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5 bad used cars to buy

Lemon cars

Photo: CarsDirect.com

I was doing a lot of research on junk cars, which stemmed my idea to rank the top 5 worst used cars to buy. I am going to be honest and admit that this post is a tad bit biased, but my reasoning for picking some of the cars is legitimate. With the help of ConsumerAffairs.com and Lemon-Law-Types.com (how appropriate?), I was able to put together a list. If you want complete lists, visit the two sites I just mentioned.

The cars listed below are not ranked to according to how bad they stink,well, except for number one.

5.  Ford Expedition
The Ford Expedition did not receive love from any of the car websites I researched, so it must be a bad car to buy.
I had no idea these SUVs were not good purchases. The look nice and seem reliable, but apparently consumers do not agree.
The main problems with theses cars come from the spark plugs. Lemon-Law-Types.com said the model is prone to having split spark plugs. What?
Spark plugs are placed in each cylinder of a car. They provide an electric spark needed to ignite the gasoline and air mixture within an engine. In other words, a split spark plug problem, especially a continuous one, is not ideal.

http://www.tiptopglobe.com/car-bmw-318ti-compact-automatic-photo

Photo: TipTopGlobe.com
Really, a Bimmer on this list?!

4. Automatic BMWs
A luxury car on the worst cars list?
Apparently these cars have problems shifting properly, and the reverse gear tends to stop working all together (my question: how will you back it out of your driveway?).

3. Older GM vehicles using Dex-Cool
Poor GM, the company just can’t catch a break. In 2009, the automaker went bankrupt, forcing it to sell portions of its Saturn car line to Penske Automotive Group.
Before its bankruptcy dilemma, GM had antifreeze tragedies. The company used and recommended a coolant, Dex-Cool, in its 1999 and older models.
Not a hot idea. The coolant was linked to corroding radiators, which can cause a slew of other car problems. Think about it: rust running through your entire engine. Not. Cool.

2. Saturn Relay
I can relate to Saturn problems. I once had a Saturn and it started giving me problems soon after buying it. However, I did buy it off of the internet. A good word of advice: never buy a car from the internet.
There are a number of problems with this particular model, which include inefficient weather seals, faulty sensor lights and complications with the doors.
According to Lemon-Law-Types, Saturn builds good cars, but I have heard otherwise.

Dode Neon.

Photo: Allpar.com
A Dodge Neon at its finest.

1. Dodge Neon
I think the websites I used forgot to mention Dodge Neons, but they are bad cars!
And number one, were you surprised? Of course it’s a Dodge Neon! These cars are a big disaster, and everyone should steer clear of them when looking for a car. I would go a step further and say stay away from all Dodge cars, but that might be harsh.

Neons are prone to have structural damages, for example, the struts go out too often, and the rotors rust too quickly. Actually, the entire car rusts too quickly. Not to mention, Neons have really bad consumer reports and are not considered reliable at all. I would know.

Other used cars you shouldn’t purchase are:
-Ford Focus
-Ford Taurus (Come on, Ford.)
-Oldsmobile Bravo
-Mercury Sable
-Toyota Prius
-Dodge Durango (Dodge Dodges.)
-Volkswagen New Beetle

We can gather that these used cars may not be worth anyone’s time and more importantly, money. However, just because a car is listed in this post, does not  automatically make it a lemon.

The best advice I have for those car shopping is to get the CarFax. I also suggest taking a mechanically savvy and nonpersuasive person with you as well.

Bringing the throwback back: Car forums

The conversation

Photo: Shaswatpatel.com

Forums are considered one of the oldest forms of social technology. The other oldest forms being, I don’t know, e-mail and instant messaging (just guessing here)?

When people ask questions online, forums are one way to get answers.

Online forums allow people to post, comment and respond to questions posted by others. Some forums are member-based only, but all are made to converse about a certain idea, product, service, ect.

I once looked up information on how to fix my 2003 Saturn L300 (another junk car of mine that could not even outlast my dodge Neon). Who knew that Saturn had its own online forum? The forum provided me with information I needed about a throttle body kit (which deals with the acceleration of a car) and gas pedal sensor.

Product and service reviews can be found on forum websites. Some forums have ratings for certain products, while others offer reviews through the actual discussion. Either way, forums are a way for consumers to gain insight about, well, almost anything.

I talk about the book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I do this partly because my online PR class requires it, but it also provides useful, interesting information about the public relations field. I would recommend it to anyone looking to gain more insight of the groundswell and pragmatic ways to utilize it. A chapter in Groundswell focuses on energizing consumers online.

Although not as popular as social media, forums energize online consumers.

One example Groundswell gave about motivating customers was the LUGNET, the International Lego Users Group Network, website. LUGNET was created by Lego enthusiasts. The group posts information about and photos of Legos, allowing members to engage with each other about the loved product. The site also offers forums on topics such as how to build a certain Lego model. From the LUGNET website, the Lego company created an online community website for its “AFOLS” (Lego fans). The program, called Lego Ambassadors, was made to build enthusiasm among consumers and aid the company in learning about what is happening among the AFOL community.

This type of discussion is a way for companies to see where they stand among consumers. Forums allow businesses to brand monitor as well as build conviction where it is needed.

In the car industry, forums are even more useful because there is so much information to share and discuss about cars. People looking online to fix their own cars are also more inclined to gain information from forum websites as well as engage on them.

CarForum.net is a popular discussion website. The site offers sections such as: car news, discussion (general and professional), body repair, car part and maintenance and more. Each section is organized on the homepage, allowing people to navigate easily to a desired subject. In my opinion, the discussions, the organization, as well as the topics covered by the site makes it effective. This site also encourages others to join and heightens interest about cars because of the information and dialogue it creates.

In general, this “throwback” is not something to be thrown away by anyone. It is a way to gain needed information and reviews for consumers, and it is a way to energize and monitor feedback for businesses.

 

Social media in the auto repair world

This blog, despite my love for it, was not created willingly. I had to start it for my Online PR class. Lemon cars became the topic because my current car and its funkiness has provided me with a lot of knowledge about car maintenance.

Today’s post is about public relations and its relevance and importance to the car industry- in particularly auto repair shops.

Social media is an indispensable means of reaching audiences in the public relations field. It allows real-time communication to flow freely, continuously and quickly from company to customer. It  also allows a company to gain more visibility and promotion through information sharing on various online social outlets.

Twitter communication objectives
Car repair companies use social media to communicate with publics. An example is Pepboys Auto and its Twitter . The company continuously updates it page with discount offers and information about preparing your car for certain seasonsHowever, the company also uses its account to communicate with customers.

The good
One Tweet to Pepboys read: “Thanks @pepboys for taking such great care of my car this weekend! I’ll be back for more soon!”

Comments like these are not only priceless to a company but offer reassurance that a company is meeting its communications and sales objectives.

One the other hand, Twitter and Facebook accounts call for damage control.

The bad
An example of this was a tweet from Pepboys to one of its customers, which read: “Hi @(customer), we’re sorry you had that kind of experience. Please send a DM with your email address so customer service can follow up.”

Posts like these are damaging to the company in some degree. However, these types of posts offer benefits that, in my opinion, outweigh the negative light that is temporarily shed on the company. The fact that Pepboys showed  it cared about its customer’s bad experience, and then was willing to fix it, makes the company transparent and credible by owning up to its mistake.

Social media should be used for this very reason. Facebook offers the same good and bad aspects, but, again, it is a way to keep two-way and real-time communication between companies and customers.

Think about POST  with Facebook and Twitter pages
Groundswell by Charlene Li and  Josh Bernoff mentioned an effective idea when trying to reaching online publics. The idea, POST (people, objectives, strategy, technology), claims that companies need to consider what it is that the people they are marketing to want.

With social media, POST should be considered as well. It is not wise for a company to start a Facebook or Twitter account just for the hell of it. Companies need to know the reasoning behind social media accounts. The idea is: people come first and then technology follows.

Groundswell also mentioned the company Best Buy and its creation of Blue Shirt Nation, an internal communication site. The site was specifically set up to gain and communicate information from front line employees at Best Buy. The website better served its customers and employees by doing so. When the site was made, there was a specific, reasonable goal in mind that Bet Buy stuck to, which was to better incorporate internal communication efforts. By using POST and thinking of people first, Best Buy built a successful, useful internal communications website.

Set guidelines across the board
 A company needs to outline guidelines that its social media sites must uphold, and stick to those rules. A podcast and blog on Inside PR  talked about the Susan G. Komen Foundation and its social media issues that were caused by the organization deleting comments about its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

It was not right for the Komen Foundation to delete every remark made about its decision – good and bad. The company had allowed comments on its page before, so it seemed odd that it deleted feedback only about one particular and rather controversial issue. The Komen Foundation lost  some credibility and transparency by deleting comments left by followers, which is never good for a company, or in this case, organization.

And remember…
Auto companies value a great deal from creating Facebook and Twitter pages because both provide real-time communication between company and customer. If not used consistently and cautiously, social media can hit a company hard.

Considering audiences first is critical when building a company’s image online. After figuring out what it is people want and need from the company’s social media resources, it is vital to set rules that are not subject to change when the company is under scrutiny.

Remedies for rusty cars

Rusty Car

Photo: TomStrongMan.com

A professional will more than likely have to fix rust that accumulates within a car. However, you can probably fix minor rust spots on the body of your car.

An article on instructables.com  coaches those who want to try and fix a minor rust spot.

The instructions include sanding, sanding and more sanding.

An extensive amount of sanding is required to remove rust because of the amount of layers a car’s surface has, and also because it is important to remove all of the rust.

When all of the rust is removed, clean the newly sanded area and apply a few (maybe two or three coats) of primer. The paint should be applied next, and then followed by a clear coat. Leave a few minutes between each coat (maybe 5 minutes). Let the paint job sit for at least 24-hours.

Instructables.com claims that fixing a small rust spot youself costs about $15 dollars and takes between four and five hours of labor. Not bad compared to a $200 dollar charge from an auto body shop for the same repair.

You do not necessarily have to do this to fix a rust spot. There are other alternatives. An example is BlackStar Rust Converter, which is similar to a rust resistant paint. When applied to rusty surfaces, BlackStar Converter not only makes the surface look better, but it also resists further rusting.

According to WorldIsWelcome.com, BalckStar Rust Converter works. The website claims it is a durable coating against rust.

The last alternative is duct tape.

Yes, you read correctly: duct tape.

When a rust spot began to form under my gas door, I decided that covering it with duct tape and two bumper stickers would help. And it did. The rust has stopped spreading for now.

If my car was worth putting money into, I would get the rust spot fixed or even attempt to fix it myself. However, the Neon is not worth it, so duct tape was the perfect fix.

Struts are the stuff

 
 

Photo: Convegnofai.org

 

Have you ever wondered what holds your car up?

With help from Carjunky.com, I have the answer: struts.

Struts are the structural elements on the front end of almost every vehicle. They are designed to resist shock.

But that is not all struts do. Carjunky.com lists the different components car struts integrate in order to make a complete suspension system. These include:  

  • Spring seats- (information on these were hard to find) looking at pictures, spring seats are exactly what the name implies- seats or placeholders for the coil springs
  • Coil Springs- helical (spiral shaped) springs made of wire that surrounds the upper portion of struts and absorbs the most shock
  • Shock Absorbers- mechanical devices designed to level impulses the car encounters while in motion
  • Strut Mounts–  links the strut to the car and provides cushion
  • Steering Knuckles  – attaches the wheel to the suspension system and allows the wheel to pivot

With its spring, the strut is able to support the vehicle’s weight while in motion and adapt to different types of roads (rocky, curvy, hilly, ect.), which is why struts play an important structural role for a car. 

Shocks are necessary for reducing the movement and pressure of the spring as it constantly compresses and recoils.

You may be thinking: “What happens when the struts completely break?” 

The answer to that question is: nothing. When the actual strut breaks, the other components of the strut hold it together and keep the car structurally sound for a short amount of time. 

The same cannot be said if another element of the strut, say the spring or shock, breaks. If this happens, there will be problems. These problems range from the car simply falling on the ground to causing a deadly accident. So, it is wise to get struts checked every year and not drive on bad ones.

Getting your struts checked during a tire rotation is a great idea. It is always best to have a professional check your car for problems. Getting struts checked is no different. However, bad struts give warning signs. Carjunky.com and eHow.com  list tell-tale signs of bad struts. Some warnings include: 

  • Bottoming out (an example being when the front end of a car hits the ground after driving over a bump.)
  • Uneven wear on tires
  • Swaying while driving 
  • Leakage from the suspension system

Every post, I talk about my lemon of a car, which I have named, Neo (short for Dodge Neon). Neons, among other things, are prone to have structural problems. This is especially true for struts and the accompanying components.

Currently, I am experiencing warning signs of bad struts as well as failing springs. Yikes! This could be the reason why I rarely drive anywhere.

Hopefully this post provided a little more insight to struts and why they are the stuff!

Fuel injector cleaner goes a long way

Bosch fuel injectors in action
Photo: Bosch US
 
Scenario: You are cruising down the road, and life is great. Then you come to a stop light, and your car starts to shake. Not only is it shaking, but the service engine soon light comes on! What a fun scenario. Your day just went from great to really bad.When this happens, my first guess is that it has something to do with the fuel system – possibly the fuel pump or fuel injectors. It could also be that the car is shivering due to cold weather.If the car in the above scenario were to have hesitated or completely shut down, a problem with the catalytic converter or fuel pump would more than likely be the cause.  How do I know all of this? Driving a lemon car will make almost anyone an expert at diagnosing car troubles.It is always important to get a diagnostic test taken when car problems arise. Auto stores typically give fee diagnostics, so I do not recommend paying $20 dollars or more at an auto repair shop to get one done.

Dodge Neons, at least in my case, always have problems with fuel injectors, which is not normal. According to an article on howstuffworks.com, fuel injectors should last as long as the car does. Remember, this blog is about unreliable cars.

I looked up information about fuel injectors and couldn’t help to think, “Huh?”  Thank the Higher Powers for Wikipedia. Here is a general idea of what fuel injectors do according to Wikipedia: they determine the amount of fuel that goes into the  “internal combustion engine.” In English, fuel injectors determine the amount of gas cars need to run.

Each cylinder in a car contains a fuel injector. So, a four- cylinder car will have four injectors, a six- cylinder will have six fuel injectors and so on. Good, clean injectors are necessary to keep cars efficient. Gas and other emissions, overtime, might clog or even damage injectors. New injectors can be costly. For example, it was going to cost $500 dollars to get new injectors in my Neon. I opted out, and fuel injector cleaner was the answer to my problems.

Fuel injector cleaner essentially cleans fuel injectors and provides better gas mileage . It is wise to use fuel injector cleaner every 3,000 miles, which is the same number of miles you are supposed to get an oil change.

Specific cleaning brands are STP, Gumout and Lucas. STP  is the best in my opinion. It has been keeping my car running for six months because I have yet to get my fuel injectors changed. However, this has made it necessary for me to use injector cleaner every time I fill my gas tank.  So, I recommend eventually getting your car fixed. Until you do, use fuel injector cleaner!

Small steps to winterize a car

Tundra Driving

Photo: North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

 

It is that time of the year again. It is time to winterize your car (well, it is for Ohioans and anyone else living in a U.S. state that gets swamped with snow)! However, Ohio has been experiencing spring weather lately.

Everyone knows that it is crucial to winterize a car and prepare it for the nasty winter months. And if you didn’t know, now you do.

According to dictionary.com, the term “winterizing” means this: to prepare (an automobile, house, etc.) for cold weather by (in automobiles) adding antifreeze and changing oil or (in houses) adding insulation, heating units, etc.

Interestingly enough, the above definition left out buying expensive tires. Winterizing a car can cost anywhere from $10 dollars (if you do the work yourself) to around $300 or $400 dollars or more. I once had to pay $900 dollars during the winter to get my car running and ready for heavy- duty weather. Keep in mind; I drive a 1996 Dodge Neon.  At that time, my Neon needed more than an oil change and antifreeze. 

Two important elements of winterizing a car are having sufficient tires for traction in the snow and checking the antifreeze, which may include flushing the radiator and adding new antifreeze.

Snow tires are made with better traction, making them the perfect match for winter months because the design is meant to resist sliding and  braces snow  better than other season tires. The winter tire’s rubber is also made to be more flexible, which is also better in cold weather.

Antifreeze should be added to a car’s radiator. It is a chemical that keeps cool temperatures warmer and hot temperatures cooler. This is especially important in the winter because it prevents fluids in the radiator from freezing. Antifreeze also protects the radiator from oxidation or rusting.

Checking and changing your own antifreeze is not hard. For the do-it-yourselfers, here is a YouTube video that provides steps on how to check and fill coolant and antifreeze.

Although tires and antifreeze are important for winterizing a car, there are other techniques that should be considered as well.

An article on MSNBC.com  suggests that drivers should carry an emergence kit complete with an extra pair of boots, a blanket, a shovel and some type of “abrasive material,” such as, kitty litter or sand in their trunk during the winter season.  This is a great idea because who knows when your snow tires will decide to not work one day, and you are stuck in the middle of nowhere?

I hope this proves to be of help when preparing your car for the winter months! This type of preparation is just one way to increase the longevity of your car. Had I continued to do this for my Neon , maybe, just maybe it would still be reliable – wishful thinking.