Mobile Oil Change Business – Keeping Track Of Your Business And Customers

Let’s say you have a solid mobile oil change business and you want to make sure you keep track of your customers and keep them from migrating to competitors who put out low-ball coupons or fixed site locations with low-cost come-ons. What’s the best way to do this? Well, not long ago a successful mobile truck repair and oil changing entrepreneur asked me if “there is a program that will help with keeping track of customers, and help keep track of when to send out a flyer/postcard for repeat business.” Turns out the answer; is yes and this is a very good question. Let’s talk shall we?

Yes, there are several “Contact Management Software suites for small businesses” in fact, just search that phrase, better yet there are Apps now that do the same thing, store it all in the cloud and do nearly everything for you, inexpensive service companies, usually they are quite good. Also if you do mobile oil changing there are several companies in the Industry that will do this for you, sometimes the companies that sell you the oil will give you such software, others are Industry Vendors and often at trade shows, but if you don’t have time to go to one, just subscribe to NOLN – National Oil and Lube News; you can find them online because these contact software companies advertise with them.

Also there are such data bases for the auto detailing business and especially nice and sophisticated systems for carwashes. Subscribe to Professional Carwashing Magazine; also online. All these are great places to find the tools to keep track of customers.

Now then, what about integration of this data with financial spread sheets for forecasting and preparing accounting statements and taxes? This was the entrepreneur’s next important question; “What type of financial programs are out there besides Quickin Books. I have used it in the past and I figure there might be a better one out there that I may not know of. What did you use?”

Personally, I like Quicken and QuickBooks a lot, easy to work with and all the CPAs can use this information to help you. However there are Quicken “partners” that are industry specific, which makes it really nice to do spread-sheets, projections, proformas, and forecasting – also building nice P&Ls and Balance Sheets, and other misc. business financial documents. It’s nice to be all-connected, with a data base system including everything, even down to the end user information, of course security is very important for any platform, as you can NEVER allow yourself to be hacked or have a laptop stolen with personal customer information on it – right? Think on this and continued success in your mobile oil change business.

How to Start Your Own Home Business Business

Searching for ways to make money online usually result in a load of rubbish such as getting paid to read emails or complete surveys; or paying money to buy useless e-books and courses for that magic formula. You should ignore all that “easy way to make money online” nonsense. Remember if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.

So how do you build a business and make money? Basically there are three ways which are: Affiliate Marketing, Selling your own Product or Offering a Service. I will go through these options with you so you can choose the one that is right for you.

AFFILIATE MARKETING

If you haven’t got a product to sell or a service to offer affiliate marketing is a good place to start. The general idea behind affiliate marketing is that you promote someone else’s product and that person (the vendor) pays you a commission. The vendor will supply you with a webpage that you can promote which is commonly known as a “gateway” page. This way the vendor knows which affiliate got the sale as they can track which “gateway” the order came through. The vendor deals with all the order processing and delivery while you just focus on the promotion of your gateway page.

Search for “affiliate companies” using Google and scan the listings for anything that says “Top Paying Affiliate Programs” or something similar. Look for products that you think you could offer on your website or blog. Some companies offer different size banners that you could put on your website which could result in a sale if one of your visitors clicks on the banner and makes a purchase. Look at what the product is and much commission is being offered.

Note: some companies offer a “network marketing option which is often referred to as a Pyramid Scheme. I am not suggesting these companies should be avoided but I would suggest you be very careful, especially if they are asking for a membership fee. If you are unsure about a company I recommend you enter a search term such as “(company name scam)” and see what the public says. There are many people who use the line “Is (company name) a Scam” as part of their review of the company in order to promote it. Make sure you read as much as you can from other people.

SELLING YOUR OWN PRODUCT

Your own product could be something you create yourself such as a book or a piece of software. You can earn a good income if you can write or program. Information marketing is quite popular as people are often searching for how to do something. Maybe you can make fancy jewellery and you want to teach others how to do it. If you have a good knowledge of something or a skill then you can share it with the world via an e-book. Amazon allow you to submit your book to them and will offer it for sale on their websites.

Basically anything you can create yourself can be sold online either through yourself or through a retailer who is willing to stock the product for you. I remember selling games I programmed on the Atari ST through PD Libraries as Licenceware where they paid me a commission. Of course the product doesn’t have to be something you made. You can buy and sell items through eBay and Amazon. There are wholesalers who offer products in bulk which you could sell on the market or on a car boot sale. You can also pick things up cheap from car boot sales and make a profit on them.

Everyone likes to eat so if you can cook or bake you can sell food. Of course you will need to make sure you have the necessary health and hygiene certificates before you start. Only the other day I was looking for halal pies and the two places I found were wholesalers who require me to buy pallets of pies. Well as I don’t have a big freezer or fridge then this is no good to me. So one idea could be to buy them direct from the supplier and sell them on the market, or in smaller qualities to local people if you have a car or van.

The general idea is to offer products that people want. There was a story of one Muslim woman who liked to eat ready-made meals. However there were no halal versions so she started a business selling halal ready-made meals. With Islam officially the world’s fasted growing religion there could be a good market there for halal foods. After all there are many people who are limited to their local takeaway and may want to eat other meat products other than kebabs or curries. Another popular trend at the moment is retro-gaming. The younger generation taking an interest in older computer games.

OFFERING A SERVICE

Have you got a skill you could offer people? Maybe you can repair computers or cars. Maybe you are good at gardening. Maybe you can offer custom-made furniture? If you are a dab hand with a set of tools or you are good at painting and decorating then that is something you can turn into a profitable business. Build yourself a website, get some cards printed and spread the word in your community. List your services in your advertising and make sure your prices are competitive in your area. Think of your talents and how you can use them to make money.

Paintless Dent Repair – The Truth, Myths and Misconceptions

PDR, a better repair!

First let me start by explaining what PDR or Paintless Dent Removal is for those of you out there that have never heard the term. PDR is conceptually simple, put simple it is the process of removing damage from an automotive body panel without the need for sanding, grinding, body-fillers or painting (hence the term Paintless).

The process of removing damage to vehicles without then need for painting is actually not new at all, though industry folk lore varies from tale to tale, Mercedes Benz allegedly began having “metal-men” work small imperfections in panels while still on the assembly line as long ago as the 1950’s. Today’s PDR technicians have adapted various techniques for removing dings and dents from vehicles without the need for fillers and re-painting almost as an art form. Better tools, training and advances in automotive clear coat durability have led to miraculous results for even large dents.

Why can’t I just use a dent popper like the ones you see on TV?

Unfortunately the dent poppers, suction cups and (this one makes me chuckle) dry ice simply don’t work. First let’s explore the “screw out dent poppers”. You’ve probably seen the late night Ding King infomercials showing you how easy it is to just glue on the tab, place the lifter on the tab and turn. POP! the dent’s gone! right? Wrong! the commercial never shows the large high spot, low spot still left or heaven forbid the high spot surrounding a low, or as i like to call them a “volcano”. The main reason this is a gimmick, missing tools and knowledge. Professional PDR technicians actually do use a method of removing some select dents from the front of a panel with tabs, special adhesives and a lifting apparatus.

The main difference? a technicians main assets are their eyes, reflective source, and hand-eye-coordination. a professional technician assesses the dent with a reflective source, be it a light, line board or reflective pole, and targets the “dead-center” of the dent. Once located the technician places a tab directly at this zero point and then uses a lifting device to bring the depressed metal as close to level as possible in one pull. Once the pull has been made the technician removes the tab and assesses the area to determine the next course of action. Usually, the area will require some work with a tap down device to level any areas that were pulled higher than level. This process may go on for several pulls and taps until the area is as close to level as possible. The do-it-yourself-er doesn’t get a reflective source, tap down or training in how to use each of these items and more often than not makes the once small door ding a variable mess when finally deciding to throw in the towel. The suction cup is simply ineffective.

Damage very large and gradual may actually move with a strong enough suction and it may actually look somewhat better than the original dent, but it effectively “locks” the metal into place and the distortions or buckles around the area that have not been properly removed before addressing the main low areas of the dent are now cementing everything into place. The remaining topic (and my favorite) dry ice and a hair dryer seems to get rave reviews on you-tube and the like. Unfortunately this once again doesn’t address the buckles and only sometimes removes a portion of the dent.

The main down side to this method is the process it uses. Dry ice or the “computer duster” propellant will rapidly cool the substrate and paint. The hair dryer is then used to rapidly bring the panel temp. above 150 degrees F. The rapid contraction and subsequent expansion of the substrate is what actually makes the dent pop but what’s happening on a much smaller level is paint damage. The paint is almost always micro-fractured which leads to paint cracking, peeling and corrosion. Much of this damage will not be seen for several months down the road when the elements have had time to breach the fractures and make them worse.

One PDR company is as good as another, Right?

All dent companies are not created equal and actually let me expand on that by saying all pdr technicians are not created equally. One of the main reasons for the boom in pdr company growth is the “claim to fame” or “gold rush” mentality. We’ve all seen the commercials for get rich quick schemes. Some very talented technicians have and still do make a very good living repairing dents. Most earn moderate incomes that do not carry bragging rights though. Every Tom, Dick and Harry tired of their 9-5 job learns about the alleged 6 figure income made by pdr technicians and heads out for two weeks of training at a mis-information factory such as Ding King or Right Look and thinks they will set the world on fire directly thereafter. In reality they spend two (or even one) weeks learning little about real world dents and almost always pick up bad habits that will doom them from ever being able to repair a dent properly.

The “Mills”,as they are affectionately referred to in the industry, also sell the aspiring technician a “package” deal complete with every tool needed to repair any dent out there. Unfortunately what they are actually getting is the cheapest set of Chinese made coat hangers good money can buy. The aspiring technician returns home after training and (after being told they are ready) begins selling their service. The problem being they often cannot see the dent properly to repair it and do not have the acquired skill set to fix the smallest of dings. The end result is a moderate improvement with high spots throughout the dent and even cracked paint. The technician either continues on frustrated, trying to do better (or not if they don’t care enough about the quality) or will lower prices justifying to themselves that a lower quality repair is still worth something.

And more still will throw in the towel all together after making such a bad name for themselves that they can no longer find work. This surge of low end “technicians” has led to a misconception that PDR is an inferior repair process as compared to a body shop. In fact, this conception is true when it pertains to someone performing such gross butchery. The general rule of thumb for a PROFESSIONAL Paintless Dent Repair is that it should cost between 1/2 to 1/3 that of a conventional body shop repair. Professional technicians have spend many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours perfecting their craft and don’t sell themselves short. If you find yourself shopping for the best deal (lets face it, in this economy who doesn’t) be leery of a rock bottom price. More often than not you WILL get what you pay for and will end up wishing you had paid a little more when rust starts to appear where the dent was, due to the hack cracking your vehicles paint!

To learn more about PDR and find the answers to common PDR questions visit our site http://dentsvanish.com

7 Good Reasons Why You Must Travel Far and Wide

Pick up a world atlas or simply browse one online. Turn to the map of your state or province and see how small your area is compared to the whole state. Now, go to a map of your country and while your area may disappear, your “big” state or province becomes a small part of the country. Continue to a map of your continent. This time you may not find your state or province, and your “big” country becomes a small part of your continent. To finish, turn to the map of the world and what do you notice? Your country may not disappear, but your “big” continent becomes a “fraction” of the world.

This exercise demonstrates that you enlarge more and more your worldview as and when you travel far and wide.

The headline events of the past century and especially the explosion of the internet in the last decades have made you aware of the diversity of the world. However, no matter how well-informed you are about the world from your couches or armchairs, nothing beats jaunts to those places for firsthand experiences.

So in the following headings, we are going to see some reasons why you must travel a lot.

1. You get not only to know but also experience great places

The media (newspaper, radio, television, the Internet), people and books show and tell you about great places. But only through travelling can you get to really “feel” the world’s great places like the Hawa Mahal at Jaipur, in the State of Rajastan, India; Venice (Italy) with its gondoliers and their crafts on the many waterways; the Pyramid of the sun at San Juan Teotihuacan, not far from Mexico City (Mexico); Downtown Casablanca (Morocco), the chief port, with the Place Lyautey in the foreground; Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest Peak, and the Southern Alps seen across Lake Matheson, on the South Island; the American Falls at Niagara Falls, New York; and a typical mosque in Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago).

2. You get to know many different people, and as they really are

Travelling is a great way to widen your circle of friends and increase your understanding of others.

My many travels have enabled me to make lots of intimate friends in many countries of the world. The close relationships we have couldn’t have been possible otherwise.

While living in Africa I hardly came into contact with white people (and never even thought of it) because we lived in different communities inherited from colonialism. But when I went to Germany for instance, I made many friends with whom I shared many loved moments. This made my perception of white people as aloof or all racist to crumble.

Some time ago, I watched a TV documentary of a French television crew which went to Mali (Africa) to film an illiterate mechanic completely dismantle an old car’s engine, repair it and assemble it again. As the roaring car disappeared into the fading distance, they concluded that the African was also capable of technological and technical achievements.

Many such instances exist to tear down barriers built by false perceptions and make people appreciate each other.

3. You get to experience more cultures and customs, and be better able to relate to different people

I once paid a visit to a friend in a rural zone in the north of Ghana, a neighbouring country. As custom demands, he had to take me to all the members of his extended family. I was surprised to have us well served at the first place. But greater was my surprise to be equally well welcomed at the other two places. We came back to my friend’s house with him disappointed with me and me too full and a big angry with him for not even giving me a hint about what to expect.

In effect, in my friend’s area it is an obligation to serve a visitor food and an honour when the visitor eats well. So I did honour to the first home and less so to the second. However my inability to eat at the third was viewed as my not appreciating their meal and my decision to cut the visits short a disgrace to my friend with his family members.

This custom exists in my area to some extent. Any visitor must be offered water to drink before asking them the reason for their visit. But you are not obliged to drink some or all of the water if you don’t feel like it. You simply take a sip or touch the container (cup, calabash, etc.) and your behavior will not be interpreted as snobbery. But to say no is tantamount to “insulting” your host.

4. You widen your horizon

An American friend came to visit me in Togo and I took him to Région des Plateaux, the famed tourist centre of my country. This is also the agricultural zone of Togo. We visited a farm where one can buy fruits harvested right before one.

“Is this a real pineapple?” my friend asked, staring strangely at the fruit the farmer had sliced from the plant and handed to him.

“Why?” I asked in surprise.

“It wasn’t harvested from a big tree,” he said lamely.

I laughed my head off.

“For its size and weight, I thought pineapples grew on trees,” flushed, my friend explained.

The curious farmer laughed his head off too when I explained our conversation to him. He offered to show my friend pineapple plants at various stages of development.

In the same way, you love mutton but I think you will appreciate it more when you visit a sheep herding region in Australia, for instance; the same is true for cotton clothes when you visit the cotton farms of Sao Paulo in Brazil; coffee when you see farmers drying coffee under the tropical sun in Colombia; chocolate when you witness farmers removing the nuts from the pods (the first stage of processing chocolate) at a cocoa plantation in Côte d’Ivoire (West Africa); canned pineapples when you see pineapples on their way to the cannery in Puerto Rico, etc.

5. You experience another environment

Germany was the first European country I had visited. My ardent desire in winter was to see, and especially experience, snow. One dark winter night, an excited friend called to tell me snow was falling. I jumped out of bed, rushed outside and arms outstretched tried to catch the flakes falling from the sky. A passing German couple walking their dog flashed me amused smiles.

While I hate the “harmattan,” the dry hot wind which blows from the Sahara right down to the coast of West Africa, bringing a lot of dust and making the mornings and evenings chilly and the day scorching, a French expatriate friend found it exotic because of the fog it brings in the morning and the hue in the evening.

6. You live “great” world history

You may feel awe on hearing about (from a person or on the radio) or seeing (in the newspaper, on the television or the Internet) the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal of India, the ancient buildings (castles, cathedrals, chateau) of Europe, museums, the castles of West Africa (slave history), the plantations of America (slave history), monasteries, and the great standing tree sculptures of the Indians of America, but a visit to the places where they are found is a totally different experience.

7. You get hospitable climates

Well-to-do people in tropical climates often go overseas when the hot climate becomes torrid and it is not a secret for anybody that people in temperate climates also rush to places where they can enjoy the sun and the warm sea.

There are many other reasons why people should travel far and wide. But I think these 7 are enough to let you pack your luggage if you had never gone on a journey or pick up your baggage again soon if you have been on one.

You don’ have the money to travel?

Maybe you are not working yet (you’re a student or out of work) or you don’t earn much so you cannot go on a journey. Don’t worry. You can earn it through simple work from home opportunities you can do in your spare time. These include data entry, taking surveys, signing up for affiliate businesses, doing MLM, network marketing, freelance writing, call centre agent, etc.

Wondering where to stay?

Accommodation comes in all sizes and prices. The resource box below gives you a place to turn to when looking for a place to stay which suits your circumstances and your budget. The company cited has rooms for you at all destinations in the world.

Changing Oil and Filter

If you live within a city-limits, be sure to check with the city manager’s office to see if they have any regulations about working on your own vehicle in your yard or driveway. Thanks!

Park your vehicle on a level surface and put blocks of wood or bricks behind the rear tires.

Jack the front of the vehicle up enough for you to get under it.

Be SURE to put jacks stands under the body (behind the front wheels) or put some timbers under the tires and let the weight off the jack.

Put a piece of cardboard, or an old blanket, underneath the vehicle to lie down on (I hate working on the *ground*). ?º

Get a pail or pan that will hold at least 6 or 7 quarts of liquid to drain the oil into.

It’s a mess having a pan that holds 4 quarts and letting 5 quarts of old oil running into it! ?¼

You will need a wrench to remove the oil pan drain plug. PLEASE, don’t use one of those “adjustable” things. All they do is “round” the shoulders on the plug. Get the proper tool.

You need a filter wrench that will fit your oil filter.

Be sure the engine has had time to cool down. Hot oil will burn you, and burn you, and keep on burning you! ?¼

Now, the best way to go about this is to see where the oil filter is. If it will be just above you, leave it until last. Old oil will *drip* on you (yes!)

Put the drain pan under the oil pan drain plug and remove the plug, slowly. Once you have it loose, you can remove it with your fingers, it’s easier.

After the oil stops running out of the oil pan, put the plug back in by hand. Don’t force it, make sure you can twist it up easy, you don’t want to “cross-thread” it (you would be looking for me then!).

Tighten it with the wrench. When you get it “snug”, put a small amount of “pressure” on the wrench. Not too much, but we don’t want it to leak, either!

Now, move the drain pan (slowly) under the oil filter.

Take the filter wrench and slip it over the oil filter, being sure you have the handle where it will tighten up on the filter when you pull the handle toward you.

Pull the filter wrench handle toward you. Sometimes this might take quite a lot of pressure. When the oil filter breaks loose you can remove the wrench and turn it with your hand.

Have on cloth gloves or use paper towels because oil will probably run down the side of the filter.

Continue to twist the filter off and put it into the drain pan.

Unless your oil filter is positioned upside-down, you want to pour fresh oil into it.

Be sure to put oil on the rubber gasket. That protects the seal and makes it easier to remove next time.

As you put the new filter onto the threaded spout, be VERY careful not to “cross-thread” it. If you can twist it easily, you’re ok.

Once you get it snug, tighten it as much as you can with your hand (unless you’re a football player).

Now, I usually take the filter wrench and turn it about an inch, or less. You don’t want to get it too tight, it will squeeze the mating material and cause oil to seep from around it.

Now, jack the car up and take the supports out and let the vehicle down on its tires.

Raise the hood and remove the oil filler cap (the 710 if your cap is backward and has OIL written on it) ?º.

Most vehicles take 5 quarts (with filter) to refill them. Some take only 4.5 quarts.

I usually put in 4 quarts, crank the engine, check the oil pressure gauge, or light; check for leaks underneath the vehicle (plug/filter), then turn the engine off.

Let the vehicle set for about 15-20 minutes.

Pull the oil dipstick out and wipe it off. Replace it and pull it back out and look where the oil level is.

If it’s just a quarter to a half inch from the “Full” mark, I’ll add only a half-quart of oil, then check it again.

You will need to take the old oil and filter to a repair shop or a disposal location to discard it.

PLEASE, don’t pour it out on the ground! EPA!!! Remember, I TOLD you so! ?º

So, you don’t have to wait in line at the *quick* places to get your oil changed anymore! Never, ever, again.

Autocross Buying Guide – Select the Right Car

In my experience, autocross can be a very fun and exciting sport. I have participated in several events in my local area. I found the hobby to be very addictive as well.

Out of all my other hobbies, I think this one is the best “bang for the buck” as far as thrills go with your car. Everybody can participate. Every car (some clubs have exceptions to this though like no SUV’s, no Trucks) can race. The nice thing about this kind of race is that you are competing against others in your class usually defined by the SCCA, however, you are on the course alone so there is minimal chance of hitting other cars.

The hardest part about autocross (aside from learning how to race) in my opinion is finding the right car. Sure, you can use a daily driver, but that is not recommended if you are going to participate in several events a year. Autocross can create wear on the tires and other components very quickly and can get expensive very fast. I would recommend to get a vehicle that you can use for autocross. This can be a “trailer car” or a car that you can still drive on the road, but use only for this hobby.

There are 4 key components to consider when selecting a car for autocross:

1) What type of car to get

2) The Price of the car

3) The overall condition of the vehicle (if used)

4) Aftermarket upgrades/modifications

WHAT TYPE OF CAR TO GET FOR AUTOCROSS:

For autocross racing, some people would assume that the car has to be very powerful, small, 2 doors and modified. This is not entirely accurate. While that type of car would be nice, it is not required to be competitive in autocross.

Remember that most autocross events and clubs have the cars grouped in to some sort of class. The club I participate with follow the SCCA Class guidelines. The classes help group the cars so the same “level” of vehicles can remain competitive within each class.

This is done to avoid the “biggest and fastest is best” state of thought. It would be unfair to put a heavily modified Porsche GT3 up against a stock Ford Focus. This is why they do that.

So, to pick the right car for autocross, you would probably want a coupe or convertible FIRST if possible. Sedans can work well too, but some sedans are not geared for modifications, although, the sport sedans of today are really starting to take over.

Manual transmission would be recommended, however, if you have an automatic that is OK too. You may want to consider trading it for a manual in the future to remain competitive. Again, there are still “sport shift” type automatics out there that are getting better and better each day.

Ideally, you would also want a rear-wheel drive car for autocross. RWD cars typically provide better control and handling in most cases. I know some enthusiasts out there will disagree with me, but that’s OK. On the other hand, I have used several front-wheel drive cars that run with the best of them.

PRICE:

The price of buying a car for autocross is always the factor for me. I, like many others, cannot afford an expensive vehicle for autocross. There are, however, those that can afford it and price is still something for them to consider.

The $0-$5000 range:

This is the range most of us beginners want to start. Of course, free is GOOD, but consider the 3rd component (overall condition) when this option comes to mind. Several cars that can perform well and have a lot of upgradable options are the following:

1989-1997 Mazda Miata – Very nice power to weight ratio. It is VERY popular at autocross. 1979-1991 Mazda RX7 – Fast small car, handles well. Many upgrades available. 1989-1998 Nissan 240sx – Several aftermarket upgrades, handles very well. 1990-1999 BMW 3 Series – Very versatile car. You can find very nice models in this range now. 1988-2000 Honda Civic/CRX – I have seen several models compete well in autocross. 1984-1999 Toyota MR2 – Low center of gravity, great performance, mid engine. 1990-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon – Many upgrades, some models Turbo AWD. 2000-2007 Ford Focus – Very competitive cars. SVT models available in price range. 1997-2003 VW Golf – Hatchbacks always like autocross. VR6 models available in range. 1990-1999 Acura Integra – Like the Civic, very competitive with many upgrades out there.

There may be a few more cars that I missed that fall under this price range. The method I use to hunt for cars can vary depending on the type I am looking for. I will use local classified ads, Craigslist. I will also use the bigger car searches and expand my general “hunting” area. I have successfully found great cars using VEHIX, AutoTrader as well as Government Auction Sites.

But what about the autocross cars above the $5000 range? Well, I am glad you are think that because I am about to list them below.

If you have some money to work with and want to get something newer, you can consider the following cars:

The $5,001-$20,000 range:

This range can include newer cars as well as pre-owned cars that are no more than a few years old. Remember, cars usually depreciate very fast, so as the years go by, some of the newer cars can be within reach for less money and are great for autocross. The cars below come to mind in this range:

1998-Current Mazda MX-5 – Still same basic car, but more power as they got newer. 2003-Current VW Golf – Even more modified than the previous versions, compete well. 1992-1997 Mazda RX7 – 3rd Gen is twin-turbo and can compete in autocross. 1992-2006 BMW M3 – M3’s are designed for racing. Some newer models will fall in this range. 1998-2003 BMW M5 – M5’s are very powerful and compete in their class well. 1994-Current Ford Mustang/Cobra – Very versatile car. Competes well in class. 1994-2002 Camaro/Firebird – Competes well in class. Many autocross upgrades. 2007-Current Mazda Mazdaspeed3 – Turbo, hatchback, competes well in autocross. 2003-2008 Nissan 350z – Great autocross car, very popular on the track. Special Autocross Kit cars such as the V6 Stalker fall in this range as well.

Now, this price range can vary in vehicles. A lot of these cars are still new and may require loans to purchase them.

The $20,001 spectrum will consist of some of the current-day models as well as the obvious “super cars” we all respect such as the Corvette, Viper, Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus and others. I will not include a list for those because if you are buying one of those for an autocross car, you did your research.

OVERALL CONDITION OF THE VEHICLE (USED):

When buying a second car for autocross, treat it like when you are buying your daily driver car. You want the car to be relatively free of major problems. Autocross racing can put stress on the car’s frame, the suspension, the brakes, the tire and the overall body of the car.

You want to be sure that the car has not been in any major accidents. Frame repair or frame damage can be very dangerous mixture when you autocross. That is the MOST important thing to check for when buying a car for autocross. I have experienced and used the service by Experian called AutoCheck. They offer an unlimited number of VIN checks for one of their service options and the price is way better than the other services out there. I have used it when shopping and comes in very handy when you are checking the history of a vehicle.

The next important item to check on the car is major component problems such as smoke coming out of the back of the exhaust, major oil leaks (small leaks are expected on most used cars) slight/major overheating of the engine. Autocross is outside and you push the car to the limit. You want the major components to be in the best shape they can be. The mentioned problems can leave you stranded at the track if you do not look out for them.

I usually have some expectation to do minor repair or preventive repairs on my vehicles when I am buying to autocross them. As I stated above, small oil/fluid leaks are “OK” and can usually be fixed very easily. Small leaks tell us that the car is just used and may not be suffering from the leak as a result. Large/major leaks tell us the car may have been neglected by the previous owner and may carry residual problems unseen at the moment. When looking at a car, start it up, drive it around with the A/C engaged (even if it doesn’t work). When you are finished with the test drive, leave it idling while you walk around the car continuing to inspect it. If the car has an overheating problem, often this is the time it will show. This tip has helped me avoid several beautiful autocross cars that had an overheating problem.

Belts and hoses are my most frequent “preventive” repair I do, even if they are not a problem. It is always best to know when an important component has been replaced rather than to “guess” and trust the previous owner. Water pumps, too, fall in this category sometimes.

One thing people always check when buying a used car are the tires. Yes, this is important for an autocross car, but not to see how “good” the tires are, but to see if the car needs an alignment. Autocross is about handling and you need to be sure the car’s stock “handling” ability is where it should be.

Why not worry about the tires? Well, tires should be one thing to consider buying for your autocross car to begin with, so the existing tires should be removed anyway. Tires are probably the most bought wear item an autocross member will buy. A lot of autocross racers will bring a set of tires for racing, one for driving home (those who do not use a trailer) and some will even bring spares for the racing tires. This is so common that Tire Rack offers tires just for autocross. I have used them and they are the best place to get tires for this.

AFTERMARKET MODIFICATIONS FOR AUTOCROSS:

If you ever look into the aftermarket world of the auto industry, you know that there are literally thousands of places to look and buy. I will list a few spots that most people do not think to look, but surprisingly have things for the autocross fans.

First and foremost, autocross cars do NOT always need major upgrades to be competitive. A driver can use a stock vehicle and compete against fellow stock vehicles and remain competitive. Once you start to modify or upgrade heavily, you may start to move into different classes and compete with other cars that are equally modified. Keep that in mind when you want to change something.

Usually, I say modify the easy things first: Intake, exhaust and general tune ups. Most autocross drivers do not go far from that. These should be the first things you try to upgrade while you participate in autocross to get the most performance out of your vehicle.

If you decide to go further to be more competitive, my next recommendation would be suspension and body roll modifications. Please remember, certain upgrades in this area may change your class. Be sure to check your club or groups rules with these modifications.

Usually, the fastest upgrade to an autocross car would be front and rear strut tower bars/braces. They are usually inexpensive to buy and easy to install. They are also very modular meaning that when you buy these, they will work with other suspension components in place (usually). This modification helps stiffen the car’s suspension and frame and helps with cornering.

The next modification recommendation would then be the front and rear sway bars and links. These parts also help the body roll while cornering and handling and can sometimes be modular to the suspension system as a whole.

The final suspension upgrade is usually the most expensive: The struts (shocks/springs). This upgrade usually works well with the above items, but ads more stiffness, more response to the handling and sometimes lower the car overall for a lower center of gravity.

Once you have modified the entire suspension, my next recommendation would be to upgrade the brakes (at least the pads). This will help your stopping ability for those moments where a tap of the brake is needed during a lap. Please keep in mind that high performance brake pads usually wear much quicker than OEM.

One of the last things I recommend to upgrade is the tires. Now, I’m not saying that you should not FIRST buy new tires when you autocross, but I am saying not to UPGRADE them to an autocross/race tire just yet. Most autocross enthusiasts will tell you to get used to the stock/regular tires on your car first.

Once you get used to stock type tires, modifying them to a race tire or softer tire will actually improve your lap times (that’s the theory anyway).

One last note. I recommend replacing the fluids in your car with as many synthetics as you can. Synthetic fluids have higher heat resistance and can take the intense moments you will be putting on the car during the autocross laps.

Vintage Car Parts Is Like Looking For A Needle In A Haystack

And so much more expensive too. If you own, maintain or are planning to buy a vintage or a classic car, you better prepare yourself to a tough time looking for the much needed parts to bring it back to life. Classic or vintage cars have a certain aura of distinction and there is so much history in them that many people spend many of their time, efforts and money just to have one in their garage. But this is not for everyone.

Vintage car parts can be very expensive because they are not manufactured anymore. And because of this rarity, many people tend to ask for a large asking price if they do have one that is in working condition. Finding a vintage car that is in good running condition is rare, and if there is one, you can expect it to have a huge asking price.

As one may expect, a vintage or classic car part would come as used, so there is still the fear that the part may work now, but in the near future, it may still conk out. This can cause a great dismay to the restorer. To a newbie, all of this may seem as a very daunting task. But for those who are willing to do the effort, here are some places where you can find vintage car parts.

Before anything else, make sure of the model and make of your car. Some models may require special parts and the part that you may find may not work with it just causing you to waste your time and money. If you’re not the one who’s restoring your vintage car, make sure that you bring it to a specialized auto repair shop to ensure that the work done will be satisfactory. These specialty shops have the proper knowledge and skills in vintage car restoration.

One of the best places to look for a vintage car part is through the internet. There are now numerous websites that offer used vintage car parts and they have been tested for their workability. Looking through the internet will allow you to save some time in your search. All you have to do is to specify the make and model of your vehicle and the car part that you need. Many search engines can direct you to a site where such part may be sold. By doing some comparisons between different car parts retailers, you will be able to find a particular vintage car part that can be well within your means.

For some people, going to a junkyard or two is the best way to find a vintage car part. This can be a very tedious chore for anyone, especially to those who are not really familiar with car parts. But in the end, some enthusiasts say that it is more satisfying and they can get the part for much less.

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Once again be sure that you get the exact part that you need. Junkyards don’t have money back guarantees nor do they offer warranties and have return policies. You don’t want to lose money over this and surely you don’t want to waste your time.

Finding the vintage car part that you need can be easy or hard, depending on the method of search that you choose. But one thing’s for sure, it is a very rewarding experience.

Dealing With a Stalker Takes Firmness and Persistence

If you’ve been through the experience of being stalked by an ex-lover, then you know how scary it can be. Unbalanced people who stalk come in all sizes, shapes and colors. It can be difficult to see just how troubled they are until a relationship is formed and emotions are invested. Frequently, when you do figure out that the person you’re with is a real nut-case, it’s too late to let them down easy and they are “hooked.” Here are a few tips on getting away from someone that you no longer want to be with, when they refuse to let you go.

Be firm with your decision

If you tell the person that the relationship is over and they cry, don’t soften and try to comfort them. Say what you have to say and keep your boundaries firm. If the person sees that their getting upset sparks a sympathetic reaction from you, they’re going to try and milk it for whatever they can to “buy time.” Don’t fall for it. If you waffle, you’re sending mixed messages, and the person will think that there is hope. Show that there is no hope, and that the relationship is over. No long, drawn out explanation is necessary. It is what it is. They may want to have “closure” and try to bargain or discuss it with you. Nip it in the bud quickly and get to the point when you break it off, don’t get sucked into re-explaining it. The person knows it’s over, but wants to keep you talking.

Cut off all contact completely

Assuming you don’t have children together, cut off contact with the person you no longer want to be with. Many times, they won’t take “no” for an answer and will keep pushing. Change your home phone or cell phone numbers if necessary. Tell others that the two of you knew together that the relationship is over, and not to encourage him to reconcile because there is no hope of it, end of story. Friends will understand this and respect your wishes. The idea is to discourage anyone from giving your ex any information about you, to feed his “addiction.”

Make sure your home is secure

Put password access only on your home computer, so unauthorized people cannot use it. Stalkers may try to access your e-mail or usage history. If they are desperate enough and have a key to your house, they may try to come in when you aren’t home. Change your home’s locks if necessary. Make sure all the doors and windows are locked. You can even buy motion-sensitive lights that will go on whenever there is movement outside your house, and cheap door-alarms to alert you if someone tries to open your doors. I found some on eBay and they work really well. They are stick-on so you can put them on doors and/or windows. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to an overzealous admirer who just won’t go away.

If things get scary, call the police

Don’t let a stalking ex bully or scare you in any way. If at any time you feel in danger or afraid, call the police and ask about getting a restraining order. Remember, a restaining order is just a piece of paper, so still continue to have your guard up even after you get one. The order will, however, help you put your stalker in jail if he or she continues to ignore your wishes and rights, to try to “win” you back into his life. The person is deluded and unstable. Some stalkers get mad when they realize that all their efforts to get you back have failed. Then, they can become even more scary as they find ways to get even, or go after those they perceive as your “new love.”

Long ago, I dated a man who initially seemed to be decent in the beginning. But, he came on too hard, too fast in trying to get to know me. He asked me to marry him a week after we met, red flag number one (of course, I said no.) Then, he’d show up unannounced at places I was going to, and question me about any man I talked to. He then let it slip out that he had been in a mental hospital. And, just for fun, he liked to stalk any celebrities that came to town to get their autographs. That was it, I ended it after two weeks of knowing him.

My breaking up with this needy man triggered him to go ballistic. He began calling anyone he thought might be a “new boyfriend” (there wasn’t one) and even threatened one of them with violence. He even moved into my apartment complex and was caught looking into my window one day. I moved away and changed my phone number. He’d even asked the guy at the local donut store if he’d seen me come in there, because he was desperate to find me. I told the man to say nothing, that he is troubled and not to give him any information about me. He understood, but it was embarrassing. The guy finally was out of my life but it was horribly scary during the situation. Years later, when I was at a car repair garage getting my car fixed, he came up to me, remembering me like it was only yesterday. Lucky for me, my car was repaired and I could make a hasty exit. A chill went through my spine, though. He wanted my number, and I told him that I was then married and left. He was obviously still deluded into thinking that he could somehow charm his way into my life, even if it was twelve years later. Amazing. This shows what a fantasy world stalkers can live in.

If you’re unlucky enough to encounter someone needy and obsessed who stalks you, cut the relationship off and don’t look back. Don’t be flattered by all the attention, or taken in by their sadness. Don’t talk to, see, or write the person. Leave them totally alone and go about your life. Don’t be predictable, so your stalker isn’t sure when you’re coming or going, if possible. Refuse to be victimized by this person by being proactive. Carry pepper spray, the one I used to carry was called Sabre, it fit on my keychain and was a potent mix of chemicals to level anyone, if needed. This is not being paranoid, it’s being preventative and smart. This person has put you in an uncomfortable situation, and to get your peace of mind back, you must do whatever you can to ensure your safety, just in case. In time, most stalkers will find a new “target” and back away. The more dangerous ones won’t, though. So, trust your gut and if you feel in danger, get help immediately. It can be a matter of life or death. Never underestimate someone who doesn’t take “no” for an answer. The storm will pass, just give it time, but watch your back and take precautions to stay safe throughout the process.

Ancient Temples of Java

The ancient temples of Borobudur, Sewu and Prambanan in Java are impressive monuments to Asia’s oldest civilisations. The Borobudur temple compound was established in the 8th century. It has been witness to more than 1,200 years of history.

The Hindu temples at Prambanan and Sewu Buddhist temple date back to the 10th century. The temples at Prambanan have been ravaged by theft, decay, earth quakes and volcanic eruptions. It is testament to the resilience of the local people that they repair and rebuild each time a nature destroys or damages their community and heritage.

The temple compounds are open to visitors and devotees making offerings to the gods. It is considered polite to dress conservatively when visiting the temples. Bare chests, shoulders and skirts or shorts that come above the knee are generally frowned upon.

Arriving in Java

I flew into Yogyakarta from Singapore. Many flights are also available from Indonesian airports including Denpasar (Bali) and Jakarta. Java is mainly serviced by the budget airlines.

Check with the Indonesian consulate web page to see if you need a visa to enter Indonesia.

Australians will need to apply and pay for a Visa on Arrival at the airport. The fee is payable in USD. Always keep your boarding pass from the plane to show to immigration officials when you arrive.

I was able to arrange airport transfers via the hotel where I staying. A driver with a clean, air-conditioned car was waiting for me when I arrived.

Getting around

Motorbikes are the most popular form of local transport. Becaks (pedicabs) provide tourists with an alternative method of touring the city. Negotiate the fare with the driver before accepting a ride.

There is very little in the way of organised tours to the temples. The best method for exploring these sites is to arrange your own transport. A local guide can be hired when you purchase your tickets at the temple compound.

When I arrived the city had recently been showered in volcanic ash from Mount Kelud. The clean up was still ongoing. To avoid the worst of the dust I decided to hire a driver and a car from the hotel. Bookings could be made for either a day or half day as required.

Borobudur Temple

The ancient Buddhist Borobudur Temple is about 40 kilometres from Yogyakarta. The temple attracts both tourists and pilgrims.

Bring your walking shoes, hat or umbrella to keep the sun and rain off your head. There is a long walk from the car park to the temple. Very little shade or shelter from the weather is available.

Borobudur is a fascinating and imposing structure consisting of 100’s of well preserved statutes (506 Buddha in total), stupas and carved stone relief’s.

Borobudur is on the UNSECO World Heritage list for great cultural and religious significance. There is a UNESCO billboard with instructions for entering and appreciating the temple compound for the uninitiated.

I was in Java about a week after a volcanic eruption had dumped ash on Yogyakarta and the surrounding area. Some parts of the temple were still closed for cleaning. It was raining constantly on the day that I visited. Not to be put off by the weather, I bought a bright red rain poncho from the market stalls located near the entrance gates.

The temple compound was not crowded. A handful of people in their brightly coloured ponchos could be seen walking around admiring the ancient temple.

I enjoyed being able to take my time to walk around in relative solitude. There were times when there was no one in sight. It is eerie to stand within an ancient temple and feel completely alone.

It was very quiet until I met a group of high school children on an excursion to learn about the temple.

The students were keen to practice their English language skills with me. Talking to the students made it a very entertaining afternoon!

Prambanan Temples and Shrines

Prambanan temple compound is about 15 kilometres from Yogyakarta. It is popular destination for tourists and devotees.

Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple complex in Indonesia. The three main temples are dedicated to the gods Shiva, Visnu, and Brahma. There are 240 Hindu temples and shrines within the compound.

I was able to hire a local guides who spoke many languages to walk around the site with me and point out or explain significant structures when I bought my ticket to enter the temple compound.

My guide was an excellent story teller and had many informative and amusing tales to tell about the statutes and scenes carved in the stone relief’s.

I found that having a guide ensured that I saw and understood more about the temples, local history and legends than I would have walking around alone.

The compound is huge and the ground is very uneven in places. Flat walking shoes are essential.

It was fairly quiet on the day that I visited. I was able to walk around uninterrupted and enjoy exploring the multitude of temples and shrines at my own pace.

It is fascinating to see the level of detail and workmanship that has gone into creating each stone in the monuments. Every object is designed to be a thing of beauty.

Some of the structures only had the base and a few carved stones remaining. Others looked as if they had been completely restored.

Only temples and shrines that have sufficient stones remaining (75% of the original structure) have been rebuilt.

The Prambanan temples are surrounded by a large park that includes the Sewu Buddhist temple compound.

The park covers 39.8 hectares and contains the ruins of around 500 shrines and temples. You could easily spend an entire day exploring the site.

There is a small train that loops around the temples if you are unable to walk or have young children to entertain.

I did a loop of the park in the train to get my bearings.

The best way to soak up the atmosphere of the temples is on foot.

Sewu Buddhist Temple

The Sewu Buddhist temple compound is in the same park as the Prambanan Hindu temples.

The presence of the temples so closely together is evidence of the two religions co-existing peacefully at the time.

My guide informed me that it was common for the local people of different faiths to inter-marry with the women mostly followers of Hindu and the men followers of the Buddhist traditions.

The Buddhist temple is a little more decayed, but just as beautifully constructed as the Hindu temple. There are signs that display the original layout to help you make sense of the jumble of rubble and standing structures.

The Sewu temple attracts less people and you may even find yourself alone amidst the ruins. Devotees still come to the temple to make offerings to the gods. You mind find their brightly coloured offerings in various locations as you walk around.

The restoration process at Sewu is still ongoing.

The site that incorporates Prambanan and Sewu is now included on the UNESCO world heritage list.

Sick Cars – Millions May Be on the Road

What is a sick car? I am referring to cars that are lacking normal maintenance and/or may need some type of mechanical work. Routine maintenance of a car consists of things like regular oil change, keeping your brakes in good condition, and enough tread on the tires to be considered safe on the road. Some more serious items of repair would be radiator, belts, or even transmission problems. The longer routine and more serious repairs are delayed, the more likely your sick car will either run poorly or just stop running at all.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in June, the number of unemployed persons was 14.6 million; the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent. We also have thousands of people that have given up looking for work, as well as families working in minimum-wage jobs. That being said, we have a lot of folks with a limited amount of money trying to maintain their vehicles.

It should be especially noted that this is a catch 22 situation for the unemployed. Without transportation, it’s difficult to find and keep a job-but without a job it’s difficult to pay for maintenance and repair of a car. If you have a sick car or finances are tight, here are some suggestions that may help:

1. Baby Your Car–This is very important. Run your car either at the speed limit or just below. Don’t slam the brakes on at stops; ease into braking. These two things will slow down the wear on your tires and car. It will buy you time until you can get the needed repairs and maintenance done. Jack rabbit starts burn more gas and use more tread on the tires.

2. Phone Calls–Make phone calls instead of driving whenever you can. An example would be calling beforehand for store hours instead of driving to the store only to find out they are closed. If you conserve mileage, you preserve the life of your car. This actually makes sense even for healthy cars.

3. Car Pool–When going to gatherings or church, you can car pool. Nobody needs to know you are eliminating some of the trips your car makes. Take turns now and then with your friends to drive. If you do have a job, this is still a great idea to cut down on the usage of your car and high gas prices.

4. Do- It-Yourself–Of course, this is not for everyone. If you can do mechanical work, change your own oil and filter. Many specs and repair manuals can be found online for those wanting the challenge. This will save labor costs. Also look for discounted parts, including parts found at junkyards. Don’t forget eBay also has cheap pricing on many auto parts.

5. Ask a Friend–Local mechanics may do small jobs for a minimal amount of money either out of their home garage or tucked away in an unadvertised locale. Sometimes, even retirees enjoy doing this type of work at a very reasonable rate. So, ask your friends for personal recommendations. This worked for me when I moved to a different state.

6. Barter or Exchange Services–If you have some type of talent or services you can trade off for car repair, try it. Perhaps you are good at cleaning. Offer to clean in exchange for car repair. You would be surprised these days what works!

7. Walk or Bike–Yes, don’t always hop in the car when you can easily walk to wherever you are going. Biking to your local store is also an option; attach a small basket to your bike for the groceries. This is a real winner since you also benefit greatly from the increased physical exercise.

8. Public Transportation–Taking the bus is another great way to cut down on the usage of your car. If you live in a big city with a great transportation system, this may be the answer. This is another favorite of mine. I met some of the most memorable and lovable people riding public transportation. I saved a lot of money too.

If you have a sick car and a limited budget, you may be able to implement some of these tips depending on your circumstances or where you live. Whatever you do though, make sure levels are full-such as oil, water, and transmission oil. Levels too low can result in engine shutdown. I know; it happened to me.

Also be aware that your car may become “unsafe” for the road if certain repairs are delayed. However, sometimes without charge, a good mechanic can tell you if your car has reached that stage. Chances are your car will not get to that point. With a little bit of ingenuity and some of these tips, you may be able to return your car back to good health.