Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Favorite Things...from the Radical Wrencher

The other day I was talking with someone about jumping their vehicle and we got on the topic of a battery jump box. It was amazing to me that they had never heard of it. Maybe because I'm involved in the car industry I hear more about these things...so I thought I'd write about it.

First of all, a jump box is what you would use to jump a dead battery. There are several reasons why I like them. One, they're easy to use. Two, it's hard to really cause damage even if you aren't sure what you're doing. Three, and most important...you don't need anyone else to help you, you can jump yourself.

When you use battery jumper cables you must rely on someone else's vehicle to jump your vehicle. You need to make sure that both of you are very sure of what you're doing, and there is always a possibility that you could cause damage to electrical components on the vehicle that is doing the jumping.

If you have a service like AAA, you'll notice that they don't even use jumper cables anymore....they come with a jump box. This decreases their liability of damaging your vehicle. I highly recommend the jump box for women just on the safety factor alone. As long as you have it with you and you keep it charged, you can jump your own vehicle without having to rely on anyone else.

You can purchase these jump boxes at many automotive stores or places that sell automotive supplies. You'll probably have to spend at least $50 or more for a good quality jump box, but then you will always have peace of mind in case you should ever find yourself in a situation where you need a jump.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Radical Wrencher, San Diego and GM

First of all I cannot believe that it’s Thursday already….where did this week go? I had every intention of writing about the San Diego trip as soon as I got back, but time just slipped away.

Oh well, let me back up some and catch you up. Last weekend I flew out Friday night from Philadelphia to San Diego. When I went through security in Philly my bag was pulled aside to be checked. I wasn’t really surprised, I was carrying a bunch of promotional screwdrivers. You’d have to stab someone with a lot of them to do any damage and they must have realized that, because they didn’t seem too concerned. What they did ask me was if I was carrying a brake pad.

I laughed and said I was. I had wanted to bring a worn pad to show what it looked like. I am always unsure what to bring when I travel. When I teach the class in my area I have a whole bunch of things I take with me, many of which would not do well in my luggage. Anyway, the young male security checker seemed excited because apparently he had guessed right from the x-ray. They re-ran my bag and I was on my way….with everything I came with!

Once I got to San Diego I had about an hour wait to meet up with Bogi (wrench wench) who was coming in from Phoenix. This was the first time we were actually meeting even though we’ve been talking for a while. We checked into the hotel, had dinner with Diedra from GM and by 10:30 pm I was dead to the world….only to find myself wide awake at 4:30 am. I forced myself to stay in bed until a friend from back home called around 6 am not realizing where I was.

We headed over to the Marvin K. Brown Dealership where LSYE taught 2 classes for GM. All of the participants had a great time and Bogi and I realized just how compatible we really are. We had the rest of the afternoon to chat, make our business plans and compare notes.

I will only say that there are some big things in the works for Bogi and I with LSYE. It’s exciting to work with someone who has the same vision about educating women about their vehicles. I think we’re going to make a great team by combining our efforts with all of the skills that we both bring to the table. So stay tuned and we will fill you in on what we have planned as the year progresses. Click and Clack….here we come!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gardening with the Radical Wrencher

On Saturday I spent some time in the afternoon with a neighbor who is home-bound with pneumonia. We are both part of the garden club for the park that is across the street from me. She had mentioned that she needed some help re-potting some seedlings that she had grown, so I volunteered.

I have always loved gardening. There's something satisfying about planting seeds and taking care of them until they produce food that you can eat. I am still amazed every year when this happens, and I've been growing vegetables since I was a kid.

But I think for me it's also about the tranquility of being outside, putting my hands in the soil and feeling a connection to nature. It's relaxing and peaceful...no cell phone ringing, no real sense of time passing...just a quiet time for me to regenerate.

As we sat out on Vicki's front porch and planted, many neighbors stopped by to say hi. Each time Vicki introduced me and told them that I work on cars. She seemed so proud to know a woman who does this, it just made me smile.

I realized as I sat there with my hands in the dirt, that I just love working with my hands. There is such a satisfaction for me to be able to fix things, plant things and just generally work with my hands. It seems that I'm always finding something to do that gets my hands dirty. I think it makes me feel alive and there's nothing like getting in there and giving it a good effort.

I know I've said this a thousand times, but don't ever be afraid to try something new...you just might find out that you love it and that you're good at it.

And never be afraid to get your hands dirty! :)


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wrench Wench Round Table Pt 2

I hate going to get my oil changed because they are always trying to sell me all sorts of stuff – like the filter for my air conditioning. They wanted to charge me $50 and I heard that is something I can do myself!

Ladies correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure she’s not alone in that feeling. *And* she is absolutely right – it is something that she (or anyone for that matter) can do on her own and save lots of money. Plus it feels pretty good to know you did it yourself.
Air filters and Cabin filters (the filters for your AC system) are generally pretty easy to change once you know how. The first time you do it you may find it a little tricky – but after that you’ll be a pro and be able to do it in less than ten or 15 minutes at the most.

The Air Filter is for the air your engine breaths. It will always be in the engine compartment and generally held in by a few clips or maybe a few screws. Most can be changed in just a few minutes once you know what you’re looking.

The Cabin Filter is for the air you breath. It is often behind your glove box, or sometimes under the hood close to the back of your engine compartment (near the windshield). Look in your owner’s manual or ask your mechanic next time you see her. If their not happy to show you, maybe its time to look for another mechanic…. But that’s just my humble opinion ;)

With both filters, I’d check them every other oil change (more if you live in a particularly dusty climate). Its just like checking a filter on your AC at home, or for your air purifier or hepa vacuum cleaner…. Sometimes it will be so filthy that it’s real obvious that it needs to be replaced. If you’re in doubt – hold it up to the light. If the light can’t get through – neither can the air!

You can often get the filters for *much* cheaper than it is being sold to you at the repair shop. The woman who asked the question was being charged over $50. I looked up her year make and model and she does have a unusually high cost filter… but not that high. List price from the dealer was $22.50, which means it would probably cost 15 – 18 at an aftermarket parts store like AutoZone of Checker. Once she gets good at doing it in five minutes or so – that’s roughly $30 she’ll be saving herself!

As a shop owner I guess I’m not really supposed to be saying all this – but than we never charge labor on filters at our shop, and we’ll always offer to show you how to do it if you want to attempt it yourself the next time. Next time you’re at the shop, ask them to show you, look it up in your owners manual or online… better yet enroll in a class with me or Lori!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wrench Wench round table...

I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop after a long and busy day at the shop… I spend so much time here I should be paying rent. In fact, when I tell my staff that I’ll be spending the day at my office – they know that means I’ll be here glued to my computer and buzzing from my non-stop consumption of iced tea.

Tonight, I’ve come here to write… It’s the only place I can get any writing done and I’ve had *really* bad writer’s block recently. So I set up the computer and opened a clean new file and sat…. staring at a black screen… wondering why it is that I can talk about cars for hours and yet when I sit down to write it all goes running to hide in the dark corners of my mind.

The woman next to me saves the day. She motions at my shirt and asks if I work there or if it is just a cool shirt for fun. I’m still wearing my uniform. I tell her not only do I work there, but I own the business. She is obviously excited – tells me that she used to be really interested in cars and used to think she might want to go into mechanics. I share with her that I’m stuck thinking of things to write about…see if she has any suggestions... and soon there is a group of 3 plus me having a small automotive 'round table' of sorts. Each takes their turn asking a question and than I go off… the “rambling wrench wench” teaching and explaining away. An hour later… and I’m back at staring at a black screen – stuck again. So strange!

So here are some tips from the conversation…. ;) it’s only a little bit of a cop out!

I had a chip in my windshield, washed my car and now the whole windshield is cracked!

You’re driving down the road and a rock flies at you and hits your windshield… what to do? First, once you are at your destination take a close look at it - but don't touch! If it is a chip (there are no little lines or ‘legs’ coming out of the center of it) you have a good chance that it won’t spread, but it might still be worth having a glass place repair it. They essentially fill the chip with a special material that keeps it from spreading. I’ve heard that you can fill it yourself with crazy glue – but I’ve never tried it and doubt that it will last long term… for a run in your stockings maybe – but your windshield?

On the other hand – if it’s a star (there are legs or lines coming from the center) – than it is just a mater of time before the star becomes a crack and spreads across your windshield. All it takes is hitting a bump at the wrong angle or washing your car with cold water after it’s been sitting in Arizona’s 120 degree heat!

Getting it fixed sooner rather than later is a good idea. In some states you can get a ticket or fail your state emissions inspection for a cracked windshield because it really can be dangerous.

Before you run and call your insurance though, check with your agent. Sometimes it will increase your deductible and make it not worth it over the long run to go through insurance. And generally I advise staying away from the glass repair folks that approach you at the car wash. I’m sure many of them are wonderful and reputable – but there have been lots of insurance scams uncovered with less than honest glass companies. Instead ask your family and friends or your favorite mechanic for a recommendation, or check consumer reviews online. Most places will come right to your work or home and will take care of billing it to your insurance for you making it really convenient so you have no excuse! If you choose not to use insurance expect to pay between $150 and $450 depending on the year make and model of your car.

So much for writer’s block! Since I’m so long winded…. I’ll save the other tips for another day.

Stay tuned! ;)