Winter Pests: Keeping Rodents out of Your Vehicle

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Auto Body, Automotive, Car Care, Car Maintenance, Driving, Pest Control, Winter Driving | Posted on 23-10-2013

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Does anyone remember Klondike Kat anymore?  His motto was:  “Klondike Kat always gets his mouse!”  Of course, he never did, but many of us could use a mouse catcher for our cars this time of year.

As the weather turns colder, rodents like mice and even rats look for warm places to nest and get away from the elements, and many find cars to be an ideal option.  Vehicles tend to be warm, dry, and full of little places to hide from predators.  Unfortunately, once these animals get inside, they tend to do a lot of damage.

A common hang out for these pests is under the hood, and they like to get inside things like the air filter housing, where they will chew up the filter to make nesting material.  Small animals will also go under the hood insulation, often dragging food along with them, like dog food, bird seed, acorns and walnuts.  If they don’t have food to bring along, they may feast on the wiring in the engine compartment and wreak havoc on your ability to drive the car.

Rodents can find their way inside the car, as well.  They typically can enter through the ventilation system, and love to nest near the heater fan, which is generally located behind the glove box on the right side of the dash, nearby or directly above the heater core.  The heater core stays warm long after you leave the car and have turned off the engine, making this spot an ideal nesting area.  These critters pack food and nesting material inside the fan blade, which looks similar to a hamster wheel, and throw the blade out of balance, causing noise and vibration during operation.  Other problems stemming from this include blocked vents, which impedes airflow, as well as complications from chewed wiring.

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Now, it’s bad enough to think about mice living in your vehicle, but it can get worse:  they can die inside the engine compartment or vehicle, as well.  Whether these bothersome tenants meet their demise trying to escape fan blades, chewing electrified wires, or otherwise, the outcome remains the same. The often hard-to-find remains can be foul smelling and continue to contribute to the aforementioned problems. Finding the culprit and eliminating the damage and the odor can be difficult and expensive.  How big of a problem is this?  We have seen damage over $10,000 caused by rodents.  And we see about one vehicle per week during the warm months with a problem, and sometimes 4 or 5 per week when the weather turns cold.  Fortunately for some owners, comprehensive insurance usually covers the cost of repairs (see your agent for coverage).

 

The best solution to this problem is to avoid the problem in the first place. Below are several tips that should help prevent rodents from exploring your chariot.

 

  1. Don’t store pet food or bird food in a garage or outside unless it is in a tightly sealed, mouse-proof container.  Food attracts rodents, and they will take that food into your car.mice-dryer-sheet
  2. Depending on how you feel about trapping, killing, or poisoning mice, the best way to keep them out of your car is to keep them out of your garage.  Setting traps or poison baits are one way, but moth-balls strategically placed in a garage (away from children and pets) can also be effective.
  3. Many boat and RV owners will stuff fabric softener sheets into compartments when the vehicles are put into storage.  Placing Bounce fabric softener sheets in the glove box, under the seats and even inside the hood insulation may keep mice away.  There is the added benefit of that fresh laundry smell, too!mice_vacuum
  4. Throw away garbage in your car.  Those dropped French fries between the seats are attractants to animals.  Keeping the interior clean will help keep the mice away.
  5. Get a cat!

 

 

A little prevention can go a long way to protecting your car from invasion this fall and winter, and can potentially save you from costly cleaning and repairs.

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Written by Matt Jones – Smart Motors Service Manager

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Plug-in Day: Electric Cars, Plug-in Hybrids Whizz and Whirr Up the Winding Road to Acceptance

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Events, Hybrids, News | Posted on 15-10-2013

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DSCN0480The Third Annual National Plug-in Day held recently, included events in nearly 100 cities around the world.  Plug-in and electric car enthusiasts came together for an annual celebration of driving cars with a cord.  Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are increasingly popular and the world-wide event drew more than double the attendees compared to the year before.  The primary feature of each event was displaying the plug-in vehicles from the major automakers as well as the newcomers.  Scores of people had their first experience with vehicles that burn little or no gas.  This was the most important element of the event because most advocates believe that familiarity is the absolute key to popular acceptance of these vehicles and National Plug-in Day raised the bar on what is possible!

National Plug-in Day is ongoing proof that Americans, and drivers the world over are keen to drive vehicles that use little or no gasoline, cut down on airborne pollutants and keep1383193_365819993552808_2127503790_n our fuel dollars local.  The Silicon Valley event in Cupertino was a perfect example of the growth of the event, where approximately 2,000 attendees checked out nearly 300 vehicles on display from 20 major automakers.  Events in Seattle and the Los Angeles area had similar turnouts.  In Nashville, Nissan decided to promote electric cars by giving away free gasoline.  Cities from Maine to Hawaii hosted similar events and many saw a big increase in attendance compared to last year.  Initial numbers from Plug-in America, a coalition of first generation RAV4 EV owners and former lessees of Honda EV+, GM EV1, Ford Ranger and Ford Think City electrics from the “Who Killed the Electric Car?” era and long-time Plug-in advocates, pegged total US attendance at between 40,000 and 50,000 people.  According to the organizers, that’s a 43 percent boost in participation.

Closer to home, the Upper Midwest Plug-in Day held in Madison, Wisconsin featured over 25 electric vehicles on display, along with demonstrations, owner testimonials and test drives.  Some of the vehicles on display included home-built and concept vehicles along with all-electrics (Nissan LEAF and Tesla).  Various Plug-in Hybrids (Plug-in Priuses, Gen ll Prius Plug-in modifications, Ford C-Max Energi, Chevy Volt, and Wheego) were all equally represented.  Electric bikes and mopeds were also featured at the event.  Flux Mopeds of Madison, Len’s Electric Bikes and Ride Green Bikes of Milwaukee showed off their clean, quiet, 100% electric offerings.  In addition, Madison Gas and Electric was on hand to talk about their Madison-wide electric vehicle charging network and answer all power-related questions.  There were plenty of EV owners on hand sharing information on what its like to own and drive a plug-in vehicle.

National Plug-in Day was also marked in Sauk City, Wisconsin where the Free Congregation of Sauk County held a Free Forum on Energy, Climate and Our Future.  The social and environmental responsibility of cleanDSCN0557 energy was the theme of the day and Plug-in vehicles were on display outside of Freethinker’s Hall.  A Prius Plug-in, a Nissan Leaf and a Chevy Volt were on display and there were representatives on hand to answer all the questions.

Electric drive enthusiasts had plenty of success to celebrate on Plug-in Day.  Still, plug-ins only make up a tiny segment of the total auto market.  Slowly but surely, as National Plug-in Day underscores, many people are making that change, and the mainstream auto industry has taken note.  Higher fuel-efficiency standards and government subsidies have shifted the center-of-gravity a little more toward Plug-in and EV vehicles and it appears no automaker wants to be the one not moving forward with this technology.

The good news for consumers is that automakers have been dropping the prices of hybrids and EVs, making it easier to get into the game.  Reuters says that “automakers have slashed prices on their electric cars to help overcome consumer qualms about high costs and fears of driving range.”  This has been borne out by plug-in sales which have remained high month by month this year.  Sales rose as prices for these vehicles came down.  Recently, the Plug-in Prius joined the Volt and the Leaf at a lowered price-point as Toyota dropped the price of the 2014 model.  Toyota has always been very good at making complex electromechanical systems smaller, cheaper and more reliable.  And a lesson learned from the early history of the Prius just might indicate that Plug-ins may have an advantage at this stage of their history that the Prius did not – when the 2001 Prius went on sale in the United States Toyota sold only small numbers of that first gas-electric from 2001 through 2003, but it had big plans for the little hybrid from the start.

DSCN0558With the re-designed second-generation Prius in 2004, Toyota had a winner.  Since then, Prius sales have never looked back and now there is a family line of separate Prius vehicles, which are now Toyota’s third best-selling passenger car in the United States market.  The success of the Prius and the company’s hybrids in general, has paved the way for a much earlier acceptance of plug-in hybrids and EVs compared to early hybrid history.  According to the United States Department of Energy, around 40,000 plug-in electric vehicles were purchased by Americans in the first six months of 2013, that’s more than double the amount sold throughout the same period last year.  In 2012 there were 52,000 EVs sold, which was an increase from 17,000 in 2011.

So, compared to hybrid cars — which took about a decade to catch on in the U.S. and now represent four percent of the total car market — electric vehicles are doing better earlier in the cycle, historically, than hybrids after their first 30 months on the market. There were about 3,000 hybrids sold per month 30 months after the cars were first introduced.  Over the same time period, plug-in electric vehicles are selling at a rate of about 9,000 per month.  It is clear that there is a growing segment of car-buyers who are ready for this technology.

 

DSCN0559Toyota has always taken a long-term view of hybrid-electric technology planning not only in five year and ten year cycles, but twenty-five and even fifty year plans, as well.  This has worked out very well for Toyota.  Today, the company has built 5 million hybrids and sells 23 different hybrids around the world – and has plans to launch additional hybrid models each year going forward along with a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle coming on the market in 2015!  DSCN0560

 

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Ball Body Shop Gets Dramatic Face Lift

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Auto Body, Auto Glass, Automotive, Body Shop, Glass Repair, News | Posted on 25-09-2013

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IMG_0491Over the last several months, a serious transformation has taken place at Ball Body Shop. The reputable local auto body center has taken major steps in setting itself apart from the competition, both in size and capability. A recent 8,000 square foot expansion makes the Smart Motors owned body shop the largest in the state, and the addition of state-of-the-art technologies, make it one of the most advanced.

 

The “face-lift” is far from being merely cosmetic, as Ball now has doubled its service capacity to nearly 300 vehicles per month. New and improved prep and paint booths, along with specific training, also allow Ball to speed through a previously laborious painting process in 45 minutes. Also being employed at the improved facility is a $20,000 computerized welder, which aids with frame and body reconstruction by recognizines vehicles by their specific make and model.

 

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On top of these improvements are other impressive amenities, including in-house glass repair and a full-service rental fleet. As a truly full-service shop, Ball Body Shop can lend their impressive technology and talent to any make and model vehicle on jobs of any size. From paintless dent repair to major collisions, Ball is sure to have your car back to pre-accident condition in no time.

As a division of Smart Motors, customer service will always be of paramount importance at Ball, and customers can expect helpful and friendly service at every turn. Best yet? Ball works with all major insurance companies and is ready to help guide you through the repair process. A substantial investment has been made in improving the capabilities of this body shop facility, and members of Ball are ready to prove to customers that the improvements are worth every penny.

 

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Ball Body Shop and Novus Glass – Madison are located at 2225 Eagle Dr. in Middleton, WI. Smart Motors is located at 5901 Odana Rd. in Madison, WI.

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Express Yourself – Car Accessories Can Add Personality and Value

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Driving | Posted on 23-08-2013

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In a world of monogrammed golf balls, bedazzled cell-phones, and, of course, custom sub sandwiches, it’s easy to see that people want their possessions to be their very own, both in identity and functionality. This is equally true when it comes to our vehicles. We’ve come a long way since Henry Ford declared, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black,” and the myriad options and accessories available to today’s car buyers allow them to ensure that their vehicle is one-of-a-kind.

 

Like any reputable car dealer, Smart Motors strives to ensure the utmost satisfaction of each new car buyer, and in their efforts to do so, provides customers with a multitude of add-ons and options. Although quite different from the auto customization shops oft seen on M-TV programming, Smart and their partners offer a range of practical products to enhance the appearance, functionality, and even the longevity of vehicles.

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Many drivers aim to enhance or personalize the look of their vehicle with accessories, and Smart Motors can definitely assist in this venture. From wheels, shift knobs, and body moldings to window tint and customer leather seating, we’ve got what you need to make your car unique. However, many of the accessories we offer provide benefits far beyond looks. Buyers who wish to make their vehicle easier or more comfortable to use will appreciate items like side steps, remote engine starters, and even entertainment systems, while outdoor enthusiasts can find a variety of sports equipment racks and options to add to their ride. Finally, Smart offers a suite of products aimed to protect your

IMG_0398vehicle, adding longevity and value. Items like 3Ms Scotchgard® interior protectant, SkipChips protective body wrap, and Diamon-Fusion® glass protectant all help buyers safeguard their investment.

While you research and shop for your next vehicle, keep in mind that, although the “perfect” vehicle is hard to find, it can often be created. If the right mix of options doesn’t appear to be available in the model you desire, consider researching the vast library of extras available to you through auto manufacturers, dealers, and their partners. Smart Motors goes to great lengths to ensure that prospective customers have access to accessory information. Shelves stocked with product brochures are complimented by an impressive showroom that has current models outfitted with many of the post-production extras. The Smart website, smarttoyota.com, also has a helpful link to an accessories listing page. http://www.igaccessories.com/smartmotors/  With the wealth of information available, it’s easy to find the perfect accoutrement to your new carriage.

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Like a custom tailored suit, a car that fits you “just right” is sure to be appreciated for it’s style and functionality. As you navigate the car-buying waters, remember that you can get what you want in a vehicle, even if it doesn’t appear to be standard equipment.

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Prevent Car Trouble on Summer Trips

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Driving, Family, News, Service | Posted on 02-07-2013

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Heading off for a summer road trip?  Here are a few pointers to help ensure that your trip goes smoothly.

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WHAT TO CHECK BEFORE YOU LEAVE

Tire Pressure – Tires should be inflated to manufacturer’s recommendation; you can find the recommended tire pressure label inside the driver door-jamb, in the glove box of most vehicles, or in the owner’s manual.  Under-inflated tires become hot, and can cause a blow-out.   Properly inflated tires also save on fuel.  Also, check your spare to make sure it is ready to use just in case.

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Check your door-jamb for tire and inflation information

Coolant – Make sure your anti-freeze/coolant is up to date and the level is full.  Use only the coolant recommended by the manufacturer for your particular car, and have it serviced according to the recommended maintenance schedule.

Washer Fluid and Wiper Blades – With plenty of bugs flying this time of year you need to make sure you have a full tank of washer fluid.  Make sure your wipers don’t streak, and that the rubber is not split or torn.  Wipers should typically be changed once per year.

Engine Oil – Check your oil level, making sure it is on the full mark.  Double check that your service is up to date, and if your trip will cause you to exceed the mileage that is recommended for your next oil change, change it early.  Clean oil will protect your engine and keep it cooler better than dirty oil.

Battery – Hot weather is actually harder on batteries than cold weather.  Inspect your battery terminals for excess corrosion.  Corrosion can be cleaned off by making a paste with baking soda and water and scrubbing off with a wire brush.  If your battery is older, it is a good idea to have it checked before you go on a long trip.  Any signs of acid leakage and the battery should be replaced.

Belts and Hoses – Visually check that hoses do not appear to be leaking or bulging.  Look at the underside of the belts, and if there are any cracks in the ribbing, the belts should be changed.

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Replace cracked belts

Lights – Make sure all lights work, including license plate and side-marker lights.  Make sure the headlamp lenses are clean and clear for best night driving.

 

WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU

First Aid Kit – Have basic supplies like bandages, burn ointment, insect bite treatment, anti-biotic ointment and alcohol wipes available.

Water – You never know if you will find yourself stuck in a traffic jam on a hot day and not be able to get off the road to get drinks.  Have water for all occupants available.  Power bars are also good to have on hand in case you can’t get to food easily.

A Fully-Charged Cell Phone – Today’s cell phones are loaded with useful options from GPS to lodging suggestions. Of course, in an emergency, the ability to contact help is the phone’s most valuable function. Also, purchasing a car charger for your phone will ensure you’ve always got enough battery life.

A Flashlight with Fresh Batteries – Whether you have to locate lost items under seats, change a tire in the dark, or flag down assistance, a flashlight can prove very useful. Many smart phones can be used as a short-term flashlight by simply downloading an app.

A Road Atlas – GPS is great, but not always perfect for finding detours.

A Rain Suit – Even large trash bags can be used in a pinch, but it is a good idea to have rain protection in case you have to change a tire in bad weather.

 

OTHER FUEL SAVING TIPS

In addition to making sure your tires are properly inflated, here a few other tips to help save fuel:

Use Cruise Control – Studies have shown that by maintaining a steady speed over all terrains by using cruise control, you will improve your fuel economy.

Use A/C – It may sound counterintuitive, but A/C is more efficient than opening windows, because open windows create excessive drag.  The most efficient is to do neither, but driving in a hot car can speed up driver fatigue.

Drive the Speed Limit – As unpopular as this might sound, every 5 mph you add will decrease your fuel economy by up to 10%.  It becomes more pronounced over 65 mph.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you have a safe and trouble-free summer road trip!

 – From Contributor, Matt Jones, Smart Toyota Service Manager and 18+ year automotive service and repair professional

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