Monthly Archives: May 2016

As Seen On TV Car Care Products – Do They Really Work?

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You’d have to virtually live under a rock to have not seen at least one late night infomercial about car care products that promise to do everything from ‘magically’ removing severe scratches to instantly restoring old headlights. The commercials all start in much of the same way with some loud person exclaiming ‘You won’t believe this!’ or some other catchy phrase about how one doesn’t need to invest thousands of dollars to get their car to look ‘showroom ready.’ And what’s more magical about these products is that the price that they come at is truly mindboggling! For only $19.95 or sometimes less you can fix those dents, remove longstanding scratches, stop leaks and so much more. But inevitably every consumer wants to know,

‘Do they actually work?’

Unfortunately the answer is usually an resounding ‘no’ and all sorts of investigative teams as well as Consumer Reports have spent countless hours and money testing such products. After all, we all want to have shiny, like new cars even when they are decades old. But in most cases, consumers who purchase these ‘amazing, unbelievable and miraculous’ products may as well take a match to their hard earned cash.

Windshield Wonder

The infomercials claim that this wondrous microfiber tower which is only 16 inches and attached to a curved handle and also comes with a specialized kit that includes 2 fiber bonnets, storage pouch and a spray bottle claims to be the easiest and fastest way to clean windshields and leave no streaks. The biggest claim made by this product is that it can get into the cracks and crevices between the dashboard and shielded glass.

At least forty non-affiliates have tested this product since its release and although one gave it an A+, all of the others state that it is essentially a waste when you can get the same effect with an old rag and glass cleaners at a much cheaper cost overall.

Pop A Dent

This car care product states that any consumer can literally ‘dial’ out any sized dent on their car and restore it to looking like new simply by using what is essentially a small suction device. The oft heard quote, ‘It’s like dialing a dent away’ rang in the ears of listeners and was enough to prompt hundreds if not thousands into buying it.

Consumer magazines tested this product a lot and also compared it to like products. The success was also mixed with the dents being removed about 80% of time. The remaining 20% both the companies that tested it and consumers who had purchased it stated the results were not only disappointing, absolutely nothing happened other than money disappearing from their wallets.

Seemingly of the times it did work, the dents that were performed on were less than six inches in length or diameter and very shallow. Additionally, the product also comes with a finishing agent which many consumers reported damaged their exterior paint! The entire process takes more than a few hours to complete and usually several tries are needed to get even the subtlest results and in some cases the tool actually left other marks or indentations thereby complicating their issues.

At the end of the day the overall feeling is that this product simply wasn’t worth the hassle.

Fast Brite

Of all the car care products this one is probably the simplest. It is an oxidizer which claims to restore headlights to their showroom shine, removing any cloudiness and also has the added benefit of a sealant which should protect the headlights for months following one cleaning session.

Of all that tested and used it every review claimed that while the product did remove some grime, the finished product resembled nothing like showroom glean and shine. Basically what consumers received for their $14.99 plus shipping and handling was a cleaner like any other which removed surface dirt and it takes many more swipes than the one highlighted in the commercial. Numerous swipes in fact just to get the normal, everyday dirt off.

The jury is once again in and unanimously it is found that consumers should save their money and try something else. And it’s basically the same stoty across the board for all of these “As Seen on TV” offerings.

At the end of the day protecting and improving the appearance of their vehicle is important to any driver, for sure. But there really are no shortcuts. If you need a dent removed from the vehicle, take it to a bodyshop. If you want clearer headlights, prevent damage from occurring in the first place by having an Invisibra Headlight Protection treatment applied. And as for those paint scratches? An Invisibra will prevent them from ever occurring for years. Saving money with DIY can be fine, just not when it comes to something as valuable and relied upon as your car.


Is Your Tech Laden Car A Target For A Hacker?

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Today’s new cars are more tech laden – and tech dependent – than ever before. Even economy level models of various car model lines are equipped with things like GPS navigation and basic wifi connectivity. And to most of us, this is all a wonderful thing. But there are some who are concerned that drivers face a new threat thanks to all of this – that their car’s systems could be compromised by a hacker or infected by a malicious virus, much in the way that a standard home computer, and increasingly a mobile device, can.

Is Car Hacking Real or Just a Crazy Theory?

None other than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration admits that there have been cases documented in which a car system were maliciously accessed and compromised, but have yet to say how many. The issue was one of its principal arguments against self driving cars in their report on that issue in May 2013 though and so far the position on the issue hasn’t changed too much as even more tech is being added to vehicles all the time.

And in the world of academia, researchers proved as long ago as 2010 that hacking was certainly possible and in the case of some vehicles it was actually quite easy. Scientists from Washington University and the University of California at San Diego tapped into the electronic control mode – aka the ECM – which interacts with most of a car’s functional systems, including the engine, transmission, traction control and braking systems.

After having done so they were able to adjust the car’s combustion rates and, in some cases, completely disable the engine. They also found it was possible to disable the brakes and override any automatic cutouts to keep the car running sans brakes. In some cases they could go the full monty – jam the horn, lock the doors and disable the automatic safety unlocking mechanism and shut the engine off in seconds. And all of this was six years ago now.

What is Being Done to Stop the Threat?

Before you give up driving your car for fear that it will turn into some kind of venomous KITT the next time you drive to work, it should be noted that the recorded instances of car hacking are limited, and most involve the infection of the infotainment systems thanks to a virus introduced via a car’s smartphone connectivity feature. There have also been some cases discovered in which less than scrupulous car dealers have hacked a car’s odometer in the 21st century version of ‘turning the clock back’ to reduce the number of miles on an odometer but that is something of a different issue.

No injuries or deaths have been reported officially – there is a rumor among conspiracy theory types that the fiery car crash that killed Michael Hastings, an LA journalist possibly working on the Jill Kelley story, was the result of a car hack but there is no real evidence of that – but that does not mean that car manufacturers and tech suppliers are not aware of the threat and are working towards creating the kinds of firewalls that you add to your own PC at home to stop it.

One company – Robert Bosch GmbH – better known as the Bosch Engineering Company to motorists, already has their security division  Etas GmbH working hard on a solution. They already have a software solution – Escrypt GmbH – that acts as a firewall and according to the company’s director of operations in Japan, where the software was developed, VP Wolfgang Sienel thas stated they already have some Tier 1 car manufacturers that are active clients, although he is not at liberty to say just who that might be.

So how real is the threat of car hacking? Even Etas GmbH, who have a product to sell, admit it is more of a nuisance issue right now more than anything else, but the potential for harm is there, which is why the NHTSA have set up a special new division to examine the issue and a number of others, including car manufacturers, are doing the same.


Iconic Cars That Were the Real Stars of The (TV) Show

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There have been a great many really great cars that have practically become a member of the cast of TV shows over the years. Some however, really have attained icon status and can truly be considered the most famous cars in TV history. These excellent automobiles would be our choice for the best of the famous cars from TV shows. How many do you remember? What other star vehicles would you add to the list?

KITT

 

1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from ‘Knight Rider’

Most people did not even know what kind of car KITT was, and to be honest, they really didn’t care, ‘he’ was just cool. KITT could could vault over any obstacle, speed safely through a veritable sea of bullets and capture the bad guys. But his best quality perhaps was his ability to deflate Michael Knight’s sometimes over blown ego with just a single sarcastic remark.

1986 Ferrari Testarossa from ‘Miami Vice’

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‘Miami Vice’ was responsible for more than a few not so great looks – the loafer with no socks thing, designer stubble, pastel suits worn with t shirts – but the Ferrari that Sonny Crockett sped around in is a timeless classic.

The Testarossa was actually the second iconic car that Don Johnson got to pose prettily in. In the first season, Crockett drove a ’72 Ferrari Daytona Spyder, an even cooler car some might say. Unfortunately that baby got blown up by a rocket launcher and the then practically brand new car was drafted in to replace it. And the sight of Crockett cruising along in its pristine whiteness is an image burned into the memories of millions as one of the most memorable symbols of the ‘me’ decade.

1975 Ford Gran Torino from ‘Starsky and Hutch’

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This car became such a large part of what is still one of the best ‘buddy cop’ shows ever made that it is actually pretty hard to picture either David Soul or Paul Michael Glaser without their speedy FoMoCo coming to mind as well.

The car actually helped boost sales of the car in general, and Ford even managed to sell out of the 1,000 special editions they produced that were clones of TV car in a matter of months.

1983 GMC G15 Van from ‘The A-Team’

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Who would ever have imagined that a GMC cargo van would become one of the best known vehicles in TV history, let alone one of the coolest? Would four real life mercenaries/crime fighters actually drive around in a windowless black van with a very noticeable red spoiler? Probably not, but realism was never exactly a part of the ‘A Team’ was it? We still know a few people who have their own version of an A team van on the road (and we pass no judgments).

1983 Ferrari 308 GTS from ‘Magnum P.I.’

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OK, so yes, Tom Selleck was cool, witty and handsome in a rather hairy 80s way, but Magnum wasn’t the star of the show, his bosses car was.

Thanks in large part to the red beauty’s appearance in the show, Ferrari sold more than 12,000 copies of the 308 GTS, making it one of the most popular models the Italian carmaker has ever produced. Fortunately the 308 still look classy and stylish today, which is more than can be said for the floral Hawaiian camp shirts that also enjoyed a huge in spike in sales at the height of Magnum’s popularity.

1969 Dodge Charger from ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’

GeneralLee

It would be impossible to make a list like this one and not put the General Lee right at the very top. According to John Schneider (Bo) though, there were a lot of versions of the bright orange hoopty, as, by his conservative estimate, more than three hundred such cars were wrecked by the stunt crew over the course of the show’s original six year run.


Your Credit And Auto Insurance Score – Is It Costing You A Fortune And You Didn’t Even Know?

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The business of credit scoring can be a rather confusing one for consumers to navigate and understand. Most people are aware of the fact though that their credit score can affect their ability to get loans of all kinds – everything from a small personal loan or a credit card to a larger loan like a car loan or a mortgage. What they may not realize though is that these days when it comes to car insurance credit scores are very important as well.

Why Do Car Insurance Companies Care About Credit Scores?

Over the last several years car insurance companies have been giving an increased amount of weight to a person’s credit score in order to come up with a premium level for their car insurance. This comes as a surprise to many people. Surely they should care about a good driving record and a safe car, not whether or not a drivers pays their credit card bill on time very month? And what possible link could there be between the chance that their home will damaged and their credit score? And how do they come up with this auto insurance score for you?

Insurance companies do still care about all of that of course but their new reliance on credit scoring comes down to insurance companies love of statistics. According to the insurance companies there is research that suggests that a person who is very good with their finances – it has a good credit score – is more likely to be more responsible in other areas of their life including more careful when they are out on the road behind the wheel of a car.

Insurance Scores Explained

To determine how to price their policies the insurance companies now use what is referred to as an insurance credit score. Actually most use two insurance scores for each consumer – one for car insurance and one for home insurance. Most of it is calculated according to the information on your credit report in the case of home insurance and in the case of auto insurance your driving record and the information on your credit report are both taken into account. These scores are then added to what is called a CLUE report. These reports are then the ones used by insurance companies to calculate insurance premiums and they also contain information about employment history and past residence information and even your grades in high school or college!

Getting Your CLUE Report

If you will be buying a new car insurance policy soon you may want to know just what is on your CLUE report and just what your insurance credit score is, in the same way as you would want to know what your current credit score is before you apply for a mortgage.

It is possible to gain access to a copy of your CLUE reports free of charge. You can request copies of both the auto and the home report by going to personalreports.lexisnexis.com. The problem is, all you will see on these reports are claims histories. You are not shown your insurance credit score or any information about how your credit score is affecting your insurance score. What that actually is is something that only the insurance company knows unless they take an adverse action action you (deny you coverage or increase premiums) because of it in which case federal law states that it must be provided to you.

Insurance Scores and Controversy

The fact that insurance companies use an auto insurance score related to people’s credit to help them set premium rates has been a matter of great controversy. Not everyone who has a poor credit score is a poor financial manager. A personal crisis like a job loss or illness can have a serious impact, albeit a temporary one, on a person’s finances and their ability to pay all their bills on time. Therefore many people, including a number of politicians, feel that the use of credit scores to help calculate insurance scores unfairly targets lower income individuals.

Some states have actually banned insurance companies that operate in their state from using credit scoring at all when calculating insurance premiums. Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts and Maryland all ban the use of credit scoring for most types of insurance policy and California bans its use for automobile insurance. Other states put limits on how much weight an insurance company is supposed to be allowed to put on insurance scores.

Consumers all over the country do have the right to complain about unfair treatment and inaccurate entries on their CLUE reports and have their claims investigated. Many people begin by speaking with the insurance companies themselves but that does not always get them very far. At this point the best course of action is for the consumer to contact their state insurance investigator’s office and ask them to begin an inquiry.

Improving Your Insurance Credit Score

Making an effort to improve your credit score should have a positive impact on your insurance credit score as well. You should also order the free CLUE reports that the law says you are entitled to once a year and go through them carefully to look for mistakes. In the case of an auto CLUE report for instance there is often a section that is headed ‘Possible Claims’ that are based only on a search of last name and address. So if yours is a common last name you may end up having a claim listed that was actually made by someone else once living at the same address and be paying top dollar for your car insurance because of this mistake!


Gearing Up For The Glitziest Race Of All – The 2016 Monaco Grand Prix

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NASCAR is great, but if you truly enjoy seeing state of the art cars compete at beyond breakneck speed then Formula 1 is the sport for you. And the Monaco Grand Prix is perhaps the grandest and most celebrated of the season’s Formula One races. The biggest stars come out to watch the proceedings, proceedings that span the whole weekend and a walk around the city can bring you into contact with some of the most beautiful super-cars in the world, just parked, waiting for heir owners to return. For one weekend a year, Monaco becomes a motoring mecca, and this year – the race is scheduled for May 26th-29th, 2016 – is no different.

The Challenge for the Drivers

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The Monaco Grand Prix course itself is the shortest, slowest circuit in the annual Formula One Series, but that does not mean that it is without its unique challenges. The first is the course route itself, winding as it does through the narrow confines of the city streets, with the cars running most of the time just inches away from the guardrail. Drivers literally have to be inch perfect to stay on track and in the race and there is zero room for error.

A driver must make over 130 significant and timely steering moves on each of the 78 laps of the race, and over the duration they will have to change gear more than 4,000 times. The asphalt surface is smooth, perhaps the smoothest terrain to tackle all season, but it is not without it surprising bumps. British driver Jensen Button, who won the race in 2009, calls it the ‘greatest challenge’ of the Formula One calendar and there are no doubt plenty of others who agree with him.

The Challenge for the Spectators

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The Monaco Grand Prix does present something of a challenge for the spectators present as well. Monaco is a tiny place – 2sq km – and the usually rather densely populated town is simply packed on race weekend, so roadside viewing is only for those willing to navigate tightly packed crowds for a half glimpse st the cars as they zoom around the rack.

As race veterans will tell you, the best way to see the Monaco Grand Prix action is from the water. This means that the yacht charter business kicks into high gear and some former F1 drivers have even got in on the action, using their knowledge of the race and its course to provide the best charters that can promise excellent views of all the action as well as a great time on board a very nice yacht. All of this comes at a price though, as the average rate for a four day trip – as watching the qualifiers is as important as seeing the race itself – is around €50,000 to €70,000.

Car Spotting

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Most of the best hotel rooms available in the city on race weekend are taken by the wealthiest racegoers as well as by the drivers and their entourage as well. That means that a stroll around the streets will bring you into contact with some of the most expensive and beautiful cars in the world. And the traffic jams you will see are unlike any other, as Bugatti Veyrons line up behind a plethora of different Porsches, who are vying for position with the highest end BMWs and Audis. For the ‘everyday onlooker’ it is certainly one heck of a photo op if nothing else….