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A Little Auto Care Goes a Long Way

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Performing simple preventative maintenance on your vehicle will go a long way toward protecting your vehicle investment, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

Buying a new car today comes with a hefty price tag when you add up the down payment, monthly car payments and higher insurance rates. Neglecting its care can mean even higher costs down the line in the form of more extensive repairs and lost resale value,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “By following a proactive auto care plan, the typical car should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable, efficient and enjoyable performance.”

National Car Care Month in April is the perfect time of year to give your car some extra attention. The Car Care Council recommends following a vehicle service schedule, keeping a free copy of the council’s Car Care Guide in the glovebox and performing the most common routine maintenance procedures to keep your vehicle performing at its best.

  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check the hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.
  • Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and safety reasons, such as defrosting.
  • Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.

Be sure to fully inspect your vehicle annually, including performing a tune-up and wheel alignment,” continued White. “If you ever suspect there is a problem, it’s a good idea to address it quickly before minor repairs become more complicated, expensive repairs.”

Invest Tax Refund in Auto Care and Earn Valuable Dividends

Woman with car keyAlthough you may be thinking of ways to splurge with your tax refund, the Car Care Council recommends something more practical – invest some of that money in auto care and reap the financial benefits.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average tax refund is over $3,100. By simply allocating a portion to vehicle maintenance and service, you will realize big dividends in the form of safety and dependability. The benefits of auto care don’t stop there. Your vehicle will perform more efficiently, saving money at the pump, and its useful life will be extended, postponing the major expense of purchasing a new car.

With proper care, the typical vehicle should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable performance. The most common routine maintenance procedures and repairs include checking the oil, filters and fluids, belts and hoses, brakes, tires and the HVAC system. The non-profit Car Care Council also recommends an annual tune-up and wheel alignment.

Does Oil Quality Matter?

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You probably already know you should change your engine oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, and it’s a job that even a green DIYer can do in about 30 minutes. It seems like such a simple job, and maybe you don’t even think twice about what parts and supplies you’re using. If you visit a mechanic for an oil change, what kind of parts and supplies may he suggest? Does oil quality matter to your engine or only to your wallet? Can’t you just use whatever’s on sale?

How Does Oil Quality Differ?

You can use any oil that meet the industry standard API class required by the manufacturer of your car, but there are better options to protect your engine and help it last even longer. Engine oil is specially formulated to lubricate, clean and protect in an extremely harsh environment. Temperature can vary from -50 °F to near 300 °F in a matter of minutes. Oil is pumped through the system at up to 60 psi, squeezing through spaces as small as 0.0005 inches — just 12.7 m or a quarter the width of a human hair — at which point the pressure skyrockets to hundreds of psi before dropping to zero and draining into the oil pan.

There are dozens of engine oil brands and each carries a range of varying oil quality. Whether it’s the cheapest conventional oil or most expensive synthetic blend, all engine oils are the product of specialized refinement. Additional processing gives each oil specific qualities — some engine oils contain up to 30 percent additives — such as higher resistance to oxidation (sludge) or improved stability in extreme temperatures. It’s only logical that more refining and processing adds to the price of each quart of oil that you put in your engine.

What Kind of Oil Should You Use?

When comparing oil quality, take note of its intended application and how you use your vehicle.

  • If your vehicle requires a synthetic oil, stick with what the manufacturer recommends.
  • If your vehicle doesn’t require synthetic oil, conventional oil will do, but practically any engine can benefit from the detergent and lubricant qualities of synthetic oil.
  • If you drive a high-performance vehicle, choose a high-performance oil.
  • If your engine is turbocharged, look for an oil rated for turbocharged engines.
  • If your vehicle is older — the average vehicle in America is over 11 years old — consider a high-mileage formulation to improve lubrication and prevent deposits.

As always, make sure you change your engine oil and oil filter regularly, depending on vehicle recommendations and how you use your vehicle. Using the right oil, you’ll keep your engine running for years to come.

Are Rear-View Cameras Useful?

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The results of a  AAA survey of motorists who own a car with a rearview camera or a sensor-based backing aid (a device that produces warning beeps) may answer your question. Of more than a thousand respondents, 93 percent said they wanted one in their next vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finds rearview cameras to be so beneficial that it’s requiring all new cars and light trucks to have one by May 2018. Take a peek at the website kidsandcars.org and you’ll understand why. One page is filled with photos of adorable little kids who were killed while being backed over, 70 percent of them by a parent or another relative. The website says that each week in the U.S., 50 children are backed over—and that two of them die from their injuries.

All reason enough for NHTSA’s mandate. But also think of all the damaged bumpers and fenders—that is, property damage—that could be prevented if drivers had a clearer view behind their vehicles before they backed into a post, a wall, or another vehicle.

What’s more, the potential for back-up accidents has increased in recent years. Here’s why:

An aging population. Age often brings reduced head and neck flexibility, making it difficult for older drivers to look behind their cars.

Styling trends. The coupe-like body design of many sedans these days dictates wide rear pillars and narrow rear windows, both of which reduce rear visibility.

Larger vehicles. Large vehicles often have blind zones behind them; objects in those areas can’t be seen in rearview mirrors. Moreover, vans and SUVs often have several rows of seats with a forest of head restraints that block rear vision.

The 2002 Infiniti Q45 was perhaps the first production car in the U.S. with what we now call a rearview camera—a small camera lens in the rear bumper that sends an image to an in-dash screen. Today, about one-third of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. include a rearview camera as standard equipment. But you don’t have to buy a new car to get one. Aftermarket rearview cameras are available at car audio, auto parts, and big-box electronic stores, starting at about $80.

Last year, the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center (ARC) tested both factory-installed and aftermarket rearview cameras. They generally worked well, increasing visibility in the blind zone by an average of 46 percent.

It’s important to note that that’s not a 100 percent improvement. A single camera lens typically mounted near the license plate doesn’t see all—a cat or a child under the bumper, for example. Pavement that slopes up sharply behind a car makes objects appear farther away than they are. Snow and dirt can cloud the lens, and so on.

All of which means that a rearview camera is no substitute for walking around your car and looking in mirrors and over your shoulder before throwing your car into reverse. “The camera is only an adjunct device,” says Albert Austria, lead engineer at ARC.

But rearview camera systems are improving. Tesla and Volkswagen are testing cameras that will replace traditional side-view mirrors. I’ve recently driven a sports car (BMW i8), a crossover (Nissan Rogue), and a pickup truck (Ford F-150) with multiple cameras that give an impressive bird’s-eye view all around the vehicle. One more plus: Not only do such camera systems have the potential to save lives, they also make exiting a crowded parking lot easier and safer.

Blind Spot Detection

gallery_sorento_2016_exterior_033-kia-1280x-jpgIn the new Sorento, when blind spot detection senses another vehicle or object in your blind spot, the system will warn you with a visual signal on your side mirror.

To Buy or to Lease?

You’re more likey to buy

  • When you lease a car, you are typically capped at 15,000 miles a year. Additional mileage can cost you up to 35 cents per mile. And that can really add up.
  • If you like to personalize a car, this investment can be lost on a leased car.
  • If you like the idea of ownership, you are less likely to be happy with the lease option.
  • If you like the feeling of accomplishment that paying off a large purchase brings and should consider that when you lease a car, the payment ends only when you return the car.
  • If the car you presently own is over 3 years old you are more likely a buyer. While not always true, you can usually drive for less if you’re willing to buy and drive for at least 3 years.
  • If you don’t mind doing your own car repairs, you probably don’t mind driving a car after the warranty expires.

You’re more likely to lease

  • Lease arrangements usually involve a 15,000 miles-per-year cap and charge for extra miles. If you drive very little, you may be a candidate for a luxury lease.
  • When you negotiate a 24 or 36-month lease, you can be sure you’ll always be driving a new vehicle.
  • Although you need to maintain and repair your leased vehicle just as you would an owned vehicle, because you typically lease for 2 to 3 years, the car is normally under warranty.
  • Many people prefer to drive a vehicle that is priced above their means and leasing provides the solution.
  • If you don’t mind not owning the car, you are free to enjoy the benefits of leasing like low monthly payments and a low down payment.
  • If you own the company, and you use your car for business, check with your tax advisor. You may be able to deduct your auto expenses, including your monthly lease payment. And if the company you work for gives you a monthly car allowance, you may want to lease since you’ll be able to drive a nicer car for a lower monthly payment.

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