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2018 Kia Sportage

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Kia puts the fun in funky with the wonderfully appointed Sportage. This quirky compact crossover has a charming Audi-like interior and a long list of premium options. These include heated and cooled seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a panoramic sunroof, and a host of high-tech safety assists such as automated emergency braking. Although it’s only available on the top SX trim, a rowdy turbocharged four-cylinder makes the Sportage downright speedy. A 181-hp inline-four provides ample push on lower trims. Both engines mate to a six-speed automatic transmission with front- or all-wheel drive. Despite mediocre fuel economy and tight cargo quarters, the jovial Sportage is a justifiable alternative to top-ranked rivals.

2017 Kia Rio

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  • 4-Cyl 1.6 Liter
  • Automatic 6-Spd
  • ABS (4-Wheel)
  • Air Bags (Side): Front
  • Air Bags: Dual Front
  • Air Bags: F&R Head Curtain
  • Air Conditioning
  • AM/FM Stereo
  • Bluetooth Wireless
  • CD: MP3 (Single)
  • Cruise Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Fog Lamps
  • FWD
  • Hill Start Assist Control

Not All Gas Is Created Equal

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The combustion process—gasoline and air burned in the cylinders to produce power—also produces byproducts, carbon being the most relevant to this discussion. Carbon deposits inside the engine disturb airflow and air/fuel ratios, adversely affecting performance, emissions, and fuel economy to the point that it might set off the check engine light—and trigger the need for potentially expensive repairs. Decades ago, it was routine procedure to partially dismantle engines to remove carbon deposits. The Brits called it decoking. There was also the “Italian tune-up,” running the engine near redline to burn off carbon deposits.

Modern engines are even more sensitive to carbon deposits on such components as intake valves and fuel injectors. These deposits cause a rough idle, hesitant acceleration, and knocking or pinging, among other symptoms. In 1996, the federal Environmental Protection Agency decreed that gasoline refiners must add detergent to every grade of gasoline—regular, midgrade, and premium—to prevent carbon buildup. But eight automakers—Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes- Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen—deemed the federally required amount of detergent additive insufficient. They formed an alliance called Top Tier to test and certify that gasoline brands have additional detergent additives to keep their engines performing as they were originally designed.

Last year, AAA hired an independent engine testing lab to see if Top Tier gasoline cleans engines any better than non–Top Tier brands. The result? Top Tier gasoline averaged a whopping 19 times fewer deposits than non–Top Tier gasoline after only 4,000 miles of simulated driving. And for motorists who’ve been using lower-quality gasoline, the AAA study had good news. There’s no need to tear down the engine and decoke. As stated in the final report, “Engine carbon deposits formed when using [non–Top Tier gasoline] can be largely removed by switching to a gasoline that meets Top Tier standards”—though it may take a few thousand miles of driving. More good news: The average price difference between Top Tier and non–Top Tier brands was just 3 cents a gallon. AAA also found non–Top Tier gasoline reduced fuel economy by 2 to 4 percent, meaning that the higher cost of Top Tier brands is mitigated by improved fuel economy. Seems to me like pretty good reasons to stick with Top Tier gas. To find brands meeting Top Tier standards, go to toptiergas.com/licensedbrands.

A note of caution: Don’t confuse gasoline quality (which refers to detergent additives) with grade (which refers to octane rating). Buying a lower octane rating than specified in your car’s owner’s manual also harms performance and could cause engine damage. Buying a higher grade than required is a waste of money.

Keep Your Car Breathing Well: Change the Air Filters

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You need clean air to breathe and so does your car, and a vehicle’s air filters make that possible. The non-profit Car Care Council reminds car owners to have the engine and cabin air filters inspected and changed regularly to ensure vehicle longevity and interior comfort.

Air filters are your vehicle’s first line of defense against contaminants that reduce cabin air quality and negatively impact engine performance,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Community car care events held throughout the country reveal that nearly one out of five vehicles is in need of air filter replacement, so it’s evident that motorists often overlook this simple, yet important service.”

The vehicle’s engine air filter traps dirt particles that can cause damage to engine cylinders, cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings and bearings, leading to the engine losing power. The air filter also plays a critical role in keeping pollutants from contaminating the airflow sensor on fuel-injected cars. A normal wear item that requires regular checks and replacement, air filters should be inspected at each oil change and replaced annually or when showing other signs of contamination.

The cabin air filter is responsible for cleaning the air entering the passenger compartment. Under normal circumstances, it helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust and exhaust gases that may find their way into a vehicle’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, compromising interior air quality and damaging the system. Most cabin air filters are accessed through the panel in the HVAC housing, which may be under the hood or placed within the interior of the vehicle. A cabin air filter should not be cleaned and reinstalled. Instead, it should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or per the owner’s manual.

 

RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS OF VEHICLE ENGINE DAMAGE

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It’s not always easy to recognize when your vehicle is suffering from engine damage as symptoms can be overlooked and seen as “normal.” While not all sounds and smells may threaten the life of your engine, there are some obvious warning signs that require a vehicle inspection right away.

Early diagnosis of engine damage can most likely be treated, but it is important to be aware of potentially damaging symptoms and have the vehicle inspected if something doesn’t seem right. By acting quickly and making necessary repairs as soon as possible, you could be saving yourself from the cost and hassle of breaking down along the road.

One of the signs of engine trouble is an illuminated check engine light. This light indicates that a vehicle system, such as the ignition, fuel injection or emission control, is not operating properly, even if the vehicle appears to be running normally. Ignoring the check engine light can negatively impact your fuel economy or cause damage resulting in more costly repairs.

Many motorists are familiar with the noises their vehicles make on a daily basis. However, any noise that is new, different or suspicious may indicate a problem, including a high-pitched squeal, grinding or thumping. Sounds under the hood, such as hissing, can also indicate that your vehicle is in need of attention.

Although all cars burn fossil fuels that create undesired emissions, these odors should remain outside of the car. Unusual smells that could signal engine damage include: burnt rubber, hot oil, gasoline, sweet smell of syrup, burning carpet and rotten eggs. When you smell any peculiar odor, you should not ignore it.

Another symptom of engine damage is excessive amounts of smoke or steam. Although some smoke is normal, excessive amounts of dark smoke in particular indicates that oil is leaking into the combustion chamber and is being burned along with the gasoline.

Things to know about speeding

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Some roadways are designated as low-speed zones. These include areas with high pedestrian traffic, such as school zones and streets lots of intersections close together. Driving over the speed limit can put you and others at risk of harm. 

  • Never pass a stopped bus displaying a stop sign to its left. That means children are crossing the street.
  • If you hear a siren coming behind you, pull to the side if you can, stop and wait until the police car or fire truck goes by. 
  • Completely stop at stop signs and look for other drivers and pedestrians before you proceed.
  • Obey the posted speed limit at all times. Speeding tickets are costly, and penalties for speeding can include fines, court appearances and loss or suspension of your driving privileges. Also, depending on your insurance policy, speeding tickets can raise your rates. 
  • When parking your vehicle, always be mindful of handicapped signs, fire hydrants, bus stop zones, parking restrictions for certain times of day, and parking spots that require permits. Just remember to heed all of the signs. Even if you have to circle the block a couple times, it sure beats getting fined or having your car towed.

What to do if you get pulled over

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If you notice that a police car is following you with the lights flashing, pull over to the side of the road safely and quickly. Wait inside your car for the officer to approach, and be prepared to:

  • Turn on your interior light at night and keep your hands where the officer can see them, preferably on the steering wheel.
  • Don’t reach under your seat or into your glove box. This may cause the officer to think you’re reaching for a weapon or hiding something.
  • Give your license and proof of insurance to the officer if asked. If the officer asks you to step out of your car, do so without sudden or threatening movements.
  • Stay calm − don’t become argumentative, disorderly or abusive − and never attempt to bribe the officer.
  • If a citation is issued, present your story in traffic court if you feel you’ve been unfairly treated. You may be represented by a lawyer and, if necessary, you’ll be heard by a judge or magistrate. 

 

What to do after an accident

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If you’re in an accident, first make sure no one in the car is injured. Next, check on the passengers in the other vehicle, pedestrians and anyone else nearby to make sure they’re OK. Then do these five things:

  1. Stay at the scene. Leaving can result in legal consequences, like fines or additional violations.
  2. Call 911 or the local police immediately. They’ll dispatch an officer and medical personnel to the scene of the accident. Once the cops arrive, wait for them to complete an accident report.
  3. If you’re on a busy highway, stay inside the car and wait for the police or an ambulance. It’s dangerous if passengers stand along a freeway or other road with lots of traffic.
  4. Don’t get into an argument or a fight with the other driver. Simply exchange contact and insurance information. If possible, also get the name and phone numbers of witnesses.
  5. Call your insurance provider to report the claim. Your agent will ask you for any paperwork you receive about the accident, and will give you important information on getting your car fixed.

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