The High Cost of Losing Your Keys

Our car keys have an uncanny ability to get lost inside coat pockets or underneath couch cushions — or to disappear altogether. Prior to the 1990s, this wasn’t a big deal. You could get a spare key at any hardware store or locksmith shop, not to mention at the car dealership, of course. But because it was easy to copy a key, it was also easy for a thief to steal your car. These days, advances in key technology have made vehicles more difficult to steal, but the price has been costlier key replacements.

Here’s a rundown of what you’ll face in the way of cost if you have to replace your key, along with some alternatives that could lower the bill. The prices quoted here are for Santa Monica, California, and West Los Angeles, an area where an hour of labor at an auto dealership can cost more than $100. Labor costs in your region may vary.

Basic Keys and Fob
A basic car key, which was common up until the mid-to late-1990s, has no security feature other than its unique cut. The shank, which is the long metal part of the key,

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Confessions From the Auto Body Shop

For most consumers, auto body shops are intimidating and mysterious. The good ones restore your beloved car to gleaming perfection. The bad ones hide problems and stick you with a big repair bill.

We talked with three veterans of the auto body industry, two of whom (Brian and Neal) run their own collision repair businesses and the third expert (Andy) who is a well-connected industry observer. Our sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, shed light on this shadowy world and offer suggestions on how to manage costs, avoid rip-offs and ensure that sure your car is fixed right.

Know That Body Shops Run the Quality Gamut
“I don’t care what state you live in, for every 10 body shops, three of them are unethical and five of them do mediocre work at best,” Neal says.

It’s clear that finding the right shop and building a relationship with the owner or manager is an essential first step in the repair process. There will always be fly-by-night shops, and even mobile dent-repair guys working out of the trunks of their cars. Consumers should look for brick-and-mortar body shops that have been in business a long time and

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How To Tell if Your Body Shop Did the Job Correctly

When you last saw your car, it was a twisted mess being towed away from the scene of the accident. Now it’s weeks later and the car is parked in the driveway of a body shop. All you have to do is write a check and the car is yours again. But how do you know that everything under the surface has really been fixed correctly?

One key to getting your car fixed right is choosing a reliable shop in the first place. But you should still inspect the work performed before you drive away. To better understand what to look for, here are some insider tips from several knowledgeable veterans of the body shop business.

Have a Clear Understanding Up Front
The process of having your car fixed right starts when you drop it off, says Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists. Be clear on what the shop is going to fix and how it will do the repair. Get everything in writing. Ask about the shop’s warranty on its work. When you return, review the paperwork to confirm that the shop did the repairs correctly.

“A reputable repair

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Hyundai Elite i20: Elite class for all by Autoportal.com

Hyundai has successfully upgraded its i20 to Elite i20. With a difference in its appearance and added features it has come up with this new hatchback which surely can give a decent competition to its rivals.

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The Elite i20 comes in the trims of Era, Magna, Sportz, Asta and Asta (O).

Exterior and Interior:

Elite i20 stands aloof from the outgoing model of the hatchback in its external design and appearance. The Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy is quite similar to that of the French Auto maker’sPeugeot.At the front end of the exterior the wrap-around headlamps, all-new hexagonal grille with chrome linings, wider air dam andhood character lineslooks attractive. The wide and distinct trapezoidal fog lamps are integrated with the body-coloured front bumper. Due to the enlarged size of C pillar at the side profilethe roofline is made to look sportier and sloppy. Except for Era all other variants get body-coloured door handles and ORVM with turn indicators.The new tail lamp cluster at the rear profile of the Elite i20 hatchback adds to its style. Also Check About Chevrolet Orlando Price in India, Specs, Photos, Mileage

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How to Restore Your Vehicle’s Headlights

Cars get old and if you’re part of the vast majority of Americans who own a set of wheels at least 11 years old, we’re pretty sure those front headlights could use a makeover. Clean headlights not only make your vehicle look like new, but they allow for safe and unobstructed travel by clearly illuminating the road ahead.

Haze, fog, smear, whatever you want to call it, there are easy ways to get rid of that plastic oxidation that fogs up your vehicle’s headlights after years and miles of driving.

There are numerous headlight restoration kits available for sale at auto parts and home improvement stores. For this story, we tested two different kits: a $25 kit from Mequiar’s and one that cost $10 from Turtle Wax. Both kits come with a cleaning-clarifying compound, wet sanding pads and a protectant sealer solution. What do you get for $15 more? The more-advanced Meguiar’s kit provides a clean microfiber detailing cloth, an ergonomic hand grip for the wet sanding pads and a polishing buffing ball that mounts to a drill. The cheaper Turtle Wax kit came with two solutions and a numbered set of sanding pads.

What you need:

Headlight restoration kit

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How to Store Your Car for Winter

From washing and waxing to detailing the interior, people baby their cars in all sorts of ways. But it’s equally important to take care of your car before you put it into storage. Here are a few tips to make sure your car is ready to go when you are.

The Final Detail

Thoroughly clean your car, inside and out, before storage. The last thing you want to do is put a car cover on a dirty car. Give your ride a good hand wash, polish up that chrome and apply a coat of wax to the paint. Make sure to get rid of any tree-sap drops, too.

If there are unpainted metal places under your car that are prone to rust, buy a can of rubberized undercoating and spray on a protective coat, keeping in mind that it needs to be reapplied yearly. Be careful not to spray this coating near any exhaust components that can get hot because products like this can be very flammable. For collectors, if you’re worried about keeping your car in original condition, a coat of WD-40 will also work. You can also stuff a sock in the exhaust pipe so that small animals won’t find a

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5 Tips for Choosing the Right Auto Body Shop

It’s not uncommon for estimates from different body shops to vary wildly. One shop might give you an estimate for $500 while another wants $2,000 for the work. What’s the difference? And when is it OK to choose the cheaper shop?

John Mallette, owner of Burke Auto Body & Paint, in Long Beach, California, knows better than most people how to choose a reliable shop. Mallette started working on cars when he was 12 years old and has been in the body shop business for 24 years. Here are some of his tips for choosing the right shop to work on your car — particularly when you’re the one paying the bills.

1) Pay Attention to Word-of-Mouth
Any business can advertise, but you’ll do better with a shop that friends, family or acquaintances recommend. It’s a business that has proven it can satisfy customers. And it might not be the biggest or best-known shop in your area.

Mallette went to a shop years ago on such recommendations and found that the owner was a “real stand-up guy…. He doesn’t advertise on the Internet; it’s a family-owned shop,” Mallette says. “But, golly, if you take your car there, you’ll get a fair

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Expensive Oil Changes Are Here to Stay

Compact car shoppers may not be too happy when their budget-friendly car requires a $40 — or more — oil change. Automakers including Honda and Toyota are almost exclusively switching from well-known 5W-30 and 10W-30 oils to low-friction, and pricier, 0W-20 engine oils. The slippery low-friction oils helps squeeze every last bit of fuel economy out of the engine, but their synthetic and synthetic blend man-made origins raise the cost of routine maintenance.

Cars.com received its first taste of 0W-20 oil — not literally, the car was serviced at a dealership — when the 2013 Subaru BRZ long-term tester’s first oil change totaled $76 with full-synthetic 0W-20 oil. The pricey oil isn’t just for sports coupes like the BRZ. Our other long-term tester, a 2013 Honda Civic, is a best-selling car every month and requires the exotic-sounding 0W-20 oil.

Changing a 2013 Honda Civic’s oil is roughly a $40 service with the recommended blended synthetic 0W-20, which is much easier to swallow than the $76 for our BRZ that uses full-synthetic oil and more of it at $7.69 per quart. Most owners are probably more familiar with $20 or $30 oil changes from express-oil-change service centers. The switch to 0W-20 engine oil

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Oil Life Monitoring Systems

Until recently, the question of when to change your oil was usually answered by your local garage, which had a vested interest in servicing your car every 3,000 miles. Your alternative was to crack the owner’s manual to see whether your driving habits fell into the “severe” or “normal” category. And then you’d let the listed interval be your frequency guide.

But increasingly, the change-interval question is being answered by a vehicle’s oil life monitoring system, which signals the driver through the instrument panel. This alert usually arrives anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 miles.

So how does the system know when it’s time for a change? Electronic sensors throughout the drivetrain send information about engine revolutions, temperature and driving time to the car’s computer. The data is run through a mathematical algorithm that predicts when the oil will begin to degrade. The light comes on well in advance, giving the owner time to get the car serviced.

Oil life monitoring systems have been around for several decades. They were introduced in General Motors vehicles in the late 1980s and have been phased in slowly, said Matt Snider, project engineer in GM’s Fuels and Lubricants Group. “We are very confident in the accuracy of

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Stop Changing Your Oil!

Oil chemistry and engine technology have evolved tremendously in recent years, but you’d never know it from the quick-change behavior of American car owners. Driven by an outdated 3,000-mile oil change commandment, they are unnecessarily spending millions of dollars and spilling an ocean of contaminated waste oil.

The majority of automakers today call for oil changes at either 7,500 or 10,000 miles, and the interval can go as high as 15,000 miles in some cars. Yet this wasteful cycle continues largely because the automotive service industry, while fully aware of the technological advances, continues to preach the 3,000-mile gospel as a way to keep the service bays busy. As a result, even the most cautious owners are dumping their engine oil twice as often as their service manuals recommend.

After interviews with oil experts, mechanics and automakers, one thing is clear: The 3,000-mile oil change is a myth that should be laid to rest. Failing to heed the service interval in your owner’s manual wastes oil and money, while compounding the environmental impact of illicit waste-oil dumping.

Scared Into Needless Service
Part of the blame for this over-servicing lies in our insecurities about increasingly complicated engines that are all but inaccessible

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How Often Should You Change the Engine Air Filter?

Vehicle maintenance schedules vary on how often the air filter should be changed. On most Chevrolet engines, for example, the recommended interval is every 45,000 miles, but Ford says it should be done every 30,000 miles on many of its engines. Hyundai also says every 30,000 miles but shortens it to 15,000 for “severe” driving conditions, which includes heavy traffic in hot weather and frequent driving on unpaved roads or dusty conditions.

You might be able to tell by looking when a filter needs replacing, such as finding black areas on the section through which outside air enters. Air filters on most engines are fairly easy to access, and you can check the location in your owner’s manual if you need help.

If you can’t tell by looking, but it’s been more than three years or 30,000 miles, you probably should get a new one (especially if you can save money by doing it yourself). However, you should be leery if every time you get an oil change the repair shop says you also need a new air filter. We would expect most drivers can go more than a year, at least, and probably more than two years.

A clogged air filter won’t

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When Should You Change Your Oil?

If you are one of the many people who let a windshield reminder sticker govern when they get an oil change, here’s our advice to you: Drop that habit. Instead, follow the automaker’s recommended service intervals. In many modern cars, your best bet is to rely on the vehicle’s oil life monitoring system to let you know when it’s time for a change.

Let the Manual Guide You
Oil change information is in the maintenance chapter of your owner’s manual. If for some reason you’ve misplaced your owner’s manual, many automakers have put their manuals online. You can also search our Edmunds Maintenance Schedules. We have an extensive maintenance database on vehicles dating back to l980.

In many instances, you’ll find that the owner’s manual lists two service schedules. These are based on “normal” and “severe” or “special” driving conditions. Read the descriptions carefully to see which schedule reflects how you drive. In our experience, the vast majority of people fall into the normal schedule.

Trust Your Oil Life Monitor
In recent years, a number of automakers have installed oil life monitors of varying complexity in their vehicles. The more basic versions are more maintenance minders than actual systems. They’re based on mileage,

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Online Tire-Buying

Some people might assume that buying tires online and having them shipped to you is too expensive, time-consuming and cumbersome. So they continue to schlep down to the corner tire store, or buy from a chain store and wind up paying more than is necessary.

However, thanks to easy-to-navigate Web sites, consumers can provide their car’s year, make and model and quickly be shown a wide selection of tires that fit their vehicle. The choices are easily sorted based on the driving requirements, prices or other factors. The tires are then “drop-shipped” to a local tire store for installation at an additional cost. Consumers we have talked with have been amazed at how smoothly the online tire-buying process works. In fact, one shopper called it, “One of my best online-shopping experiences.”

Advantages of Online Tire-Buying

The Internet route offers the following advantages over the traditional tire-buying experience:

  • Online tire prices are lower, particularly when compared to inflated costs at dealerships.
  • Consumer reviews help buyers make informed decisions.
  • Buyers avoid aggressive “upselling” found in many brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Some online tire-buying Web sites, such as Tirerack.com offer their own independent tire tests.
  • There is no state sales tax on most Internet purchases (depending on the laws in your
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When Do You Need a Wheel Alignment

If your car drifts to one side and you have to turn the steering wheel away from the center position to drive straight, that is a good indication that your wheels are out of alignment. Perhaps it is the result of hitting a deep pothole or scoring a direct hit on a curb while parking.

Before you head off to a repair shop to have your wheels aligned, a job that typically costs about $60 to $100 for most vehicles, it would be a good idea to check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires can also cause a vehicle to pull to one side, so eliminate that possibility first.

You might also want to inspect your tires to see if there is uneven wear, such as the tread being worn off along one edge, another sign of an alignment issue. However, it can be hard to separate normal from excessive wear, so unless you’re well trained in “tireology” you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Vibrations in your wheels are different from alignment problems. Vibrations are probably caused by wheels being out of balance or bent (potholes can do that) or because suspension parts are worn, and getting your wheels aligned won’t solve those problems.

Some vehicles

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Do Cars Have More Than One Belt That Needs Replacing?

All vehicles have an accessory belt that drives features such as the alternator and air-conditioning compressor, and perhaps the power steering and water pump. This belt is usually mounted externally so you can see it on the front end of the engine (the engine is mounted transversely on most front-wheel-drive vehicles), and it usually is a serpentine belt that slithers around various pulleys. It needs to be replaced when it shows wear, such as cracks, fraying or stretching.

Some engines also have a timing belt that is hidden from view but connects the crankshaft on the bottom of the engine to the cylinder head on the top; it controls when valves open and close. Many engines have a timing chain instead of a belt. A key difference is a timing chain is usually considered a lifetime part that doesn’t require periodic replacement. A timing belt does require replacement, though the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule may not call for that until as much as 150,000 miles, as on some current Ford engines.

If either belt breaks, a vehicle is going to soon come to a halt. Once a timing belt breaks, the engine shuts off and you won’t be able to restart it. With

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Confessions of a Paintless Dent Remover

Calling a paintless dent remover instead of taking your car to the body shop can save you significant amounts of time and money. But choose carefully — the job is far trickier than it looks. We managed to track down and speak with the Obi-Wan Kenobi of paintless dent removers, Los Angeles-based Sean McMullan of Crayford Coachworks, as he massaged a complex ding out of a Subaru Impreza. His keen and entertaining insights are below.

I tell people I’m the McDonald’s of the automotive world — I make everyone happy for a lot less money. To be specific, I can usually fix your dent for a third the cost of a body shop. Sometimes it’s even a tenth the cost, if you add in the car rental and down time. But you have to know what you’re doing, as you almost have to be an artist to know how to do this job. The dent on this Subaru Impreza — caused by a baby seat falling onto the car — looked like it was going to be borderline impossible to fix.

The number-one thing causing dents is people driving into trash cans. Number two is irate girlfriend/boyfriend incidents. When I show up,

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How To Properly Check and Fill Tires

While it may seem like a mundane task, inflating tires is much more crucial to your car than you may think, and it results in a safer and more economical experience on the road. Your vehicle’s handling also will be greatly improved as the larger a tire’s inflated footprint, the more responsive and comfier the ride balance will be.

Because it’s National Tire Safety Week, it’s the perfect time to check your car’s tires.
Before starting

To find your tires’ proper inflation level, look for a sticker on the driver-side doorjamb. It displays the vehicle weight restriction and tire information. The info is also found in the maintenance or car-care section of your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Don’t refer to the sidewall markings on your tires, which in part specify the maximum tire pressure — not the recommended pressure.

Unless your tire is visibly flat, don’t judge tire inflation just by looking at it; you have to use a tire pressure gauge to get the correct pounds per square inch reading. There are three types of tire-pressure gauges: digital, internal slide and dial. Prices range from $5 for a basic gauge to more than $30 for one that is digital, has an air-release button —

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Confessions of a Tire Salesman

When you’re talking tires, consumers often stand to lose a lot of money. You want to drive safely, but don’t want to break the bank just to put a new set of tires on your car. To keep you informed about how the tire business works, we talked to a tire industry expert. This insider’s account will help guide you through this important automotive transaction.

My first job was bustin’ tires for Firestone here in L.A. I started from the very bottom, changing tires and belts and doing oil changes. I went to work for another tire store and the service manager took a shine to me and said, “Come on up front, and when it’s slow, I’ll show you how to deal with customers.”

Since then, I’ve spent about 20 years in the business and worked in a lot of different stores — some of which I didn’t like much. But I learned a lot about that all-important moment when a customer comes up to the counter and says, “I need a new set of tires but I’m not sure what I want. Can you help me out?” What I know can help you get the right tires on your car

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Do You Really Need to Change the Transmission Fluid

Yes, though how often this service should be performed varies by manufacturer and vehicle, and it’s open to debate.

The manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for many automatic transmissions doesn’t call for fresh fluid until 100,000 miles or, with some Ford transmissions, even 150,000 miles. A lot of mechanics say that is too long and it should be done at least every 50,000 miles. Manual transmissions may be on a different schedule, so it’s best to consult the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual.

Like other vital automotive fluids, transmission fluid deteriorates over time. Hard use – such as frequent stop-and-go city driving, hauling heavy loads, trailer towing – will accelerate the deterioration. That kind of driving raises the operating temperature of the transmission, and heat puts more strain on the transmission and the fluid, which helps facilitate gear shifts, cools the transmission and lubricates moving parts.

If you do a lot of driving under high-stress conditions, you should check the transmission level more often and have a repair shop check the condition of the fluid. Transmission fluid often is red but can come in other colors, and as it deteriorates it tends to turn darker. It may also acquire a burned odor that could

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What’s Included in a Tuneup?

Actually, there is no such thing as a tuneup in the traditional sense of replacing parts to bring the ignition and fuel systems up to specs for maximum performance and efficiency, and there hasn’t been for years.

About the only things left from the traditional tuneup are new spark plugs, which is typically done every 100,000 miles, and replacing the air filter periodically. The federal EPA and Department of Energy say that replacing a clogged air filter will not improve gas mileage but can improve acceleration 6% to 11%. The agencies do not say what benefit can be derived from fresh spark plugs, but computers that control today’s engines adjust the air-fuel mixture and spark timing to compensate for wear, such as when the electrodes on spark plugs are worn down.

Even so, some car owners still dutifully take their car in periodically to have it “tuned up.” Instead, service technicians will inspect and perhaps test the fuel, ignition and emissions systems to look for faulty vacuum hoses, oxygen sensors and other parts that can hurt performance. The federal government, for example, says a bad oxygen sensor can give engine computers false readings and reduce fuel economy as much as 40%.

Having your

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