Is High Mileage Oil Worth It?

is high mileage oil worth itIs high mileage oil worth it? If cost is the only concern, then the answer is definitely, yes. Supertech Oil at Walmart costs the same  whether you buy high mileage oil or regular, making it a no-brainer if you believe the oil is actually good for your older car. Obviously, high mileage oil is only for older cars. Most brands of high mileage oil are advertised for cars with 75,000 miles or over. I’ve been running high mileage oil in two different cars – my daughter’s Acura with 196,000 miles on it and my son’s VW Jetta with 114,000 miles on it. Here’s why I think the high mileage oil is worth using on older cars:

What Does High Mileage Oil Do?

We all know that as cars get older, they develop oil leaks.  Oil pan gaskets, drain plug washers and other seals develop small, annoying leaks over time. High mileage oil is made with some additives which are designed to help seal things up and make the engine tighter, run better and hopefully prevent some of those embarrassing leaks your old car is leaving in the driveway of your friends and relatives. I’ve got two really old cars, so I have some experience with addressing numerous leaks.Even if the question is high mileage oil worth it for those leaks alone, I would be inclined to say, yes, since it really does.

Is High Mileage Oil Worth It?

High mileage oil has definitely worked for the Acura. We bought this car with 160,000 miles on it and while it had no major leaking, it did have small leaks developing in the drain plug and around the oil pan gasket. When I first changed the oil, I put in about 4.5 quarts of Supertech High Mileage Oil from Walmart, along with a FRAM, high-mileage Oil Filter. I sealed it up with a new oil drain plug and washer and for a while the leak appeared to be worse. Clean, fresh, high mileage oil was coming straight out of the drain plug – just a very slow drip. I monitored it for a few days and told my daughter to keep it out of people’s driveways before she eventually daughter drove it off to college for the winter semester. A couple of weeks later, when my daughter came for a visit, I noticed the oil leak was completely gone – and it stayed that way until the next oil change when the same process repeated it self. High Mileage oil obviously goes to work sealing leaks while you’re running it for extended periods of time. Over time, minor leaks appear to completely vanish. Both the VW Jetta and Acura are running strong today with no leaks and 1 and 2 years of running high mileage oil in them. Does brand matter?

Supertech Oil

supertech oilLong before I began using high mileage oil, I’ve used regular ol, 5W30 Supertech Oil from Walmart and have never had a problem. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Supertech Oil for the first oil change on a brand new car. A 5 Quart container of Supertech oil costs $14.63 – both for the high mileage version or regular. Expect to pay around $20.00 for a fully, synthetic version of Supertech oil.


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Top 10 Car Insurance Companies

top 10 car insurance companiesEvery year JD Power and Associates ranks the Top 10 car insurance companies from top-to-bottom. While 2012 is over half-way behind us, it takes a while for the results of the previous year to be calculated. In reality, JD Power ranks 32 Auto insurers in all. We could easily publish them all, but who in the world is going to want to call an auto insurance company that couldn’t even make the top-10? The Top-10 Car Insurance Companies is probably a more meaningful list to give us a starting point in choosing the best match for our needs. Auto insurance companies are ranked on a variety of criteria:

Top 10 Car Insurance Companies

Ratings Criteria

  • Experience of Customer
  • Options Offered by Car Insurance Company
  • Policies offered by Auto Insurer
  • Quality of Billing and Payment
  • Policy and Premium Pricing

Let’s be honest: most of us look at price first when shopping for car insurance. That’s only natural – we cannot really judge the experience and customer service satisfaction until we’ve spent some time with our insurer – and hopefully, we have very little occasion to call them – except of course when we change automobiles. JD Power and Associates a rather informal rating scale that goes like this:

Top-10 Car Insurance Companies Rating Scale

  • Among the Best
  • Better than Most
  • About Average
  • The Rest

If Among the Best, ranks as an A, that means, The Rest, must rank as a D since there is no fifth lowest position in the rankings. Perhaps, JD Power and Associates doesn’t want to offend anyone too badly? Among the Top-10 Car Insurance companies, there are none that rank worse than a C or, About Average.

Top 10 Car Insurance Companies Rated for 2011

A-Rated Insurance Companies

  • Amica Insurance

B-Rated Insurance Companies

  • Erie Insurance
  • Shelter
  • Auto-Owners Insurance
  • Ameriprise
  • State Farm

C-Rated Insurance Companies

  • Geico
  • State Auto
  • American Family
  • Industry Average
  • Alfe Insurance

D-Rated Insurance Companies

Do we really want to talk about those?

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Turtle Wax Ice Review

Turtle Wax IceWhat do you think of Turtle Wax Ice? 

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I love the convenience of liquid car wax. Turtle Wax Ice wipes on creamy and smooth; dries to a dull haze then wipes off to a brilliant, shine.  Having completed a review of the best car waxes last year, I preferred the Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell over Mothers because it seemed to provider a thicker, hard shell just as the name implies. Of course, the other reason I loved the original Turtle Wax is for the dirt-cheap price. Because Turtle Wax Ice is nearly twice as expensive as the Super Hard Shell product, it better bet twice as good. The makers of Ice proclaim that it is easy to wipe on yet provides a shine and protection that will last for many, many months.  That’s a pretty bold claim, isn’t it? The difficulty in reviewing car wax is that not all cars are the same. The color, tint and shade of each car makes a difference. It is also true that different car metals behave differently with different types of wax.

Turtle Wax Ice in Action

turtle wax super hard shellI’m pretty comfortable agreeing with Turtle Wax on the first part of their claim. The Ice T-468 Liquid Car Polish is a breeze to apply to the car and even after drying in a fairly hot garage that day, it came off very shiny and smooth without taking much, if any muscle, to get off the extra wax residue. This is not true with the Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell. Even though it’s a liquid, the Super Hard Shell took some enormous work to get the residue off the hood of my silver, BMW 540i.. The extra elbow grease and effort is well worth it, however because it provides a long last shine. See picture which was taken while washing the car a week after applying the Super Hard Shell Turtle Wax. It remains to be seen how well the Turtle Wax Ice T-468 holds up compared to the Super Hard Shell. But what to other users of Ice say about this premium wax?

Ratings by Users

Over 74 users rated Ice by Turtle Wax an average of 4 stars. Many of them complained that the shine didn’t last as long or the coat did not seem as thick as other traditional, cheaper waxes like Super Hard Shell which is half the price. Those who did a more thorough Turtle Wax Ice Review, seemed to be pickier about what they’re looking for in a car wax and went into great detail about what’s to like and not like about Turtle Wax Ice.

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Extended Auto Warranty – A Review on AutoAssure




Extended Auto WarrantyAuto Assure is a specific brand of specific brand of insurance that works much like an extended auto warranty. The real difference with Auto Assure and other extended auto warranty companies is that they will cover the repair bills on really old cars for up to 200,000 miles. I’ve looked at an extended auto warranty before, but only the kind that extend the manufacturers car warranty on cars that are still fairly new. Car assurance is a whole new ball game. I’ve never been much in favor of extended warranties of any kind, but a radio commercial for Auto Assure made me think twice. To explain, I’ll talk about the extended auto warranty in general; then I will discuss the specific Auto Assurance brand and how it might benefit me using my own, old, old car as an example.

Am I a Good Candidate for an Extended Auto Warranty

When you Might Consider Car Assurance

car assuranceMy old, 1997 BMW 540i has 158,000 miles on it. You might ask why I would keep such an old car, knowing that Bimmer owners are prime suspects for extremely high-cost repairs in the first place?  My dilemma is that I cannot afford to replace this old, BMW with a new car that is anywhere as close to being as satisfying to drive. The other problem is that once you start putting money into your old car, it’s hard to stop. For instance;  radiator and transmission replacement, valve covers, seals, wind-shield and the list goes on. Makes you start wondering if car assurance is for you. The right time to buy car assurance would have been three years ago when I bought the car with 143,000 miles on it. So, the answer is, yes, I am definitely a good candidate for car assurance assuming I plan on keeping the car another three years. Truthfully, I didn’t even know car assurance existed for such an old car until I heard the radio ad for Auto Assure.

Should I consider Auto Assure?

Quote on an Extended Car Warranty

What you are about to see is a real-life experience working with Auto Assure. I gave them a call to talk about my car and see what it would cost to get car assurance through them. The Auto Assure website reveals an offering of four, different service contract plans. Here are the auto assure plans from most expensive to least expensive:

  • Platinum Exclusionary
  • Gold Component
  • Powertrain Plus
  • Basic Powertrain

The basic powertrain plan, ofcourse, includes the most basic, yet most expensive things that can fail on your car: Engine, Transmission, Cooling and Axle. The Plus adds fuel system, electrical, electronics, air conditioning, seals, gaskets, transfer units. The Platinum includes anything and everything under the sun and the Gold Component only emits internet and blue tooth from the coverage. Surprisingly, when I called Auto Assure they didn’t even bother to talk to me about the different plans. They immediately went for the Gold.  A young sounding man answered the phone and asked me for the details of my car. I gave him the model and mileage and mentioned to him that I had just replaced the transmission and radiator and some of the additional work that had been done. He told me that he needed to check with his supervisor and see if he could get my car approved for Auto Assure car assurance and transferred me. I spoke with his supervisor for a few minutes who explained to me that I would I was approved and would get a $400 discount.  I was transferred back to the first agent who began using some high-pressure techniques that I didn’t particularly care for.  He explained that the $400 discount offer had to be acted upon now – that is, not today, but during the call. I told him that I don’t operate that way. I don’t make financial decisions without talking to my spouse about it; then sleeping on the idea for one night. I politely refused his offer. So, let’s see what I turned down.

How Much Does Auto Assure Cost?

Here is the breakdown of the Auto Assure offer I got for my Bimmer: $295.00 down payment (over the phone NOW) – Then 18 subsequent, monthly payments of $179.00 each. That comes to about $3,517, total cost.  Coverage lasts for 5 years. In hindsight, I would have saved about $3700 had I taken advantage of a plan like this 3 years ago. I paid over $3500 for my transmission and about $2700 in additional repairs in the last 3 years.  You can read about my transmission repair experience here: Avoid Engine and Transmission World. Here is another not-so-good experience you can read about for my radiator repair: Avoid 5601 Garage in Arvada.   I’ve had some bad luck associated with my BMW and repairs and was not about to take a risk on Auto Assure without fully checking them out. How can you know they are actually good for the money when something goes wrong? The sales agent explained to me that not only every repair of the car fully covered, but it includes towing insurance as well. This sounds good, but do they deliver the good when you need the goods? I did some Google searches for Auto Assure and car assurance companies and was not able to find much in the way of any confidence building testimonials or A+ BBB ratings. Even without the high-pressure sales tactics, it would be unlikely that I would take a chance on a company that I know so little about. Having written an article about Extended Home Warranties, I learned that the greatest cause for dissatisfaction is getting paid for the work when you need it. Extended warranties need to provide 100% confidence and peace of mid. Without that, you have no idea if you’re simply throwing your money away. Before I got off the phone with the high-pressure agent, he did give me another offer: $179.00 Down and $139.00 per month for 24 months. That still adds up to the same amount: $3,515. I told him, no thanks.

Conclusions about Auto Assure and Car Assurance

Despite the relatively negative review on Auto Assure, I have nothing against an extended car warranty for an old car that I plan on keeping. I can see where a program like this would be very beneficial for people who love their old cars and want to continue driving and enjoying them for a very long time.  The key is to do your research and home work and choose an extended auto warranty company with credentials, positive reviews and a track record of happy customers. Auto Assure was not that company.

Do you have Auto Assure?

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Harbor Freight Floor Jack

Harbor Freight Floor JackI’ve bought a lot of inexpensive hand tools, parts and accessories from Harbor Freight, knowing that for the low price I didn’t have much to lose. For the most part, the tools at Harbor Freight have held up pretty well.

Harbor Freight Tools are Not Made in Pittsburgh

Don’t be fooled by the name, Pittsburgh. These tools are built in China, not America. Is that not a brilliant marketing ploy, using the name of a familiar, U.S steel city to make you think you’re getting the kind of quality, old-fashioned tools your Grandfather used? Regardless, the Pittsburgh sockets and wrenches seem to be well made. The one exception is the 3/8″ Torque Wrench which I never could get to work. I guess sometimes you really do get what you pay for. So on to the Harbor Freight floor jack, which is one of the more expensive tools I’ve purchased from this store.

 

Harbor Freight 1.5 Ton, Lightweight Floor Jack Specifics

This could be considered a small risk. The price, which is normally $89.00 was on sale for $59.00, so I took a chance and bought it. I don’t have a lot of experience with floor jacks, but I’ve been very happy with this purchase so far. It is light-weight as advertised, but feels very solid. The wheels roll very nicely on my driveway and the aluminum handle, which is removable, screws in and out easily. Hydraulic floor jacks do use fluid, but leaking was not a problem. Well, how does it work for jacking up a car?

Can a Cheap Hydraulic Floor Jack Lift a BMW?

Harbor Freight 1.5 Ton Capacity Floor Jack

At 3750 pounds my BMW 540i, really tests the limit of the 1.5 weight capacity. I did seem to discover its weight limit one time while attempting to lift up the entire front end which is something I wouldn’t do very often. For oil changes, it’s best to use ramps and jack stands. Changing tires and lifting one side at a time is a breeze with the Harbor Freight Floor Jack.

Floor Jack Pros and Cons

The Harbor Freight Floor Jack is a good product – my only complaint is that it can’t handle the weight of my old, Bimmer.
Pros

  • Light Weight
  • Well Made
  • Easy to use
  • Rolls on the cement well
    Cons

  • 1.5 Ton Weight Limit

    One thing to be aware of; not all Harbor Freight Floor Jacks are created equal. I bought the blue aluminum one which is rated at 1.5 tons.


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Engine and Transmission World

Engine and Transmission WorldIf you’re been suckered or tempted to buy an engine or transmission from Engine and Transmission World,  you have my sincere sympathies. You and I are among dozens of people, nationwide, who have either lost a lot of money or spent countless, fearful hours of frustration and fear regretting the decision to place an order with this ‘less-than-reputable’ online reseller of engines and transmissions. In my case, Engine and Transmission World eventually did deliver the goods, but at the time-consuming expenses of a huge labor bill for a 2nd Install from my repair shop and the $395 cost of a 2-year warranty which looks dubious at best.

Problems with Engine and Transmission World

Right now, my BMW 540i is running fine after the first transmission was sent to my Arvada repair shop, Colorado Engine, dead-on-arrival. Three months later, I’m out about $3500. Only $1,745 of my total bill was paid for the actual Transmission; $395 of which was for a 2-Year extended warranty which I thought was the prudent thing to do. Obviously, any repair shop would charge labor for installation and diagnostics of the faulty transmission. Removing and installing  a transmission is a fairly labor intensive job. They aren’t going to uninstall and re-install the 2nd one for free. To the credit of Engine and Transmission World, they did get the 2nd transmission shipped free, to Colorado Engine fairly promptly and it did work. However, there are two other problems: One: The warranty has still not been activated. Two: Their advertised mileage on Engines and Transmissions is fishy and that’s putting it nicely. It appears to be an outright sham – as I will explain.

Engine and Transmission World False Mileage Claims

Okay, so here’s the scam: Go to the Transmission World Parts Search page to search for your engine and transmission. You will be taken to a configuration page that says, “Check our Inventory”: The first time I typed in the details of my model,  a results page came back that said it had found a transmission with only 58,000 miles on it. Imagine how delighted I was to get a transmission with such low mileage. I was also very suspicious and asked them to provide a Carfax report of the car and Vin # this transmission of the car this transmission was pulled. They agreed to do so, but not until the order was paid for. I had to beg and plead for 2 days before they finally sent me a half-baked copy of a transmission with 38,000 miles on it from an old 740i.  To make matters worse, long after the transmission was shipped, the same search turned up the same result. I had a buddy at work type in his car and also came up with very dubious, low-mileage results on engines and transmissions. The last time I checked it appears this company wisely no longer lists the mileage on their  transmissions and engines online.  Many others customers complained online about Engine and Transmission World and the way they falsely advertise parts that they don’t actually have in inventory. It appears that they simply source the part after they get the order and if you put them to test on the mileage they will dig up anything they can find to appease you. I noticed it was much more difficult communicating with Engine and Transmission World after they already had my money. When I had problems with the first transmission, I was put on hold for several minutes. Eventually, a very rude guy answered the call and when I told him my transmission didn’t work he told me it was because my repair shop didn’t  install the filter. If I continued to have problems, they would need to call them directly. I verified with Colorado Engine that they most certainly did properly service and install the transmission with filter. Apparently, certified mechanics have a little more clout because after Colorado Engine called them, I was told a 2nd transmission was on the way. Thankfully, this one worked, but I was very afraid to even ask about the mileage on this particular transmission. Nobody knows, hence the reason for a 2 year warranty which brings me to the 2nd and current problem I had with this online transmission company.

 Warranty Policy of Engine and Transmission World

The warranty I purchased from was $395.00 for two years which covered replacement of a transmission and up to $500 labor cost to repair it. Unfortunately, DOA transmissions don’t count. Transmission has to be installed and working properly for two months before the warranty kicks in. Does this sound like a company that stands behind it’s products and low-mileage false advertisements? Absolutely Not. The last nail in the coffin was when I got a letter from a company called, ELast Warranty in Montana. Apparently, this is a contractor that warrants the products for them. My letter came with a bottle of fluid additive. Included with the letter, were instructions which require me to take the car back to a certified shop to have a complete oil change and the additive installed within 14 days before they will activate the warranty. For one thing, any certified BMW mechanic will tell you that it is not a good idea to install anything other than OEM factory fluids to keep your car running properly. The 2nd thing is cost. I just paid for a brand new synthestic, Mobile-1 Oil change prior to bringing my car into the shop for the dead transmission. Now, they are going to charge me another $150-$200 before I can use my warranty. Yesterday, I called Engine and Transmission World to ask them to drop the warranty and refund my money. I was placed on hold for two minutes before a rude-sounding guy once again answered the phone, Parts. When I began explaining the reason for my call he put on hold without saying another word.   I have no where else to turn: Do I just bite the bullet and take the 2 year warranty? Do I complain to a legal authority?  For now, I decided the best thing I could do is warn everyone NOT to use this company.

Transmissions Rebuild Cost

Transmission Rebuild CostThe reason I couldn’t rebuild my current transmission was that the core was damaged. Colorado Engine could have sold me a core and rebuilt the transmission for a total of around $2900. That’s $600 cheaper than I paid and erases all the doubts and hardships of buying from an uncertain reseller online.  The transmissions rebuild cost runs around $1300 to $1500 and usually come with a 3 to 6 month warranty. I’m convinced that the cost to find a new core and rebuild a transmission is cheaper than finding a used one, supposedly with low mileage that works. One thing is for certain: if you can find a good core both the labor and transmissions rebuild cost are certainly cheaper and safer than Engine and Transmission World.

 

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Mityvac 7400 Engine Oil Extractor

mityvac 7400
mityvac 7400

A Review on the Mityvac 7400

Engine Oil Extractor Method of changing Oil

If you’ve googled the term, fluid extractor, you’ve probably discovered the Mityvac 7400 Engine Oil Extractor. The Mityvac 7400 is the most often used and reviewed car engine oil extractor on the internet.  But the Mityvac 7400 is more than just a car oil extractor. This product comes in real handy if you want to change a variety of fluids in your car without having to get under the vehicle and get your Sunday clothes dirty. You can use the Mityvac to change your transmission fluid, differential fluid, power steering, brake fluid, coolant and just about any other fluids that you would otherwise have a hard time getting underneath your car to drain.  The Mityvac 7400 makes it easy, but  is removing fluids this way really as convenient as changing your oil the old fashioned way?

Is it easier than an Old Fashioned Oil Change?

Using the Mityvac for Changing Oil

In my case, I tried the Mityvac for the first time for removing oil from a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta which had a non-standard diameter; and very tightly fastened drain plug. I didn’t want to jeopardize the lock-tight seal on the drain plug and risk the future oil leaks associated with old, used cars. Knowing that there were products made for these situations, and knowing that I have the same drain plug problem with my 1997 5-Series BMW, I thought it would be useful to have one for all of the other fluids changes that I’m hesitant to perform on these used cars. My research led me to the Mityvac product which had many positive, 4-star reviews by satisfied users and owners of a variety of different car manufacturers and models. As positive as these reviews were overall, there were some complaints too, as there always are.

How to use the Mityvac 7400

Using the Mityvac 7400 fluid extractor for oil changes is almost as easy as pumping up your basketball tires. Make sure your engine is warm, but not hot. Connect the plastic tubing to the pump; remove your dipstick and insert the tube all of the down the inside of the dipstick gauge until you feel it touching the bottom of your oil pan. Begin pumping the handle up and down just like a bicycle pump. In a matter of seconds, you’ll notice oil flowing up from the tube and down into the cylinder-shaped canister. It took me about 10 minutes to extract the 4 quarts of oil from the 2003 Jetta. Sounds good so far, right? Hang on.

What’s not to like about Changing your Oil this Way?

Removing the oil was the easy part. What’s left to do was the messy part. As with any oil change, the oil filter is usually dripping with oil. When I removed the oil filter, gobs of dirty oil dripped inside the floor of the engine shield. I could not reach it without elevating the car. I was forced to back up and use the ramps to clean the mess that was made. Then, I had these messy tubes full of old engine oil. I didn’t feel good about leaving the oil in them, so I pumped water through the system a few times to clean the tubes and cylinder. When all was said and done, the Mityvac 7400 did not save me any time with my oil change. On the other hand, the product did allow me to change the oil without loosening a plug and risking damage or leaks from the oil pan. It’s also nice knowing that I can change other fluids without having to reach hard-to-get places, bolts and plugs. Don’t buy any fluid extractor thinking it’s a mess-free, easier and quicker way to change your oil. Do buy it if you want to avoid the hassle and risks associated with stripped oil drain plugs or other fluids with difficult to reach drains. In those cases, the Mityvac engine oil extractor represents a useful way to safely change your car fluids.

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Car Insurance Ratings

Car Insurance Ratings
Top-10 Auto Insurers

The latest 2010 car insurance ratings are now posted online from JD Powers.  Previously, we posted the Car Insurance Ratings for 2008, here: 2008 Car Insurance Ratings. Not a whole lot of details are given on the JD Powers website about how they come up with these particular car insurance ratings.  The results this year are very similar to their insurance ratings from 2008 and 2009.  Every year, JD Powers rate the best automobile insurers on 5 different criteria:

 

  1. Overall Satisfaction
  2. Contacting the Insurer
  3. Policy Offerings
  4. Billing and Payment
  5. Pricing

Using this same data, Product Review Ratings breaks these ratings down into a Top-10 Car Insurers List: The difference in these Top-10 insurance, is that the overall satisfaction score is averaged in along with the other five criteria to derive an Overall Rating score on a 100 point scale. Using this embellished set of criteria, the outcome changes ever so slightly over the original JD Powers Ratings and should provide a clearer picture of which car insurance companies rate best, overall. Product Review Ratings Auto Insurance Ratings criteria are as follows:

  • Experience: (Customer’s Overall Satisfaction)
  • Options: (Car Insurers Policy Offerings)
  • Pricing: (Car Insurance Policy Price)
  • Billing: (Satisfaction with billing methods and issues)
  • Contact: (Contacting the Insurer)
  • Overall: (Overall Rating based on above scores, 1-100)

Ratings 2011

This Top-10 list should be used as a guide only – a rough place to get started. Look at the top-10 insurers by JD Powers and compare for yourself. The insurance ratings are not all created equal. Unfortunately, JD Powers does not offer a detailed report on how they came up with the insurance ratings in each of these categories. One huge factor that is not taken into account, here, is how combining auto insurance with a homeowners insurance policy can drastically reduce your Auto Insurance cost or vice versa. Some of the cheapest-looking car insurance companies aren’t as cheap as they seem when you factor in a home owners discount. For those of us who own homes, it doesn’t pay to switch to a cheaper auto insurance company if the cost of a home owners policy negates those savings. For the 2nd time in the three year period that I’ve reviewed these car insurance ratings, Amica has come up on top. I was unable to go back and see if the 2009 JD Powers auto Insurance Ratings reported the same. With Amica receiving perfect scores in every category every year, including cost, I would expect to know a few very satisfied Amica Car Insurance Policy owners. This was not the case. Since writing the 2008 article on auto insurance ratings, I’ve recommended Amica a few times to family and friends. Surprisingly, I have yet to find one person who switched after giving Amica a call? Why? Because, Amica was not as cheap as their current auto insurance policy. For a company who ranks best on price year after year, this is kind of surprising isn’t it? In fact, Amica is the only auto insurance company JD Powers ranks a perfect 5 of 5 stars for price. I can only think of a few things that could cause this discrepancy. Obviously, a great deal of other variables come into play: Credit Rating, geographic area, Home-Owners, demographics, driving record and even the type of cars being insured could reflect a different outcome for some people shopping the same insurance company. The lesson here is that what works for some may not be what is best for everyone. Still, if you’re looking for place to get started, these Top-10 car insurers will serve as a great short-list of places to call first.

Top 10: Car Insurance Ratings

top 10 insurance ratings

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RAV4 Review

RAV4 Reviews
Black Toyota RAV4

You’ve seen RAV4 after RAV4 Review for the last 5 years, now that I’ve had a chance to drive one for a while, it’s time for me to weigh-in and add additional insight to the many other reviews on the RAV models. To begin with, I leased a 2011 Toyota RAV4 for a couple of reasons:

  • The Lease Deals on Toyota RAV4s are phenomenal
  • The RAV4 V6 Model provides outsanding horsepower for roughly the same gas mileage as other, less inspiring 4 Cylinder SUVs for the same price: For example, the Honda CRV.
  • I read the RAV4 Reviews from 2006-2011

It’s what You Like

While these were the two factors that led me to look this SUV, the reviews from Magazines and Consumers convinced me I’d be happy driving one for the next 3 years. When the current generation of the RAV was released 5 or 6 years ago, I test-drove a 4 Cylinder model at my local dealer before I even looked at any of the brand new reviews. Like all Toyotas, the RAV4 had a solid, quiet ride with great handling. . What I didn’t care for was the anemic power of the 170HP 4 Cylinder engine and the outrageously high lease payment from $400 – $500 per month. The RAV reviews consistently fail to mention that the upgrade in price from the 4-Cyl to the 6-Cyl is not too steep and uses up very little extra gas. The salesman at the dealership accurately stated that because the new model had just been released, the resale value had not yet been established resulting in a higher than average lease payment for a car in the $23,000 to $27,000 range. This was something the very positive review would soon help. Raising the demand and raising the residual value. I decided to wait for those new reviews to pile up before going back for another look.

Personal Experience

Five years later, the 2006, 2007 and 2008 rendition of the RAV4 is now at the end of its lifespan. For the last 18 months, 2009, 2010 and 2011 RAV4s have had some of the best lease deals going. I opted for the 269HP Base V6 model. The Base Model MSRP is around $25,460. Mine came with the upgraded value package which adds 6-Disc, in-dash CD Changer, 17” Wheels, Rear Privacy Glass, Full Size Spare, Day Time Running Lamps, Tonneau Cover and some other minor accessories. Something you don’t see in RAV4 Reviews, is too much of an explanation on these confusing options, but I digress. This brought the MSRP up to around $27,000 including dealer handling fees. My Lease payment is $280.00 a month before taxes and with nothing down. Actually, I got a check back from the dealer for $547.00 to cover the termination fee and last payment on my 2009 Subaru Legacy Lease. With the check figured into the deal, my real Average Monthly Lease Payment is only $265.00. As the Monthly Car Lease website indicates, a 36 month lease payment for under $300.00 is almost unheard of for a $27,000 Car. A 2011 Subaru Outback V6 model equipped and priced the same, would put me in the $400 a month payment range. There is something else the RAV4 Reviews don’t tell you. They make amazing Lease Deals.  I love Subaru, but didn’t want to pay that much extra for one. And gets even better than that: The dealer threw in a 24-month maintenance package which includes free tire rotation and oil changes. That’s with the expensive, Mobile 1 Oil, too! So, now that you know what the car is going to cost me to drive for the next three years, it’s time to tell you how it drives and what I like and don’t like about the 2011 Toyota RAV4. Rav4 Reviews aside, here is my take.

What I Like about the RAV4

  • V6 Performance
  • Sporty Handling
  • 6-Disk CD Changer, MP3 and Auxillary
  • Great Gas Mileage for a V6
  • Cargo and Storage Capacity
  • AWD / Traction Control
  • Sporty Looks

What I Don’t Like about the RAV4

  • Lacking in Features and Amenities
  • Some unknown rattles here and there
  • Too many RAV4s already on the Road

Performance and Fuel Economy

By far, the most impressive thing about this car is the engine. The 269HP not only feels lightening-quick from 0-60, but is very smooth and quiet doing it. The power of the engine and transmission work flawlessly together to give you very quick, smooth and quiet acceleration. When the RAV4 is at a stop, I can barely hear the engine running. Here’s what really sets the performance version of the RAV4 apart from the competition. It’s V6 engine gets reasonable gas mileage; 19/26MPG. This is only a MPG or two below what the 4 Cylinder RAV4s and Honda CRVs are getting. With 100% city driving, my wife is averaging around 21MPG to and from the school where she works. Acuras, Mazdas and Foresters use a turbo engine in their performance models. Not only do they get worse gas mileage, but they require the significantly more expensive premium fuel. Due to such lousy, cold, snowy weather, I have not had the opportunity to drive the RAV4 west on I70 to the mountains of Colorado.

Cargo, Storage Capacity and Interior Features

The RAV4 not only hold a great deal of cargo for an SUV this size, but it is easy to get your cargo in there. The rear seats fold flat in a heart beat. Underneath, the back floorboard, by the lift gate is a lid which reveals a hidden, 12” high compartment for storage of small items.(Very Handy). I also love the size of cup holders. The front ones even come with an extra attachment for holding skinnier sized glasses and cups. The are roomy side pockets by each seat, and a extra-large, two-compartment console between the driver and passenger. The in-dash, 6-Disk CD Player was simple to use the first time I tried it. One of my 6 disks was a collection of MP3 songs which the CD Player had no problem recognizing. There is also an auxiliary jack for connecting the stereo to your MP3 Player or iPhone/iPod, etc. The controls are very easy to learn. I’m not an XM Radio fan, but it is equipped with a 3 month trial. The Sunglasses compartment above is nice to have.

AWD/Traction Control and Handling

The RAV4 steering wheel feels very good in your hands when you’re on the road. If not for the higher clearance, this SUV handles very much like a nimble, mid-sized car. I’ve had the good fortune of being able to use it in three snow storms so far, and the RAV4 really does well on ice. While, the RAV4 is AWD, with the push of a button it can be locked into 4WD mode so both axels turn simultaneously in situations that require extra traction. V6 RAVs are also equipped with a hill-descent control button which I have yet to try.

Sporty Looks

Some have referred to the RAV4 as being somewhat bland. I thought the minor cosmetic changes which began with the 2009 models, make it a pretty attractive Compact SUV. I much prefer its looks to the Honda CRV and those crazy tall vertical tail lights in back.

What is the RAV4 Missing?

There are a few things I really miss from my previous 2009 Subaru Legacy SE:
The built-in Homelink Garage Door Opener was very useful. Not only does the RAV4 lack this feature, but the thickness of the sun visor makes it impossible for my garage genie door opener to clip to it. I have to keep it stored in front inside the little coin change holder where it’s difficult to reach. I’m surprised that the RAV4 doesn’t come with a trip computer for telling how much gas you’ve used and how much gas is left in the tank. Fortunately, the RAV4 is equipped with somewhat of a crude trip computer which provides you with the outdoor temperature, gas mileage and instant gas mileage. My favorite feature of all that I dearly miss from the similarly priced Legacy SE was the automatic engine starter. Don’t underestimate the convenience of being able to safely start and warm up your car on a -10 degree day. Now, here’s the biggest complaint from my wife so far: The RAV4 does not have automatic headlights. The salesman told us that the lights will shut-off by themselves if left on too long, but I have yet to test his accuracy on that claim. The Daytime Running Lights do provide you with some additional safety in the event you forget to turn your lights on, but the downside is that they can fool you into believing you’ve actually turned your headlights on. Gotta be careful with the headlights on this car!

Other, Minor RAV4 Quirks

I’ve noticed some very subtle vibration coming from the dash; almost like a rattle. I’ve yet to discover what is causing this. The interior of the RAV4 seems very susceptible to rattles caused by items placed within compartments and consoles. This is strange considering the V6 engine is so smooth and idles and accelerates so quietly. We’ve also noticed some squeaking of the brakes.It could be they need to be broken in, but if it continues, I will have to take it into the dealer and have it checked out.

Overall Driving Impressions: RAV4 Reviews Itself

Car and Driver, which rates the RAV4 very highly, suggests that the V6 engine might be overkill for most people. I could not disagree with them more. The V6 RAV4, which outperforms a number of sports sedans, is where this car really shines and serves its purpose on hilly mountain roads with 4 or 5 passengers and luggage. For the same price, I realize I could have leased a leather-trimmed, more fully equipped 4-Cylinder RAV4 with a few of the bells and whistles that are missing on the V6 Base Model / Value Package. I have never given it a second thought. The V6 RAV4, with its acceleration, traction, handling and high clearance gives me a feeling of confidence and authority both on wet and dry roads. All of these virtues will become even more greatly appreciated when I take the RAV4 on that first road trip. If there is one thing RAV4 Reviews and other Car Reviews don’t measure, it’s how the car feels the first time you take it up to the hills.

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Car Leather Conditioner and Restoration

Car Leather Conditioner
– A Review

Car Leather Conditioner
Turtle Wax Leather Conditioner

Best Product for Car Leather

Turtle Wax Products always seems to give me the most bang for the buck when it comes to car care. A month ago, my Best Car Wax review revealed that Turtle Wax outperformed many of the more popular, highly publicized brands like Mother’s and MeGuire’s. The same seems to be true for Car Leather Restoration and Car Leather Conditioner products. I’ve tried a few of them. I was very underwhelmed with Armour All Leather Wipes. In fact, I think I’ll stay away from all car car cleaning products in the wipe form. In my opinion, wipes should be found in the bathroom and diaper bag, not your garage. After wasting 3 or 4 of the leather conditioning wipes on the front and back seats of my car, I had a hard time noticing any difference in their appearance. What’s worse, after a few months resting in my garage, the leather conditioning wipes by Armour All completely dried out and were unuseable. I decided to stay away from wipes and go back to sprays.  Leather Conditioning wipes simply don’t bring back the appearance and softness of the leather.  Now, on to a product that does.

Turtle Wax Car Leather Conditioner

The familiar Green, Turtle Wax Bottle in spray form is an excellent Car Leather Conditoner and Leather Restorer. For about $4.50, I got a bottle of the Turtle Wax Car Leather conditioner at Walmart. With clean rag in hand, I began spraying the conditioner on the back of the drivers driver’s. The Turtle Wax formula goes on very smooth and creamy. It is more like a lotion than it is a grease. As I wiped the conditioner in with my rag, I noticed my seats began to look of a deep black color again. As advertised, The Turtle Wax Leather Conditioner really restores old, leather. I completely smothered all of my seats with the Leather Conditioner and marveled at how much more supple the leather looked and felt. The product also has a very pleasant, new-leather like aroma much like the way leather seats in a new car would smell. Here is what I recommend using the product. If your leather is looking really old and worn, I have some advice for installing the leather conditioner.

Using Turtle Wax

Here is what worked best for me. I sprayed a liberal amount of the Turtle Wax Conditioner on all leather surfaces and rubbed it in quite firmly with the clean rag. After the entire car leather had been wiped down. This insures that the conditioner is applied and absorbed deep-down into the surface of your seats. Next, I sprayed a second coat of the car leather conditioner and restoration. For the 2nd coat, I used only a very light touch with the rag to remove off excess moisture, in order to leave the black, leather surfaces looking new with that deep, leathery luster. The leather seats in my 1997 Bimmer looks new and the car smells great. Turtle Wax Leather Conditioner is a winner. I look forward to trying some of the other Turtle Wax car care products: Tire and Wheel Cleaners, Tire Shine and vinyl interior car care. Expect some more reviews soon.

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Best Car Wax

Best Car Wax
Car Wax Reviews

Car Wax Ratings: What is the Best Car Wax?

Car Wax Ratings of Most Popular Brands

The Best Car Wax isn’t always the most expensive. While there a lot of good car waxes on the market, what’s best for some may not be best for all.  Different cars, metals, paint and surfaces react differently to different brands of wax. On the other hand, there may be one really great car wax out there that we could all agree to know and love, if we only knew about it.  So, what is the best car wax? As someone who likes keeping my 1997 Silver, 540i BMW looking its best, I decided it would be interesting to find out what other people are saying about car waxes. Is there a favorite for everyone? Is there truly one out there that does the best job whether you’ve got an old 1967 Buick, a 1997 BMW or a 2010 Subaru Tribeca. What is the overall wax for everybody? Before I get to the car wax ratings, it helps to get familiar with some of the various types and brands.

The Best Car Wax is a Toss-up

Synthetic and Natural. Synthetic Waxes use polymer and other types of chemical sealants to shine and protect the car finish. Carnuba Wax is a natural product that comes from Palm Leaves. Both synthetic and natural waxes have their pros and cons. The synthetic waxes are much easier to apply and they wipe off easier leaving less dust and residue on the surface. Synthetic waxes last longer as they have a higher melting point in the sun. So, why use Carnuba Wax? Because it gives your car a deep, rich, high-gloss shine not possible from synthetic waxes. Also, some of the synthetic waxes out there use cleaners which somewhat detracts from the glossy shine and also hinders its protective qualities. On the other hand, these cleaners can help remove fine scratches and swirls. As you can see, using a car wax is not a science so much as an art. A best car wax for some is not necessarily best for all. If you want your car well protected and looking its best, I recommend using both a synthetic wax and a natural wax. Give your car a thorough washing, then thoroughly wax it with the synthetic polish. Then, to give it that brilliant shine, put a Carnuba Wax on top of that. Your car will look better than ever before.  On to the best wax brands…

In no particular order, these are the three brands you’re most likely to recognize:

  • Turtle Wax
  • Mothers
  • Mequiar’s

I’m happy, if not proud, to say that I’ve tried all three of these brands. I’ve literally used at least one entire bottle of each of these products between the last 6 or 7 cars I’ve owned or leased. I have not been disappointed with any of these Product Review Car Waxes. In addition to experience with brands, it helps to there are different categories among them. I’ve chosen to review the most popular Synthetic Car Wax Brands.

Car Wax Reviews

Mothers Car Wax
Mothers

Mothers Reflection Car Wax

The Mothers 10016 Reflections Car Wax costs about 12-Bucks for a 16 Ounce Bottle. The texture is smooth and creamy and it is very easy to apply. The immediate results look impressive. In fact, it will keep the finish on your new car looking as beautiful as the day you bought it. I like the fact that there seems to be little residue when wiping off the Mothers 10016 with a clean rag. Still, I’m not ready to say it is the best car wax I’ve ever used. It really depends on the car and purpose. This particular variety of Mothers actually has some cleaning properties in it along with its synthetic polish. If there is a negative with the Mothers Car Wax it is that it was hard to tell there was really much of a protective coat left on the painted surface of the car. Perhaps, this is just an indication as to how well the finish is applied or perhaps it means that Mothers Wax is somewhat thin and superficial. Looks are one thing, but how well does it protect? Doing Car Wax Reviews is tricky due to the difference in surfaces, colors, temperature and variety of other features and the uncertainty of its lasting protective qualities.

Meguiars Car Wax
best-car-wax-mequiars

Meguiar’s NXT Tech Wax

is a Polymer Synthetic Car polish. It does a great job providing an excellent finish and shine. However, it is not intended for removing fine scratches and swirls. I think this is because it lacks the cleaning ingredients of the Mothers above. Consequently, there is really no grit to this Meguiar’s wax. It goes on smooth as butter and polishes off well, though not quite as easily as the Mothers. It really makes my silver 2009 Subaru Legacy look good, but I wasn’t as impressed with the finish on the 1997 Bimmer. It didn’t seem to make a difference in the depth and overall surface shine as well as the Mothers. It is also a bit more expensive than the Mothers. On the other hand, Meguiar’s NXT Tech Wax is one of the most reviewed products on the market for a variety of cars and surfaces. It has a well established track record, so it is certainly versatile for a number of different colors and paints.

Turtle Wax Beats Them All

Turtle Wax
Turtle Wax

Turtle Wax T-412 Liquid High Gloss Platinum Wax comes in a 16 oz bottle for about $14 or $15. This stuff is not cheap, but then again, this is the one product that really brought life back into the hood of my 13 year old BMW 540i. Having used the other products above, I noticed that my hood was not beading up in the rain like you’d expect it too after applying a good coat of wax. The results of the Turtle Wax were impressive. The next time I washed my car, the hood had thick beads of water on it as if I had gotten a brand new paint job. Looks-wise, there is no comparison. The high Gloss Liquid Turtle Wax gives it that deep shine; almost as if I had put a good coat of carnuba wax on it. This product also uses synthetic polymers and like Mothers will help remove fine swirls and scratches. I’ve used the cheaper $6.00 cans of Turtle Wax in the past and have always liked them, except for the hard work required to rub them in and wipe them off. The T-412 is the best of the bunch.

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Automotive Battery Tester

Automotive Battery Tester
Automotive Battery Tester

I never thought I could use an automotive battery tester, but a few years ago, I was stranded in a mall parking lot because my 1996 Infiniti G20 would not start. Thinking I needed a new battery, I walked to my local Checker Auto Parts store and replaced the battery. It worked for about two days and the car died again. I needed a new alternator. I wished I had known this before I wasted money on the new battery. Some car problems can behave like a dead battery even when the battery is fine. There have been other times when I was certain I had a problem with a car starter or alternator and all I needed was a new battery. While you can certainly take the battery into your auto parts store and have them test it for you, there are some other reasons you might want your own unit with you at home. A good battery tester will tell you the condition of the battery. Is it charging properly and fully? Will your dead battery take a charge or does it need replaced? Using a battery tester is a proactive way to prevent being stranded somewhere on a cold winter night. My advice is to test the batteries on your cars once a month and avoid the frustration, fear and inconvenience of this experience altogether. I did some research on various battery testers and chargers and learned a few things:

Automotive Battery Tester Reviews

You can pay between $14.95 and $3095.00 for an automotive battery tester or Car Battery Testing and Charging Unit.
For most of our needs, anything over $300.00 would be complete overkill. For most of our needs, $110 is the very most you should have to pay for a decent battery tester and/or charger for your car, boat or motorcycle. I’ve compiled some of the most popular automotive battery testers and was surprised to find very positive reviews in just about every price range.

Equus 3721 Battery and Charging System Monitor

What kind of automotive battery tester can you get for $15.00? A very convenient one, for sure. The Equus 3721 is a little device not much larger than a cell phone charger that fits in your cigarette lighter power receptacle of your car. Essentially, the Equus 3721 tells you if your car is charging properly. What it won’t do is isolate specific battery problems, nor provide much in the way of specific details of your battery’s condition. Also, I doubt this will serve much purpose at all for a battery which renders your car unable to start. Still, it serves the useful, if basic purpose of preventative maintenance that I talked about above. Out of 67 users, the Equus 3721 was rated 4.5 stars out of 5 and is reportedly a well made, useful and reliable portable testing device.

Schumacher SE-4022 Manual Wheel Charger With Tester

Though the Schumacher SE-4022 is more of a battery charger than a tester, though it does have a simple, rudimentary voltmeter and is worth mentioning here, due to the high satisfaction, 4.5-star rating by users. A couple of drawbacks is the the battery charger will not shut-off automatically when your battery is fully charged. The other complaint is that the Voltmeter is rather crude, only goes to 12.7 volts and has no numbers on it. Otherwise, users were very satisfied with the SE-4022’s car battery charging performance. And for around $100, you can hardly beat the price!

Schumacher SC-8000A Speedcharge Charger/Maintainer

The Schumacher SC-8000A is compatible with virtually every kind of auto battery. This one is also a charger as well as a battery tester. Users have been very satisfied with the battery charging capabilities of this unit. If you’re looking for just an automotive battery tester, you won’t have to pay much more for getting one that not only charges, but will provide you immediate 80-AMP Startup if you need it. Easy to use according to users and no danger of overcharging the battery. Punch in your battery type and size and let the SC-8000A Do the rest.

Actron-CP7612-Battery-Load-Tester

The Actron-CP7612 is a battery load tester. Essentially, this means you can test both the battery and the charging your system of your car. A dozen users have rated the CP7612 an average of 4-Stars. It won’t charge your battery, but it will test it under a load and let you know what condition it is in before you waste time going to a store to buy another battery. Hook up the CP7612 battery tester to your car battery and know within 10 seconds the heath of your car’s battery.

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