By Chuck Mai, AAA
We count on our cars to get us where we need to go, but can our cars count on us to return the favor? Here’s a list of five common maintenance mistakes we make, compiled by AAA’s Auto Repair experts.
When you’re sick, you don’t ask a stranger to diagnose you or recommend treatment options, and the same is true for your car. Yet, we often hear of people who use online self-help forums in an effort to avoid paying a diagnostic fee and save money. However, these forums frequently lead to motorists buying parts based on the recommendations of strangers, resulting in unnecessary repairs that exceed the cost of the diagnostic fee they were trying to avoid in the first place.
Not establishing a repair shop relationship
Get to know an auto repair facility and service advisor who knows you and your vehicle. By establishing this relationship, you’ll have someone to turn to for routine maintenance or emergency repairs and you’ll know they have your best interests in mind. AAA visits, evaluates and approves auto repair shops in Oklahoma. This information is available to members and non-members alike, free, at AAA.com.
When you hear an unusual noise coming from under your hood, don’t turn up your radio to drown it out. Instead, give your trusted technician a call and schedule a service appointment as soon as possible. Squeaking, grinding or thumping could indicate a serious brake, engine or suspension malfunction. Ignore an abnormal noise for too long and you could end up seeing an abnormal repair bill.
Not addressing leaks
From brake fluid to coolant, consumers often overlook liquids leaking from their rides. Motorists may dismiss an oil leak by topping off low fluid, for example. However, leaking oil can drip onto suspension components and melt rubber on contact, which ultimately can lead to costly suspension repairs. If there’s a puddle in your parking spot, take the time to figure out what’s leaking.
Spending money without knowing why
Have you ever paid for a vehicle “repair,” but didn’t know why? Consumers sometimes spend money on maintenance or repairs without understanding what they paid for and why they needed it, especially if they don’t feel a difference in the way their vehicle performs after the work has been completed. Don’t be shy – take time to ask questions about the services being performed and the money you’re investing in your vehicle.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Thinking about taking a family vacation this summer? Choosing and planning can be half the fun.
There are many short, fun, exciting, family-oriented and inexpensive vacation destinations within Oklahoma – and AAA Oklahoma is the first to point them out in AAA’s Oklahoma TourBook travel guide – but sometimes families want options. Planning a trip the whole family will enjoy is easier when you let AAA’s travel professionals help point the way with expert recommendations.
To select their top picks for key family travel destinations, AAA editors became kids again. With an eye toward finding options for kids from tots to teens, they visited and played at countless attractions touted as kid-friendly — many designated as AAA GEMs, offering a Great Experience for Members — along with notable restaurants and events. This family-friendly content is available in AAA’s popular digital and printed travel guides for select destinations.
The key to a successful family vacation is planning activities that are fun and exciting for every member of your group, recognizing that what’s exciting to a 6-year-old can differ from what appeals to teens. Recommendations from AAA’s travel editors help make these distinctions, ensuring easier travel planning and memorable vacation experiences.
AAA’s Top Picks for Kids are currently available for 19 U.S. cities coast to coast, including New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Selections are separated into categories that include options for kids under 13, teens, and kids of all ages.
AAA editors’ Top Picks for Kids can be found in the AAA.com Travel Guides, the downloadable AAA eTourBook guides available at AAA.com/ebooks and the printed AAA TourBook guides available to members free at full-service AAA Oklahoma offices.
FOR EXAMPLE: AAA Editors’ Top Picks for Kids – MIAMI
Miami Seaquarium: At this AAA GEM attraction, kids enjoy the antics of Salty the sea lion, Flipper the dolphin and Lolita the killer whale. Between-show activities include saltwater exhibits with sea turtles and reef fish. There’s even a pirate ship playground with water guns and a spiral slide.
Monkey Jungle: What could be more fun than a whole park filled with monkeys? A fenced-in path through this subtropical forest keeps humans and monkeys safely separate while allowing visitors to get really close to these wonderful animals.
Duck Tours South Beach: If you want to tour South Beach and get a taste of its rich Art Deco legacy without hearing choruses of “I’m bored,” hop on an amphibious vehicle. The entertaining and educational 90-minute excursion concludes with a big splash into Biscayne Bay.
La Carreta Restaurant: Enjoy a delicious introduction to home-style Cuban cuisine, a big part of the Miami experience, at this local institution on Little Havana’s Calle Ocho (8th Street). Sample charbroiled meats and chicken-and-rice dishes, and snap a family photo with the giant metal chicken outside.
Beaches: You’re in Florida after all. Miami Beach is the obvious choice, particularly if you are staying there. There is also nearby Key Biscayne with its two public beaches: Crandon Park – a 2-mile stretch of sand noted for its calm waters and rental cabanas – and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, with its postcard-worthy historic lighthouse.
Everglades National Park: Drive down to South Florida’s wilderness jewel, a AAA GEM attraction. This endangered “River of Grass” is a haven for birds as well as alligators, snakes, turtles and manatees. Drive the 38 miles from the entrance to the Flamingo Visitor Center and enjoy the views from your car. Trailheads radiate out from the road at several spots, inviting short hikes. A thrilling high-speed way to explore the park is by airboat ride, offered at Everglades Alligator Farm and Everglades Safari Park.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
We’ve all heard about the growing list of previously-free things for which some airlines now charge, such as legroom, luggage, snacks, blankets, etc. Who knew all those frills and extras cost so much? And although I have heard rumors that at least one airline is thinking about charging more for an actual seat, don’t believe it. It’s more likely they’ll give you a discount for agreeing to stand all the way from here to Timbuktu.
Now, it seems hotels have taken a page out of the airlines’ playbook.
Extra fees at hotels generated an estimated $1.95 billion in 2012, a record, according to the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.
Fees for things like Wi-Fi, room safes and early check-in. And then there are the so-called resort fees for items such as use of the fitness center, newspapers and “free” coffee in your room.
The problem is, most of the time, travelers didn’t find out about these hidden fees until they checked in. No fair, said the Federal Trade Commission. Last fall the agency sent letters to 22 major hotel chains telling them to cut it out.
So, what may very well happen is hotels will raise their room rates to cover these kinds of things. But at least travelers will be able to compare apples to apples when shopping for accommodations.
In the meantime, choose hotels that incorporate amenities into their room rates. For example, Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Hotels include Wi-Fi and fitness center usage in their standard prices. Hampton offers a free hot breakfast.
Consider using the hotel’s business center computers. Wi-Fi is often free.
Finally, tie a caution flag onto your room’s mini-bar handle. Some unscrupulous hoteliers charge restocking fees even if you just open the mini-bar’s door or move things around in there.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
With more than 125 million vehicles on the roadway and Americans relying on their cars for nearly every part of their life, one of the most stressful things a motorist can encounter is a sudden breakdown. In 2012, AAA received more than 28 million roadside assistance calls. While 58 percent of those breakdowns could be resolved at the roadside by AAA technicians, nearly 12 million vehicles needed to be towed to a local repair shop for further help.
What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down on a Roadway
If the car is clearly experiencing a problem but can still be driven a short distance, drive to a safe location such as a parking lot. If the vehicle stops running but still has coasting momentum, guide it to the far right shoulder as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other motorists.
If the car cannot get completely off the roadway, switch on the safety/emergency flashers and consider leaving the vehicle and moving to a safer location. Occupants should not remain in a vehicle if there is a possibility it may be struck by other traffic. For the same reason, it is generally not a good idea to attempt to push a disabled car off the road.
Drivers and passengers should exit a broken down car on the side away from traffic if at all possible. Use extreme caution and watch for oncoming vehicles, especially at night or in bad weather when visibility is limited. While waiting for help, never stand directly behind or in front of the disabled vehicle.
In addition to turning on a vehicle’s emergency flashers, drivers can signal other motorists that they have a problem by raising the car hood, tying a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf to the antenna or door handle, or setting out flares, warning triangles or emergency beacons. These signals can help other drivers recognize there is a problem and hopefully prompt them to slow down, move over to allow more room and proceed with caution as they pass.
Once the driver and passengers are in a safe location, request assistance from a roadside assistance provider. Make note of surroundings, landmarks, buildings or road signs to help relay your location. This is why as you are traveling Interstates, always keep track of where you are by paying attention to mile marker numbers.
I have been following the story about the Carnival Ship.
For all who do not know about it, there was a cruise going on and the Carnival that hosted it had an engine fire break out. As a result of this fire, the main power source was crippled along with the water and plumbing systems which left no electricity on the ship and NO PLUMBING SYSTEM. There were over 3500 passengers aboard on this cruise.
That is just the beginning of it.
Imagine being on a cruise. When I think of cruise, I think of luxury, beauty, relaxation……PURE HARMONY. Opposite of my imagination, this cruise on the Carnival Triumph was HORRIBLE.
Here is an idea of just how horrible conditions were: there was no electricity, toilets would not flush, only FIVE bathrooms were working (mind you there were over 3500 passengers), and there was no air conditioning; they underwent these conditions for a whole week.
So the passengers…….. Their harmonious cruise turned into a nightmare. They were forced to sleep outside due to the temperature. There were ridiculously long lines for food and for the restroom. The toilets began to overflow so the carpet reeked of urine and although there were lines for food, there wasn’t much food available. No electricity means they couldn’t cook and were surviving off of onion and cucumber sandwiches.
I COULD NOT IMAGINE……… my mouth dropped and stayed open from the first day I heard about it up until…………….well I’m still in utter shock about this so let’s just say, this is a Jaw Dropping story.
How would you react if this were to happen to you? What would you want to happen as a result of it?
The cruise line, Carnival, is giving all passengers 100% refund for the cruise expenses as well as gratuities. AND passengers that were boarded on the Carnival Triumph receive a DISCOUNT on future cruise trips.
I would really be interested in knowing how many of those passengers take advantage of that discount.
Several public and non-profit organizations have come together in grassroots fashion to help educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving. The organization’s namesake is Drive Aware Oklahoma (DAO) and its mission paraphrased is to educate the public in lieu of legislation.
The organization’s first objective is to educate about texting while driving. Just because there are no specific laws in place does not make this the thing to do. It is the number one distracted driving cause of accidents.
To boost education the DAO group has adopted the Ad Council’s STOP THE TEXTS.STOP THE WRECKS campaign which you can find yourself at www.stoptextsstopwrecks.org
The DAO group has spoken to TV and radio stations in both OKC and Tulsa as well as Lamar billboard company to run the ad campaign the week before Halloween. The group is in hopes that awareness will be raised before kiddos are out Trick or Treating.
School Zones are a particularly vulnerable area as well for distracted drivers and a few campaigns already have pointed towards them with distracted driving education. Some states have at least “no phone zones” in school crossings but OK is not one of them.
Drivers should be careful and turn off their phones when they get in the car. That way they are not curious when that “sound” occurs meaning a new text is in. And to go a step further drivers should consider a recording on cellphones that tells callers they will not accept calls while driving. The recording can say that the call will be returned when the driver is in a safe place and no longer moving.
Keep it safe and Drive Aware Oklahoma!
Most people aren’t aware of them, and you can bet that a very small number — at best — have felt them, but there’s been quite a shaking going on recently under Oklahoma’s landscape.
At least, that’s what the Oklahoma Geophysical Laboratory in Leonard has registered. For instance, the office, which is part of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, had recorded 15 earthquakes this month by this afternoon. All of those were in three counties: Seminole, Lincoln and Oklahoma.
That’s 15 in one week. The strongest on that list was a 3.0 at 5:47 a.m. Tuesday in Seminole County, near Paden. That came nine hours after a 1.8 in Seminole County. These were the third and fourth this month in that county, according to the OGL list.
Lincoln County has had the most recorded quakes thus far this month, with six. Oklahoma County has had five.
In July, there were about 50 recorded quakes in Oklahoma, most in the 1.5 to 2.5 range. Those who monitor these events say they aren’t unusual and they’re not issuing any kind of alert. But they are collecting information from anyone who felt a quake or noticed any damage from them.
This information is important to their research and analysis.
“This information represents the most current information available, but should be considered preliminary,” OGL officials say on their web site. “As such this information is subject to change at any point. Max MMI is the Maximum Modified Mercalli Intensity based on felt reports recieved by the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
“This data is also available as a GeoRSS Atom feed which means you can subscribe to this information from your favorite news reader which supports GeoRSS. Simply copy the link and subscribe to this link: http://wichita.ogs.ou.edu/cgi_bin/featureserver.cgi/recenteqs/all.atom”
You can learn more about Oklahoma earthquakes by going to HTTP://WWW.OKGEOSURVEY1.GOV/ and scrolling through the various resource information.
Meanwhile, if you have do feel a quake, be sure to report it. You can make a valuable contribution.
Excellent news for motorists that should make their morning commutes a whole lot easier. Efforts to reduce congestion and improve the Interstate 235 and I-44 interchange will take a big step forward early Friday as the project to reconstruct the southbound I-235 ramp to westbound I-44 opens to traffic prior to morning rush hour.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials said the new NW 63 ramps to I-235 and I-44 “will remain closed until early August in order to tie it into the new roadway.”
The ODOT project was the next phase in the overall Broadway Extension U.S. 77/I-235 and I-44 corridor reconstruction and the first major project on the I-235 and I-44 interchange itself.
Motorists need to be aware of changes to traffic patterns after the I-235 and I-44 ramp opening, however.
The entrance to the new southbound I-235 ramp to westbound I-44 begins further north than the previous ramp. The newly redesigned interchange features a longer ramp which will allow for safer, more efficient travel between the two interstates.
By Chuck Mai, AAA, and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
The viral video of a car being launched airborne by a buckled Wisconsin highway may already be old news, but – given that we’re less than three weeks into the summer of 2012 – the conditions that created this dangerous situation hardly are. Many of us have already endured record-breaking heat and powerful storms – and it’s not yet even mid-July.
As we gulp down bottle after bottle of water, head to the pool, crank up the AC, take refuge in movie theaters, and find other ways of beating the heat, it’s important to remember that our vehicles need some TLC to survive these brutal months, too. And when the heat’s this bad, breakdowns can be particularly problematic, as motorists may be stranded in extreme temperatures with insufficient water and shade.
To protect yourself and your car this summer, make sure to check and top off vital fluids to keep your engine running smoothly and avoid overheating. Ensure that your tires are inflated properly, as extreme temperatures exacerbate the risk of a blowout. Keep sufficient fuel in your tank in case power failures or long lines at the pump make it difficult to find accessible gas stations in your area. If storm debris has damaged your windshield, have it replaced or repaired as soon as possible. And always carry some extra water in the trunk, just in case.
Of course, extreme heat and humidity often culminate in severe storms, which can bring down trees and utility lines, and create sudden changes in visibility and roadway conditions. Be on the lookout for fallen branches, and intersections with traffic signals that have lost power (which should be treated as all-way stops). Be patient with changes in traffic patterns, and remember that spending a few extra minutes sitting in your air-conditioned car is probably not such a bad thing after all. Taking these and other precautions can go a long way toward ensuring you – and your car – make it through the summer safely.
And remember: always wear your seatbelt. After all, you never want to encounter a situation in which the roadway is buckled…and you’re not.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Summer is the peak season for many things in Oklahoma, such as travel, temperatures and auto theft. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, July and August are historically the top months for this crime. One reason is the heat. Sometimes in our desire to leave windows “cracked,” we inadvertently leave too wide a gap, leaving the car vulnerable to sneaky ol’ thieves. To help you protect yourself against auto theft, here are my Top Seven Anti-Theft Tips.
1. Always lock your vehicle with the windows closed. Even if you park your vehicle in a garage, this simple measure is added security.
2. Never leave belongings out in the open in your car as they could tempt thieves.
3. Never leave your keys in your vehicle or leave your vehicle running any time you are not in it. Not even when you’re just running into 7-Eleven for a sec.
4. Keep your vehicle in secure, well-lit areas. When possible, park in a locked garage. If you park outside, consider installing a motion-activated floodlight that illuminates the place where your car is parked.
5. Remove spare keys from vehicle. Never hide a spare ignition key in or around your vehicle. The old days of hiding a spare key in a small magnetic box under a fender are gone.
6. Use anti-theft or automatic tracking devices. If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an alarm or hidden tracking device when purchased, have one installed.
7. Install a cut-off switch. If the thief really wants your car, given enough time, he’ll get it. All you can do is slow him down. A cut-off switch hidden beneath the dash will do that. So will installing a metal crossbar that disables the steering wheel, such as “The Club.”