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Spring Full Service Guide –– thursday, april 12, 2012 — Page 2

Full Service Maintenance Guide PuBliSHer Elizabeth Gorske ManaGinG editor Eric Young editorial StaFF Sherry Barnum Tim Barnum Greg Buckner Kevin Bunch Jeff Patrus Jessie Tobias advertiSinG SaleS Jama Gates Anthony Kachiros Tracy Pardue-Smith Lisa Saunders Carla Reeves coMPoSition Sharon Ehlert Adam Thompson Phone: 989-345-0044 email:

Home car maintenance tips anyone can do By Kevin Bunch It can be easy for someone to let their car’s health degrade over time until it gets bad enough that it needs to be taken to a repair shop. However, there are simple tips that can help keep a car running properly for years. Ken Snider, owner and mechanic at Snider’s Car Care in West Branch, said one of the easiest things a person can do is keep their tire pressure at the right level. Properly inflated tires help with fuel economy, Snider said, and low tire pressure can become a danger when taking turns. Many gas stations offer air dispensers that involve plugging a hose into the valve stem on your tire and filling it up. Using a pressure gauge, car owners can check the air pressure within the tire, and Snider said pressure around 35 psi is where a person wants to be. “It varies depending on the car, but generally 35 is going to be good to cover most cars,” Snider said. “Every car built after 2007 has a sensor that alerts a driver to low tire pressure.” Larry Emans, service manager at Richardson Chevrolet Buick in Standish, said it is important to check the vehicle’s manual if possible to see exactly what psi level is recommended for your vehicle. “All car manufacturers recommend different things,” Emans said. Snider added that heavier semi trucks need a tire pressure of around 50 psi, but a normal vehicle’s ranges from between 30 and 40. Snider recommended that people remember their spare tire as well. “You should keep your spare tire pressure checked as well,” Snider said. “It will slowly decrease over time. People usually don’t check their trunk tire.”

Summer car maintenance tips: • Check your tires • Change oil and oil filter • De-winterize your car • Check hoses and belts • Change the air filter • Replace your windshield wipers For spare tires that rest outside of the vehicle, he suggested removing them at least once a year, ideally when winter turns into spring, to prevent them from being stuck by rust and caked in mud. Furthermore, he suggested putting WD-40 on the retaining cable to help keep it clean. Emans said a person should check for uneven tire wear as well. A tire will naturally wear out over the course of its life, but uneven wear can shorten its lifetime. Emans said this is usually an indication of poor alignment on a vehicle or a lack of tire rotation. General Motors recommends rotating tires every 7,500 miles, Emans added. Snider recommended being mindful of a car’s fluid levels as well. When adding antifreeze to a car, he recommended seeking out the universal blend, since certain types of antifreeze cannot blend with each other and there is no easy way to check what kind is in a vehicle. He also said a person should keep an eye on their brake fluid levels, but warned against overreacting if fluid levels are below normal. “As the brake pads wear out, the fluid levels drop in the master cylinder,” Snider said. “It

• Check your brakes • Check the radiator and coolant • Clean your battery • Maintain your air conditioning system Tips courtesy of could overflow if someone keeps adding more.” He said if the brakes get replaced, the fluid levels would increase again. Windshield wiper fluid is important to add to, especially with spring weather and more insects coming out, Snider said, but he suggested using the basic cleaning solution. He said ones formulated specifically for squished bugs require more liquid sprays to clean the windshield, in his experience. Finally, he recommended taking a car into a shop for an oil change regularly. He said it is a matter of personal preference as to what kind of oil goes into a car, but it needs something. A shop can usually do a spot check to see if anything else needs to be fixed, Snider said. He said most people recommend visiting a mechanic for an oil change every 3,000 miles, though some car manuals recommend every 5,000 miles or six months. Emans said it was important to check what kind of oil a vehicle needs ahead of time. Car manuals have that information, he said. He added most vehicles should be taken in for professional maintenance every 7,500 miles.

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Page 3 — Spring Full Service Guide –– thursday, april 12, 2012

Auto air conditioning systems built to last By Jeff Patrus One feature of an automobile that people like to use as the weather outside gets increasingly hotter is its air conditioning system. According to Craig Peters, service manager at Sunrise Motors in Standish, air conditioning systems in automobiles are built for the long haul. “In the perfect world, it should last forever,” he said. “The system is pretty much selfcontained.” According to Peters, the combination of weather conditions and the parts aging are the main contributors to air conditioning systems breaking down. Peters said air conditioners in most vehicles last between three years to the lifetime of the vehicle, depending on how well the air conditioning system is working. “There’s really no definite time frame,” he said. “It’s a system that should last the time of the car. It’s good to do maintenance and check belt tensions. It’s good to keep the system operating correctly.” Bill Ballard, owner of Village Quik Lube

in West Branch, said some air conditioning systems last forever, while others last between six and eight years. According to Ballard, the best way to check an air conditioning system is to connect it to a machine with gauges. He said a lot of people spend money unnecessarily on air conditioning repairs. “A lot of people get taken advantage of,” Ballard said. “There’s no real maintenance as long as it’s working.” Peters said if the air from an air conditioning system inside a vehicle is not as cold as it should be, that is a telltale sign that the system is not working. “You’ll start having possible noises when the air conditioner is running,” he said. As far as the cost to repair the system is concerned, Peters said a lot depends on what is wrong with the system. He said the cost can range from $60 for recharging the system to $500 for a compressor. “They are expensive to repair,” Peters said. “If you have a combination of these conditions, then it can get up to $1,000 easily.”


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Spring Full Service Guide –– thursday, april 12, 2012 — Page 4

My unclean car dilemma

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Emans said. “It’s a busy world we live in now.” Bingo. I think we pinpointed the problem. What’s the solution, though? How can I keep my car clean after a detailing? For the answer to that question, I turned to the place with all the answers. Not Wikipedia… Facebook. I received several helpful tips on the Ogemaw Heralds and Arenac Independent’s Facebook pages. Linda Short, who lives in Hale, shared this one: “Keep a small trash basket in the passenger side and empty it every day or two,” she posted on the Herald’s page. And Misty Harmon gave a useful tip on the Independent’s page to decrease the current mess. “Take some items out every time you get out of your car,” she wrote. I can do that. “I use small grocery bags to keep everything in until I go to the gas station and throw it out,”

Sherry Barnum

Tim Barnum takes readers’ advice and cleans some of the clutter from his car.

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said Chavon Nihls, of Rose City. That sounds pretty simple, but of course, not all the advice was feasible. “Walk!” said Terese Claspell Wisenbaugh, of Omer. I wish I could. But pounding the pavement from West Branch to Hale might be a little bit of a stretch. Emans and Jones both gave me some helpful tips, too. “I would just recommend not eating in the vehicle and picking up after yourself,” Emans said. “Every week, set aside a half hour to run through the car wash and quickly vacuum up any dirt and throw away any trash,” Jones said. It certainly looks like even though I have a pretty busy schedule, there are some quick, easy ways I can get my car clean, and keep it that way. Next time you see me getting out of my car, expect to see a neat, tidy ride. Now, on to my next issue!


Right now, my car is a mess. The unseasonably hot weather, which is supposed to turn cold again, has caused me to keep a jacket and my winter coat (just in case) on hand, and of course they both wound up on my backseat. My job also requires me to travel around the county a lot, which means a lot of eating and drinking on the go. No matter how hard I try, it seems like some garbage always winds up on the floor. But I decided to do something about it. I’m thinking I should start fresh with a top-to-bottom detailing of my car. “Detailing is all about thoroughly cleaning and paying close attention to every nook and cranny inside and outside the car,” said Kelly Jones, owner of Showroom Auto Detailing in West Branch. She added cars should be professionally detailed at least every six months. I bought my car in late July 2008. The last time it was detailed was before I bought it. That can’t be good. Anyways, I was curious as to how I could keep my car clean after a thorough detailing. Because even when I do one of my “complete” cleanings (vacuuming, washing the windows, taking out garbage and “Armor All-ing” the dash, panels and doors), it takes about two days before I’m buried again. Jones said I should throw away trash daily (sounds easy), wash the exterior weekly (OK that’s a little harder), wipe down surfaces when dust is visible (I might be able to do that), and vacuum regularly. There’s the deal breaker. I hate vacuuming my car. But Larry Emans, service manager at Richardson Chevrolet Buick in Standish, said a car floor should be vacuumed every two weeks, at least. “It’s best to keep up with it, because if you wait too long, it’s going to get pretty filthy,” he said. Not only filthy, but also stinky, according to

Emans. “If you get stuff into the carpet, it can create a smell over time,” he said. “Also, if you don’t keep up on it, it’s harder to get stains out of the vehicle.” Emans said floors are the most neglected part of a car when it comes to cleaning. Jones added that many of her clients seem to ignore the hard-to-reach areas, like vents, between and underneath seats and the doorjambs. “Doorjambs need to be cleaned regularly, as the road salt from the winter months and other debris from the roads collect inside there and become a breeding ground for rust and other damage to occur,” she said. I shudder at the thought of what my jambs look like. I guess I should take a look, though. Pardon the pun, but I may be “jambed” if I don’t. Take a moment to process or recover from that. OK. We good? Jones and Emans both told me not being more diligent in keeping my car’s appearance up could ultimately hurt my pocketbook. OK, now I’m really listening. “Neglecting the interior mostly hurts your own comfort when driving, but allowing stray cans and spilled drinks to wreak havoc on your carpet and other surfaces is the number-two way to sink your car’s value,” Jones said. “So by spending just a few minutes each week on simple car care and getting your car professionally detailed on a regular basis, you can literally increase the value of your car and get the money you deserve out of the sale.” What’s the deal? It seems like it’s worth it to keep my car clean. And I definitely want it to be clean. Emans said sometimes people’s cars get cluttered up just out of laziness. Ouch. My pride. But I don’t consider myself lazy. I work a full day (sometimes late into the evening), go to the gym three or four days a week, read, write and travel many miles a week for work. Maybe that’s the problem. “I guess people are just pressed for time,”

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Page 5 — Spring Full Service Guide –– thursday, april 12, 2012

High Volt-age My day with a 2011 Chevy Volt By Greg Buckner Electric cars and hybrid cars: they’ve been the buzz of the automotive world for the last few years. But despite all the press and attention the cars have received, it seems that a sizeable portion of the population really doesn’t know what the deal is with these cars, including myself. Specifically, the Chevrolet Volt has been somewhat of an unknown to the general public. Is it a fully-electric car? How much does it cost? Does it really save you money in the long run? With these questions in mind, the crew at Team Hodges in West Branch let me take a 2011 Volt for a spin for a day to get my own opinion of the car. Admittedly, I’m not that much of a car guy, so this account of my time driving the Volt will focus less on the nuts and bolts of the car and more on the experience of driving. As I headed to Hodges to drive the Volt, I was pretty excited to see what the car had to offer. Once I arrived, I met up with Hodges salesman Mac Cahill and we sat down for 10-15 minutes and he explained how the car works. Cahill explained that the car is a “extended-range electric vehicle,” since it operates on a gas motor and two electric motors, one to primarily power the wheels and the other to generate electricity from the gas motor. Cahill said the car will run on electric power for roughly just over 30 miles before seamlessly switching over to the gas engine, which runs from the 9.3 gallon gas tank. Cahill said the car should get close to 35 mpg when running off the gas engine.

After some more chatting, I was ready to drive the Volt. Cahill brought the car around and the first thing I asked was, “Is this thing even on?” The car was so quiet that I couldn’t tell it was running. I sat down in the driver seat and my first impression was that I was driving a spaceship. Looking at the interior, I thought it was very nice and clean. There was also a decent amount of overall space inside the car, as I never felt cramped or had any trouble with leg room for my longer legs. The trunk was a little small, but I’m sure most people looking at a Volt aren’t focused too much on the trunk space. The typical dashboard of gauges and speedometers was replaced with a single electronic screen, which displayed a speedometer along with how much battery life and gasoline you had left. I thought this was a very fresh and cool way to keep you aware of your meters. The center console was very much the same. There was a touch-screen monitor where you can control everything from the radio to navigation to seeing how efficient your driving habits are. If you have a habit of slamming on the brakes, the car will let you know that better braking could save you energy. This was something I thought was very helpful and can make drivers aware of how they could drive more efficiently. After getting comfortable with the console, I took off from the Hodges parking lot and began my drive. The first thing I noticed was how responsive the turning and acceleration of the car was. I was in full electric mode, and I bare-

Award-Winning, Quality Service at Dean Arbour Ford of West Branch

ly had to hit the pedal to accelerate and the car accelerated smoothly. The braking was as equally responsive as I came to a smooth stop at an intersection by lightly applying the brakes. Once I quickly got accustomed to the car just from Hodges to Hamburger Hill, I decided to really test the car out by hitting I-75 and taking the 27-mile trip to Standish. I hit the exit and quickly accelerated to 75 mph in only a few seconds. I was impressed with how smoothly the car drove on the highway and was especially impressed with the acceleration. I had to keep an eye on at the speedometer, since many times I noticed I was creeping up towards 85 mph without even noticing it, since the car ran so quietly and smoothly. I was passing other vehicles with ease and received many surprised looks from those I was passing. From West Branch to Standish, the electric mileage was on par for what Cahill said it would be. I drove to Standish and grabbed some quick lunch before heading back on the highway, and the car didn’t have to switch to the gas engine until about 5 miles into my trip back on northbound I-75, roughly 34 miles into the trip. To give the gas motor a test, I exited to M-33 and decided to take a drive to Rose City, 34 miles from Standish. I would have never noticed the car switching from electric to gas if I hadn’t paid attention to the dashboard. The car switched from electric to gas seamlessly with no hesitation or noticeable changes in the way the car ran. I made the trip to Rose City and returned to the office in West Branch, roughly close

to a 60-mile trip from Standish and Rose City, and I had only used a little over a gallon of gas. Now for a little background on price and how to charge the car. The model I drove currently runs at a MSRP of $41,000, but that number comes down after a $7,500 tax credit from the U.S government. As far as charging the car, you can plug it into any standard household outlet and it takes about 10 hours to fully charge. You can have a special charging station installed at home for close to $2,500, which decreases the charge time to about four hours. The multiple figures I saw on the cost of charging the car averaged to just over $1 a day. Final verdict After driving the Volt around for just a day, I can say that while my sample period wasn’t that large, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the car drove and the amount of great technology in the car. If you only drive a few miles to work and only have to run a few errands a week, you could easily never even use the gas engine, except for after a few weeks, when the car asks you to run on gas for a little while just to keep the gas engine in good shape. If you have to drive a good 40-50 minutes a day to work and are constantly driving, the benefits really won’t be that great, in my opinion. My final verdict is, if you are not afraid of the price tag and only make short trips during the week, I’d say the Volt is a great choice of car and is a fun car to drive. If you are constantly on the road and drive longer distances, I’d honestly look around at other options, since you really won’t be able to take full advantage of the electric motor.

West Branch Automotive

• Large Inventory of Auto Parts • Automotive Paints & Supplies • Welding Products • Parts-Agricultural Products • Manufactured Hydraulic Hoses • Sell Oxygen & Acetylene Tanks

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Spring Full Service Guide –– thursday, april 12, 2012 — Page 6

a m e T A e d m v o a n H t r a u ge o Y

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Page 7 — Spring Full Service Guide –– thursday, april 12, 2012

Fuel efficiency versus size

By Jeff Patrus When considering what type of car to buy, one factor for many people is deciding whether to go for fuel efficiency or passenger and storage space in a car. As far as what size of cars are popular these days, it depends on who you talk to. According to Ron Curtis, inventory manager at Dean Arbour Ford in West Branch, about 75 percent of the vehicles sold at his dealership are trucks. Curtis said being in Northern Michigan has a lot to do with that total. “Our reputation is having a lot of inventory as far as trucks,” he said. “It’s up north — people use their trucks. We have a large radius that we sell to. It’s the biggest location

north of Flint.” Curtis disputed the notion that only subcompact cars can get good gas mileage. “The Ford Fusion gets 30-34 miles per gallon,” he said. “That’s a mid-size car. They’re staying with a mid-size car that gets excellent gas mileage. They want gas mileage, but the engines Ford has produced gets excellent gas mileage for a mid-size Fusion.” Curtis said larger vehicles are more useful when people travel together to work, as well as when transporting a large number of people to family gatherings and other events. “A lot of people are carpooling a little bit more,” he said. “You can fit more people in there.” Curtis said one of the main cars his dealer-

ship is selling is the Explorer, which is a seven-seat vehicle. “A lot of people are using their vehicle to carry the whole family,” he said. While Curtis said larger vehicles are more popular at his dealership, Matt Galinski, sales manager at Hart Buick/GMC in West Branch, said larger vehicles are not as popular as they used to be. “That’s a fading market as far as sales are concerned,” he said. “They’re starting to go smaller and more fuel-efficient.” Galinski said increasing gas prices are causing a lot of prospective car buyers to rethink their strategy when it comes time to buy a new vehicle. He said customers who used to want to buy cars with lots of horsepower are now thinking in terms of fuel effi-

ciency. “It’s really changed our consumers’ buying (strategy),” he said. “I think a larger factor is the fuel economy rating. That’s probably the top question anyone asks anymore.” Galinski said one misconception that some customers have is that because Buick and GMC have generally produced larger vehicles, their vehicles do not have good gas mileage. “Sometimes people think because we carry Buick and GMC, they’re not fuel-efficient,” he said. “They think an Americanbuilt car is not fuel efficient.” However, Galinski said his dealership has plenty of cars that offer good gas mileage. “We do have very fuel-efficient vehicles,” he said.

New or used? The big question when buying a car By Sherry Barnum When purchasing a car, the biggest question you may find yourself asking is whether to buy used or new. According to Brent Snelgrove of Sunrise Motors in Standish, there a lot of reasons to buy used cars. “The pricing is less than buying a new car and the interest rates are reasonable,” Snelgrove said. “Especially if you get into 72 months financing — the interest rates go down to 2.5 to 3 percent.” Snelgrove said the used car rates make them

much more attractive than new cars. “We offer warranties with all of our cars,” Snelgrove said. “In today’s car market, warranties are treated as those of new cars.” “You can also get into a used car (for) less than $200 per month,” Snelgrove added. Snelgrove said another fantastic thing to know about used cars is the Carfax. “These are vehicle history reports that tell you if there are problems with the vehicle,” Snelgrove said. “For example, we might get a car that comes from a southern state, and with all the flooding that has gone on there, you won’t have to wonder if the car was affected,

because it’s all there in the report.” Snelgrove also added that used cars lots offer the best deals in the country. “You can always find better deals in smaller towns rather than bigger areas, because you don’t have as much expense that bigger areas have,” Snelgrove said. Jim Martin of Dean Arbour Ford in West Branch said the factory warranty on the car when purchasing a new vehicle is a major benefit to the customer. “With the warranty, the customer doesn’t have to worry about the repair coming out of their pocket,” Martin said.

According to Martin, a new vehicle can cost less than a used one based on the incentives available. “When a customer comes in, we look at their wants and needs of a car,” Martin said. “Then we try to come up with a vehicle that best meets their needs.” “Depending on the budget of the customer, a late-model used car may be similar to a newer model,” he added. “What it comes down to is a conversation with the sales representative.” Martin said there are pros and cons on both sides to the new versus used argument; it just depends what the customer needs.

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