A Vehicle History Report Won’t Tell You Everything

Alfa Romeo Spider
Alfa Romeo Spider

I have gotten a few emails about this so I thought I would talk about what a Vehicle History Report will and won't tell you.

I am sure most people have seen information and advertisements for a Vehicle History Report, such as Carfax and Autocheck, but are they worth it and can you trust what they say? Well … the answer is bit mixed.

In my opinion you should it is always good to try to get all the information about a used car before you buy it. These Vehicle History Reports hardly give you the whole story of a used car most of the time though.

Let's say you are looking at a used car, such as a Honda Accord.  This Honda Accord looks fine and good to you and you can't see anything wrong with it.  Hell mechanically the car seems to be running fine and the Carfax or Autocheck report come out clean.  So should you buy it?  My answer to this question, “Hell NO!”  You should ALWAYS get a used car checked out by an independent mechanic before you hand over any cash, check, credit card, money order, wire transfer, etc.  Even if that report comes out clean.

The reason?  What you may not realize is that a vehicle history report takes data mostly from insurance companies and dealerships.  That means only cars that have been fixed via an insurance company claim will show up on a Vehicle History Report.  Sooo, it can tell you data that is useful but you must realize something.  Body shops are not required to report to any state agencies or databases the work they perform.  That means it is easy for a body shop to repair a car and sell it to you even if you check a vehicle history report.  Dealerships and body shops do it all the time actually.

I have a friend and his dad used to paint cars in NASCAR back in the day.  If I took a car that I had to him that needed some bodywork or had been in an accident, he could make my car look like new.  It would be hard to tell if the car had been painted and it wouldn't be reported to anywhere and therefore wouldn't show up on a Carfax or Autocheck report.  

Besides most vehicle history report systems can never keep up with the amount of cars getting into accidents.  (That sounds unfortunate but true!)  Bottom line, cars should be checked out by a professional mechanic before you bu no matter what.  

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Dont’ Buy Trico Flex Wiper Blades!

The other day I went to the auto parts store to pick-up some Trico Flex Wiper Blades I had purchased online for my Mom's Chrysler van.  (I usually do this to save time and hassle.)  I assumed spending money on the frameless wipers, like the Trico Flex Wiper Blades, would be a good investment.  However, when I went to install one of the Trico Flex wipers on one side of the van, I noticed that it wouldn't fit.  I thought for a minute I was doing something wrong and starting fuss with the wiper arm and the wiper blade.  This is when I noticed what the problem was.

The Trico Flex has the wiper attachment mechanism on one side of the wiper blade instead of being embedded in the into it the body, like most wipers.   This makes the Trice Flex line of wiper blades not usable for a lot of vehicles like my Mom's van.  Talking with the girl at the auto parts store only confirmed this.  She told me when I returned the wiper blades, “Yeah, I need to exchange a lot of those because they won't fit on customers vehicles.”  I returned the Tricos and got another frameless wiper for the other side.  It was kind of ridiculous and a waste of my time.  Wish I had taken a picture before I returned the blades so people could see what I am talking about.

Some stupid Trico engineer probably thought this was a smart move.  I am fairly sure he/she has never actually every installed wiper blades on a car though or they would have realized this serious design flaw.  Bottom line Don't But Trico Flex wiper blades and save yourself hassle.

I recommend Bosch Icon frameless wipers and have them installed on my Honda Accord.  They are usually expensive, but worth the cost and investment since they last for quite a long time.  The set on my Accord have been installed for a year without a problem.

 

BumpShox Protects Front Bumpers from Bad Drivers

BumpShox, Front Bumper Protection!

Do you hate it when bad drivers hit your bumper? Sooo annoying… especially if it's a brand new car!

BumpShox might be your solution. The BumpShox bumper protector is a relatively new foam-based automotive product that looks like a big oversized license plate holder (well it is), but it is a bumper protector. It fits in place of any standard license plate and can be installed easily on virtually any car.

I have been testing the BumpShox for awhile, on several vehicles. I liked using the BumpShox on all of our cars (a 2002 Toyota Camry, 1996 Honda Accord.) Not that it really adds to the look of the Camry or Accord, but it sure is a conversation starter when people notice it, point, and ask “Hey, what's that?”

However, one of the points of the The BumpShox is it's unobtrusive, small, and does not detract too much from the look of the car, at least when compared to other bumper protectors. Typically other bumper protectors or bumper guards will cover the whole bumper and are pretty damn ugly. What's the point of owning a Mustang if you can't enjoy the beautiful lines?

For the most part the BumpShox is not that noticeable. Once you get used to it, it's sort of a fun little addition to your car.

On one of my roadtrips, I parked my Accord in a large parking lot with a few cars. You would assume there was little use for a BumpShox in this situation. When I came out of the store, to my surprise someone had parked a tad to close to my car! The BumpShox was cushioning my car's bumper against a hideous Dodge Caliber.  (Who drives a Caliber anyway?)  I was quite pleased with this and the BumpShox saved me a a weekend of DIY bodywork, which probably would have come out with bad results.

So for protecting your front bumper against stupid and bad drivers, even in large parking lots, the BumpShox can work well.

Where the BumpShox supposedly really shines is in tight parallel parking spaces in cities. The only issue is that it is only going to protect your bumper when you are in the space or parking and moving forward to reposition your car.

Because the BumpShox is unobtrusive and small it won't protect the majority of your bumper at various angles when parking. Only slow front end taps will the foam cushion work.

For complete bumper protection, the BumpShox is not necessarily ideal. Of course larger bumper protectors that cover your whole bumper cost $150+. That's a lot to shell out! If you are tired of having bad drivers hit your beautiful bumper, the $35 bucks it costs to buy a BumpShox is probably a good investment. If you want to buy two, it will cost $60.

I can't guarantee that the BumpShox will work in all situations. For light front-end taps and bumper protection from bad drivers who can't park, even in a large parking lot, it did it's job well on my Accord. That's good enough for me! 🙂

Sylvania Silverstar Ultras Make The Road Bright & Visible

You get into your car after a long day at work. The sun set long ago and it's dark out so you get in, put on your seatbelt (right?), then turn on your headlights. Lights…what lights? You can hardly see anything in front of you!

If you find yourself in this situation with your headlights, I recommend replacing the bulbs asap. If you are going to be replacing your headlights anyway, why not upgrade to some really bright Sylvania Silverstar Ultras?

I have been using a set of Sylvania Silverstar Ultras (#9006) in my Honda Accord for the past few weeks, and I got to say, “Wow!” having a brighter set of bulbs in your car makes a big difference while driving at night.

After driving around for awhile with such awesome and bright headlights, you tend to forget the dimness of the old bulbs. For comparison sake and for this review, I decided to put one of my old lightbulbs back in my headlights and drive my Honda Accord around. The difference between the Silverstar Ultras and my old bulbs would be much more visible side-by-side.

It was a bit hard to get a good picture at night (even with my Canon Rebel), but the difference is clear and incredible!

Bright!

You can see how the Silverstar Ultras fill out the headlight more, while the old bulb just doesn't cut it.  Honestly the one Silverstar Ultra bulb lights up the road well and compensates somewhat for the old bulb's lack of brightness.  The Silverstar Ultras were bright enough for to me realize my lights were out of alignment too.  (That was nothing that a screwdriver and a bit of patience couldn't fix.)

The only problem I have read about with these Sylvania Silverstar Ultras is a lot of people complain that they don't last long.  If you look on the back of the packaging there is a graphic that shows the Sylvania Silverstar Ultras are indeed bright, but show their life is much shorter.  Also “SYLVANIA Silverstar Ultra lamps are engineered to achieve the highest performance possible, which results in product life that is less than standard lamps.” is also printed on the back of the packaging.

That doesn't really bother me as I would rather replace really bright bulbs more often, than drive with bulbs that don't light up the road well at all.  So far I have experienced no issues with the bulbs deteriorating in brightness or going out prematurely.

The Silverstar Ultra packaging does claim to improve your forward visibility by 40% and side visibility by 50%. I think those claims are a bit lofty. After making proper adjustments, my guesstimate would be that Silverstar Ultras improve forward visibility by 30%-25% and maybe 30% on the sides.

Of course there is no easy way for me to truly measure or test my guesstimated numbers.  Getting out a measuring tape was futile!

The brightness of the bulbs makes for a much more enjoyable and safe night driving experience though.  The light that the Sylvania Silverstar Ultras bulbs puts out is much more focused, clear, and full then what I had before which was terrible.

Results can vary depending upon the condition of your headlights. If you have cloudy or yellowed headlights, getting a set of Silverstar Ultras bulbs will not improve visibility too much. The best thing for you to do is buy a headlight restoration kit and spend an afternoon restoring them to a clear and visible condition.  Then buy new bulbs if they are not good.

Bottom line, I used to dread having to drive my Accord at night or in bad weather because I thought I would hit another car, person, or object. Now it's not as much of a problem with the Sylvania Silverstar Ultras installed.

Meguiar’s Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer Review

Car sales in 2012 are estimated to expand, which is great for all automakers. However, many owners are keeping their cars longer than every before. Hey, buying a new car is pretty dam expensive, and you need to buy a new washing machine and dryer before you can buy a new car. (Unfortunately those not so fun purchases just wiped out your new car budget.  Sorry to hear that buddy!)

The thing is your trusty reliable car, while you love it and have no plans to get rid of it, is showing some wear and tear and age. One clear way you know when a car is aging is when the plastic fading.  What are you supposed to do?  Well, Meguiar's has a great product which might help with this, Meguiar's Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer.

Basically Meguiar's Ultimate Black does what you think it does, restore plastic. Black plastic is on most cars, whether it be our Camry with a black interior or my Honda Accord with a beige interior, usually has some black.  So this product is fairly universal and applicable on most vehicles.

I used the Plastic Restorer on my Honda Accord, and I got to say, “Wow!” it looked great! I couldn't believe the results actually.  To be honest, it worked a lot better than I thought it would.  It really helped make my car look better, and not show it's age as much.  Meguiar's Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer worked so well, before I knew what I started doing as many plastic parts of the car as I could.

After I was done, and it dried a bit I noticed the effect of the plastic restorer had worn off a bit. I checked the instructions and saw it said sometimes a few coats are needed. So after letting the first coat dry for day or two, I reapplied a coat, let it dry, then did it again.

Check out my before and after pictures, where there is 3 coats on the plastic.  What do you think?

Bottom line… it might be hard to see in some of the pictures, but yes, Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer works.  You can see that I even used it on some dried up wax that was on my license plate holder.  (That is what the white spot is, probably should have been more careful.)  It didn't mask it completely, but did a good job of blackening up the plastic enough so you don't quite see it as much now.  My only complaint of Meguiar's Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer, I used up the bottle to quickly!

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If you have any questions about this product, please leave a comment below.

Why I Love Fixing Cars!

I Replaced These!

Two weeks ago I replaced the Valve Cover Gasket and Spark Plug Seals on my '96 Honda Accord.  I checked the spark plugs and saw that they had a good amount of oil on them.  It was clear the Seals needed to be replaced, but also it was obvious that the Valve Cover Gasket needed to be replaced because you could see it wasn't sealing properly anymore.

It was a simple job that only took a little over 1 hour & 30 minutes with basic hand tools.  After I had finished, I drove my car to make sure everything was working well.  I had an immense feeling of pride on that drive and after I had done it.  I was reminded of the reason I love fixing cars and other things.  Sure, you save money when you Do-It-Yourself, although that is not why I love fixing cars.  The pride came from the fact that I had taken something that needed to be fixed and I made it right again.  I had done it!  Not anyone else!  I was able to fix my own car.  It felt like I had conquered a mountain or crossed an ocean.  I had accomplished something that most people haven't done or will do.  That's what made it so special to me!

 

Day 5 Driving through Nebraska

Sunset

Today was pretty uneventful unlike my day in the Rockies.  I was mostly driving along I-80 through Nebraska.  What do I know about Nebraska?  Nothing except the “Oracle of Omaha” is from this state, better known as Warren Buffett one of the richest men in the world.  I doubt he drives along I-80 though.

I made one long stop at a gift shop called Ford Cody in North Palatte.  It was a little tacky.  I did find what I thought was the only cool item in the store.  Belts!  They had some great handmade belts with Buffalo and Wolves on them.  They did not have the Wolf design in a 32, so I got the Buffalo one.  I thought I should have one cool thing to remember about Nebraska and my road trip.

I drove a little over 500 miles from Greeley, CO to Lincoln, NE.  Funny thing is I could have kept driving probably without a problem.  I am really not that tired from driving today.  I think I am used to it now and prepared for it.  I listened to “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy” while driving.  It's was much better than listening to “Cover Her Face” which I still have no idea what the story is about.  The Bourne series had all background music and a good narrator to make the story exciting.  Tomorrow I will listen to the third installment in the series “The Bourne Ultimatum.”  I picked up these cassette tapes at a great place in Baltimore called the Bookthing.  They give out free books and sometimes old cassettes are there.  I did consider getting a better head unit to install in the Accord, but I don't mind using cassette taps.  It's nostalgic to use them.

I stopped and I am staying in Lincoln, NE at the Staybridge Suites here.  When I checked in I was talking with Sarah, the girl working the front desk, about my road trip.  She was said, “I am taking a trip soon from LA to Minneapolis.  I am looking for any tips.”  I was quite proud that someone had recognized and asked me a master road tripper for advice.  (Ok… that's a bit of a stretch.)  I said “I would recommend getting a cooler and putting ice and drinks in there.  That way you don't have to stop when you are thirsty.  You can also put food and snacks in the cooler.”  We also talked a little about… Warren Buffett.  I asked “I guess Warren Buffett is popular in Nebraska?”  Sarah, “Yeah we don't have many people to be proud of.”  He definitely is an amazing guy to have built up such an immense amount of wealth.  At least Baltimore has Micheal Phelps.

The rooms at Staybridge are very nice, comfortable, and well-appointed.  I like the suite concept where you have a kitchenette with a fridge, dishwaher, and microwave.  It's more inviting experience when you stay in a hotel.

Tomorrow it's another 500 miles to Chicago.