How to Fix a Broken Laptop

A common topic among all computer users is their stories of broken laptops. Whether they left it on top of the car and drop half way to work before watching it slide off the roof of their car and crash onto the concrete, turning into nothing but a pile of plastic and circuit boards or the story of getting up from the dining room table to go to the bathroom only to hook your foot in the power cord and drag your laptop off the table and onto the ground or at the very least rip the cord out of the laptop. I’m sure you’ve even got a few stories of your own to share, one of those stories might be why you’re here reading this. Looking for what you’re hoping is a quick fix for your broken laptop. Don’t worry, we’ll cover quite a few of the common things that break on a laptop and hopefully help you diagnose what’s wrong with yours.

Broken Laptop Screen

If your laptop screen won’t turn on or is very dim then this is the section for you. First we’re going to look at how to diagnose a broken laptop screen that won’t turn on. There are two possible causes for this, one is an easy fix and the other requires a new screen. It’s possible that the laptop is just set to output to an external monitor. To switch back and forth between monitors you would hold down the Fn key in the lower left hand of the keyboard and then press the corresponding key between F1 and F12 at the top. One of those keys will have a picture of two monitors. If that doesn’t work your next test is to plug in an external monitor. If your computer displays on the external monitor then only the screen is bad and the video card is still good.

If your laptop screen is very dim and almost impossible to see then we’ve got two quick things to check. The first is similar to the text above, but instead of looking for the Function key that changes the monitor output, you want to find the key with the brightness setting, tapping it repeatedly while holding down the Fn key should brighten the screen. If you don’t see any increase in the brightness then unfortunately your back light is most likely bad and you’re going to need a computer repair shop to replace it.

Broken Laptop Hinge

This is a problem that’s actually happened to me a few times and I was really excited to find that there is a very easy fix to this problem. I don’t want to get you to excited because it doesn’t work all the time, but it’s a simple thing to check. To see if you can tighten up the hinge you’ll need to remove the small plastic covers that hide the screws that hold the screen and hinges in place. Once those covers are removed you should be able to take a standard screw driver and tighten those two screws. If you find that the screws are already snug and can’t be tightened then the problem lies deeper and you’re off to the computer repair shop again.

Broken Laptop Key

Nobody can explain exactly how a key disappears from the keyboard, but they always seem to. The simplest way is to just order a new key and click it back into place. Places like eBay are filled with keys single keys for every popular laptop model. Your other choice is to order an entire new keyboard which can be a bit more expensive, but some people would rather replace the entire keyboard.

Broken Laptop Power

If you’re reading this section you are either looking to replace or diagnose your broken power adapter or you’ve already replaced that and your laptop still isn’t charging. If your trying to figure out if your actual power adapter is bad, the best way is to check to see if any led lights are lit up on the adapter. Usually it’s a blue led that shows the power adapter is getting power. If that light is off when the adapter is plugged into a wall outlet then the adapter is most likely bad. If that light is on then our next test is to turn off the laptop, remove the battery, and also unplug the power adapter form the wall. Now plug the power adapter into the laptop and wiggle it slightly. Does it move at all? If it feels unusually loose then the solder might have broken and the power plug on the laptop isn’t properly connected to the motherboard inside the laptop anymore. This happens quite a bit when the laptop is moved around a lot and the power cord is tugged on. If this is the problem then once again you are off to the computer repair shop. It shouldn’t be to much trouble for them to replace and most times they can do the work in house.

Hopefully some of these answers have been helpful in your quest to fix your broken laptop. If you feel uncomfortable trying any of these possibly fixes, then don’t worry. You’re not the only one and it’s better to let a professional handle the diagnoses then to do further damage to your laptop.

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Winter

Our recent run of frigid temperatures along with the ice and snow inspired me to write this article about winter weather safety. Winter safety depends on a few factors. These factors include your age, the weather conditions outside and where you are located. And please do not lay on top of your roof like the guy on the Allstate commercial to see if you’ll fall through. You’d freeze to death before hand or people will think you’re super weird.

For those of us with little ones we have a different set of safety concerns than an elderly person would. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great guidelines for keeping children safe and warm during the cold weather months. I thought I’d highlight a few of them for you.

What to Wear

Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Don’t forget warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat.

The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.

Blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers, sheepskins and other loose bedding may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and should be kept out of an infant’s sleeping environment. Sleep clothing like one-piece sleepers or wearable blankets is preferred.

If a blanket must be used to keep a sleeping infant warm, it should be tucked in around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as your baby’s chest, so the infant’s face is less likely to become covered by bedding materials.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to colder temperatures. It often happens when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. It can occur more quickly in children than in adults.

Make sure that your children have a hat and gloves or mittens on when they go out to play. There are so many cute hat and glove sets out there even the most fashionista little girl or tough and rumble little boy can find a set they like. Also sites like Etsy offer cute handmade hat and glove sets if you are looking for something that is “custom-made”. If you would like to try your hand at either knitting or crocheting a set you can probably find a pattern on the internet.

As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. Speech may become slurred and body If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing, and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.

Frostbite

Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may become pale, gray and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.

If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm (not hot) water. 104° Fahrenheit (about the temperature of most hot tubs) is recommended. Warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten nose, ears and lips.

Do not rub the frozen areas.

After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him/her something warm to drink like warm tea, warm hot chocolate or warm milk (especially good with nutmeg, a little sugar and vanilla extract).

If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.

Winter Health

If your child suffers from winter nosebleeds, try using a cold air humidifier in the child’s room at night. Saline nose drops or petrolatum may help keep nasal tissues moist. If bleeding is severe or recurrent, consult your pediatrician.

Many pediatricians feel that bathing two or three times a week is enough for an infant’s first year. More frequent baths may dry out the skin, especially during the winter.You can also add a bath product that contain colloldial oatmeal like Aveeno, Nature’s Gate and store brands like Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade etc

Cold weather does not cause colds or flu. But the viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in school and are in closer contact with each other. Frequent hand washing and teaching your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of her elbow may help reduce the spread of colds and flu.

Children 6 months of age and up should get the influenza vaccine to reduce their risk of catching the flu

Sun Protection

The sun’s rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow. Make sure to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen. Zinc oxide is great for covering little noses and if you can find the colored zinc like the surfers use the kids might be more willing to let you apply it.

Fire Protection

Winter is a time when household fires occur. It is a good time to remember to:

Buy and install smoke alarms on every floor of your home

Test smoke alarms monthly

Practice fire drills with your children

Install a carbon monoxide detector outside bedrooms

The elderly also have a special set of need during the winter. They too need help sometimes even more so since a lot more elderly people are living alone. Some tips for helping your elderly friends and family members during the winter:

Winter Safety Tips for the Elderly

Check daily on elderly friends, relatives and neighbors who live alone.Some communities have Senior-In Home Visits or Elder-Check call-ins. These services check on the elderly and make sure they are okay.Your local area on aging should be able to direct you.

The elderly and very young should stay indoors as much as possible. Offer to shop for elderly friends and relatives. Just like in the summer with heat, it takes some time to get acclimated to cold weather.

Wear layered clothing outdoors for better protection from the cold. Wear a cap to prevent rapid heat loss from an uncovered head. Cover exposed skin to prevent frostbite.

While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 70 degrees.This is especially important for the elderly and small children to prevent hypothermia.

Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.

Eat high energy foods along with warm beverages and soup.

Sleep warm with extra blankets,a warm cap, socks and layered clothing.

Keep ahead of advancing winter weather by listening to NOAA WeatherRadio.

An ice storm will take down power lines,knocking out electricity. Check battery powered equipment before the storm arrives.

Check your food and stock an extra supply.If there are infants at home, make sure you have enough infant formula or baby food. Include food that requires no cooking in case of power failure. Make

sure pets and animals have shelter and a water supply.

Check your heating supply.Be careful when using fireplaces, stoves or space heaters. Proper ventilation is essential. Don’t use charcoal; it gives off deadly amounts of carbon monoxide. Keep flammable material away from space heaters and do not overload electric circuits.

Dress for the conditions when outdoors. Wear several layers of light-weight,warm clothing; layers can be removed to prevent perspiring and subsequent chill.

Outer garments should be tightly woven, waterproof and hooded. For the hands,mittens, snug at the wrists, offer better protection than fingered gloves

Our vehicles also need special winter care. So here are a few tips to keep your car winter ready:

Car Care Tips for Winter

Check the battery, lights, antifreeze, heater/defroster, belts, hoses, filters, oil, wipers and brakes.

Carry the basics-an ice scraper, a snowbrush, a small shovel, tow chains and jumper cables-in your car.

Also add a winter survival kit with items such flashlight with extra batteries,battery powered radio, snack food including energy bars, extra hats, socks and mittens etc. has a great web page that tell you what else you’ll need for winter driving.

Add chains to your tires if necessary.

If for some reason you get stranded do not leave your vehicle and try to walk to safety! If you are able to call 911 and let them know that you are stranded. Some additional tips include:

Stay in your vehicle.

If you have a cell phone, call the police for help, but be careful not to run down your battery if you can’t get through.(I know I said it just a few lines ago but I want everyone to be safe)

If you have an emergency kit, use supplies conservatively.

Attach something to your antenna or window, and leave your dome light on at night to alert emergency personnel.(I would recommend a bright colored scarf or cloth in a color like shocking pink or lime green. Something that people can see easily. No white or black)

Check your tailpipe occasionally to make sure it’s not blocked with snow. Clean the pipe out if necessary to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Run the heater for about 10 minutes every hour, depending on how much fuel you have. Also keep a space blanket and a few blankets use them to keep warm

Leave a window cracked to let in air, and also to prevent the car from becoming sealed from heavy ice and snow.

Don’t sleep if you can help it, especially if the engine is running and you are alone.

Move your arms and legs periodically to keep your circulation going.

Winterizing your home is just as important and here are a few tips to help you do just that:

Winterizing Tips for Homeowners

Clean those gutters. Once the leaves fall, remove them and other debris from your home’s gutters — by hand, by scraper or spatula, and finally by a good hose rinse — so that winter’s rain and melting snow can drain..

Block those leaks.One of the best ways to winterize your home is to simply block obvious leaks around your house, both inside and out,

First, find the leaks: On a breezy day, walk around inside holding a lit incense stick to the most common drafty areas: recessed lighting, window and door frames, electrical outlets.

Buy door sweeps or draft dodgers to close spaces under exterior doors, and caulk or apply tacky rope caulk Outlet gaskets can easily be installed in electrical outlets that share a home’s outer walls, where cold air often enters.

Outdoors, seal leaks with weather-resistant caulk. For brick areas, use masonry sealer, which will better stand up to freezing and thawing

Insulate yourself.Check your attic and see if you have the proper amount of insulation for where you live. Your local home improvement store like Home Dept should be able to help yopu with this.

Check the furnace First, turn your furnace on now, to make sure it’s even working, before the coldest weather descends. A strong, odd, short-lasting smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn; simply open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional.(It’s a good idea to have furnaces cleaned and tuned annually. Costs will often run about $100-$125.)

Get your ducts in a row.According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60% of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces. That’s a huge amount of wasted money, not to mention a chilly house. (Check out this audit tool for other ideas on how to save on your energy bills this winter.

Ducts aren’t always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement and crawlspaces. Repair places where pipes are pinched, which impedes flow of heated air to the house, and fix gaps with a metal-backed tape (duct tape actually doesn’t stand up to the job over time).

Ducts also should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean out the abundant dust, animal hair and other gunk that can gather in them and cause respiratory problems.

Face your windows. Now, of course, is the time to take down the window screens and put up storm windows, which provide an extra layer of protection and warmth for the home. Storm windows are particularly helpful if you have old, single-pane glass windows.

Budget to replace them a few at a time, and in the meantime, buy a window insulator kit, Basically, the kit is plastic sheeting that’s affixed to a window’s interior with double-stick tape.

Don’t forget the chimney. Ideally, spring is the time to think about your chimney.Don’t put off your chimney needs before using your fireplace, A common myth is that a chimney needs to be swept every year, But a chimney needs at least be inspected before use each year. Bird nests, the occasional oddball item like a tennis ball can cause trouble if not taken care of

Ask for a Level 1 inspection, in which the professional examines the readily accessible portions of the chimney.

Woodstoves are different.They should be swept more than once a year. A general rule of thumb is that a cleaning should be performed for every ¼ inch of creosote, anywhere that it’s found. Ash is primarily lye — the same stuff that was once used to make soap, and it’s very acidic. It can cause mortar and the metal damper to rot,. Check out CSIA’S Web site for a list of certified chimney sweeps in your area.

Reverse that fan. Reversing your ceiling fan is a small tip that people don’t often think of.By reversing its direction from the summer operation, the fan will push warm air downward and force it to recirculate, keeping you more comfortable. (Here’s how you know the fan is ready for winter: As you look up, the blades should be turning clockwise)

Wrap those pipes. A burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is a nightmare. Prevent it before Jack Frost sets his grip: Before freezing nights hit, make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained Next, go looking for other pipes that aren’t insulated, or that pass through unheated spaces — pipes that run through crawlspaces, basements or garages. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you’re really worried about a pipe freezing, you can first wrap it with heating tape, which is basically an electrical cord that emits heat.

Check those alarms. This is a great time to check the operation — and change the batteries — on your home’s smoke detectors. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years, fire officials say. Test them — older ones in particular — with a small bit of actual smoke, and not just by pressing the “test” button. Check to see that your fire extinguisher is still where it should be, and still works. Also, invest in a carbon-monoxide detector; every home should have at least one.

I hope these tips will help everyone have a safe and enjoyable winter.

Engine Rebuilds – Rebuilding a Lotus Twin Cam

The Ford Lotus Twin cam, the legendary high performance engine of the sixties era. The Mk1 Twin Cam was introduced as a test bed engine in the Mk1 Cortina in 1963 & followed by the Mk II which powered the

Mk II Lotus Cortina – the same engine that was also fitted to the 1968 Escort Twin Cam.

The lotus Cortina & the Twin Cam Escort were instant winners both on the track and in many, many rallies held throughout the world. It is often said that the sixties were the golden years of motor sport, and the firm of lotus and their highly competitive cars were held in high esteem. But the Lotus elan which was publicly released at the1962 Earls Court motor show was the sports car that set the motoring world alight, the elan established a reputation for rapid point to point motoring, as well racking up success after success on race circuits around the world. Lotus was quick to build on those success with the release of the lotus elan 26R, the racing version, which was based on the elan S2 model, only about one hundred 26Rs elans were produced by the factory.

The run of the mill four cylinder ford cast iron engine block provided the base on which the twin cam engine was built, the cylinder head was a Harry Mundy designed twin cam alloy head, which incorporated chain drive to the twin over head cams, which actuated the eight valves. The engine was normally aspirated and fed by ‘twin forty millimetre Weber carburettors, which are characterised by the distinct clucking sound they made when the throttle butterflies are opened.

But despite the high power output of this small four-cylinder engine there are two Achilles heals of this engine, the first being the reputation for water pump failure, which is mostly caused by the engine being left standing for long periods sans any coolant in the block, on the first crank of the engine the dry seal is ripped during the first turn over.

Many elan & escort owners have also upgraded from the original dynamo to a modern alternator for the electrical system, the high tension on the belt required to run the alternator places excessive side loads on the water pump which can lead to premature failure… the standard water pump replacement requires that the alloy twin cam cylinder head be first removed, this can lead to a very expensive mechanical repair for the non-practical twin cam owner

The best fix for this problem is to install the newer modular type water pump, making it far easier to remove and replace. The other problem with the twin cam lotus engine is the constant habit of the engine of losing oil pressure on tight right hand turns, many owners choose to ignore this problem at their own peril, lotus twin cam

drivers have been known to simply listen for the bearing rattles then’ back off, and wait for oil pressure to return…. if you hear bearing rattle, the engine is only a few seconds away from a potential engine blow up,

From a cold start, bearing rattle can be tolerated in an engine because it only lasts for one or two seconds while the engine is at idle., but it is an entirely different story when the engine is revving at four to seven thousand revs per minute where even a short oil starvation period can have a devastating effect on the engine bearings, bearing failure is not an if, but a matter of when the engine bearings seize on the crankshaft.

But You’ll Be Pleased to know there is A Fix – But there are really only two options;

1: If you are into circuit racing, then dry sump lubrication is a given, it can be expensive and time consuming to set up and to get it right, but most racers swear by dry sump lubrication.

2: Install A Gated Wet Sump Oil Control system.

It sounds technical but it is not, the gated sump system consists of designing and building a unique apparatus which is installed in the standard twin cam sump or oil pan, it is not expensive to build or difficult to fabricate, it is not complex, and most home mechanics would be capable of building the baffle if they enjoy fabricating with sheet metal, and they also understand how to do a small amount of brazing.

No one but you will ever know that there is a special anti surge oil control system installed in the sump of your twin cam lotus engine. But the difference is that with the gated baffle installed, you will be able take any given corner at high speed in your Ford escort, Lotus Cortina or lotus elan and not have the slightest worry about oil surge, the oil gauge will tell you that the correct oil pressure is being delivered to your legendary twin cam lotus engine, it’s about piece of mind and confidence with high performance motoring. Build it once, build it right, and you’ll have no problems.

Inflatable Canoes Pros and Cons

Inflatable canoes have become much more popular in recent years and they can be a great way to get outside and enjoy the water. However it is sometimes difficult to know whether to go for an inflatable canoe or a hard-shell canoe.

There are several pros and cons to owning and using an inflatable model. After many years of paddling both types I am very aware of both the pros and the cons. Below I will go through each.

Pros

Portability
No doubt about it an inflatable kayak or canoe is extremely portable. I have owned hard-shell kayaks that I have tied down to racks on top of my car. I found the whole process of transporting a hard-shell boat inconvenient and exhausting. Unless I had a friend to go along with me to help out, it was difficult for me to get my kayak down from the top of my car all on my own.

When my inflatable is deflated and rolled up in its storage bag, I just place it in the trunk of my car along with all my gear and off I go. Weight can vary with inflatable’s depending on which model you choose. However many are easily carried by one person and a few models are so light they can even be carried in a backpack. They are highly portable.

Easy Storage
A hard-shell canoe or kayak needs its own storage space or a rack in your garage. However for people like me who live in a condo this is not always an option. An inflatable canoe can be stored in a closet or in any small space. They are fantastic for those who live in small places.

Easy Care
I think canoes in general are fairly easy to care for. An inflatable just needs to be dried off so that it does not get any mold or mildew and then sprayed every now and again with a UV protectant spray. As long as you store it in a dry and cool space, it will last you many, many years with very little wear and tear.

If your canoe ever gets ripped or has a leak (which does not happen often), you simply patch it up with the repair kit that comes with it.

Affordability
Although prices can vary greatly depending on the type of canoe you purchase, as a general rule I have found inflatable models to cost less than a hard-shell model. For this reason they are great for family use, traveling, fishing or just plain outdoor recreational fun.

Stability
They are extremely stable. Most inflatable canoes have pontoon like sides that make the boat near impossible to tip. They are great for children, families and people of all ages as they are extremely safe.

Cons

Speed
As a general rule, a hard-shell canoe will paddle faster than an inflatable. Inflatable’s tend to be a little bit wider and consequently do not pick up the same speeds… although some are far better than others.

Punctures
I have been paddling inflatable kayaks and canoes for many years and have actually never had a puncture. However it can happen if you are paddling over sharp sticks or objects. Therefore it is wise not to paddle an inflatable in very shallow water or in areas where there are known sharp sticks or objects sticking out of the water.

Before you purchase your inflatable canoe be sure to read the reviews as models can vary greatly.

Some Tips on Balling on a Budget – Living Good For Less

We all like to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous. We see images everyday on TV of people living the good life. After you look at your bank account and reality sets in, you realize that you have to get more out of life while making less than you like.

In today’s economy in which money is tight, you have to be creative with your budget. Here are some tips on doing that while having fun while doing it:

Shop at outlets/Buy off season – I am a shopaholic myself. I used to spend up to $5,000 a month in clothes. I had so many clothes that I would find shirts with tags still on them three years after I bought them. This is why I am talking about this first.

Outlet malls are great for savings. After the season is up and the new line comes in for that fashion designer, the label sends the clothes to their outlet shop. You can get luxury designer clothing for 50% to 80% off.

It may be a season behind but who cares. You don’t bump into the fashion editor of Vogue Magazine everyday anyway.

Most clothing designers have an outlet store. You can go online to find the closest store. Outlets are especially good for buying your children’s clothes. Kids outgrow clothes really fast, so it doesn’t make sense to buy them at full price all of the time.

Buy clothes when they are about to change seasons. When the summer is over and Macy’s, for example, want to make room for the Fall/Winter line, they will mark down the remaining summer clothes at a deep discount.

I used to buy Polo clothes the minute they came out at full price to be the first one with it. I would go back three months later to see it on sale for half off.

Sell your junk on E-Bay – I heard a money expert on TV the other day say that every household has at least $100 worth of junk that they can sell. I started looking around my house and found $500 worth.

We all have some items in the closet, attic, or in storage that we don’t need. We tend to keep them around for sentimental reasons. In tough economic times the junk got to get going.

Look for clothing items, furniture, paintings, or even your ex boyfriend or girlfriend stuff you can sell on E-Bay. It is easy and very cheap to set up an account. Take good pictures of the items and don’t overprice. I posted a painting that I didn’t need anymore on E-Bay and end up making a profit!!

You can also set up a garage sale on the weekends. Post an advertisement on craigslist or put up signs around your area. You will be surprised how many bargain shoppers are out looking for steals.

Add the money you make from selling your junk into your “pay yourself first” retirement fund.

Drive wise, not fast – The higher gas prices go, the less we have to enjoy for ourselves. You have to learn small tips of driving that can make you car fuel efficient.

Stop drag racing down the block. Take it easy when you drive. Sudden acceleration eats up a lot of gas. Also you lessen the chance of getting a speeding ticket you cannot afford.

Keep your tires inflated properly. Low tires cause you to burn gas as well. The better you maintain your car, the less likely you will have to bring it in for costly repairs. So keep up your dates for tune-ups and oil changes.

If you have a co-worker that lives by you, try to car pool. This will save both of everybody gas and mileage on your cars. Take mass transportation sometimes as well. In New York City, I used to spend $20 a day just to park down the block from my real estate office. Recently I tried taking the train and sometimes walk on a sunny day. I saved $320 in one month and also lost some weight.

Use grocery store coupons – We get the circulars in the mail or in the Sunday papers. Most of the time they end up in the garbage can. Upon further inspection, we are literally throwing away money.

In a tough economy it is smart to find ways of stretching your dollar. Stores are doing everything they can to get people to purchase from them. They are doing more promos than ever to get you in the door.

I used to laugh at the old lady that would hold the shopping line up as she goes through all of her coupons.

Who’s laughing now?

Now I am like the old lady.

Look through the circulars for discounts and coupons on items that you use everyday. Office Depot sends me coupons to get printer cartridge at 20% off. Over a year, that saves me $50.

Many food products will give you half off or buy one get one free coupons. If the food product that you eat does not offer any specials, maybe you need to try their competitor that do. Using coupons on a regular basis can save you 10-20% off of your monthly food expenses.

A lot of large food chains like Kroger’s, Pathmark, and Tom Thumb’s have a shopping rewards club that you can join. When you buy a selected item, the savings will be automatically deducted at the register. While you are shopping you will see labels on the counter on which items are having savings. You can buy $100 worth of food to have it reduced to $89 after they swipe your rewards club at the register.

Department stores like Macy’s and Dillard’s have coupons as well in your Sunday paper. Selected items by brand name designers will be discounted from 25% to 50% off. This is helpful for back to school shopping. There are certain days that specials are done, like one day shopping specials. These are done on a slow day like Tuesday to get traffic to come to the store. If you do not look through the circular, you may miss when the one day special is. You will buy a pair of jeans on Wednesday for $75 that you could have gotten for $50 the day before.

Many sit down restaurants and fast food franchises are using coupons also. With tight competition and people eating out less, they are promoting more specials for you to come by and eat. If you do not know about the specials, they will not tell you when you get your bill.

So clip out your coupons, calculate your savings, and make sure you pay attention to the expiration date of the coupon so you don’t miss the boat.

Buy Bulk – Now that we are on the subject of saving money when you shop for food, the next step for you to do is to get a club card from Costco and Sam’s Club.

One thing I know is for sure is that you will always eventually run out of tissue. Instead of running to the store to buy two rolls, why not buy 50 rolls?

That is the concept of buying bulk. You can stock up on items that are necessities like paper towels, water, and condiments. You will save more over the long term because you have bought the items in larger quantities at a wholesale price. You can also buy other items at Costco and Sam’s Club like electronic equipment, hardware, and even tires. Because they buy large quantities from vendors, they are able to pass the saving on to you, the consumer.

Other tips on Balling on a Budget

– Never buy a luxury car new

– Buy floor model furniture and tv’s

– Use travel sites

– Go to lounges instead of clubs

– Eat out less per month, bring your lunch to work

– Shop around, compare costs

– Go to less movies and sporting events, go to more free places like parks, museums, and libraries

– Cancel memberships and subscriptions that you don’t use

– Combine your phone, cable and internet bills into one/use less features

– Avoid paying bank fees

– Don’t buy the latest fad!!

8 Reasons Why You Should Choose Inflatable Boats!

When speak about the advantages of inflatable boats, it just can’t be finished within 10 pages. Believe me, inflatable boats just have their unique advantages over those traditional boats. I have shortened and categorized the advantages of inflatable boats into 8 categories, which are:

Advantage No.1: Flexible

As known, the very first advantage of inflatable boats is their flexibility. What I mean here is inflatable boats could be deflated and kept in your private car boot. You can bring inflatable boats with you wherever you go. They just do not need boat trailers or huge truck to be transported.

Besides transportation issue, the convenience of inflatable boats brings no headache to storage issue as well. After being deflated and folded nicely, inflatable boats just size like a stack of clothes.

Whenever you need inflatable boats, you can just take out straight from your car boot. Inflating them with a foot pump just take around 30 minutes (maximum) and if you are using an electric pump, 15 minutes (maximum) is what you need to enjoy boating.

Advantage No.2: Stable

Inflatable boats are built with 2 large buoyancy tubes on the side and a flat floor in between of them. The large size buoyancy tubes provide a low center of gravity for the boats as well. These designs make inflatable boats sit flat on the water surface, making inflatable boats almost impossible to flip over.

For example, 435ps paddle ski from sea eagle give ultimate stability. Comparing with normal paddle canoe, it is mush more stable due to the two separate buoyancy tubes on two different sides. The features of inflatable boats just best suit those who like to stand up fishing and those scuba divers who need to flip backward to the water, as well as pulling up themselves from water.

Advantage No.3: Large Loading Capacity

Due to the designs of large buoyancy tubes, the loading of inflatable boats could be huge. Together with the stable attribution, inflatable boats just could upload a large loading of cargo or person without any unsteadiness.

For example, Sea Eagle 12.6 SR, a runabout boat with exterior dimension 12’6″ x 5’4″ just can be loaded with as much as 6 adults or 1600lbs. Inflatable boats just give a higher loading capacity.

Advantage No.4: Inflatable Boats Light As Air

Although the loading capacity of inflatable boats is huge, that doesn’t mean inflatable boats are heavy. The fabrics that produce inflatable boats are very light in weight.

For Sea Eagle inflatable dinghy, SE 9, it is only weight 38lbs for the boat and 74lbs for boat, floorboard and motor mount(For your info, SE 9 could be loaded with 1200lbs or 5 adults).Using the comparison of as light as air in inflatable boats is no over-exaggerated.

The light weight of inflatable boats makes inflatable boats launch easier. Only 2 adults are needed to carry out the inflatable boat from water after using. The light weight of inflatable boats just makes people love inflatable boats more.

Advantage No.5: All-In-One Function

Inflatable boats are designed for all-in-one purpose. No matter you want to rapid, paddle, sail, row, or even cruise, inflatable boats just can transform into the boat you want.

You might just be inspired by Sea Eagle explorer 380x kayak, which can cut through those rough, class 4 white water. Sail cat 15sc which looks like an inflatable sailing raft just provide you the ultimate all-in-one function. Combining with an electrical trolling motor, an evening cruise just await you outside.

Advantage No.6: Strong And Durable

Many years of enjoyment is what inflatable boats meant to be as an inflatable boat is ready only after a serial of experiments and trials. Inflatable boats could not be pushed to the market without gone through many quality controls.

With those quality controls and the fine materials, inflatable boats are strong and durable. Building with 1000 Denier Reinforced material, Sea Eagle inflatable boats are simply the best. The plastic coated transom in Sea Eagle inflatable boats keeps the transom secure from the damaging effect of water seepage.

Advantage No.7: Economical Boats

Inflatable boats are economical boats. Aside from the lower price of the boat itself, the maintenance fee of inflatable boats is equally low.

Example gas-consuming, as inflatable boats are very light in weight, less power is needed to move the boats. Less power means less gas consuming. Besides, the resale of inflatable boats is easy and with good residual prices as well.

Advantage No.8: 3-Year Warranty And 30 Days On-Water-Trial

On top of these advantages, Sea Eagle just offers 3 years warranty and 30 days on-water-trial for all Sea Eagle inflatable boats.

You can get a full product refund if you are unsatisfied in any way within 30 days from the date of delivery. Use sea eagle inflatable boats on water and ask for refund if you are not satisfied. Besides, 3 year warranty just allows you to send back your inflatable boats for free repair or no-charge replacement. It is indeed secure with sea eagle inflatable boats.

There are actually a lot more advantages of inflatable boats, but I think it’s time for you to find out yourself. Until then it’s your turn to talk about your inflatable boats. 🙂

Landlording 101, Tricks of The Trade

Looking Inside Your Tenant’s Mind

Basic Mind-Reading Report 101 for Landlords

It goes without saying but I will say it anyway. The better you understand your tenants and their personal situation, the better you can serve their needs and your own. Notice that your needs come after your tenants. Always put your tenants’ needs before your own and they will buy real estate for you in return. That’s a fair trade. Take it!

Many cold-hearted, self-serving, money-grudging, want to-be landlords don’t understand human nature. Let me tell you right now, if you can’t put yourself in another person’s shoes and see a problem from that person’s perspective with empathy, you will fail miserably in the “landlording” business and in life. Wise up!

Fear not. If your not quite sure what I’m talking about, here come the stories and details of how to be loved and adored by those kind people called tenants.

Let me first dispel the horror stories about landlording. If you follow my advice and teachings, you should have very few tales of woe to tell. You’ve heard the stories and they sound like this: Those damn lowlife tenants. They trashed our house, they disturbed the neighbors, they ruined our lawn, they were filthy pigs who never paid the rent on time, they never did what we told them to do and it cost us a fortune to get rid of them and repair our investment once they finally did move.

Well, guess whose fault that is. Yep, it is completely and unequivocally the fault of the so-called person that is calling themselves a landlord. The real name for this type of so-called landlord is uneducated dummy and because of these lazy fools the whole industry gets a bad rap!

There is a plus side to the scenario above and that is this: It sets up a perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite of the fools and create for yourself an unlimited market supply of excellent trouble-free tenants for life!

Tenants, believe it or not, are human beings. They are not animals or things to be mistreated, abused or taken advantage of. If you will prepare your rentals as if your mother was going to be moving in, your mindset would be realigned in short order. In effect, you will start looking at it from a compassionate point of view. You will not cut corners. You won’t let things go that need fixing. You will use more care, skill and diligence in preparing that dwelling for another decent human being to begin calling home. That’s what you want to achieve.

You want to provide a trouble-free, pleasurable, aesthetically pleasing, creature comfortable, needs fulfilling, safe, secure, affordable and convenient place to live. When you provide those things and screen the population, it’s like striking gold.

The process of getting good tenants begins in your mind. By that, I mean you have to educate yourself to be able to recognize value and acquire properties that are structurally sound, aesthetically pleasing, physically functional and provide safety, security, affordability, convenience and a feeling of pride in your tenant’s mind.

Sounds like a daunting task, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. In fact it is so simple to achieve that once you understand the process you won’t even have to think about it. It will come naturally to you. I promise you that this is true and I intend to prove it to you as well.

I absolutely guarantee that you can do it. So for now, just take my word for it as being a fact, because it is. Here’s an example of using a motto to align your thought process in relation to all the things I just said. Repeat the following:

Landlord’s Creed

I vow never to rent to someone else, something that I myself would not be happy living in.

Mansions not included!

Now apply that to every prospective property that you evaluate as a potential rental property investment. Human nature is immutable. We all have basic needs, wants, desires and expectations that include fear. When you remove fear and provide comfort and security, you will own your market.

So what you first have to do before you can be a great landlord is to find great places to rent to other people. I explain how to do this in the book at [http://www.magicbullets], so I won’t go into it here.

The screening process is also outlined in that book as well. I will hit upon a few things that weren’t touched upon already in the processes in the main body of the book, so here are a few nuggets for you now.

The following observations are done after you have already performed the formal screening procedures. I’m rushing you up to the day that your face-to-face meeting occurs with the tenants who have passed your telephone interviews and have succeeded in getting an appointment with you to see your wonderful rental.

Now, here are some things that your uneducated dummy-type landlords can’t begin to recognize, plan for or evaluate when it does appear before their very eyes.

As soon as your potential renter shows up to view your property, take note of

the time. Are they on time? Can they keep their first promise to you? Can they follow directions? If their late, did they get lost? I’m sure you gave them good directions and also used landmarks like churches, stores or monuments, so they could find you easily. If they can’t follow simple directions, do you think a lease agreement and those directions are going to be any easier? No, they are harder to follow.

O.K. They showed up on time. This says they respect your time, are able to follow directions and are serious about finding a nice place to live. How did they arrive, on foot, by bike, bus, cab, truck, motorcycle or tractor-trailer? Preferably they arrived in a clean, well-kept passenger car that is in a clean condition.

Now who was driving the vehicle? If it’s a couple are they both going to be renting or is your tenant without wheels. Let’s assume your prospect drives up in their own car. It runs fine so you won’t have cars on blocks and a parts yard for a front lawn in six months when they buy more cheap junk to get around with.

So the car looks O.K. on the outside but how about the interior of the car? Do they smoke and have smashed down McDonalds bags pushed so far into the floorboards that it now resembles carpet? Does this vehicle look like a home on wheels, with garbage bags filled with clothes, a crying baby and a cat in the back window? Watch out if you see this type of telltale evidence. I don’t think I need to paint the picture of what will result if you miss this investigative step.

Pickup trucks with camper-shells can also be loaded to the gunnels with personal effects, including small zoo animals. I encourage you to get a look back there, too!

The bottom line here is people will generally treat your property the way they treat their own, if you’re lucky! So see how they’ve done with their own stuff up to this point and choose wisely based on intuition, gut-feeling and physical evidence.

So the car inspection is over now. How are the appearances of the folks? Are they clean and well groomed? Do they seem to fit the profile of what you had envisioned over the phone interviews or are they 180 degrees out? Have they successfully fooled you or deceived you into believing something else up to this point? Now that they have appeared before you, is it blatantly evident that these persons are con artists?

If you get an uneasy feeling within the first few minutes of meeting these people, don’t brush it off as just some crazy thought. That’s your self-preservation instinct operating and you better listen to it. The book, Magic Bullets will help to protect you, so do not fear. Use this information to protect yourself from the events that lead to horror stories. Don’t give it another thought. Let’s get on with our interview, shall we?

So far they are on time. They have a good clean car and they appear to be honest and decent people who indeed do give you the same impression you developed over the phone. In fact, these people are really more than you expected. Yes, if you’ve done it right that will often be your experience and it is almost always a pleasure and privilege to rent to such high quality individuals.

Have you noticed something about the process here? There has been no mention of race, religion, national origin, sex, age or marital status. That is discrimination based on federally protected human rights and it’s against the law to discriminate on those issues. This includes the handicapped and a few others groups I may have overlooked.

My point is simply this: If they meet all the criteria that makes for a good quality tenant, than you would be ruling out a potentially excellent long-term tenant based on preconceived notions and that is dummy landlording in the first degree! So don’t discriminate on basic human rights issues.

So many people screw this process up. They also make mistakes by choosing management companies to do this highly developed type of intuitive researched and planned-for event. I honestly know of no management companies who can be as thorough as an owner who takes the time to protect their own interests in this way.

I don’t care how much management companies protest about the above statement. The fact of the matter is, they are not you, so they can never find a tenant that satisfies your own personal preferences the way you can.

I like to personally screen potential tenants because in all cases, I have total control and that’s what real estate is all about – control!

Think of the opposite of control. That would be the stock market for the small investor. The way I see it, I don’t want to be on the sidelines rooting for someone else to make money for me or more often, hoping they don’t lose it, steal it or mismanage it to my certain demise.

With the way I approach real estate, it is a 100% guarantee every single time that I am going to outsmart, outwit, outperform, over deliver and under promise to the point that I crush my competition. I am in a league of my own.

My tenants are the winners and they know it, too. What kind of loyalty do you think develops in the minds’ of people that look to me for protection? It stands as a testimony and irrefutable, self-evident, empirical fact that I care enough about the people who have entrusted me with their welfare, their time, their money and their trust to deliver on my promises. My tenants don’t move. They either pass away due to old age or they end up buying it from me when I want to sell it. It happens that way all the time.

So think again when you hear a dummy landlord talking about all the trouble they had and then ask yourself one question. Did they read Magic Bullets before they became a landlord? It’s 100% certain they did not. If they had, then their tenants would have loved them and paid for their real estate time and again, and made them rich beyond their wildest expectations…

Snap out of it! Hey, are you with me? OK, your back. Good let’s get back to reality here. What I do works and the only thing about landlording I don’t like is cashing all those darned checks. I’m not kidding. Bank tellers look at you like your some kind of thief because you have so many checks to cash.

Here are a few things that you won’t find out unless you have been around a while but I’m going to save you from the pain of learning the hard way. Now of course you’re going to do everything right by following my advice in real estate but there are a lot of things I don’t know. Yes, I admit it. I don’t know everything but I do know what I’m going to tell you about next and that is…drum roll, please! Watch out for real estate investment property that comes with existing tenants! Here’s why. In general, the new owner takes the property subject to the existing lease and rights of the tenant or tenants. Most often, whatever existing lease or rental agreement that was made with the previous owner will remain in effect.

What could happen if you don’t thoroughly review existing tenants lease agreements? What if the previous owner rented a unit to his good-for-nothing, drug-addicted brother for $1.00 a month for the next five years? That’s a valid lease. You may take them to court for misrepresentation but it’s going to cost you lost rent, lost sleep and maybe your safety.

Anyway, that’s an extreme example of an intentionally designed below-market rent lease agreement but it illustrates my point. Here’s another. Let’s say you’re getting a great deal and you buy it, and find out the reason the owner sold it to you was because the tenants were very difficult and had him over a barrel. And all the while, they are paying lower than average rents and complaining about everything. Now you get them and you can’t raise the rent and they refuse to move. Here comes your eviction lawyer and you have attorney’s fees and more lost rent to boot.

My point is this: Make the seller get rid of bad tenants before you close on the deal. Do a pre-closing inspection and personally walk through the empty apartment, house, condo, trailer or doghouse yourself. Bring extra locks or call a locksmith and have the locks changed the day before closing. An honest seller will not have a problem with that so long as the title company holds those keys until your check is accepted at the closing table.

The lesson here is it’s always better to install your own tenants because you control the process from start to finish. Don’t follow a dummy landlord or by default, you could be a dummy, too!

Remember this too: When you install new tenants, you are generally going to get a higher rent from the property because inflation creeps along and landlords have a hard time raising rents on people. I have seen 10-15 year long-term tenants paying the same price for 15 years. You will go broke if you let that happen.

Adjust your rents accordingly every time you fill a vacant unit and if people want to renew their leases, then inform them of an economic reality that currently exists called inflation, and you are just keeping up with it! The Annual Consumer Price Index may be used as a reference. If they don’t understand, they have an option and that would be to go look for a similar rental to yours at a lower price. If you have followed my advice, this elusive lower rental price will not be found and your tenants will be grateful to you for renting out such a clean place at the new price-adjusted rate.

There is a lot of garbage held out for rent and prices may be lower, but no one wants to live in a pigsty with lime green shag carpet and Brady Bunch orange counter tops, where the roaches tell you what to do.

So the lesson here: Encourage balking tenants to find something comparable to yours at a lower price. If they find it, let them go. Odds are, they won’t. After all I told you, it’s often next to impossible, if you’re a hands-on owner. There is no 10% fee to management companies either. So you can even ask 5% less than investors who use professional management to do their job. So many ways to slaughter your competition…so little time!

Egyptian Brake Pedals

In Egypt what would be considered a road hazard anywhere else in the world is probably the road. Outside of Cairo there are few defined spaces for traffic and pedestrians. Even where there are pavements people, cars and animals share equal access.

Most visitors suspect leaving the sanctuary of their hotels risks being flown home in a box. But as Egyptian street life is gloriously vibrant it seems a shame to miss out when all that’s needed is a little local knowledge.

Walk like an Egyptian: This is easier than you might think. Wear shoes with traction and keep looking over your shoulder to check what’s going on behind, even when walking on what appears to be a ‘safe’ side of the road. There isn’t one. Pot holes without safety barriers regularly appear overnight, so glancing down occasionally helps to prevent unwanted tumbles.

Jay walking: Is entirely legal, encouraged even. Nonetheless if you can avoid crossing the streets, do – you’ll live longer. If you must cross then run as fast as you can in a zigzag fashion while keeping a constant watch on anything that’s moving or could possibly move. Never assume someone will stop for you. They won’t. For really busy areas it’s better to find a place where locals are already crossing and tailgate them as nonchalantly as possible. Suspected stalkers are as unwelcome in Egypt as they are elsewhere.

Remember there’s another way to cope with this. One can either hop on a local mini-bus or take a taxi.

Mini-Bus: Multitudes of honking mini-buses careening to a stop in front of pedestrians will take you anywhere along fixed routes within towns and cities extremely cheaply. By cheap, I mean never pay more than 1 / 2 LE (Egyptian pounds). Ignore any attempts at bargaining. Buses are small and often crowded, so getting in and out can reveal more flesh than is considered suitable and can lead to unwelcome attentions. Modest attire is therefore to be recommended.

Taxis: Collective service taxis are one of the best features of Egyptian transport. They operate on a wide variety of flexible routes and are faster than buses. Taxis can be used for individual trips or shared with others. Prices for all trips, including intercity, must be agreed in advance. On the downside is the often maniacal driving at high speed.

Alternatively, if you have a death wish, you can hire a car.

Car rentals: A number of international companies operate in Egypt. To hire a car you need a valid international driving license, be at least 25 years of age and possess nerves of steel.

Rules of the Road: There are none. But still it’s important to have your facts straight before attempting to pilot anything on wheels. For instance driving is done by constantly blasting horns and flashing headlights – a method known locally as ‘The Egyptian Brake Pedal’.

Honking: Is done to signal intentions and warnings when, for example, anything is blocking the road, something looks like it might, something isn’t and at traffic lights regardless of color. Drivers toot when pulling out, pulling in, stopping, moving, bored or when saying hello.

Lights: Indicators are reserved for use solely at night and then only to alert any following traffic of road bends ahead. In darkness headlights are flashed intermittently to oncoming traffic to alert them of their presence rather than used continuously. Saves on the battery apparently.

It’s wise never to assume any human or animal has seen you – honk that horn and flash those lights even if it’s just to be friendly!

Lane Markings: Are purely decorative. Drivers drive on which ever side of the road appeals, which is generally on your side. The intentions of another road-user should never be taken for granted as there’s a good chance he hasn’t decided yet and, even if has, he’ll almost certainly change his mind again.

Overtaking: Cars, buses, carts and trucks will make every effort to overtake and undertake other vehicles even in what appears to be an impossibly tight space, as this gives them the right of way. Anyone who tries cutting in from behind is ignored as they’re liable for collisions.

Collisions: If you do have an accident, immediately go on the offensive and offer to pay for repairs. The alternative is being screamed at until you’re deaf and you’ll still end up paying. If the local police happen to be around, standard procedure is to chuck everyone in prison regardless of fault and, believe me, you’ll still end up paying.

Speeding: Strangely speed limits are rigidly enforced in Egypt. Although you wouldn’t think so from the way Egyptians drive. Even minor infringements can result in confiscation of one’s driving license. Getting it returned is an expensive, protracted and laborious business with no guarantee of success even if one hands over wads of hard cash ie. dollars or euros.

Security: One safety feature you can always count on while cruising the Egyptian highways and byways is the road block. To some they seem like an unnecessary hindrance and the endless waiting to be judged friend or foe interminable. Be patient and remember the longer you wait, the longer you live.

Cultural tip for better appreciating the above: The Islamic religion is a critical component in Egyptian life. Therefore, this is a fatalistic culture and one’s destiny is believed to be firmly in the hands of God. Since nothing can be done about this, there tends to be an acceptance of the status quo. In other words, the answer to everything is subject to ‘Insha’allah’ (God willing) and a copy of the Koran is a standard extra in all forms of transportation. On the upside, this fatalism means that it’s rare to meet an Egyptian who’s not smiling.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Getting to Egypt: Alitalia, KLM and Air France all fly to Egypt for approximately EUR300 return or less. However, holiday packages generally work out cheaper than booking flights and accommodation independently. Budget Travel, for example, will fly you to Luxor, luxury coach you to a 5 star hotel and feed you breakfast for around EUR540 per week. If you disappear as I did – resorts not being my thing – they will even come looking for you.

Getting around Egypt: Egyptian public transport is amazingly efficient and inexpensive.

Bus: Inter-city buses are the cheapest way to travel around the country. A ticket from Hurghada to Cairo costs as little as 60 LE per person, one way. In the Red Sea area you will find two main operators – The Upper Egypt Bus Company serves the Red Sea Governorate towns, from Hurghada to Safaga, El Quseir and Marsa Alam, also linking these towns to the Nile valley and Cairo. The Canal Zone and Sinai are served by the East Delta Bus Company. Both companies offer air-conditioned buses and on the longer routes they also have on-board toilets. Schedules change frequently, so it’s better to check personally at the bus terminals.

Rail: Slightly more expensive is the extensive railway network controlled by Egyptian State Railways. The network has a high standard of service and covers the whole country, connecting all the main cities. Tickets can be bought at the station but, as with all matters in Egypt, some patience is required to actually complete the purchase. Take along your student card, if you have one, as I’m told it may give up to a 33% reduction on fares. Personally I doubt this but then I’ve never had the patience to try. Visit http://www.egyptrail.gov.eg for more information.

If you want to take advantage of the overnight train services then it’s necessary to book one week in advance through a travel agent or through Abela Egypt. For more information visit http://www.sleepingtrains.com.

Planes: For those with money or little time to spare Egypt Air flies daily between Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Hurghada. Being a nervous flyer I always appreciated the traditional communal prayers led by the pilot while on board ie. ‘bismillahir rahmanir rahim’ (in the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most kind) to assist take-off and on successfully landing ‘al-Hámdu lil-láah’ (by God’s mercy) we made it. All of which reminds one just how truly miraculous aviation travel really is. For information on timetables and fares visit http://www.egyptair.com.eg/english/.

Health & Safety: Adrenaline rush is addictive so proceed with all due caution. Still, no vaccinations are required for tourists arriving from Europe. Pharmacists in the major towns are knowledgeable and are usually tri-lingual.

VIN Number Decoding For Classic Muscle Cars

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given in regards to buying a classic muscle car was to invest in high quality resource materials so I could crack the code on Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) to make sure that I was not getting scammed.

The best way to find a high quality book is to find what the experts are using. With the internet, you can type a subject like Camaro restoration book into the Amazon search box. You can also Google it and follow the links, which will take you to various forums and websites. Chevrolet by the Numbers, by Alvin Colvin, is the best book I have ever found for Chevrolet part numbers, Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), trim tags, and model ID. The book is an easy read, with chapters designated to the different components. Again, I used this process in my quest to purchase a rare Camaro. Just Google the car you are looking for and follow the links. The best resources will be obvious.

Here is a list of objects you will need when decoding your car.

Small flashlight, notebook, resource or reference book, mechanics mirror, pen or pencil, cordless or corded droplight, floor jack and jack-stands, coveralls, rags, brass wire brush, brake cleaner, yellow or white colored grease pencil, digital camera or camcorder.

If you are continuing to read this information, I can only surmise that buying a classic muscle car with the proper numbers and matching parts is important to you! Good! It should be! If this is true, I will walk you through an example of decoding a car. This will give you an idea of what it takes to properly decode a car.

Be prepared to take your time. I also discovered a sure fire way to determine who your true friends are. Ask them to go along to help you decode a car! Having an extra body can sometimes cut your time in half. I also recommend finding an expert or consultant on your car, and buying a couple of hours their time, especially if you are looking to purchase a special model classic car. It’s been my experience that an extra set of eyes can only help the cause. I found an expert through one of my reference books. Prior to me going to look at my current car, I spent about an hour talking with him, and making a list of things I should be looking for. (Of course, if you want someone to handle the process from A to Z, services are available. This is a great option if you are buying the car from remote.)

The Process

Before I arrived the owner told me the car was basically a roller project, meaning the engine and transmission were removed from the car. The engine, transmission and other components were placed in a pile where it would be easy to look at the numbers. The owner also claimed it was a limited edition Camaro, yet he didn’t have any paperwork like an original order invoice, or a protect o plate (a special metal plate shaped like a credit card that is used for warranty and repair services). This type of paperwork trail eliminates the need for further documentation. If you do not have this type of paperwork, then follow along. When I arrived at the location where the car was stored, the first thing I did was to check the VIN number. The VIN number is probably the most important number on a car. If you do not know how to decode a VIN on a particular Chevrolet, you will be unable to verify other components or numbers. What is nice about the book is it actually walks you through the whole decoding process, including providing the specific numbers location. As a sidebar, any good resource book on your particular make and model car will outline the way to decode your car, including number locations and decoding info. On 1968 and 1969 Camaros, the VIN number is located on the top of the dash board, on the drivers side. The number is visible through the windshield. I wiped the dirt and dust off of the VIN tag, and copied the numbers into my notebook.

VIN number

I was able to determine that my car was originally a V8, it was a 2 door sport coupe, made in 1969, assembled in Norwood Ohio, and it was the 662,8XXrd car built at that plant in that year.

Trim tag.

In 1969, all Camaro trim tags were located in the engine compartment, riveted on the upper left hand corner of the firewall. I took my rag and cleaned all of the dust and gunk off of the trim tag. Since the numbers were not that clear, I recleaned the trim tag, and removed the rest of the gunk. I used my flashlight to illuminate the numbers, and then copied the numbers into my notebook. Some of the trim tag numbers matched up with the VIN tag numbers, which was a good sign. The remaining numbers indicated that my car body was number 353,XXX to come down this plant’s assembly line. The interior was originally a standard black interior, and the car was built in the first week of June, 1969. The car was originally painted dusk blue and it was equipped with a spoiler package and a chrome trim package. So far everything was lining up. The reason for all of this detail is to illustrate how you can confirm that what you think you are buying is exactly what you are getting.

Before I move on, I want to share how this is relevant. A husband and wife from my car club went to look at a Chevelle. The car was advertised as a Super Sport. During the inspection process, and referencing the above book, they uncovered a number of inconsistencies. According to the numbers, the car had originally started out as a plain Jane 6 cylinder car. The car was now painted a different color, had a different color interior and a different engine. You get the picture. Over the years, one (or more) of the previous owners modified the car and tried to make it into a Super Sport. The point is it may have not been done maliciously, but the car still did not start out as a true Super Sport. And having the Super Sport option obviously raises the value of the car.

Engine code identification.

The engine is stamped in (2) places on a 69 Camaro. One is on the right front engine pad. The other location is on the rough casting portion on the rear of the engine, just above the oil filter. Again I wiped off the areas I just described with brake cleaner sprayed on a rag. You need to have a clean surface, and normally brake cleaner will do the trick. The front engine pad numbers appeared to have been restamped at one time, maybe after the engine block was decked (Decking in a machine process to check the flatness of the block deck for irregularities that cause compression and water leaks.) The tricky part is reading the numbers on the area above the oil filter. I recommend a really bright light and a magnifying glass. If that doesn’t do it, then I suggest taking a little muriatic acid an applying it to the numbers. This should make the numbers readable. The reason this number is sometimes hard to decipher is because these engines were hand stamped, and punched onto a rough surface. According to the numbers, I determined the engine was a 425 horsepower high performance engine, with a 4 speed manual transmission. The last numbers also corresponded with the last numbers in my VIN, which meant this was the original engine to this car. The numbers told me the engine was assembled June 14, which fell in line with the build date. The engine block part number that is cast into the rear of the block was cleaned with a rag and brake cleaner as well. The block part number indicated ahigh performance block used for Camaros. Another piece of the puzzle confirmed.

Rear axle identification.

The numbers on a Camaro rear axle are stamped on the top of the right axle tube. My experience has been that this area is normally pretty crusty and rusty. And this rear axle was no exception. After considerable wire brushing, I wiped the area clean with brake cleaner. Laying on my back, I shone the light on the area, while holding a mirror. It still wasn’t clear enough for me to read accurately. I then took my grease pencil, and ran it over the numbers. The purpose of the grease pencil is to provide contrast with the metal of the axle tube. When I put the mirror back over the area, I was rewarded with a very sharp image of the part numbers, which I copied into my notebook. According to the numbers, this rear axle assembly had a 4.10:1 gear ratio, limited slip. The axle was assembled June 16, 1969. Are you seeing a pattern starting to appear here? The axle numbers also indicated the axle to be original to the car based on the dates codes referencing June 1969 build date. I took the same approach with the other parts.

Here are my findings. The cylinder heads, intake manifold, carburetor, and transmission were the correct part numbers for the car. However none of these parts were date coded to the car. One of the heads was manufactured in April 1968, the other head was manufactured in February of 1969. The transmission was manufactured Jan 24th 1969. The reason I know all of these parts are not correctly date coded to the car is I decoded each one, by researching the part numbers, and date codes. All of this information is important, because not only did it verify what the owner had told me, and it also showed that the other parts were in line with the build date. Thereby providing further confirmation of what I was looking at. During my investigating, I took pictures with a digital camera of all of the parts and part numbers, as best as i could. I spent about 30 minutes walking around the car with a video camera and editorializing what I was taking footage of. I also took the list of things the Camaro expert had told me about and checked them off one by one. Later in the week I called the Camaro expert and shared my findings. I reviewed all of my research, including going over the individual part numbers, and the “things to look for” checklist. By the end of the phone call, I was 99 percent positive that this Camaro was what it was being advertised as.

The last thing I did was to have the car documented and certified by a Certified Camaro appraiser.

GM also stamped hidden VIN numbers in (2) different places on the car. The reason for the hidden VIN numbers was to add another step in preventing and identifying a stolen car. Because it is fairly easy to remove and swap out the VIN tag on the dash, the hidden VIN’s provided a back-up system of check and balances. For example, someone could possibly swap out a VIN tag, but if they didn’t know about the Hidden VIN numbers, a person in the know could easily identify the numbers not matching up. Because the car was bought a roller project, it was easy to check these hidden VIN’s, against the VIN tag on the dash. I wanted the appraiser to check them personally, and he confirmed the numbers as matching and authentic. In other words the certificate authenticates the car. Many appraisers will also supply you with a report on their findings. The nice thing about having a car certified is this type of paperwork is normally viewed as iron clad documentation. It normally raises the value of the car, because of the authenticity certificate. And if you ever go to sell the car, now you have documentation to provide the seller that the car is a real (Super Sport, Rally Sport, Z/28, etc. You fill in the blank)

Some people may wonder why would anyone go through all of this work.

However, keep in mind that many of these muscle cars are 20 plus years old and have gone through numerous owners and modifications. All of that history is prior to it being restored back to showroom original condition. In other words, many parts are bolt on and interchangeable from other models and different years. So just because the parts look ok, doesn’t mean that they even belong on the car. In the above example about the couple and the Chevelle, the car was priced as a Super Sport, yet the trim tag and other numbers reflected a totally different story. Even though the car was beautifully restored, it was really nothing more than a modified 6 cylinder, base model Chevelle that someone converted over to a V-8 at some time in it’s life. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with modifying a car to an individual owners taste. The issue is when the car is sold and the seller forgets to mention (consciously or unconsciously) and inform the new owner of the modifications. Our Chevelle couple would have gladly paid the asking price if the car was a true Super Sport. But, because they knew how to decode the car, they were able to save themselves a lot of time, money and aggravation. At the time the difference between a plain Jane Chevelle and a real Super Sport was over $10,000. Just to throw some numbers out there, let’s be conservative and say it takes 6 hours of research to decode a car. Using our $10,000 figure, that equates to approximately $1,600 an hour. Not a bad return on your time investment. As muscle and classic cars have become more popular, I have seen many cases where just for the fun of it, an owner will start to do research on a car he or she owns.

Discovering your car isn’t really what you thought you purchased can really knock the wind out of you. By investing a small amount of money, and time, in researching and decoding your prospective muscle car purchase you can sleep at night knowing that you received the value you paid for. Anyone else interested in investing a couple of hours for peace of mind when purchasing a classic or muscle car???

Smart Cities Expanded

There is no doubt that Smart Cities hold a lot of promise to help make our communities safer, better places to live. But, as with every new technical development, there are risks. What are the components of a Smart City? What are the problems? More importantly, can governments keep up with technology?

People, when they hear the term “Smart City” for the first time, tend to think of energy, specifically, the arguments surrounding the move toward sustainable and ecologically-friendly energy. But energy generation is just one part of the Smart City concept. “I don’t like talking only about energy when talking about Smart Cities,” said Mr. Yasuhiro Kawai, a researcher over at Nikkei Business Publications, the organizer of SCW 2014. “Smart Cities are much more than that. A Smart City is, at its heart, a concept which introduces technology to create positive changes and make people’s lives better.”

There is no one template for making a city smart, and the first step each Smart City program has to take is a local approach to solve local problems. Those approaches can then be expanded to include a larger area, but it is important to start small. The opportunities to apply technology in a community are numerous.

One major example in Japan right now is how many commuter rail companies in the country have integrated their monthly train passes with an RFID chip, which provides consumers with an electronic wallet of sorts. Each major railway company had their own system about seven to ten years ago, and each system was fundamentally incompatible with others. The Suica network of JR East, for instance, could not work on the Icoca terminals operated by JR West. Pasmo, operated by Tokyu, worked only on Tokyu-operated lines. A casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that this attempt at deploying smart city technology wasn’t very smart.

However, since 2009, most systems created reciprocal agreements and now riders can transfer across railway lines using only one card. Point-of-purchase has been integrated as well. Mr. Kawai raised this as a point of starting small. “It looked really disorganized at the beginning. You had all these systems and they didn’t work well together. Now, as the technology and the operations supporting the technology improved, they are almost seamless,” he said.

Connecting Towns and Lives

Further, Mr. Kawai points to the pilot program in the city of Katsuragi in Japan’s Nara prefecture, east of Osaka, where a group of seniors have signed up for medical monitoring wristbands. As Mr. Kawai explained it, the population of the village has thinned out over recent decades, as most young people have fled for the larger cities of Osaka and Tokyo to make a living. That has left behind a sparse population of older folks who are not as connected to the community as in previous generations. The medical bracelets monitor a person’s vital signs and will notify a nearby hospital over the Internet if a problem is detected. It is just a pilot program, but it is also a very real example of how even a small, rural town can gain from Smart City technology.

Perhaps the most inviting target for Smart City upgrades involves the infrastructure of a community and the cars which drive its roads. There have been several remarkable advances in infrastructure science recently, the most notable of which is perhaps the concept of a solar roadway.

A couple of entrepreneurs in Sandpoint, Idaho (USA) have developed a 1.5 meter hexagonal solar panel encased in heavy-duty tempered glass which can withstand the elements and the constant pounding of cars and trucks on the road. Thousands of these panels, interlocked and connected by software, can provide a smart driving surface which can do everything from illuminate driving lanes at night to outline pedestrians crossing a street, all while providing electricity to the community and, of course, to the electric cars which will drive on those roads.

Cars, as well, are getting a makeover, and human drivers may soon be obsolete. Autonomous cars, as they are called, are cars with sophisticated navigation software onboard which can choose the most efficient or safest routes to take their passengers. Although Google has stolen most of the limelight in this area, Audi, Volvo and even MIT are researching self-driving cars. Many of the cars themselves have just made it out of the lab and are on limited street trials. However, it doesn’t take much to put these two developments together to imagine a city where electric, self-driving cars are navigating on illuminated roads which generate power for the community.

Challenges and Opportunities

For all its advantages, though, Smart Cities do have several obstacles to overcome. Perhaps foremost among those is the acceptance of some people in the community. What could be the issue? The problem, it turns out, is two-fold. First, people usually want to see a tangible economic benefit from an investment in the community. “For instance,” explained Mr. Kawai, “if you invest community resources to place sensors on a bridge to notify maintenance of needed repair ahead of time, that’s great. It actually saves money. But, the people don’t usually see the benefit. Sure, the bridge gets repaired before small problems become large problems, but it doesn’t mean that people recognize that as a tangible improvement.”

While getting people to see that matters like civic maintenance are taken care of before they become big problems is one roadblock to Smart City rollouts, another, larger concern is about what the technology represents. The ubiquitous placement of technology in everything someone does, from point-of-sale smart cards to mass transit to street cameras, in addition to the geolocation functionality present in today’s smartphones, has raised fears of creating a “Big Brother” state where the notion of privacy becomes a forgotten relic of the past.

Implementing a Smart City program is a delicate operation. Mr. Toshiya Mochida, also of Nikkei BP, suggests starting small. “Start with a small area of your town, with a technology for a very specific purpose. Trial it for a while, then invite feedback. Most importantly, governments and organizations should be transparent about their goals. What information will they collecting, and why?” Information collection by governments and organizations is a prime concern, notes Mr. Kawai. “A vast majority of the information will just be archives, shut away somewhere, never to be seen or heard from again. But still, it’s out there. Will it be managed? Will it be destroyed? These are things to consider, too,” he said.

Governments, too, pose a potential problem to Smart City development. Laws often do not keep pace with change. Technology usually advances faster than governments can react, leaving many technological advances in a legal gray area. The greatest example cited is copyright law when faced with the rise of the Internet in the late 1990s. Copyright laws created in the mid 20th century did not foresee the complexities discovered when the record companies fought Napster and other download services, and legal frameworks are still being developed to insure artists are fairly compensated for work.

Self-driving cars look to be the next chapter where technology is advancing quicker than the government’s ability to regulate it. A California Highway Patrol officer interviewed for this article said, “This opens up a whole new area of road rules. We need to review licensing, insurance, safety standards, all these areas. Until we get that worked out, I can’t see this going mainstream.” At present, even with a smart car, a qualified, licensed driver has to be in control of the vehicle.

The jackpot question, of course, is, “Where will Smart City technology be in 5 or 10 years?” Although tempting to do so, you can’t really use technological achievements over the past decade as a roadmap for the future. If you were in 2004, then tried to map out what things would be like in 2014, could you really see how a simple cell phone, which had basic calling and, perhaps, mail/text functions back then, become the “computer in your pocket” that smartphones are now? Groundbreaking technologies now being researched – and those not even conceived of yet – will doubtless change the world and the way we live by 2024. Technological developments are at once iterative and explosive. Even a certain technology can branch out into multiple applications. Wearables, for example, look to be fading in the exercise and fitness circuit, but they are proving value among elderly and people who require constant monitoring.

One thing is for certain – technology and those who develop it will continue to change the way we live. The Smart Cities concept is being tested and it is an exciting and ongoing experiment.