place.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Take time this month to truly reflect on your driving habits. Do you read or send texts? Use a hands-free device for calls? Do you really need to?

Please consider taking the pledge to end distracted driving. With your help, we can reverse this dangerous trend and make the roads safer for all of us.

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